My Pro-Choice Agenda

I started writing again because Todd Akin is an idiot.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of other people who think exactly like he does. They sit in rooms and parse words and swap personal and governmental favors. Then they draft actual legislation designed to stop women from being able to make their own health decisions, even if they are the victim of a crime.

People like Todd Akin have convinced millions of people into thinking that pro-choice is the same as pro-abortion. They are not the same position.

Some of you may be thinking Yes they are!

I assure you: they’re not.

I didn’t spend years trying to get pregnant just so I could end a pregnancy. I am not “pro-abortion.”

I hope to have one more perfect (surgery-free, please!) pregnancy, though I recognize that may not happen for me, or at least not so easily.

never want to experience carrying a fetus with health problems so severe and evident that I’d have to consider an abortion later in the gestation cycle. I hope no one ever has to experience that.

How does that position make me pro-abortion?

The Republican Party just changed their platform to a “no abortions, no-exceptions” position.

No exceptions for rape (legitimate or otherwise).

No exceptions for incest (which horrifies me to my core).

No exceptions for the health of the mother.

No exceptions for the life of the mother.

No exceptions for the health of the fetus.

This is an extreme position. It shows complete disregard for all women, no matter their personal beliefs regarding abortion. At the core of this position is: once you’ve been impregnated, your life is not your own. A woman’s life is her own up until conception and once again following delivery. But in between, she is merely a vessel.

Women are too often treated like vessels. I didn’t stop being myself just because I was pregnant. I didn’t stop having rights. I didn’t stop having thoughts. I didn’t stop having health problems.

I didn’t stop.

—-

If you believe that life begins at conception, then you believe I murdered a baby when I terminated my barely-existent, barely developing, likely-ectopic pregnancy. You believe I am a murderer for ending a pregnancy that was never, ever going to be a person. It was never even going to be a fetus. At the most, it would be a cluster of cells big enough to destroy my fallopian tube and risk my life.

And because of how slowly my body was developing that pregnancy, even that might never have happened. I might have just cleared the ectopic pregnancy like I probably did the first one. Roughly half of all tubal pregnancies are cleared without medical intervention, which means the other half require assistance of some kind.

Why shouldn’t I have had the right to end that pregnancy? Why should I be forced to keep a pregnancy – one that will never result in a person –  until it endangers my health, well-being and life? Why shouldn’t I be able to save myself from any health problem?

—-

I once worked with a girl whose mom had cancer when the girl was young. The mom was a Christian Scientist and refused medical care. She died. The girl grew up without her mother because of her mother’s religious beliefs.

Those of you who are religious may be thinking But that’s what she believed in. She has freedom of religion.

Yes. She believed – despite knowing what would happen to her if she was left untreated – that going without medical care was a dutiful act of faith. Those were her beliefs and she had the right to them. It’s not the choice I, or many of you, would have made, but I respect her right to make it.

You have the right to your beliefs, too. None of you should have to be forced to go without medical care because other people believe it is a sin. None of you should be told that you can’t live as you want to live because of your beliefs.

I, too, have the right to my beliefs. I have the right to my own choices, no matter how immoral or silly or offensive or boring others may find them.

—-

Passionate second-amendment supporters often have guns in their homes. They want their guns at an arm’s reach so that they can protect themselves, their families, and their possessions from an intruder. They might have to use a gun to shoot an intruder to achieve that protection. They might even kill someone. Sure, the intruder isn’t an innocent in the eyes of a Christian God, but in the eyes of the law, you better have a good reason for killing someone. Protecting yourself is a good, just, legally-defensible reason.

But a woman who has a pregnancy in her fallopian tube, an intruder in her body that is threatening her well-being and life? She is supposed to accept it. She is supposed to let nature take its course. She is supposed to submit to “God’s will,” at least as according to law-making men.

It doesn’t matter to me that the pregnancy is an innocent soul, if you will. If the pregnancy is trying to kill me, I should be able to protect myself from it. If anything is trying to kill me and I’m not legally allowed to defend myself, then I don’t have the same rights as any man. That’s completely unjust. It’s also inhumane to force me to suffer what would be preventable injury, illness, or death.

