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Is This For Real?

February 17, 2012

I don’t even know where to begin. It’s like the time we went to the Bahamas in August of 2006. A hurricane had recently buzzed past the islands and the surf was up — ten and 14 foot swells. We had a beach house, but we couldn’t go swimming, at least not at first. Eventually, the waves grew calm enough for us to swim. My mom kept the kids in the shallows, but Chris and I and my brother went out into the deep.

It was too rough for me. I was still weak from pregnancy, tired from taking care of two toddlers. I had just weaned a few weeks earlier, and, although I didn’t know it, cancer had begun to spread through my body. I couldn’t keep up. I tried to swim in, but I couldn’t, so I asked my brother to help me get to shore, and he did. He and Chris both thought I was faking, or being selfish, or something, but it was my brother who swallowed his annoyance to help me get to a safe place. I was tired, and scared, and I really didn’t want to think about what might have happened.  I went inside and took a nap.

That’s what I feel like doing now, whenever I crack open a newspaper, turn on the news, or the internet. It just never stops, like waves, one after another.

Earlier this month, a Texas law went into effect requiring women seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound of her fetus. The bill’s sponsor, State Senator Dan Patrick, estimates that if one in five women decides to not have an abortion based on his law then he will have saved 15,000 lives. If I did my math correctly, then 75,000 pregnant women whose circumstances are hard enough for them to choose to terminate their pregnancy will have to undergo an unnecessary, invasive, and expensive medical procedure designed to shame her. It’s insulting. It’s the same old song:  But the only possible reason you could choose to have an abortion is that you didn’t realize you were going to have a baby. A baaaaaaaaaby. A sweet, clean, well-cared-for, snuggly baaaaaaaaby. As if the alternative to abortion were a clean, warm, sleeping baby with its tummy full of milk and its happy mother and father holding hands in a perfectly decorated nursery, looking at each other with love in their eyes: Aren’t we glad Dan Patrick made me have that sonogram? That’s why we named our son Dan Patrick. Not only is that scenario delusional for women seeking an abortion — it’s delusional for any parents of an infant.

And it’s insulting to insinuate that women seeking abortions are too stupid to know they’re about to kill a baby. As if anyone would seek an abortion short of having no good alternative.

The reality is that the alternative to legal abortion is grinding poverty with no way out. It’s children without food to eat  and without clothes to keep them warm, and single mothers stretched to the end of their tether. The alternative to abortion is women stuck in relationships with abusive men because they can’t afford to leave. The alternative to legal abortion is women by the thousands dying from botched back-alley procedures, and men like Dan Patrick saying, “Well, she brought it on herself.” I’d like to see Dan Patrick propose a law that would provide enough food and clothes for 15,000 children for eighteen years. Actually, I’d like to see Dan Patrick unemployed, and when he comes up for re-election, I hope his opponent picks up this blog post.

And then Virginia passed a similar law. An article in Slate brought it to my attention that the sonogram procedure is what they call a trans-vaginal ultrasound.

I’ve had a lot of unpleasant medical procedures. The trans-vaginal ultrasound is up there with the bad ones. You lie back with your feet in stirrups and the medical technician sticks this thing up your private parts. It’s cold. It hurts. And it’s traumatic, even for me, who isn’t overly burdened with a sense of modesty or private-part taboos. When I think about having to go through one just because a bunch of men decided I wasn’t smart enough to make my own choices for my own body, it makes me mad, but it also makes me scared. This is the kind of thing that goes on in other places. Places like Saudi Arabia and Yemen, where women have no rights.

