Monday, January 8, 2007

The Personal Politics of Baby Killing

Georgia has proposed an abortion ban similar to the one that was defeated by South Dakota voters in November '06. I would write out all my feelings about the bill, but I've decided to let you fine folks just read it for yourself

Aside from the outrage I felt at many of the gross misrepresentations in this piece of legislation (i.e. the idea that we KNOW life begins at conception, that abortion contradicts feminist values, and that the economy is suffering as a result of abortion), there were a few points that struck a chord with me.

Let me say first and foremost, that I question the statistics presented about post-procedure psychological trauma. I hesitate to believe these statistics due largely to the fact that no sources are cited and I doubt the framers of this legislation looked for objective studies. I have encountered many women who have had abortions and not turned into baby-hallucinating basket cases afterwards. To claim that most women suffer these kind of extreme emotional repercussions is a sweeping generalization.

And contrary to popular pro-life belief, not all women who support abortion are thrilled with the idea of heading to a clinic to terminate a pregnancy. But sometimes it happens, despite careful planning.

That's how it happened to me.

A few years ago I discovered that I was pregnant and had no where to turn. I could't tell the father: in a moment of extreme selfish ass-headedness (extreme even for him) he told me he'd rather I "take care of it" if it ever happened. Take care of it and leave him blissfully ignorant, of course. I considered telling him just for spite, but I knew it would ultimately make things harder for me so I kept it to myself. I didn't have anyone to talk to or any shoulders to cry on because I was at a point in my life where I didn't have many people to trust, and the information about my pregnancy and decision to terminate would have made several areas of my life more difficult.

I weighed my options and knew that abortion was my only realistic choice. I had no way to support myself, much less a child, and I couldn't in good conscience bring a life into the world and abandon it for someone else to take care of. So I went the only place I knew to go: my friendly, neighborhood Planned Parenthood.

Contrary to what anti-choice propaganda tells you, they were good to me there. They didn't pressure me, they gave me plenty of information to help me make my decision and they provided support for me when I had no one else in my life that I trusted.

Because my decision was my own, because I was sure of what I wanted to do and determined to do what was best for me (and what I still believe was best for my baby), I had a regret-free abortion. Do I still think about it? Yes, sometimes I do. Am I sad? A little, but only sad that I got pregnant at such a bad time.

I survived the whole scenario relatively unscathed, but I know that many are not so lucky. One of the problems with the pro-choice movement today is that we are so busy arguing that abortion must be an option for women that we neglect to see the women around us who struggle with the decision they made or are making to terminate a pregnancy.

Acknowledging that it's a painful decision is not the same thing as saying it's the wrong one. We shouldn't be afraid to help our wounded sisters, yet we've left them to find support from the pro-life movement. Where are our post-abortion support groups? Where do we go to find solidarity? Where can we talk about our feelings about abortion after we've had one? Where do we turn when emotional consequences manifest themselves? We shouldn't be forced to turn to the pro-lifers. Not to the people who will beat us down and tell us we need to be forgiven.

We need to take care of these women within our own community. We need to tell them it's ok that they terminated their pregnancies and it's ok if they don't feel strong or empowered about it. In addition, we need to be there before the abortion. No woman should ever have to go it alone like I did. No woman should have to march down clinic stairs by herself while strangers call her a murderer. We need to find a way to reach out and we need to understand that ignoring the complexity of abortion doesn't help our fight: it hurts the women who get caught in the cross-fire between the pro-choice and pro-life movements.

With the Georgia legislature proposing an abortion ban and the nation lying in wait to see what the Supreme Court will do if/when someone challenges Roe v. Wade, this is the perfect time for the pro-choice movement to be honest about the consequences of abortion while strengthening the fight to keep it safe and legal.

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