Abortion Stigma


God Hates

God Hates

Dear M and S,

I do not ask for understanding, but comprehension.  You both have questions.  Some I’ve answered, insinuated, or obscured for the normal parental reasons.  I owe you, though, the story as I remember it so you may understand through comprehension how dangerous it is, even in the 21st Century, to contradict and undermine conventional thinking.  I hope our family’s historical facts illustrate our ongoing obligation to confront fundamental Pentecostal thinking so we move forward, not backwards.  I am now a mere four years younger than your grandfather when one blinded by fundamentalism and the hate it naturally engenders created a symbol of the man who you never knew.

I last saw my father on Sunday, 7 March 1993.  We did not see each other often, but we talked with relative frequency and were repairing a fairly entrenched rift in our relationship that began 10 years prior when he left our family for another woman after moving us—your grandmother, aunt, and I—to a shit small hovel of an antiquated old southern town in Alabama split between the poles of old blue blood southern aristocratic antebellum money and dirt floor poverty.  Dad came and stayed the weekend with me in Birmingham as he did infrequently.   Three days before his visit, I’d had my wisdom teeth removed.  He called, as he was want to do, late in the afternoon on Thursday or Friday and announced he was coming into town and would be staying with me.  It was a conversation like any other and I don’t recall any real detail other than he was coming.

I know he stayed over at least Saturday and Sunday 6 and 7 March 1993.  I have no memories whatsoever of Saturday night; yet, I do vividly remember Sunday dinner, can still see the round wooden table and mismatched chairs I took from home when I moved away in 1989, and know we grilled cow protein of some form or another—it was probably a New York Strip as I’d not developed an appreciation for the rib eye yet.  Due to the recent dental surgery, the steak, though cooked appropriately, was difficult to chew which made it more difficult to swallow.  We enjoyed our meal, some more than others, while Billie Holliday gently but huskily sang in the background.  Our conversation drifted from school, to my sister—she was 17 and in the final days of her senior year, to politics—President Clinton had just been inaugurated, to my progress in school, and to his work.

Dad explained the protesters were becoming ever more aggressive and confrontational. The few protesters I personally encountered a few years prior when I traveled the circuit with dad were the typical abortion porn sign holders and silent layers of hands. In my teen years, I found his weekly schedule nothing but normal though it took him from our small town hell to Columbus, Georgia then to Montgomery, Alabama, then to Mobile, Alabama, and finally to Pensacola, Florida only to resume anew the next week.  Other kids’ parents traveled so what was so different about his schedule?  I did not figure out until much later that he made this circuit because no one else would.  I certainly never took it a logical step further and deeper to ask why no other local doctor in Columbus, Montgomery, Mobile, and/or Pensacola serviced these clinics.  It was my normal and I was 14 when I first started driving him on some of his trips; yet, as we discussed the present situation, I noticed he seemed preoccupied.  We finished our meal, drained a few more beers, and awoke March 8 and said our goodbyes.

I was aware clinics were bombed in the past and even asked him once if he ever worried about one of the clinics he serviced getting attacked.  He reassuringly told me it did not concern him, and he went on with his day.  Over the weekend of his last visit, though, I thought about the heightened protests, and the ever increasing threats of violence; additionally I remembered my mom calling me one afternoon about a year before this final visit to tell me strangers were in town passing out wanted posters of dad which included his weekly schedule.  When that incident occurred, he again brushed off our concern and said he was not preoccupied with the actions of some crazies.

That Monday morning, prior to seeing him off for the last time, I confronted him about the posters, the renewed threats, and told him I was scared for his safety.  Dad finally told me he had been carrying a gun for a few years, that he suspected he was being followed frequently, and that a strange protester approached him that previous Friday (would have been 5 March) while he was in the car leaving the clinic in Pensacola heading my way.  He said this man had an eerie look about him and spoke to dad through his car window while staring deeply at him with glazed long staring maniacal eyes.  I remember asking when the stalking started, and he indicated it had been going on at least as long as the wanted poster’s origination about a year or so earlier.  I asked if he considered quitting the circuit and going back to less controversial OB/GYN care.  He told me if he stopped, it would be difficult to find a replacement and he was committed to his patients.  He left headed south, and for the first time I admitted to myself that he had a dangerous job and as anyone whose parent has a dangerous job, I wrapped myself in the warmth and security of “not mine”, “not this time”, and drank the Lethean water temporarily cooling my angst and trepidation.

I spoke with your grandfather again on 9 March 1993.  We did not discuss anything specific.  I was preparing for exams; he was in another of the endless line of hotel rooms and sounded lonely.  Sadly, our terminal conversation was brief and unremarkable.  He indicated he was well and heading to Pensacola, and I told him to be safe.  In retrospect he seemed to hang on the line as though he did not want the conversation to end; yet, neither of us could find a way to carry it forward.