If I have an ectopic pregnancy, and there is a law against abortions of all kinds for any reason, then I’m basically being forced into Christian Scientist-hood. How is this freedom?

—-

Extreme pro-life supporters, anti-choice people who think there should be no exceptions, will tell you that my position is extreme and pro-abortion. That I’m okay with babies being murdered. That I’m probably a baby-murderer. That I’m probably going to hell.

Some of these same people stand outside of abortion clinics and shout those things at women just like me, women who are facing a difficult situation and making the decision for themselves – like the free adults that they are – to terminate a pregnancy.

I can’t imagine cornering someone at their most vulnerable and screaming horrible, hateful things at them in the name of Jesus’s love. They claim they’re being hateful as a form of love. I’m glad that it’s never happened to me. I hope that it never does.

—-

Lots of people in my life are anti-choice: my dad’s entire side of the family, various friends. I didn’t hide my decision from them. I didn’t flaunt it, but I didn’t shy away from talking about my fertility issues. Just because I felt shame over my inability to develop a pregnancy doesn’t mean I should have felt it. Talking about it, when I needed to, helped me lance that shame.

Not one anti-choice person in my life stopped loving me. Not one of them stopped talking to me. Not one of them even told me that they thought I’d done something wrong. Perhaps they didn’t think I’d done anything wrong. It’s interesting how people will – temporarily at least – change their minds about these things when it happens to someone close to them.

The things we do for love.

My dad didn’t even seem bothered by my revelation that I’d terminated a pregnancy. I told him what had been at stake and he was very understanding and supportive. He told me about how when my stepmother was pregnant with my youngest brother, she’d had several tests* run at the midpoint of the pregnancy. The odds for Downs, spina bifida, and various ailments and serious defects came back quite high.

*Some people think the tests themselves are immoral and shouldn’t be legal. They think the only reason to have the tests is so you can decide whether to abort. A different perspective: if Tiny had problems, I wanted to know about them as early as possible so that we could prepare. Fortunately, Tiny had basically the lowest odds possible for chromosomal problems. That doesn’t mean I didn’t worry, though.

“What are we going to do? Do you think we should end the pregnancy?” my dad said.

“I’m going to have this baby,” said my step-mother.

“What if he’s got something horrible, something that will make him suffer?”

“We’ll love him as long as he’s with us,” she said.

He said he would’ve supported her decision either way. This is a man who proclaims himself pro-life. He’s been posting nonstop on Facebook about “abortionists” and “infanticide” lately, so he’s definitely sticking with his beliefs.

The rest of that conversation:

“Did you guys get a second opinion on the test results?” I asked.

“No. Once she made up her mind, that was that.”

“I wonder if your test results were switched with someone else’s.”

“Oh dear god I’d never thought of that,” he said.

Yikes.

Another anti-choice friend, a friend who has stated to me more than once that he believes that life begins at conception and who is against abortion, admitted to me that he and his girlfriend had used the morning-after pill. Twice. They were confident she was pregnant and they intended to terminate the pregnancy two times.

I can’t square their positions with their behaviors. On the one hand, my dad and his wife didn’t actually do anything beyond my dad suggesting abortion. But on the other, how is suggesting it pro-life? How do they even have that conversation if abortion isn’t a legal option for them?

And my friend? The morning-after pill wouldn’t exist in a “no abortions, no exceptions” world. If life begins at conception, as he asserts, then he attempted to stop a potentially existing life.

I know there are people who believe and do what they say. I just think that those people happen to be few and far between.

Hypocrites have the same freedoms as the rest of us.

—-

I worked at Starbucks for a long time. One coworker came from a very large family. They were charismatic evangelical Christians, and a few people from their church worked at my store. I became familiar with their beliefs and some of their practices. Anyway, this coworker was around 20 years old and he’d been home-schooled. He often said crass, unenlightened things without even thinking.

One day, not long after the movie “Juno” came out, the guy started talking to me about it. Business was slow, so we were leaning against the counter and talking. At this point, I hadn’t seen the movie.

“I love how Juno decides not to have an abortion,” he said.

I nodded. I was not surprised he felt this way.

