Show me a woman who has never endured a moment of panic at the thought that she might be pregnant and I'll show you a virgin or a liar.
I've been thinking a lot this week about abortion. My own. Others'. All those millions who have had one, or who have chosen not to. I've been thinking about the beauty of choice, and how that single word carries within it all the myriad decisions women make. How sometimes it carries within it motherhood. How sometimes it carries within it death. How sometimes it carries within it an inarguable sense of freedom tempered perhaps with grief. How always it carries within it responsibility: for ourselves, for all that comes from us, and for all that does not.
Planned Parenthood is in danger of losing its federal funding, and this, I can tell you, is a travesty.* Planned Parenthood was the place I turned to when I found myself trapped in that moment of panic, but it was also the place that made sure, afterward, that I went back for check-ups, for better birth control, for counseling, for a clean bill of health.
Planned Parenthood has been and will continue to be a voice of reason in the face of ongoing attempts, both culturally and legislatively, to control women's sexuality and reproductive freedom. Bombastic? Perhaps. But also true.
In Georgia there is legislation pending that would require that every single miscarriage in that state be fully investigated to see if it was actually (as they ever so delicately put it) "prenatal murder." The language of this bill is horrifying, and worth the reading. It lays out an argument that Supreme Court decisions don't apply to Georgia in this case. It lays out what is to be done if the fetal death takes place in a hospital, in a home, in a moving vehicle, across state lines. It explains that prenatal murder "does not include a naturally occurring expulsion of a fetus known medically as a 'spontaneous abortion' and popularly as a 'miscarriage' so long as there is no human involvement whatsoever in the causation of such event."** Which of course does nothing to allay my perhaps overblown fears that any behavior a woman commits could potentially be construed as human involvement in her miscarriage. A fender bender. A fall down the stairs or trip on the sidewalk. Not eating enough vegetables during her pregnancy. Smoking. Exercising too much. Exercising not enough. Having a glass of champagne before (or after) knowing she was pregnant. And so on and so forth.
In Kansas, George Tiller, a longtime abortion provider, was assassinated in the foyer of his church in the morning of May 31st, 2009.
In Ohio in 2007 legislation was proposed that would require that any woman seeking an abortion first get permission from the father of the fetus. No matter the circumstances. No matter that the Supreme Court already found in Planned Parenthood v. Casey that a woman doesn't even need her husband's consent, let alone anyone else's consent, to obtain an abortion.
Legislators in South Dakota recently attempted to pass a bill that could be interpreted as allowing for the murder of abortion providers. (It has since been shelved, at least for now.)
And then there was Justice Kennedy's disturbing justification for banning some types of abortion procedures in Gonzalez v. Carhart also back in 2007: that women are sometimes so traumatized by choosing to have an abortion that we need to be protected from our own poor decision-making skills.
And then there's abortion in popular culture. Party of Five almost got us there, but our heroine conveniently miscarried on her way to the abortion clinic. Felicity did get us there, but the girl in question turned out to have cheated on her boyfriend so it was okay that she decided to abort her pregnancy: she was bad already anyway. Judd Apatow's Knocked Up, while coming from a self-proclaimed pro-choice liberal, avoided the word itself like the plague.
Which brings me, in my ever roundabout way, to Friday Night Lights. I don't get football but I freaking love Friday Night Lights. It's got not only great characters but also wonderful character development. It's got some fun songs. And it's dealt, over the course of its five seasons, with lots of prickly issues from serious football injuries to drug-addled parents to teen sex. Becky, one of our small town high schools girls, finds herself in dire straits after a romantic night with one of our intrepid football players. Miraculously, the show not only lets her have an abortion, but also lets her continue to be a decent and normal teenager after the fact.
And made a big splash in the process.
I just started the no-longer-quite-new fifth season this evening and it's looking good for our Dillon, Texas friends so far. And oh how I still adore those opening credits.
Oh, also, please please please take a moment to write to your congresspeople and tell them not to cut federal funding for Planned Parenthood and all the much-needed services they provide. Abortions, STD testing, contraception, cancer screening, and information on everything from pregnancy to quitting smoking to getting the flu vaccine.
*To put this loss of funding in perspective: Planned Parenthood is already committed to not spending federal funds on abortion services, but rather uses this money for its many, many other services. And while abortion makes up a sizable portion of what Planned Parenthood does, this is largely because abortion services have been segregated from all other health care services and organizations such as Planned Parenthood have had to pick up the slack. So all the conservatives hellbent on punishing Planned Parenthood aren't stopping abortions, they're cutting funds to services that help to prevent more abortions and more unwanted pregnancies.
**Italics mine. Creepily enough this section contains the only mention of the word "woman", except where the bill states that it repeals the Woman's Right To Know Act which provides that all women seeking an abortion must be offered the chance to see their sonogram and listen to their baby's heartbeat. Now that all abortions and possibly miscarriages are to be criminalized, the Woman's Right To Know Act is, of course, no longer necessary.