And then there was that kerfuffle with the board of directors of Susan G Komen for the Cure passing a last-minute bylaw designed to disqualify Planned Parenthood from receiving grants to screen women for breast cancer. The change in bylaws, at least according to the news reports I read, was strong-armed by a strong-willed staff member, but unfortunately, Susan G Komen’s name is now synonymous with “nasty political fight about abortion” rather than finding a cure for the disease that almost killed me. Komen had to pull in some heavy hitting damage-control consultants (so that’s where my donations are going to?) who leaked some internal emails to the Huffington Post piling all the blame on the anti-abortion crusader, who shortly resigned, but what really sticks in my craw is that the damage control key message was this: “Poor little naive Susan Komen Foundation just wasn’t in the same political league as Big Bad Planned Parenthood.” I know a lie when I read it. The whole mess was kicked off by a woman who ran for governor of Georgia and got the endorsement of Sarah Palin. Politically naive? Hardly. I think the Komen leadership, based in Dallas, just blithely assumed everyone would think the same way they did, the same way everyone they knew did, and they let themselves get carried away by a staff member with an agenda — this happens in every nonprofit organization I know of — and it should. It’s why people get involved in charitable organizations: because they want to make a difference, and I doubt that Karen Handel interviewed for her position with the key point, “I want to bring anti-abortion activism to your foundation.” Susan G Komen for the Cure funded the study in which my doctor found the cure for my cancer, so I’m not going to let an ugly political fight about abortion make me jump on the bandwagon decrying them and the horse they rode in on. It just makes me sad.

But wait! There’s more! Rick Santorum is leading in the polls. This is the man whose anti-gay rhetoric so angered the brilliant Dan Savage that he created a smear campaign to forever link Rick Santorum’s name with something really, really gross. And now Santorum looks to win the Republican nomination. I feel like Cereal Guy, and the only explanation I can think of is that people really, really hate Mormons. I’m chuckling because Santorum’s chief moneybags was caught on tape with the old aspirin joke:

Today, he apologized, in the kind of “I’m sorry you were offended” kind of apology that makes me cross someone off my Christmas Card list, but what is funnier, er, creepier, is what Rick Santorum said.

“It was a bad joke, it was a stupid joke. It’s not reflective of me or my record on this issue,” Santorum said on CBS “This Morning.” “This is the same gotcha politics that you get from the media and I’m just not going to play that game.”

Mr. Santorum, I believe your position on this issue is that a woman should not put aspirin between her knees if a man wants to have sex with her. And if he does it anyway, and she gets pregnant, then she should just make the best of a bad situation and have that baby.

This man is poised to get the Republican Nomination for President.

And then the Catholic Bishops are all up in arms because President Obama wants to make it so that women who work for Catholic organizations like hospitals and universities can get insurance coverage for their birth control pills. I remember when The Pill wasn’t covered by insurance. You had to pay for it. Then Pfizer invented Viagra, and of course, that was covered, which was an outrageous juxtaposition, and that’s how come The Pill, or the IUD, or diaphragms, are now covered under our health insurance plans. Evidently, making insurance companies obey the law of the land is so offensive to the powerful men who run the Catholic Church that they got their cronies in Congress to conduct an all-male hearing about birth control for women.

Are these the same people who just a few months ago were working themselves up into a paranoid frenzy about Sharia law being enacted on US Soil? You betcha!

Part of me just wants to go take a nap and then play in my garden, but I’m stronger than that.

The last time I felt like this, I wasn’t. I was weakened by the burdens of womanhood: pregnancy, childbirth, child care, and a cancer that is the most common cancer to strike women. I needed the strength of men: my husband and my brother, to get me to safety. Not this time.

This time, I can stand and face the waves of anti-woman, anti-freedom rhetoric and say, “No. This stops, and it stops now.”

Stand with me. Speak out and, above all, vote.

From → Uncategorized

  1. amy! permalink

    All you missed on my list of “things that are pissing me off today” list is Rick Santorum’s statement that sex should be “special” – procreative between heterosexual spouses.

  2. Martha permalink

    Amen, sister.

  3. Judy permalink

    Thank you. Those who have always taken safe, readily available birth control & legal abortions for granted need to take up the cause before all is lost.

  4. Jen permalink

    YES. And Judy, that’s exactly what I’ve been saying.