I drove to class the next morning on what was, otherwise, an exceedingly peaceful and beautiful spring day in Birmingham.  I’ve always preferred living in Birmingham than other cities as it is big enough to provide some degree of needed anonymity; yet, small enough to retain remnants of its prior smallness which is both sides of the pole simultaneously.  As I was studying for a Semantics class, dad was driving to work.  As I got into my car to head home, he was very likely getting out of his for the last time.

You guys have never seen a real answering machine as far as I know since everyone has digital voicemail these days.  In ’93 you were lucky to have the kind with a microcassette (I’ll explain that later) that was the size of a stereo component.  I don’t recall who checked the messages on the afternoon of 10 March—my at the time girlfriend or me—but I remember thinking it odd to get a message from my grandmother in the middle of the week in the middle of the day.  It was an altogether cryptic but clear message.  She simply said “call me when you get home.”  Both of you are still too young to know there are certain messages you don’t want to return.  I don’t mean the messages from people you’ve left behind or don’t want to talk with at that particular moment, but the messages from family purposely ambiguous so you are intrigued enough, but not too scared, to return the call as soon as you hear the message.  Of course I sensed something was wrong, and, logically, I feared it involved dad.

Dad called me one night in January surprisingly upbeat and happy sounding.  It was the night of the 20th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision (Supreme Court decision that guarantees a woman’s right to an abortion as you may or may not know when you read this; I’ll get to abortion proper later), and he actually to and was genuinely excited to share his day with me.  First, he said someone from Rolling Stone magazine contacted him recently looking to do a profile on his experience as one of the few Southern abortion providers; secondly, he told me how he had finally had enough of the protesters and their bullshit.  He then described how he sang “Happy Birthday to You” at the protesters outside one of the clinics in Montgomery and in the penultimate verse added, “happy birthday dear Roe v. Waaaade.” He subsequently aimed a small boom box at those gathered outside the clinic and played Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” singing loudly along.

For some reason, I thought of this event as well as the suspicious protestor dad described over the weekend as I returned my grandmother’s call.  When she answered, I immediately knew what I suspected was true; yet, we had to play out the charade.  I asked her why she called.  She asked if I had seen the news.  I told her I had been at school studying.  She said good.  I asked why.  She then told me what I intuitively knew.  “Your dad was shot,” she said and I could hear her sadness as she said it.  I asked if he was ok thinking people survive gun shots routinely.  She told me he wasn’t and that he died e route to the local hospital.  She said she was sorry, that she loved me, and asked that I call my mom.

One day both of you will confront my mortality.  Let’s hope it is much longer than four years from now when I’ll be 47 which is how old your grandfather was when he died.  I know that seems old, but it is really very young, and when you hit forty, you’ll both realize how young it is.  My desire is you are prepared for it and it doesn’t pounce on you from behind a corner while you’re busy reading some goddamned semantics notes.

I drove to my mother’s house where some friends and my sister had gathered.  We hugged, cried, and watched cable news run the story of dad’s death and label him “the first abortion doctor to be murdered” ad infinitum.  You have to contextualize the nature of the event and times to truly understand.  On one really used the internet, e-mail was barely in anyone’s vocabulary, and few people had cell phones.  CNN was the only 24 hour news source (it’s hard to conceive of life without Fox, but it was pleasantly non-existent at the time).  Abortion clinic violence was still considered fresh news and had not yet matured and then expired.  In laymen’s terms, your grandfather’s assassination was a big fucking deal, and was the news for days, months, and years as more doctors and nurses in the abortion field died violently.  Cable news still had some decency about the images they showed, or they were simply too late to get images of your grandfather’s body.  The image I recall from that spring day is a shot of his bloodstained glasses disfigured and broken in the grass where his body most assuredly fell.

Within hours of the killing, my mother’s phone started an interminable ringing which would not abate for months.  On the other end of the line was a New York Times reporter looking for comment.  I considered whether or not we wanted to talk, I had mixed feelings of surprise and anger at being asked for comment on the day I found out my dad was dead, and I had no idea what to do given our family’s life capsized, up righted, capsized, and sank in the span of a few hours that afternoon.  We had large issues confronting us:  burial, finances, familial relations, loss, and grief, and it was overwhelming to add media and politics into the mix.  Initially, I wanted to simply hang up on the woman from the Times; yet, I remembered how joyful dad was when he thought someone was finally going to tell his story and write about the insane conditions under which he worked all at the hands of fundamentalists.  I also remembered his calm happiness when he relayed the events of 22 January 2010 and how he joyously sang in defense of his profession and services.  I made a decision, asked for the reporter’s name and number, and said I’d call her back later as we had other pressing needs to address.

