Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Safe, Legal & Common

I'm pro-choice, but that label has gotten so muddled, so dampened, so infused with "I'm pro-choice BUT..." that I feel a need to clarify my position. I am PRO-CHOICE. I'm for your choice, and my choice, and my other choice. And I'm pro-abortion.
It's been two months since I had an abortion and chronicled the experience, and I haven't suffered any "post abortion syndrome" depression (because it's made up, unlike the very genuine post-partum depression,) nor have I tortured myself with fantasy visions of what my "baby" would have been like if only I'd been so "unselfish" as to bring an unwanted, unplanned, and quite probably special needs child into the world.

Every week I read stories about abortions and about abortions denied - Guess which ones makes me sadder? I was furious with the Brazilian Cardinal who excommunicated a 9-year-old girl's mother and the medical team who saved her life by performing an abortion. She was pregnant with twins after being raped by her stepfather (who, interestingly enough was not excommunicated. I guess raping children is more Catholic than saving them.) But at least she got to have an abortion. A 10-year-old girl in Mexico, also a rape victim, also by her stepfather, can't get an abortion because she is "too far" along - at 17.5 weeks. In the United States it wouldn't be legal for me to hire this girl as my babysitter. In Florida, it's illegal to leave a 10 year old unattended in their own home. Yet in Mexico, bastion of the Catholic faith dominated by men in dresses, she is being forced to endure pregnancy and childbirth, as surely as she was forced to endure a rapist's penis in her body.

There are two times in life when a girl or woman may choose abortion - when the pregnancy is unplanned and unwanted, or when the pregnancy is unsafe or inviable. THAT'S IT. Every other detail we want to go over from one woman's abortion story is a variation on these two themes.

Obviously, a girl who becomes pregnant due to rape is having an unplanned pregnancy. So is the girl who's condom breaks, or (properly or improperly taken) fills fail, or whose IUD falls out. So is the woman who thought she was post-menopausal, who was assured by her doctor she couldn't conceive, or who already had a tubal ligation. So is the girl who gives into pressure from her partner that "condoms don't feel good" or "I'll pull out." I don't need or have the right to know WHY your pregnancy is unplanned or unwanted. Knowing that it is is enough for me.

And what about the health of the woman? (Please, let's stop calling all potential mothers "mothers" or else we should label every baby girl ever born as a mother, and every baby boy as a father.) Nebraska is doing its part to further marginalize the health concerns of women.

Claiming that a fetus at 20 weeks can feel pain and therefore shouldn't be subject to an abortion (a claim which is not supported by science, by the way,) completely ignores the well-established fact that women can and do feel pain. Doesn't it logically follow that they therefore shouldn't be subject to a forced pregnancy and birth?
Under current law, the medical indications for late-term abortions include fetal abnormalities and the health, including the mental health, of the mother. The new law narrows the definition so that a doctor must be able to prove that the pregnancy could cause death or "substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function." The law explicitly excludes the threat of suicide as a reasonable threat of death or substantial impairment.
Women's health matters. Mental health matters. Going to college, being in a stable situation, and actually wanting to be pregnant MATTER.

I've been accused of a lot of things over the past two months. I've been accused of not actually being pregnant (by a Catholic Monseigneur who will certainly never have to undergo female reproduction himself,) to getting pregnant on purpose in order to stage a publicity stunt (yeah right!) to somehow being culpable for my son's special needs. I know it must drive you bonkers that I actually was pregnant, actually did try to prevent it, and actually am not a "crackwhore" (as one commenter on CafeMom intimated, in reference to my son having a genetic disorder which causes developmental delays.)

When I stated that, for my part, health considerations played a huge role in my decision to abort, people demanded to see my charts. Complete strangers wanted to know, "What's your reason? How can I discount you? What can I do to cause you guilt over exercising your legal right to bodily autonomy? How can I minimize the pain, suffering, and probable death you may experience if you don't abort?" And I wouldn't tell them my exact medical reasons - because I didn't think it mattered. My doctors told me not to get pregnant again, and that carrying to term could kill me. That should be more than enough. But, oh Nebraska, you're making me upset people even more. I had an abortion because not having one would've killed me, and I would've been the one to do it.

I live in hormonal hell. I have one of the worst cycles of any woman I know, and the two times I was hospitalized for suicide attempts during my teens were during the days leading up to a period. Even in our faith-healing home, my mother made an exception and required me to take Pamprin (against my own brainwashed no-medicine religious beliefs) to manage my PMS. Hormonal forms of birth control have nearly killed me. I went on Depo-Provera when my son was 2 and I had access to student health services at university, to try to get rid of my horrible periods. Instead it made me suicidal (kinda like Prozac.)

I sat in my car, crying out to the god I still believed in, "Please don't let me kill myself. Please don't let me kill myself. Please don't let me kill myself" - over and over, for hours on end, for months. I figured it out fairly quickly, but had to wait 80+ days for the hormones to ebb out of my system before the fog lifted and it was one of the darkest periods of my life. I wouldn't wish that on anybody, not even my cult-leading grandmother.

Even though I was excited to be pregnant, desperately wanted my son, and am glad to be his mother now, there is NO WAY I would go through with another pregnancy, in part because there's no assurance I'd survive it. I tried to kill myself three separate times during my pregnancy with Little Man, and I contemplated it every day, even before I knew I was pregnant. The fact that I was about to become a mother had nothing to do with my suicidal depression; the fact that I was pregnant had everything to do with it.

Those of you who read my blog regularly may have noticed things started to go bad in January. I was writing less, and more and more of what I was writing about was depression, thoughts of self-harm, and how crazy I felt. Even at the time I suspected pregnancy was the culprit because nothing has made me feel so horribly bad in my life as that. I went through four pregnancy tests to get one that would read positive, because I knew pregnancy might well be the cause of my sudden and severe suicidal depression, and if it WAS the cause, there was something I could do about it.

Someone left a comment on my Abortion video last night. It read "Girls who are considering an abortion please read this message. Don't kill your baby. Go another route. Abortion wont solve your problems. If a baby is growing in your womb God put it there its yours. If you kill your baby not only will abortion be painful for you but youll feel grief and later on in life realize how you MISS your baby and wish you never killed him or her. You'll live your life in sorrow and pain and guilt... This video should not influence u. Babies have rights to!!!!!"

But here's the thing - if your problem is an unplanned, unwanted, unhealthy, or inviable pregnancy, an abortion absolutely WILL solve that problem. Brace yourselves, I'm about to say something controversial: I wish there were more abortions.

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