In my last post I wrote about two interviews on the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision; one with a woman who had an abortion and one with a woman who ran an anti-abortion pregnancy center
I admit that the interviewer, despite being on NPR Fresh Air, was asking very pointed questions at both women and she clearly had a bias. However, I will also say that it would be like interviewing an evolution-denier and trying to find legitimate questions... So I get it.
I remember hearing about the woman in the first interview, a journalist named Carolyn, when she had her abortion in 2011. She and her husband had wanted a second child, but got an abortion halfway through the pregnancy when it was discovered the fetus was severely deformed and would likely die. And while it's commendable that she's so open about her horrible experiences and willing to talk about them in order to change things, her situation is not the typical situation for women seeking an abortion. Medically necessary abortions are (almost) always given exceptions during debates about abortion, just like rape and incest: it's not the woman's fault that she needs one, so she should be allowed. But a woman who simply had sex and became pregnant, which I'd be willing to wager is the large majority of abortions, is something we're eager to debate for decades.
So few women who have gone through the abortion process are willing (or able) to be so vocal. Carolyn is able because she wanted her pregnancy, was hoping and trying for a baby and was crushed when she learned she would have to abort or condemn her child to a short life of suffering. Obviously hers was the logical, loving decision. But a woman who simply cannot afford to care for her baby, or who never wanted children and wouldn't make a good mother, or who isn't ready yet, or who just doesn't want the enormous responsibility of raising a human being is looked down upon as scum. We don't ask why women choose to have children, we just assume they should and that it's natural when they do. But it's the only thing a person will ever do that will forever alter their lives, and when half of all pregnancies are unplanned it seems it should be discussed a little bit more. I'd love for a woman to come forward in such a public manner and talk about her elective abortion. But I doubt that will ever happen.
There were a bunch of issues I had with the second interview, mostly because the interviewer was trying to get a straight answer on a few things and the woman, another Carolyn, was doing her best to paint her practice in the happiest of lights. Her pregnancy center, which counsels young girls and women on everything but abortion, advocates abstinence as the only way to prevent pregnancies. They will discuss other methods of birth control, even after a woman has given birth to her unplanned pregnancy, but tell her that they're not that good or don't do enough to prevent pregnancy. (As a woman who has relied exclusively on one method of birth control at a time for years and has had zero pregnancies I can tell you they work real well.)
But to tell women they should only be having sex if they want to get pregnant is just ignoring reality, nature, and human habit. No one tells men that they shouldn't be having sex unless they want to get someone pregnant. Plus, these centers don't discriminate against married women, which means that even if you're married they'll tell you not to have sex with your husband unless you're trying to procreate. Which means sex once every few years until you want to stop having children, then no more sex until menopause. This is ridiculous. It stands to reason that if you're not planning on having children you should never have sex. And if you're never going to have sex or have children there's no point in getting married. Or dating. Or falling in love.
I can't help but put myself in these situations in my mind and imagine being told these things. I don't want to have kids and I'm ill prepared to have one right now. Should I become pregnant now or in the next few years I would be unable to care for it financially, but also make too much money to qualify for assistance. Even if I were poor enough to qualify for government care, telling me I should have a baby because I'd get food stamps is ridiculously irresponsible. Plus, I do want to get married. Just because I don't plan to reproduce doesn't mean I don't deserve to spend my life with someone I love. I thought the point of marriage was to commit your life to another person that you're deeply in love with, not to lock someone else into parenthood.
So, it seems like we're still running in circles around somewhat ridiculous arguments around abortion. Until politicians and ideologists realize that everyone has sex, including the politicians and the ideologists, we can make better decisions about abortion, child care, and health care in general. But until then it looks like we're stuck telling women to stop being whores for sleeping with their husbands and boyfriends. Like normal goddamn people.