I always wondered if the protester dad described to me the weekend before he died was Michael Griffin, the man who assassinated your grandfather.  If so, he looked into the eyes of his assassin five days before he struck, and it was the last time he looked into his eyes as Griffin attacked from behind too cowardly to face the person he hated, stalked, and still feels deserved to die.  I am still convinced others were involved in dad’s assassination.  There was an organized protest in front of the clinic the day

Griffin struck, and the organizer of the protest had witnessed to Griffin in the weeks leading up to the assassination.  This self styled minster had an effigy of your grandfather in his garage, and I do not doubt he influenced or seduced Griffin to take his violent action.  I will tell you more about these events as I continue the story.

To this day I cannot forget the image of his glasses. I also continue to celebrate his fine voice which was inspiring to me personally and has proven inspirational to others.  I am now the dad where I once was the son, and it is my obligation and duty to pass this history on to you so, perhaps, in some minor way, it helps  you understand the essence and roots of hatred as well as how one fine voice can make all the difference if you simply sing out.

With love

PS. The title was taken from Treblinka by Jean Francois Steiner

NewYearResolutionFor those antiabortion trolls who blame the decline of America on homosexuals, abortion, non-believers, separation of church and state, and evolution, it’s pretty evident that it is their thinking that exemplifies what is wrong with this country. So, I think it’s time for them to change their ways. Time to make some New Year’s resolutions. After all, from the activists who troll outside abortion clinics to the charlatans begging for dollars on the Internet to fund their celebrity causes to the Mephistophelian machinations of the 1%, these whackadoodles pander to the lowest common denominator and they need to stop.  Their common practices use emotional sound bytes over science, dogma over demographic actualities, and capitalist doomsday myths over corporeal reality. So, based on their top ten lies, I offer a list of New Year’s resolutions to help them become better human beings..

Resolution #1 – I’ll stop saying God is Prolife

If you believe God is prolife, then explain how women’s bodies abort a fertilized egg, often without them even knowing? Isn’t this an event that is part of God’s plan for woman’s nature? This nonsense is like another expression–God is offended by baby-killing– because it positions their sorry buts as omniscient, which is, of course, utterly impossible. Nonetheless, here’s your first resolution. Just accept that you’re wrong about this God is prolife and other stuff. Admit that you don’t know jack.

Resolution #2 – I know this is a lie so I’ll stop saying, “Your baby loves you, wants to go to the beach, to play ball, to have a birthday.”

If you believe this, explain how a 14-week fetus communicates these desires? The fact is that you can only rely on myths and wishes, definitely not science. No fetus of any gestation can express love or wants.

Resolution #3 – I’ve said, “Real women protect their children” when I know all women are real.

If you believe this, define fake women. Explain what fake women do to their children. Tell us how you can discriminate between a fake and real woman. Are you saying that women who have abortions are fake women? If women who have had abortions are fake, why should we believe all those women who stand outside clinics saying, “I regret my abortion”? Aren’t they fake, too? So, my third resolution is to recognize that all women are real and quit using this stupid comment.

Resolution #4 – I’ll stop proclaiming “The Lord put that child there and the Lord is the only one to take that child away.”

Not true. This pregnancy is a result of sex. And, no, this pregnancy is not some divine intervention. Ah,yes, sex. So, I resolve to stop with the fairy tales about the “Mary Syndrome” of divine conception.

Resolution #5 – I know this is an egregious lie, so I’ll stop saying “Abortion is America’s Holocaust.”

If you believe this, explain how, exactly, the government is like the Nazi government in forcing abortion on women. Is the government forcing specific groups of women because of their ethnicity or religion or skin color? Further, comparing the Holocaust to abortion is blasphemous, offensive and utterly outrageous. Irin Carmon, Slate.com, writes, “It requires an unquestioning equivalence between living people systematically murdered for their ethnic, religious or sexual identity and an embryo or fetus dependent on a woman’s body for survival.” But I don’t expect those in the antiabortion industry to connect the dots, to understand this unquestioning equivalence. Resolution number five for anti abortion activists: Say, “I agree that this comparison is a lie and I’ll stop perpetuating it.

Resolution #6 – Yet another lie that I know nothing about is “The doctor doesn’t care for you. He only wants your money.”

What proof do you have for such a claim? Why would a doctor choose to work in a field that has been stigmatized by the medical community? Why would a doctor put his or her life on the line (and that of his/her family) if it were only for money? Why would a doctor work in an area of women’s health care that endures more regulations than any other field? There’s no question that any intelligent professional wants to earn a living wage and doctors are no different. But to single out doctors who perform abortions as uncaring and totally profit-driven misses the very real fact. These docs know they are helping women. So, repeat this five times and say five hail mary’s: You have my word that I will stop lying about the doctor.

Resolution #7 – I keep telling women “Abortion Causes Breast Cancer” but it’s a lie.

Explain how it is that approximately 1.2 million abortions are performed each year, yet, only a little over 230, 000 new cases of invasive breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S.? Explain how you can continue to believe this when absolutely every respected medical and scientific organization and research institute finds your claim to be bogus? AntiAbortionists: Saying this over and over does not make it truthful so I promise to stop spreading this malarkey.

