The Abortion Blog - A Lifetime in the Conceiving

Earlier this month, South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R) signed a law requiring women to wait three days after meeting with a doctor to have an abortion, the longest waiting period in the nation.

"I think everyone agrees with the goal of reducing abortion by encouraging consideration of other alternatives," the Republican governor said in the statement. "I hope that women who are considering an abortion will use this three-day period to make good choices."

I don't believe elected officials are put in office to tell me to "make good choices." How about I tell them what a good choice is for me and they, representing ME, go to bat for my choice. And my choice is for legal and open health care for all women, including the right to an abortion.

In regards to the waiting period: an unplanned pregnancy, an unwanted pregnancy is a CRISIS. You do not send a woman home to worry and stress and be unable to work and live her life because YOU hope a waiting period will make her change her mind. If her mind is made up (and women are quite capable of making rational decisions for themselves), she should be able to get one as soon as a doctor says she can. This is between a doctor and a woman. Every woman, like every man, has the right to make any and all decisions about their own bodies, and that bars any possible exception known to us now and in the future.

We, as women, have all the freedoms a man has and some of our own. Because just having the same freedoms a man has is not good enough.

There are freedoms that are inalienably a woman's. These freedoms include the right to terminate a pregnancy.

Our bodies are not your bodies. Our female bodies do different things. There are different consequences. A man is not the first sex. A man is not the main sex. A man is not the default sex. Women did not spring from men. There are two sexes: female and male. There's no species without both of them. And they work different. They come with different responsibilities. They come with different outcomes. They're very fucking different. 

Women learn early about the responsibilities that sit on their shoulders. To bleed is to be able to become pregnant. (And to bleed is to not be pregnant -- all-girl sigh of relief.)

Birth control is our domain. If I don't want to get pregnant, I'd better get some. If you are lucky, you learn early it's too important to leave in someone else's hands. And if I do get pregnant, that's my domain too. The whole thing. I mean, that's what women are made for. The egg is in us. We carry children in our uterus, they eat our food, share our blood. Our breasts feed them. The ultimate responsibility is ours. All ours.

To those who would think to limit my rights, to doubt my ability to make rational decisions, to know my own mind, to not understand the awesomeness of the impact of my decisions...think again. NO ONE UNDERSTANDS LIKE A WOMAN DOES. When you get pregnant, when you have this incredible experience, you understand in a way that surpasses understanding, you IMBIBE that you as a woman hold life and death in your hands. Or in your uterus. 

This being that you have never met is so bonded to you, you are so in love with it, its importance more severe than you can imagine that you compulsively count movements, you dream horrible nightmares where your unborn child is in mortal danger, your unconscious trying to face even the faintest part of your comprehension that this being you love more than life itself COULD be harmed and even die. 

This is a knowledge that lives in every woman. Maybe in the egg, maybe it's planted like a seed, maybe it's passed down, from the first moment someone sits a baby on your lap, you understand. You know the pulsing heart of what it means to be a woman, to be a potential mother.

Once you become a mother, you have to face this life and death reality. You stare down the possibility that you could walk into that doctor or midwife office and not hear the heartbeat. What would you do? What does that kind of devastation feel like? How would I even LIVE through that, you ask yourself.

But women do live through it.

All the time.

Women have miscarriages. Lots. Women lose babies at birth. Their babies have birth defects. Sometimes their babies die shortly after birth. Women lose children at every age. Women lose children to adoption. Women lose children to abortion. Women lose children to war and catastrophe. Women understand. This is every woman's story. 

They know how to face it. To love is to lose.

We live and die with our children. Their cells, buried deep within the uterine wall, are set free and float inside us for eternity.

What I'm saying is women know the GRAVITY of the situation they are in from the moment they can pro-create. And if they don't, they should. It is the language we speak. It is the fabric of our duty and role as women.

A story about the impact of the politicalization of abortion on a woman's health:
My mom told me this story. She's been a GYN nurse for over 40 years. Suffice to say, when it comes to birth, she's seen it all. At the time of this story she was the high-risk birth manager for a large doctor's office. This story is slightly graphic so hang in there.

A woman, in her second trimester, was sent to my mom. It was found through an ultrasound that the woman's baby had massive birth defects. The worst my mom and the docs had ever seen. The umbilical cord had grown tightly wrapped around the baby's body and the baby's limbs were mis-formed and sort of shredded, and even the baby's torso was twisted. That the heart was beating was surprising but clearly the child would not survive for long. The docs wanted to perform a D&C immediately. The woman and her husband were told and were obviously destroyed but of course agreed. Here's the catch: the woman's insurance company would not allow the D&C because the patient's life was not (yet) at risk and so the "abortion" would not be covered. This mom had to go home and try to live her life knowing her child would soon be dead and that she would be carrying it. Also she had to wait for her own health to deteriorate before she could get a medical procedure that would prevent her from getting sick in the first place.

The thing is this woman could get very sick, very fast and DIE. And an insurance company's political take on abortion was putting her life at risk unnecessarily. And actually, interestingly, it was the teacher's union behind her insurance company who had requested this policy.

This woman had to do this. Go home and wait to get sick. Which is what she did and thank God, she survived.

The point is THIS is women's healthcare. This is women's healthcare while abortion is legal! Can you imagine what it would be like if abortion were illegal? Or are we already there?