  5. doris permalink

    Brilliantly put. Thank you. I have lived through not being able to own property in my own name and will not go back. The vast majority of women who seek abortions are married women who already have more children than they can support. How hideous of the men who insist that women submit to their husbands to also insist that the result of that submission is women’s alone to bear, even if it will cost their lives.

  6. Kay permalink

    You said it–this is brilliantly well put. Thank you for taking the time to articulate what is making so many women, and men who care about the women in their lives and communities, very angry.

  7. Chris Austin-Lane permalink

    Absolutely. The last ten years leave me with a sense of understanding for people in democracies that became unfree. We cannot go back, and we will not go back.

  8. Laura permalink

    Glad you’re back!

  9. Rivetting. I’m thinking of all the people I need to send it to. Thanks, ER

  10. Chicky permalink

    Linda Sharp sent me here for good reason. I am a woman, and I vote and I am so offended by Santorum and his backwoods, back alley ideas about women’s rights and women’s issues that President Obama will not need a Super Pac – he has me, and I make sure that everyone I know hears every offensive word that comes out of this douchebag’s mouth. (and they like to pass things on). I hope your readers like to pass things on too.

    Highly recommend Linda Sharps’ DGMS blog as well:

  11. Emily permalink

    You have done a fabulous job of putting order and words to the disorganized anger that has been seething in me over this stuff. Thanks for that.

  12. Maria Ward permalink

    Wonderful thoughts, Elizabeth!! So well put – I have been just livid over this assumption that we, as women, are too stupid to realize that we are pregnant – with a life inside us – when a decision is made to have an abortion. I have never had an abortion, and I am sure there are a few nincompoops out there who think nothing of having one as birth control, but the majority of women I have known who have had one have prayerfully and thoughtfully considered all options and, regretfully decided that this was the best one for them. To think of them having to endure listening to an explanation of what’s going on, looking at the sonogram of their never to be born child, listening to a heartbeat that will never mature – that is the ultimate insult to these women. I have never known a woman who WANTED to have an abortion. I have known many women who decided it was the best way out of a very difficult situation – whatever that situation was. Sorry – now I’m ranting on your blogsite!! Anyway, good work! Very well written!!

  13. Aunt Lee permalink

    The idea that the state owns our private parts is obscene.

  14. You go, grrrrl.

  15. I like what was said above,..”Obama won’t need a Super Pac because he will have me”. Well, I know he will have all the women in Dallas! We are his Super Pac!!! You can tell how advanced and how well a country is run by the way the women are treated in that country. How they are treated at home, the workplace and in their political system. Look outside the US and it is medievil in some places. We have worked so hard for each step forward we have been able to make. We must never allow anyone to tell us what to do with our bodies or make decisions for us. It is estrogen that brings sanity, love, caring, justice and fairness into our communities and to Capitol Hill. Why are these old men, with old values still there? Why aren’t women like you Elizabeth in a political office? This is the only way we will see the change that we long for in our hearts. If you have traveled outside of the US it is obvious we do live in a country that offers so many advantages just for the taking. But, once you return home it is easy to see where our shortcomings are. With more women in offices of leadership there really could be explosive, positive changes made in our political system, our educational system, our medical care etc. Leadership by the brilliant, compassionate women that live amongst us should be our leaders!
    We have fallen so far behind, and so quickly due to greed of money and backward thinking of men. I felt every word you wrote. I want to make a poster and take to the streets enmass with all women who love their families, their work, their neighbors…”WE ARE THE SUPER PAC”!!!

  16. abigail permalink

    Too good for me to even come up with a great comment. You just nailed it, women don’t choose between a nice happy home and wanted baby and an abortion, they have abortions because they know they can’t raise the child properly. They are decent enough people not to put children into bad situations where they are unwanted and uncared for. Forcing women not to have abortions is close to child abuse.

  17. Thank you for this.
    Great work, as always.

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