Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Blogging for Choice.

The people at NARAL/Pro-Choice America have declared today (35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade) Blog For Choice Day. Topic: why it's important to vote pro-choice.

I'm not going to talk about teen pregnancy/parental notification issues, or the inevitability of unsafe abortions being performed if abortion were made illegal, or the horribly classist economics of a ban on abortion (the financially secure can travel elsewhere; banning abortion would primarily, unfairly, affect low-income women). I'm not going to get into the shameful problems of the foster care system, or the rotten double standards we have in this country about sex education, birth control, and responsibility for pregnancy. However tempted, I won't get into the smarmy hypocrisy of many so-called "pro-lifers." All those represent good reasons to vote pro-choice; all are topics worth expanding upon.

Instead, I approach this issue from the only perspective I can with personal authority: that of having been pregnant.

Pregnancy is an intensely personal thing.

At about 16 weeks gestation, an expectant mother can have a procedure called amniocentesis, by which a sample of the fluid around the fetus is withdrawn with a needle and analyzed. Amniocentesis can detect a whole slew of genetic abnormalities, from Downs Syndrome to conditions that might make it impossible for a child to live long outside the womb.

Nobody makes you have amnio. Many parents feel that they want to know what's knowable; they might not terminate a pregnancy for any reason, but knowing about certain conditions in advance will help them prepare. Others opt not to do it because their risks of carrying the conditions it tests for are lower than the risk of miscarriage posed by the procedure itself, and/or because they believe whatever happens is in God's hands and they'll cross whatever bridges they need to when they need to.

Some parents, after intense and gut-wrenching soul searching, identify conditions under which they do believe a pregnancy would be best terminated. Within this group, the range of those conditions is probably quite large. There are countless scenarios you play out in your mind at that time. Maybe, what if, maybe, what if. It's nervewracking; it can be heartbreaking.

Overwhelmingly usually, everything comes out fine, as with our Peanut (we didn't have an amnio with the Bean, but my being 36 instead of 35 changed some risk numbers significantly for my second pregnancy).

However. If it hadn't: Nobody would've belonged in that decision but me, my husband, and my doctor. Doctors for information, then just me and my husband. And of the two of us, ultimately I am the one... what, gifted? saddled? ...with the biology, therefore the power, therefore the responsibility, of that. We thought long and hard about where our boundaries are, what our beliefs are, what "doing the right thing" would be, in various scenarios. We'd both have had to live with any decision; for me it'd have been visceral.

It is unspeakably wrong that The Government might declare that I am not allowed to make that most personal of decisions. I am deeply troubled by efforts to legislate that power away from women. In the big picture, it's about control and subjugation. Be afraid; be very afraid.

For that, and for the factors alluded to above: I'm pro-choice -- and I vote.


  1. I am really worried about the direction of our government on this issue. Specifically, it shouldn't be a government issue! Or a legal issue anymore. It just makes me sick to think that at any point in the future (or, really, right now if you're poor) our uteruses will not be our own. I keep thinking of that book, The Handmaid's Tale, and it really scares me. Thanks for writing this today!

  2. Thank you sandy. To me, it is unfathomable that public figures in a western country can even say "out loud" that they are against a woman's right to choose. In most European countries, this would have been seen as a shocking throwback to the dark ages, and that person would certainly not be in the running for, potentially, the most powerful position in the world.

    But the fact is, there is enough support for such a viewpoint in the American populace, that these people can run on such a platform.

    That's what baffles me more than an individual person being a bit off the rocker. That there are millions out there who still think my pregnancy is not my own? I don't get it...


  3. Amen Sister!

    Because I had high risk pregnancies, I had amnios with both my pregnancies and LOTS of ultrasounds. You are exactly right: if there had been anything wrong, the decisions would have been mine, Spousehole's, and my doctor's to make.

    My SIL DID have to make those hard decisions. She was 39 and pregnant with twins after years of fertility treatments. She and my BIL learned that daughter #1 had a birth defect incompatible with life (her brain had formed completely outside her head). Daughter #2 was perfectly healthy. If they tried to go to term, #1's problems could cause early labor and they could lose both babies. If they tried "selective termination" they might be able to carry #2 to term, but the procedure might also cause #2 to be born early and not survive. It became all about #2, at that point. They chose to try to go to term, with their doctors drawing off fluid regularly to try to stave off early labor. It didn't work. She went into labor at 25 weeks, one day, 200 miles from home. She delivered #1 30 minutes after arriving at a rural hospital, on a holiday, and #1 died four minutes after birth (she was baptized in that time though!) They held off #2 as long as they could, until a NICU team could arrive from "the big city" (where I live, still not the really big city where SIL & BIL live). #2 was delivered 2 hours later by c-section, 1.5 pounds. Today she is a happy, healthy 3 year old, but not without 4 months in the NICU and battling several complications of prematurity.

    Would they do anything different? Not really the point. The point is that it was their decision to make and they made it. I was pregnant at the same time and was heartbroken that they had to make such a horrible decision.

  4. The Handmaid's Tale... yes. That book kept me up nights.

    Heidi, it is good to hear that at least to a European ear, the crap our politicians spout on this issue seems like a shocking throwback. I agree, it is totally bizarre that such backward thinking is so widespread here.

    Bunny, WOW. That's precisely the kind of situation I was getting at. With all those factors in play... medical, emotional, familial... how is it fair to also have the long arm of the law in there saying oh no, you can't choose one of these options, or hang on, you have to get a court order, let's find a judge and have that total stranger tell you what you must do.

    There are so many things wrong with that, it's hard to know where to begin.

    Vote pro-choice... it matters.

  5. Excellent post. I always vote pro-choice. It's anathema to me to do otherwise.

    Do you read CUSS? She had a great post on this, too.