 

Resolution #8 – I keep telling women “All Women Regret Their Abortion” but that’s not true either.Don'tRegretAbortion

How in the name of all that is rationale, could you honestly tender such an outrageous claim unless you have interviewed every woman who has ever had an abortion? To say that you know that all women regret their abortion is to say that you are omniscient which we all know is the furthest from the truth. Your #8 resolution: Truth telling amongst us anti abortion activists is so highly regarded that it is seldom practiced. So from now on, we won’t say such nonsense.

Resolution #9 – Some of us try to get abortion workers to quit knowing we will not help them very much.

While literally thousands of converts flock to abortion every year after realizing how much they do not or can not remain pregnant, there are a paltry few who find leaving abortion work an avenue for profit and celebrity status.  What some former workers realize is that they can profit handsomely, as former Planned Parenthood employee Abby Johnson has. She was blind to her own poor performance as an employee and now “sees” herself squarely amidst the multi-million dollar prolife industry as a pseudo celebrity. We know the prolife industry won’t really help workers find jobs. AntiAbortionists: We just say we’ll help. Again we must stop these lies.


Screen Shot 2012-12-27 at 9.25.25 AMResolution #
10 – Some of our priests told us to pray “I spiritually adopt the life of the unborn child” when I don’t really know what this means.
This is a rather recent incarnation of the anti abortion industry’s propaganda. What does it mean to spiritually adopt someone’s fetus? Think about it. Their prayer goes “Jesus, Mary and Joseph I love you very much. I beg you to spare a life of the unborn child that I have spiritually adopted who is in danger of abortion.” The dorks that protest outside the Allentown Planned Parenthood, not satisfied with the rhetorical blandness of this prayer, have changed it up a bit by saying “I beg you to spare a life of the unborn child that I have spiritually adopted who is in danger of being murdered.” Let’s face it. They don’t believe any child is being murdered. They’re just freakin’ drama queens. If they truly believed that babies were being murdered, one would think they’d call the police. And to be perfectly frank, it’s bound to be so much cheaper to spiritually adopt an unborn than to actually adopt a born child. Spiritually adopting someone’s fetus requires no work, just a lot of meaningless hot air. So, as my final new year’s resolution for you folks, repeat after me: I’ll either adopt a real kid or shut up.

Here’s hoping that 2013 will see anti abortionists, AKA sidewalk counselors, embrace embrace truth and compassion for all women. Seriously, here’s hoping they begin by sticking their noses into their rosary beads and prayers and out of everyone else’s business.

 

Anne Frank wrote, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” It’s a great time for improving the world, one protester at a time.

GodJudgeGaysABIt’s instructive for those who eschew their history lessons (or conveniently forget their history lessons), because they are condemned to repeat it. The prediction that God will judge America over abortion (and homosexuality) is pitiful because it ignores past God-will-get-you predictions from past religionists. Let’s not forget that the Shakers thought the world would be over in 1792, while the Jehovah’s Witnesses pegged various years between 1914 and 1994 as an end date. Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon church, who told church leaders in 1835 that his conversation with God revealed that Jesus would return within the next 56 years to begin the End Times. Or in 1980, televangelist and Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson telling his 700 Club TV show “I guarantee you by the end of 1982 there is going to be a judgment on the world.” What these doomsday predictions have in common is fear-mongering foisted upon the gullible.

 This recent God-will-get-you prediction also ignores America’s history of exploitation, pillaging, maiming and killing native Americans and their land, the enslaving, maiming, and killing of millions of Africans, the support of foreign regimes that raped and killed millions, and the corrupt leaders in our own government and military who killed their own, who notoriously engaged in medical experiments on our poor black brothers and nuclear experiments on unknowing populations and who neglected the millions who are needy, oppressed, hungry, poor, sick, and homeless. And, guess what? God did not judge America. It’s still open for business. It remains fully immersed in the basic constitutional principles of freedom, individualism and unobstructed commerce, principles embraced by God-fearing, family-values oriented Republicans.Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 6.57.54 AM

So when antiabortion crusaders post their dire prediction about God judging America, it’s an opportunity to remember yet another history lesson. Since biblical times, the prophecy of Armageddon, where it was alleged that God would destroy the armies of the Antichrist, is as ordinary as dirt, as quotidian as germs and as dangerous as cold oatmeal.

To get to the root of such a dystopian perspective, one need only open religious tracts to understand the machinations of (mostly) men with a proclivity toward the dramatic, men who are positioned as thought leaders in the prolife culture. Take Fr. Frank Pavone who cherry picks from old and new testaments to push his Priests for Life celebrity life. From his web site, in a section titled “Life is Victorious over Death,” (an anti-science statement if there ever was one), Pavone explains, “Abortion is death. Christ came to conquer death, and therefore abortion.” Note that his fractured syllogism does not cite any biblical text because there is no mention of abortion anywhere in the bible. But to authenticate his logic, he attaches a random biblical citation “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10) as if this adds clarity and confirmation of its righteousness.

