PART ONE: GOVERNMENT INTERVENTION
Remember how the Department of Health and Human Services was arguing that a doctor's desires should trump their patient's medical needs?
The public comment period on that is not quite over. It ends in a couple of days. If you have not yet sent in a comment, you should. You can review the issue here, and the action info is as follows:
Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, with the subject line "provider conscience regulation." They are publishing these comments right now, because it is in a 30-day public comment period.
I had a conversation with a pro-choice friend of mine about this, and for those of you who aren't accustomed to seeing this from a civil rights point of view, the following might be helpful. A lot of you on my friends list are already likely pro-choice, but here's the case I'd like to make to those of you who are not.
DHHS wishes to reclassify many forms of birth control as abortion. How do they do this? By defining "life" at fertilization and not implantation. Now, these are both completely arbitrary points to pick, but I'll tell you the implications of each one.
If we rule that life begins at implantation, we can sell forms of birth control such as oral contraceptives, transdermal contraceptives (the patch), IUDs (which is actually hormonal as well), and various other non-barrier methods. This is because part of what they do is prevent a fertilized egg from sticking to the inside of the woman's uterus. Keep the fertilized egg from implanting and it flushes out with her next period just like any other egg.
If we rule that life begins at fertilization, every non-barrier method I can think of short of full sterilization becomes abortion. This is a problem because it removes control of a woman's reproduction from her own hands (a pill that she takes, a patch that she wears, an IUD that she has inserted) and gives it mostly to men (a condom that he wears). This means that women are less capable of engaging in responsible sexual activity.
PART TWO: PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY
"Well, they should have thought about that before they started having sex," you might say. It's a common enough argument. If women don't want to get pregnant, they should engage in risky behavior like sex. Most people will agree that a woman who is raped or molested at a young age is not "to blame" for her sexual activity, and as a result an abortion is okay in these cases.
But here's what this really says. A woman who doesn't choose to have sex deserves the choice of whether to keep an unwanted child. A woman who does choose to have sex does not deserve the choice of whether to keep an unwanted child. What makes this misogynist is that it takes a moral imperative ("good women don't sleep around") and uses it as a framework to give "bad" women fewer rights than "good" ones. This classification obviously operates based on the idea that women can and should be judged according to moral standards they do not share; if they shared the position that consenting women don't deserve reproductive freedom, they wouldn't be asking for abortions.
But these women have their own moral standards. A woman who chooses to have sex does not give up her conscience (despite what many particularly vicious misogynists may assert). What DHHS is saying is that if a woman seeks an abortion after having consensual sex, it doesn't matter if she thinks it's right. She isn't qualified to make that decision, and her doctor has every right to veto it by denying her access to the abortion she wants.
I don't think I'm being overdramatic when I say this: if a woman isn't qualified to make a moral choice about "appropriate" sexual conduct because she might "choose wrong," why are they allowed to make moral choices anywhere else? Why are women voting? Shouldn't every woman's vote be subject to a veto by someone who's afraid she'll "vote wrong?"
PART THREE: A MINOR INCONVENIENCE?
The next argument I hear a lot is that women don't have to raise these children. They can choose to give it up for adoption and move on with their lives without having to kill a fetus. This argument is based on the assumption that "no cost pregnancies" are not only possible, but universal.
This is flawed. Pregnancy is a very costly experience. I don't care how many times you've seen the movie Juno; women cannot expect that their every medical and emotional need will be catered to by wealthy supportive patrons. Here's what really happens.
Carrying a bearing a child disrupts a woman's education if she still needs to finish it.
There are also incredible medical expenses involved with proper pre-natal care.
There's also the fact that if your job doesn't allow maternity leave (and unlike many European countries, America doesn't require employers to provide this), any time spent in the hospital could cost you your job. This is not just your means of supporting yourself. It's probably also your means of paying for the aforementioned expensive prenatal care.
Make no mistake. This is what an unplanned and unwanted pregnancy looks like. There are problems with someone else having the power to subject women to these circumstances, particularly since most women will be facing those circumstances alone. In a perfect world, those wouldn't be problems. But if you make laws as though we are living in a perfect world, you're not the one who'll suffer. Women will suffer. I should hope that matters enough to you to affect your decision.
Making law as though women who don't want children have it in their power to prevent conception 100% is making law in a land of fantasy (particularly with DHHS trying to restrict women's access to hormonal birth control). It's a nice fantasy. I'd like it a lot, too, if I could prevent pregnancy 100%. But if you make policy as though we are living in that perfect world when we are not, it won't be you who suffers. It will be women, and the children born to these now-disadvantaged and disenfranchised mothers. Pretending the world is better than it is will not make everything better. It will hurt people, and crowing that those nasty sluts had it coming does not erase that fact.
The only reason I can see for picturing the world this way and making law this way is to make you (and the "American Taliban" in general) feel like you've shown everyone how moral you are. If that's the needs those laws are serving, it becomes very very important to me how many people those laws will hurt.
And y'know what? When you're willing to hurt that many people just to codify your morals, I will never believe you are moral. You just want to be seen that way, by others and yourself. As a moral person, I call bullshit on that. As a woman, I call double bullshit on people who're willing to ruin my life and the lives of women like me just to feel special, like their morals are the only ones important enough to be made law.
Yes, women like me. Here's where we get to the personal anecdote section.
PART FOUR: I AM A FILTHY SLUT...
I have been in a relationship with the first person I ever had intercourse with for four years now (as of Sunday). We use two forms of protection every time we have sex. Our relationship is stable, and so is our economic footing (sorta). A pregnancy would halt Brian's education and my job search. A pregnancy would rack up medical bills neither of us can pay for (and neither can our families). A pregnancy would destroy us.
We're careful. We're responsible.
We are doing everything we can to prevent me from conceiving.
If I become pregnant, there are people who would deny me an abortion because I chose to have sex, and I deserve the worst case scenario when/if it comes around. I deserve to lose my job and not further my education. Brian deserves to have his education halted. We both deserve staggering debt from medical bills, debt we may never get out of. Above all we deserve the strain on an otherwise-healthy relationship.
Because I chose to have sex, and irresponsible people deserve to have their lives ruined. If I'd been raped, my rights would remain intact. But if one standard of morality gets codified into law, and that standard of morality judges me a bad woman who should have to bear an enforced pregnancy... what can I do?
You want to talk about prevention? I'm trying to prevent a worldview that treats adult women like minors (children, guys) or livestock who are unqualified to make "the big choices," like when they'll breed. I'm trying to prevent a worldview that could ruin my life from getting a toehold in my government.
PART FIVE: ...AND WHAT ARE YOU?
What do you want for American women? Does it have anything to do with their wellbeing? Or hadn't you really thought about it? There's more to morality than "protect babies." Sometimes you have to concede an obligation to the human beings around you who're trying to live out their lives. The real question is whether a potential human is more important to you than a living one, just because the living one happens to be a woman.
If you're comfortable with that, truly comfortable with it, leave a comment. I need to know who you are so that I can seriously reconsider your respect for me as a human being.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
PART ONE: GOVERNMENT INTERVENTION