Monday, June 17, 2019

It's MY Body

My grandmother was left to die on an illegal abortionist’s table. She pulled herself up, dragged herself home, and raised her five kids.

It was the Depression, and she couldn’t afford another mouth to feed. Eventually, my grandfather left her, and she raised the five kids. She’d also marched down Fifth Avenue as a Bloomer Girl for the vote for women. She is the matriarch of our family, and my daughter is named for her.

When I told this story to a long-ago boyfriend, he was shocked. Then his grandmother spoke up, “I had an abortion, too. How do you think I kept from having too many children?”

So how do we think women made do before effective birth control? How do we think they made sure their already-born children had enough to eat? Did you ask your grandmothers? Those women did what they had to do to raise that Greatest Generation, and they had abortions.

I know women who, after being fitted professionally for cervical caps, became pregnant. I know women who consented to abortion should in vitro fertilization yield multiple embryos. I know women who were told they were carrying fetuses with genetic abnormalities. I know women who became pregnant in college and would lose scholarships if they had to leave school. I even know a girl pregnant by her father.

These women – all these women, all of us – had control of our own bodies and had a legal option: abortion.

We women in our Third Third know these stories; we know that legal abortion saves lives – the lives women want to have that an unplanned pregnancy would disrupt.

I’ll say that again:

I’m going to stop here before I march down my fury road. I’m going to stop here before I go on about poorly-funded budgets to work with hungry children, abused children, and homeless children. Before I go on about slaps on the wrists for rapists, for unfunded birth control, for de-funded childcare.

I’m stopping here just to stick with that one thought: many of us have the lives we have because brave and desperate grandmothers or mothers faced illegal abortionists so there’d be enough food in the mouths of their children.

The lives I want to save are the potential lives of the young women with dreams. Dreams to go to school, dreams to get out of an abusive relationship, dreams for their futures. Who is anyone to say they deserve less, that their lives get deferred?

So some law wants to force a vulnerable 14-year-old to a nine-month sentence of prolonged occupation of her body while rapists are still getting slaps on the wrist? These are the same people who covered Viagra with health insurance, but not birth control. These are the same people who want to eliminate maternity care from lower-cost health insurance.

I know people who stretch poorly-funded budgets to work with hungry children, abused children, and homeless children. Low-income women have to find jobs, but childcare is de-funded. I know people who work with rape survivors, women suffering domestic violence, women sold into sexual slavery. Indigenous women just “disappear,” rape kits get lost, and yet the big issue is what’s in a woman’s uterus? My own uterus – which is no business of yours.

As I march down my fury road, I start inventing scenarios. I imagine some rich and powerful guy – maybe a legislator or a judge – a guy who “can do anything” – having an extramarital affair. Many of them do. What would he do if that other woman got pregnant? I am pretty sure he’d locate a quiet and confidential abortionist. What do you think?

I am in my Third Third and pregnancy fears are long behind me, but they’re always present for a new generation of women. I am in my Third Third, and I cannot believe women still have to argue for control of our own bodies. I am in my Third Third and this is my body.

These are dangerous times, and I’m marching down my fury road because abortions save lives.

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