then again, maybe not
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November 15, 2005

Why why why don't we get it?

Nerve is featuring a "reproductive rights issue" now. Sweet? Uh, kind of. They've got an interesting interview with Susan Wood, formerly of the FDA's Office of Women's Health, who resigned over the Plan B over-the-counter carnival of assholiness. Two of the other articles are a bit more troubling.

I definitely recommend reading Jennifer Baumgardner's piece about the stigma of having multiple abortions.

Dauntless radical though she is, there is a part of her abortion story she rarely tells. A year after her 1971 procedure, Marion got pregnant again. This
time she didn't have to worry about the money. Her new boyfriend pulled out his checkbook and put her on the next flight — and she knew it was the right decision. "But it was a much harder [abortion] for me personally. I felt I shouldn't let myself get pregnant," says Marion, now fifty-two. "Even to this day, I have shame about it. An accomplished, consciousness-raised feminist like me!"
Baumgardner goes on to talk about why having multiple abortions is percieved as such a bad thing, when as her father says:

It's odd, given that it's the exact same situation as before, no more or less of a life," […] "It's as if women don't really believe they have the right to have abortions."

Odd indeed.

According to Planned Parenthood, two out of every 100 women aged fifteen to forty-four will have an abortion this year and half of them will have had at least one abortion previously. Yet virtually everyone I've talked to about multiple abortions said she shouldn't have let it happen again, implying it was her fault.
Why is that? I think there are two reasons. First, people (pro-choice, anti-choice, whatever) are judgemental. We "generously" allow a woman a single mistake of getting pregnant and having an abortion. But if it happens again, she's a dirty slut. And second, pro-choice people have let the anti-woman right change our minds. We've internalized that abortion is wrong. Even if it's not killing a baby, it's still bad. Hmm. Tastes like Kool-Aid… no thanks, I don't want any.

Multiple abortions may make you uncomfortable, but that's your problem. The reality is this:

"You have 300 possibilities to get pregnant in your life," says Peg Johnston, the director of an abortion clinic in Binghamton, New York. "A one percent
failure rate — assuming the best possible use of contraception — is still thr ee abortions," she says. "In what endeavor is a one percent failure rate not acceptable?"

Peg Johnston, the clinician, thinks multiple abortions points to something larger than an individual snafu — occasionally that larger thing is carelessness, but usually in the context of a life out of control in other ways. Often it's a woman who has several children already and a chaotic, stressful life. At around $30 a month for the pill, others can't afford their birth control. "That's very common," says Johnston, noting that a majority of the forty-five million uninsured in this country are women. Meanwhile, "some people are really fertile and others simply have lots and lots of sex. Frankly, if you have a lot of sex, you'll get pregnant more often."
Then there's Ada Calhoun's "brave" admission that she's pro-choice, but thinks 2nd trimester abortion is wrong. I'll admit, I was intrigued. But the article was nothing new or interesting. It was the same old shit that women deal with all the time. She tells the story of a friend of a friend who stayed at her house while getting an abortion. Young Calhoun was fine with it because she and her mother were pro-choice. Ahem. Upon finding out that the girl was further along than they expected, she and her mother were upset.

My mother and I weren't being as comforting as we could be. But then I saw Andrea in the living room, flipping through magazines and joking with her friend, her stomach pushing past her unbuttoned jeans, and all the disapproval came rushing back. This is what I had shouted for at all those demonstrations? This girl, chain smoking and doing her nails and seemingly fine with her decision? Steve's right not to interrupt his busy pot-smoking schedule to take care of a baby that was only four months from being born?
Now, she was young, and everyone knows how much of an asshole even the best teenager could be. So let's more forward in time.

I've never said this out loud before, that I have such reluctance about abortion past a certain point — which in my case is definitely before Andrea's five
months, when the fetus kicks, has a heartbeat, and sucks its thumb. Being pro-choice with reservations is taboo. It is to wrestle with guilt and doubt and feel that you must be silent. And I understand why.
Wha? No it isn't. There's nothing taboo about being pro-choice with reservations. That's the whole point of being pro-choice. You do what's right for you, and I do what's right for me. That's more Kool-Aid drinking to say that if you're not for "abortion on demand and without apology", you're an outsider. As much as I think it's bullshit, most pro-choice people have varied and numerous caveats to their position. Most of them only apply to other people's choices, but such is life.

But I do wonder if maybe we pro-choice advocates aren't more conflicted than we let on, and therefore if maybe pro-life advocates aren't as well. Maybe the deal is that pro-choicers have to say, "Allow abortion up until the ninth month! Free
and on every corner!" And pro-lifers have to say, "We can never, ever allow it, even in cases of rape and incest, even if the mother might die!" That way, we meet in an awkward demilitarized zone, the first trimester, with restrictions and obstacles that hurt the poor and the young. And so we fight back and forth and make it easier this month and harder the next, so everyone's almost okay with the way things are, but no one really is.
Well, that's a very moving close to the article, but it's a load of crap. The entire fucking point of the reproductive rights movement is that how you feel about my choices is meaningless. And how I feel about yours are as well. As much as some people want to bring anti and pro-choice people together, there really is no common ground. It's not about finding something that anyone is "okay with." Either you have the right to choose what to do with your body or you don't.

My overall problem with these articles? We have to have to have to wake up. By letting anti-choice people take the moral high ground, we're always going to end up sinking in the quicksand below. Choice is choice. We can go on forever about the details, but can't lose sight of the larger picture.

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