Visit Flip Benham’s tracts (Operation Save America) for an even more dramaturgical response to abortion. Like Pavone, Benham “unashamedly takes up the cause of the preborn” using the “Cross of Christ” as their strategy (whatever the Hell that means). But rather than proclaim that God will judge America, Flip and his followers believe they ARE the heart and voice of God to solve the problem of abortion through “The Cross of Christ.” Knowing how literal these folks can be, it’s worrisome to imagine that the crucifixion is better theater than Pavone’s blather.

Joe Scheidler’s Pro-Life Action League shares Flip Benham’s affinity for the theatricality of public demonstrations in his Culture of Death performances. Recalling the twisted, disfigured and bloody body of Christ hung on a cross or the depraved killings in which bodies were stacked like cordwood during the Holocaust as teachable moments, Scheidler translates these two grotesque moments in time using images of mangled fetuses hung on signs and posters in his Face the Truth shows. And, quite naturally, their signs create opportunities for them to be on camera wherever they set up their traveling circus.

Calling abortion a national atrocity, as Scheidler does, ignores the sanctity of women’s lives and the choices they make. Calling the 9-11 tragedy God’s judgment and revenge for America’s slaughter of 45 million children, as Benham does, ignores the agency of the men who flew the planes into the buildings, those who supported them and all associated global politics including the Bush administration. Benham’s comments also ignore the rights and wishes of women. And in stating that a when a prisoner is put to death, he is afforded more dignity than the dignity a fetus deserves, Pavone is absolutely discounting the dignity of the woman who is carrying the fetus.

Recall, for a moment, the absurd expression that guns don’t kill people—people using guns kill people. Most rational citizens understand this about guns. Most understand that life and death by guns is more complicated than some bumper sticker expression. So when antiabortion crusaders like Benham, Scheidler and Pavone (and their followers) fabricate such prophecies about abortion and about God’s judgment, aren’t they really saying something more complicated like railing against women and their providers? Like the inert quality of a gun, abortion is a procedure without agency. Abortion cannot be accomplished without human agency. So to say God will judge America for abortion makes no sense unless we unpack what these crusaders most likely mean.GodYouHateImage

In an anti abortion Wikipedia under the “Condemnations and Predictions” category, the entry might read: “God will judge America over Abortion” is a slogan adopted by pro life conservative, evangelical Christians, both Protestant and Catholic, as an abbreviated dystopian version of reality and an alternative to the longer version: “We God-fearing Christians, who don’t believe in the evils of contraception or abortion or unruly American women, want you to know that God will judge abortion-minded women and all abortion providers. It is from our faith that we must inform you that you are the incarnation of evil and that you are condemned to eternity in Hell if you are in any way affiliated with the sins of murdering unborn children.”

Bottom line: It’s not God’s judgment. It’s the anti abortion folks’ judgment on women.

Fairy tales, familiar stories to the human family, introduce a world of the marvelous and magical as well as the capricious and the cruel. A princess cannot sleep because of the discomfort of a pea. A boy may become a bird. Even objects can become enchanted like talking mirrors or carriages made from pumpkins. A typical story line includes the idealization of a character, full of fantasy with moral and religious overtones. It is from the subculture of antiabortionists, who euphemistically call themselves prolife, that the fairy tale about motherhood originates. In this fairy tale, their idealization of motherhood is both a feeling of love and hate. While the hate is ignored and kept from consciousness, the love is unrealistic, illusory and distorted. Drawing on work from psychoanalysts, idealization of motherhood is a defense against the consequences of recognizing the antiabortionists’ own ambivalences and failures. So how is this fairy tale realized in the quotidian sidewalk battles of the antiabortionists?

Moving from the position of idealized motherhood, antiabortionists are fond of telling young women that their baby loves them or their baby wants to live. I witnessed the perennial favorite of one protester blather on ad nauseum “You’ll have a beautiful baby who will love you.” While this is more a projection of their personal feelings about babies and the obvious dismissal that some babies are downright ugly, it is nonetheless a consequence of the fabrications inherent in the mindset of these folks. Regardless of gestation, no fetus is capable of expressing emotions such as love or a will to live. I suspect that these sidewalk crusaders know this about a fetus but cannot help but anthropomorphize.