“She just, like, wanted to protect her baby.”

I’d read differing takes on the scene he was discussing, so I reserved judgment and comment.

“I don’t understand how someone could do that,” he said. He was kind of staring out into space. I waited for this to be done so we could talk about something else.

“I just… It makes me so angry. What is wrong with people? Why would someone murder their baby?” he said, a little too loudly.

“Mike,” I said, putting on my best glazed-eyed look and staring out into the cafe.

“Yeah?” he said to my profile.

“I had an abortion,” I said, making my voice small.

“Oh my gosh,” he said. “I’m so sorry. Oh my gosh. Oh gosh. Really?”

He was visibly agitated, shifting his weight back and forth and wringing his hands. He looked like he was in agony.

“Nah,” I said. “I’m just fucking with you.” I grinned.

“Oh my gosh!” He started pacing the back line. “Oh my gosh!”

“Mike, you can’t talk about that stuff here.”

“I’m so sorry!”

“You just don’t know what people have been through so you should probably keep those discussions for when you’re away from work.”

“Got it,” he said, walking back over to me. “I’m sorry.”

“Go take a break, okay? Try to calm down,” I said.

He wandered off into the back room. When he came back, he told me he was sorry and that he was embarrassed he brought it up at work. He also told me that he wouldn’t have thought any less of me if what I’d said had been true.

After that, Mike stopped running his mouth at work.

I’ve told that story to people we worked with probably half a dozen times. Because they know me, because they know Mike, this story always garners laughs.

But when I typed it out, I started to wonder why it’s funny. I mean, I am incredibly funny in this little one-act play. However, Mike was nearly panicking.

Why?

I don’t know the answer, so I can only speculate. Mike had led a very sheltered life, and I wonder if he’d never considered that someone he knows might have had an abortion.

The reality is that one in three women will have an abortion at some point in their lives. We all know someone who has had or will have an abortion. All of us.

—-

If the issue of abortion is a continuum, then there are two polar extremes. At one extreme, there’s “no abortions, no exceptions.” The other extreme would be that of “pro-abortion, no exceptions.”

Pro-choice takes up a wide variety of positions – including pro-life with exceptions –  in the middle.

There is no one holding political office today that has a pro-abortion position. I have never met anyone who believes that all pregnancies should be terminated. Not one. I promise you this strange person exists, but I have yet to encounter them.

I understand that people say there is not a moderate position when it comes to murder. I get it. I get that they think the cells have a soul and that by terminating the cells, a person is being destroyed. I get what they’re saying. But I reject it. I reject that there is never a case for the termination of pregnancy.

I return to my question. Why should I be forced to keep a barely-developing pregnancy that is negatively affecting my health and could affect my life?

Pro-choice means: it’s my body. I decide when and if to do anything with it. I decide which pregnancy to keep.

I decide whether to have sex.

I decide who to marry.

I decide.

Without this right to choose, women do not have autonomy.

—-

Birth control pills have been a salve for my health.

I’m currently off the pill because it’s been almost two years since I’ve had a period, and that started to seem weird (and scary) to me. I’ve been waiting and waiting for my body to again start behaving as it should, but so far all I’ve had are migraines and some cramping.

I don’t have immediate plans to try to conceive again, so as soon as I can, I’m going back on the pill. Meanwhile, I’m suffering with near-daily headaches and weekly migraines. And even with decent health insurance, my migraine prescription is expensive. Without our insurance, I would not be able to afford my migraine medication.

If birth control pills were easily affordable and accessible to everyone, then there’d be fewer unwanted pregnancies. There’d be fewer abortions. I think that’s something everyone would prefer. Except…

There are people who are completely against all forms of contraception. There are people who are anti-birth control pill because some pills don’t interrupt conception, only implantation. Some pills do both. And if conception begins at life, then anyone taking the pill is a murderer.

Unfortunately, not all pills work the same for every woman. Some women take the pill perfectly and their bodies just get pregnant anyway. Some women get horribly ill taking one kind of pill while another causes no side effects at all.

Some women are taking serious medications – like long-term breast cancer treatment, Accutane, or certain psychiatric medications – that are known to cause severe birth defects. In fact, pregnant women are warned to not handle these medications. In order to prevent a tragedy, these women are switched to a pill that prevents both ovulation and implantation.