Changing gears. 

Most of us I think are born pro-life.

I should say right out that I'm adopted and therefore, personally, I'm really glad that my birth mother actually HAD me. That's convenient for me. And she could have not, but she did. And so for that, I say thank you Mom and I'm all for not killing unwanted kids. Go unwanted kids, go!

When I was younger, in my twenties, I was roaringly pro-life. I would argue anyone you sat in front of me. Women, especially, I would take on with my "it's murder" approach. I was callous and I apologize now for the things I said then.

I was also raised Catholic and still am. I was certainly fed a pro-life argument which I don't think is un-sound. Abortion ends life. But no one knows when conception starts. Come on. No one. But I'm also not going to argue with the fact that someone who had the possibility of being alive will now not have that possibilty. 

I think honesty is the best abortion policy. You don't need to agree with me. The concepts, our opinions don't really matter. We can argue all night and let's do it, but the law bats last. We humans have rights. Period. That's the law. But back to the argument for a moment and me as a young attractive Catholic girl...

So I was pretty damn comfortable with how I felt about not supporting abortion. (I was then and always will be all for birth control btw.) Then at 26, a friend asked me to take her to an abortion clinic. She was pregnant and wanted to end it and would I take her. She was crying, shaking, begging, pleading. I was totally thrown. My first instinct, believe it or not, was to say no. Of course not. I couldn't. Ever. Go. To. An abortion clinic.

But this was my friend. She needed me. My friend who was right in front of me. My friend who was in real trouble. My friend who had been there for me in a hundred ways.

So I took her. I made her listen to my really convincing, finely tuned abortion argument first (what an asshole) but she said she still wanted to, so alright.
We went. It was in a small office building. You wouldn't have really noticed it. The lobby was nice, like a doctor's office waiting room. My friend filled out forms. I sat with her. She cried, her head hard and bony on my shoulder. I prayed. They called her name and I walked her to the door. They wouldn't let me go in with her. I can still see her face as she walked away from me. She was totally thoroughly terrified. And utterly alone.

I sat in the lobby unable to not think about what was happening in there. There were two other couples who held hands and whispered to each other. And a woman alone. Crying.

I went up to her. She did not speak much English. She mostly cried quietly, nodding, bobbing her head up and down. She was thin with dark hair and bags under her eyes. She said she had four children. Her husband didn't want anymore. He had dropped her off and was going to pick her up. They didn't have anyone to watch the kids. She wanted to keep the baby. When they called her name, I walked her to the door. She cried the entire way and did not turn around towards me as she walked down the hallway as I hoped she would. 

I sat in the waiting room and weeped.

A while later, a nurse told me my friend was ready. My friend leaned on me as we walked to the car. She was in terrible pain. I got her to my house as quickly as possible. I walked her inside. Put her in my bed. I made her soup but she wouldn't eat. She was in agony. She bled a lot. She cried straight for 48 hours.

And my mind was changed forever. This is life. This is blood and snot and horrible choices and reality and women know this. 

We handle this.

There are a lot of great men out there but there are a lot of men who walk away. Lots of men leave checks on kitchen tables before they disappear forever. A lot of men don't see their kids. A lot of men hope the girl they knocked up will say that magic word to them: abortion.

I am not in any way interested in railing on your sex. I love your sex and I mean that. But women handle this shit every damn day under incredibly trying circumstances.
It means something to us. It is etched in the reality of our bodies and what they do. Women do not need rose-colored glasses. We've seen our moms go through it. We've seen our sisters go through it. We've seen our girlfriends go through it.
My friend was a woman standing there in front of me and needing me and needing to take care of a situation. My obligation was to her.

I would like to dispel some myths here so I'm going to tell you this.

This was my friend's third abortion.

My friend was not a slut. She was not someone who "used abortion as birth control." She was a woman who got pregnant very, very easily (and had a lot of bad luck). When I took her for the abortion, she already had a child and would later marry and have two more children. Women are different. Some women can have unprotected sex hundreds of times and not get pregnant. Some women seem to get pregnant every time. There is no correlation between the number of abortions a woman gets and her sexual promiscuity.

I will make my own confession now.

I have had unprotected sex. I have had lots of unprotected sex. I am very, very, very lucky. One, I'm clean. Two, I've never had an unplanned pregnancy. I'm two for two pregnancy/child-wise. So...I've never had an abortion. That is not because I was super careful. That is because I was lucky. That's not because I'm a good person. It's because I was lucky.

Had I gotten pregnant, I don't know what I would have done. And I think that's the only truly honest answer any of us can give.

My dear politicians: I will not ask you to give me my rights. I already have my rights. I know my rights. You do not tell me what they are. I tell YOU. You will NOT deny me or my sisters the right to a medical procedure. I will consult with my doctor and midwife about my medical choices, not with my political representation.

My right as a woman is to make my own choices about my pregnancies.

If you don't believe in abortion, don't get one. Make your own informed choice. You are the one who has to live with the consequences. 

But I will be here to both make you soup and babysit. 

I'm behind you.

We watch with joy and pride when other country's citizenship fight to win their basic human rights and all the while ours are being stripped away. Pay attention.

Talk about it ladies. It's the only way. I'm all kinds of behind ya. 


This post was originally published at RH Reality Check, a site of news, community and commentary for reproductive health and justice


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