Another aspect of their fractured fairy tale comes from the unsubstantiated concept called maternal instinct. Ignoring science and rationality, typical of this subculture, these antiabortionists make ludicrous claims about abortion going against a woman’s instincts or about men instinctively protecting their women. If that doesn’t sound like a cave man intellect, I’m not sure what would. Sadly, these folks don’t know the difference from social acculturation of humans and instincts found in birds, insects and reptiles. It doesn’t take much to realize that maternal instinct is nothing more than an idealized, Hallmark card version of a world they desire. Women have been abandoning and continue to abandon their newborns across the globe. Newborns, dead and alive, are discovered in streets, garbage containers, train stations and public bathrooms. Research demonstrates that abandonment occurs because the infant is unwanted, the wrong sex, is defective, a liability in a difficult relationship with the biological father or with the mother’s parents or is mental response of disassociation where the woman in unable to see the fetus as human.

Wet nurses provide another view to discredit maternal instinct. For centuries, women turned the care and feeding of their children to wet nurses, often sending them off to live until they were five or six years old. A French historian documented this practice from letters, diaries and health records. As a matter of practicality and not maternal instinct, infants were sent to live in the country, raised by wet nurses until they were capable of caring for themselves, more or less.

In the United States, the response to safe haven laws demonstrated how maternal instinct is a fairy tale. In nearly all states, safe have laws allowed mothers to leave unwanted children. In response, women (and men) left their unwanted, unruly, financially burdensome, socially disruptive, undesirable children ranging in age from newborn to age 17.

A recent British survey about parenting and regret found that one in ten regretted having children. While the good news is that the majority found happiness with parenthood, others did not. They cited financial hardships and negative impact on their careers and their relationship with their partners as key reasons.
I mentioned earlier that the antiabortionists fail to understand how humans are socialized. I can tell you that it’s not instinct. In their imaginary world, an amalgam of Father Knows Best saccharine idealization and Jesus Loves the Little Children church pulp, these folks concoct fairy tales about motherhood that never existed and never will. It’s the prolife version of pulp fiction.

Our media-saturated culture conditions boys and men to dehumanize and disrespect women in magazines, television, and film and in everyday life. The message is clear. Womanizing is about power and privilege, a sense of entitlement. And in religion and politics, we see the same culture of misogyny. The latest comes from Missouri Republican Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin. Akin, who opposes abortion in all cases, including rape, said, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” Mr. Aiken, oddly enough, is a member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, yet he uses non-scientific reasoning to perpetrate one of the most offensive and ignorant campaign season’s comments yet. To wit a study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology that states, “an estimated 32,101 pregnancies result from rape each year,” in the United States, meaning that about 5 percent of women who are raped do become pregnant. And of that 5 percent, 50% choose to abort the pregnancy. Imagine—Science defying the logic of the GOP.

Beyond what Akin said is the logic that informed his gaffe. If you get pregnant, it wasn’t rape. That’s it. If you are violently and sexually penetrated by a rapist’s penis, against your will, and you are impregnated, then it wasn’t rape. But even beyond that logic is his unquestionable stance against abortions for any reason; hence, he believes if you get pregnant, you should carry the pregnancy to term.

This faux science is not new. In fact, his canard has been floating around the anti abortion Republicans for some time. Let’s go back to 1998 and a statement from Fay Boozman, the late Fay Boozman of Arkansas. He was running for U.S. Senate, and he said fear-induced hormonal changes could block a rape victim’s ability to conceive. In 1995, North Carolina State Representative Henry Aldridge said, “The facts show that people who are raped, who are truly raped, the juices don’t flow, the body functions don’t work and they don’t get pregnant.” Then there’s a similar statement from 1988. Pennsylvania Republican State Representative Steven Friend said, “The odds of a woman becoming pregnant through rape are one in millions and millions and millions.” He said, “The trauma of rape causes women to secrete a certain secretion which has a tendency to kill sperm.” One has to notice the covert message that almost excuses the perpetrators and blames the victims of sexual violence.

I’m reminded of an incident at an Allentown PA abortion clinic where a mother and daughter were verbally accosted by a particularly aggressive protester. The mother told the man that her daughter was raped. And rather than back off or show some modicum of compassion, he screamed,“If the child was conceived in rape that’s the way God wanted it.” [see video]. Essentially, disregard the violence. Disregard her pain. Disregard her humanity. Fr. Frank Pavone said essentially the same thing in an interview years back. He claimed (and still does) the mother was harmed once. Abortion would harm her again and kill her unborn.  Again, no regard for the violence, no regard for the woman, no regard for what the woman wants.

The fact remains that Todd Akin will never know what it means to be a woman, to be trapped in a bed, shoved down on a parking garage staircase, or tied to pole in an abandoned basement. He’ll never know what it’s like to be violently assaulted by some aggressive, indifferent friend or stranger or relative. He’ll not know what it feels like having someone gag you, rip off your clothes and enter your most personal, sacred, private part of your body and do so violently, hatefully forcing himself into you, ripping you apart, filling you with unwanted sperm, and knowing you cannot escape the thing growing inside of you. Todd Aiken will never experience being a woman who is pregnant from a rapist and being told you have no choice. Yet, I’m betting, he’s pretty self-righteous when he says women should have no choice.