But if life begins at conception, and this type of birth control pill isn’t legal, then women who take medication for acne, breast cancer treatment (a course of pills taken for years sometimes), or psychiatric problems will be left with a choice: do I have sex with my husband? Knowing what I know, do I risk a possible pregnancy?

Whose fault will it be if those women get pregnant? Some will blame her for being “irresponsible” when all she really wanted, and deserved as a citizen of this nation, was the right to take actual responsibility for her health.

These are the implications of “no abortions, no exceptions” and the black-and-white thinking that goes along with that position. The Missouri House just passed a bill (HB 749) – overturned the Governor’s veto, in fact – that allows employers to pick and choose which reproductive treatments and medications they’ll allow and disallow based on their religious beliefs.

Imagine your sister or your wife or your cousin. She is covered under her (or her husband’s) employer’s health care. Let’s say that she’s diagnosed with breast cancer. The good news is that her insurance plan will cover her treatments – as long as she’s insured, that is, and as long as she’s under her lifetime limits for treatment – but she still has a hefty co-pay. The bad news is that her insurance plan won’t cover the birth control pill, which she now has to take along with her cancer treatment pills, for the next five years.

The good news is that she can always go to Planned Parenthood for more affordable birth control pills. The bad news is that Planned Parenthood is underfunded and they are not always easily accessible. And she may have to deal with the people standing outside the clinic screaming “Murderer!” and “You’re going to burn in hell!” while she goes in.

This is exactly the kind of nonsense women will be dealing with if all these restrictive laws keep being passed. Underinsured and uninsured women are already struggling with these issues.

Allowing an employer’s religious beliefs to dictate an employee’s medical care is ludicrous. No one consults a mechanic neighbor about their gimpy knee. No one talks to their chef neighbor about an ingrown toenail. So why would we allow the owner of a plastics company to control what kind of health care you receive for your reproductive organs?

Better hope your employer isn’t a Christian Scientist.

—-

I don’t know how we’re living in a nation that is restricting the rights of a full half of its citizens, but here we are.

When Josh and I were trying to conceive, I read a book called “Birth: The Surprising History of How We are Born.” Because I love history, I loved this book. But the contents were more than a little depressing.

For millennia, midwives assisted birthing mothers, but ever since medicine became a profession, men have been the ones deciding how women should give birth. From forcing women to give birth covered (so as to be less scandalous) and on their backs (because it’s easier for the doctor), to accidentally killing many women with infections caused by filthy hands (practicing medicine on corpses, and no hand-washing) and equipment (what are germs?), to the early days of forceps usage (horrific, deadly consequences), to the Twilight Sleep of the 20th century (“It’s better to not even be present at your own labor and delivery!”), men have been “fixing” what is wrong with women and their reproductive systems.

Men “fixed” women so well that, at one point, the maternal mortality skyrocketed to forty percent. That is not a typo. Today’s maternal mortality rates are astonishingly good, in part because lessons were eventually learned from those women’s deaths.

But how many women would die because of a “no abortions, no exceptions” policy before people see how wrong-headed, short-sighted, and discriminatory it is? How many women would face hysterectomies or infections or other serious medical issues? How many women, determined to have autonomy, would seek unsafe abortions? How many of those women – young, middle-aged, some of them already loving parents – would die?

There’s no way to know for sure unless “no abortions, no exceptions” becomes law. I promise you that it wouldn’t be an insignificant number of women. I promise you that you’ll know one of them.

—-

Society is moving backwards and women are beginning to lose control over their bodies again. I can’t sit idly by and let that happen. If you love any woman, then neither should you. The erosion of rights has to stop.

Even if there was a Republican that I wanted to vote for, there’s no way I could, in good conscience, do so. Not when the GOP and its platform is okay with me dying over an ectopic pregnancy.

I started writing again because Todd Akin is an idiot. I’ll keep writing because I’m still here.

I’m still here, possibly, because I have freedom of choice.

I am not pro-abortion. I am pro-choice. I am pro-woman.

I am pro-me.

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