Like the majority of the GOP, including the Vice President hopeful Paul Ryan, Todd Akin’s message is clear: No abortion for you! Your body is to support the rapist’s fetus against your will. And when you see the face of the rapist in that child, you will be judged harshly if you cannot love that face.

My sense is that this debacle is further evidence of what is known as the GOP’s war on women. But right-wing media figures have downplayed and dismissed Republican Congressman Todd Akin’s controversial remarks on rape and abortion, calling them “dumb” and a distraction. The public response to Akin’s comments more or less drove him to offer a feigned apology. I say feigned because it now it appears that, all the while, the people really in charge of the GOP—fundamentalist anti-choicers among them—have been writing a party platform that not only makes all of that a lie, but is in effect a promise to make the personhood of fertilized eggs the law of the land.

The draft official platform strongly supports a “a human life amendment” to the Constitution:

Faithful to the ‘self-evident’ truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed, the draft platform declares. “We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children.”

Let’s be very, very clear that such an amendment—which Mitt Romney has said unequivocally he would sign—would not only criminalize abortions of any kind for any reason, but also would outlaw many forms of contraception, in-vitro fertilization, and treatment of pregnant women with life-threatening conditions such as cancer. Moreover, it would also criminalize miscarriage.

So, there you have some of the facts. The problem isn’t Akin.

It’s the central position of the GOP controlled by fundamentalists who believe women have no rights. Which side of history will you be on?

In 1969, one of my housemates, Michelle, and I offered to drive a colleague from Fort Collins CO to Denver. All three of us worked at Luby’s Cafeteria. Michelle and I worked part time because we also attended Colorado State University while our friend, Linda, worked full time. Linda was a 30-something divorcee with two children living in a trailer park with her Baptist parents. She had started dating again and found herself with an unplanned and unwanted pregnancy. So she arranged for an abortion and needed a ride and an alibi. The story she told her parents (who would be watching her children) was that she was stepping out for the evening with friends and would crash at our house (we were five women who shared a really large rental home). That was her cover story. The real story was quite different. She could not tell them she was pregnant. Unmarried women, according to her parents, did not have sex, did not get pregnant and, sure as hell, did not have an abortion. Linda was convinced that if they knew she was pregnant, they would throw her out on the street.

So, with the best of intentions, Michelle and I made the one-hour trip to Denver with our friend. She was understandably nervous about the arrangement she made over the phone with a strange man, the abortionist. The plan was to meet him at a motel on West Colfax Avenue, cash in hand, where he would perform her abortion. It’s kind of amazing to think about legislators and antis talking about waiting periods and ambulatory surgical requirements now. Our friend had an abortion on a motel bed without any assurance that the man was a doctor, without any assurance that the man had hospital privileges, without any anesthesia, without any assurances of sterility, without any guarantees that she would live and without any state required speeches about pregnancy options.

I do not recall much of the trip. Knowing the three of us, we likely chatted like magpies. I also loved to drive. So, zipping down the highway was just a way of life for me. It wasn’t until we arrived at the crummy looking motel, that I began to feel afraid for Linda as she got out of the car. She seemed scared. Michelle and I watched her enter the designated motel room and the door close behind her. Our instructions were to pick her up in two hours, as best I can recall.

Keep in mind those were not the days of cell phones. We couldn’t text or call her. And we knew not to knock on the motel door. Instead, Michelle and I went to the local favorite, a coffee shop called the White Spot.

They were all over the metropolitan Denver area and had one of the best waffles around. Whether for greasy comfort food, post party munchies or waiting for a friend, the cheap eats at the White Spot were just the ticket.

From the recesses of my memory, I recall feeling anxious while Michelle, a veteran of abortion, seemed more comfortable. I was 20 years old and naïve. I didn’t know anything about abortions except hushed conversations about girls desperately scrapping together funds to go to Mexico or Sweden. I didn’t know even that much about sex or pregnancy. Thinking about this naiveté (or ignorance) now, as I write this post, reminds me of our 2006 documentary fieldwork with junior high students in Allentown. The kids were making digital stories about issues that impacted their community like speeding, litter, graffiti and recreational parks for kids. In what was likely the hottest day on record, our digital documentary campers were doing fieldwork in downtown Allentown when one of the antiabortion ‘truth trucks’ rolled down Hamilton Boulevard. One of the young girls, a nine year old, saw the truck and said, “That’s why I won’t use birth control.” I was astounded at her misperceptions (but said nothing to correct her because it wasn’t my place). But considering my ignorance back in 1969 and her misperceptions in 2006, there seemed to be little difference in terms of naiveté. But I digress.

After polishing our waffles, swilling gallons of coffee, and polluting our lungs with cigarette after cigarette, we eventually returned to the West Colfax motel. Linda was cramping but seemed otherwise OK. I felt a bit of relief because she was with us.

But by the time we got Linda settled in our house, things took a turn for the worse. She began bleeding really heavily. I drove to the drug store for sanitary pads. But the bleeding worsened still. She soaked through an entire box of super soaker pads in no time. Fortunately, we had enough sense to take her to the emergency room. She survived, thanks to an emergency hysterectomy, a short visit to ICU and several transfusions.

This is before Roe v Wade. Others weren’t so lucky.

Despite the claims of protesters, adoption or parenting may not be the best choice.  And certainly painting women with a big red letter A is not the best choice either. In fact, there’s evidence that refutes the protesters’ claims to “Wait another six months and you’ll grow to love the child” or “Give your baby up for adoption. That’s the better choice” or “Your baby loves you.” Researchers found many negative consequences for mothers and children when a woman chooses to carry such a pregnancy to term, including late presentation for prenatal care, a decrease in health promotion behaviors during pregnancy, continued alcohol and nicotine use during pregnancy, premature delivery, low-birth-weight infants, infants that are small for gestational age, inconsistent or no presentation for well- baby care, and a lack of breastfeeding.

An unwanted pregnancy increases the likelihood that the infant’s health will be compromised and it also shows poor outcomes for maternal fetal bonding should the birth mother keep and raise the child. These researchers also point out that poor mother–child relationships are not specific to the unwanted child; all of the children in the family suffer when the mother has given birth to a child as a result of an unwanted pregnancy. Many mothers with unwanted pregnancies deliver low or very low birth weight infants who have been associated with higher levels of maternal psychological distress including depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive behaviors.

Unwanted pregnancy and delivery has also been shown to be associated with postpartum depression, feelings of powerlessness, increased time pressures, and impaired physical health. Regardless of whether the woman keeps or gives the child up for adoption, she must actually go through the physical act of an unwanted pregnancy and unwanted childbirth. Researchers posit that this is likely to lead to significant feelings of powerlessness which have been significantly associated with the development of depression and anxiety, as well as with malaise, physical illness, and alcoholism. The research cited above shows that although there is no evidence for widespread and consistent symptoms of mental health disorders among women after an elective abortion, there actually may be significant negative consequences of unwanted childbearing for the mental health of the mother. This raises the question of whether an unqualified call for adoption is really a better option for maternal mental health. A mother who chooses to give up her child for adoption still has to undergo an unwanted pregnancy and childbirth with all of the poor potential outcomes that this may entail. Further, a child with health complications given up for adoption may not be seen as the most desirable candidate for prospective families and may languish in foster care. Additionally, the mental health of women who have given their children up for adoption has not been studied in depth owing to privacy laws that maintain the confidentiality of birth mothers. Most research on adoption has been conducted to determine factors that cause or result in mental health problems for children who have been adopted with the resounding finding being that most adoptees fall within the normal range of psychological functioning. Research that has been conducted on birth mother outcomes after relinquishment of the infant has found that having given up a child is perceived by birth mothers as having a long-term negative influence on their lives in the areas of marriage, fertility, and parenting subsequent children. Similarly, other research found that clinical symptoms for birth parents include unresolved grief, isolation, difficulty with future relationships, and trauma, and that the evidence for increased rates of depression among birth mothers (51% of respondents endorsed severe depression since relinquishment and 97% endorsed some level of depression [mild, moderate, or severe]). Last, in a review of articles, researchers found a grief reaction unique to birth mothers who had surrendered their children for adoption. This grief reaction consists of the typical features of the normal grief reaction; however, the symptoms persist and often lead to chronic unresolved grief.

So, let me put this in perspective using some mental health facts for women’s mental health, related to pregnancy in the United States.

Approximately 2,000,000-3,4000,000 women have the ‘baby blues’ –mild depression–after childbirth.

Approximately 400,000-600,000 women experience significant depression after birth.

Approximately 4,000-8,000 women experience psychosis after birth. Psychotic episodes are potentially dangerous for both the woman and the child and must be considered a life-threatening condition.

Similarly, the CDC claims that every year some eight million women suffer pregnancy-related complications and over half a million die from them.

  • 11.0 deaths per 100,000 live births for white women.
  • 34.8 deaths per 100,000 live births for black women.
  • 15.7 deaths per 100,000 live births for women of other races.

Yet, according to the CDC’s Pregnancy Mortality Surveillance System. In 2006, the most recent year for which data were available, six women were reported to have died as a result of complications from known legal induced abortions.

The antiabortion movement has argued forcefully that abortion should be illegal because it is dangerous for women’s physical health and because some women experience emotional difficulties afterwards. According to that logic, perhaps we should make childbirth illegal. Flawed logic aside, the above suggests that we renew our efforts to respect and trust women and to support their family planning regardless of their choices (because they are ‘their’ choices).

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