broadsideblog

“Rape, incest or the life of the mother”

In behavior, children, domestic life, life, parenting, politics, religion, women on October 13, 2012 at 12:51 pm
Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anyone who watched the debate this week between Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan heard this phrase repeatedly from Ryan. If Mitt Romney wins, the only way an American woman will be able to get a legal, safe abortion in this country is for those three reasons — she is pregnant through rape, incest or her life would be threatened if she carried to term.

Here’s Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker on Ryan’s comments in the debate:

Ryan then went on to say something oddly disarming in its inherent lack of self-awareness. He talked about how, looking at a first sonogram of his daughter, he was thrilled by the beating heart in the tiny “bean” on the image, so much that he and his wife still call that child “Bean.” …Ryan’s moral intuition that something was indeed wonderful here was undercut, tellingly, by a failure to recognize accurately what that wonderful thing was, even as he named it: a bean is exactly what the photograph shows—a seed, a potential, a thing that might yet grow into something greater, just as a seed has the potential to become a tree. A bean is not a baby.

The fundamental condition of life is that it develops, making it tricky sometimes to say when it’s fully grown and when it isn’t, but always easy to say that there is a difference and that that difference is, well, human life itself. It is this double knowledge that impacts any grownup thinking about abortion: that it isn’t life that’s sacred—the world is full of life, much of which Paul Ryan wants to cut down and exploit and eat done medium rare. It is conscious, thinking life that counts, and where and exactly how it begins (and ends) is so complex a judgment that wise men and women, including some on the Supreme Court, have decided that it is best left, at least at its moments of maximum ambiguity, to the individual conscience (and the individual conscience’s doctor).

I am solidly and unmovedly pro-choice.

I think the right to a safe, legal abortion is a fundamental right for women who — as we do — want to control when, how or if we become someone’s parent. We might get pregnant, unplanned, at 13 or 18 or 28 or 37 or 42. An unplanned, unwanted pregnancy is one of the most fundamentally life-altering events in any woman’s life.

The right to abortion is the most important way for us to preserve the most essential autonomy we have over our own bodies.

“The life of the mother” ignores a basic fact women know intimately  — it is the sudden death of our dreams, hopes, plans and ambitions that, for many of us, determines the difference between “life” and death.

A woman with no:

– money

– reliable income

– clean, safe home

– partner, whether male or female, married or unmarried

– family to help her with baby-sitting or childcare

– education or access to education

– safe, loving marriage

is not a woman who wants to, or should — weak, scared, broke — become someone’s mother.  Women’s role on this earth is not simply to create children, no matter their emotional or intellectual strength.

Women become pregnant through laziness, ignorance, ambivalence — and a lost, broken or unused condom. Women get pregnant if they screw up their birth control or never knew exactly how to use it properly in the first place. Women get pregnant when they least expect it. (My husband was born to a woman who was 49.) Women get pregnant by men who, they soon realize, or already know, are absolutely unfit and unready, emotionally, financially, professionally, to become someone’s father and assume those lifelong responsibilities. Women get pregnant by men they are married to who are, they discover, having an affair. Women get pregnant by men who turn out to be scary shits, even abusive.

And single mothers are those most likely to fall into poverty.

No woman wants that for her future, or a child she might be forced to bear.

I do not think choosing abortion is a decision to be taken lightly, without a clear understanding that you are making the choice to end a life. It is no substitute for intelligent, thoughtful, responsible, consistent use of effective birth control. If you’re too scared to ask your partner to use a condom or find and use an effective form of birth control, your decision to abort is, in my mind, a sad, painful consequence of your own unresolved ability to handle your own sexuality.

Pregnancy is no joke.

From the non-profit Guttmacher Institute’s most recent report:

• Of the approximately 750,000 teen pregnancies that occur each year,[3] 82% are unintended[5]. Fifty-nine percent end in birth and more than one-quarter end in abortion.[3]

• The 2008 teenage abortion rate was 17.8 abortions per 1,000 women. This figure was 59% lower than its peak in 1988, but 1% higher than the 2005 rate.[3]

• Compared with their Canadian, English, French and Swedish peers, U.S. teens have a similar level of sexual activity, but they are more likely to have shorter and less consistent sexual relationships, and are less likely to use contraceptives, especially the pill or dual methods.[7]

• The United States continues to have one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the developed world (68 per 1,000 women aged 15–19 in 2008)—more than twice that of Canada (27.9 per 1,000) or Sweden (31.4 per 1,000).[8]

From the American on-line magazine Salon:

There is hope for America yet: A new survey finds that most adults in this country believe that teens should be taught about both abstinence and birth control. What’s more, seven in 10 adults agree that federal funds should go toward teen pregnancy prevention programs that have been “proven to change behavior related to teen pregnancy” (i.e., actually work). And three-quarters of teens and adults think that antiabortion policymakers “should be strong supporters of birth control.” Sanity prevails!

Now here’s the bad news: Most teens “say they have all the information they need to avoid an unplanned pregnancy,” according to the report by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, and yet “many admit they know ‘little or nothing’” about contraception. Forty-seven percent feel clueless about condoms, and a whopping 72 percent admit ignorance about birth control pills. Worse still, 42 percent of teens believe contraception doesn’t matter all that much, that you just get pregnant “when it is your time,” says the survey.

I do not want men in positions of power telling women when they may become a mother.

Here’s a new memoir by Merle Hoffman, an American woman considered one of the nation’s leaders in the pro-choice movement.

What do you think?

  1. I’m definitely greatful for democracy. It feels good to be able to appreciate and live with people of different oppinions. I, for one, am no saint by any means, yet through my mistakes I have arrived at a pro-life philosophy. To me, if you know you are not ready to be a mom or a dad, then don’t have intercourse. There’s other ways to fill that human physical need other than the stated. If you decide to go ahead anyway, then be prepared to deal with the possible consequences. To be responsible about your actions and choices is to be a respectable human being. We cannot have double standards with accountability. If I decide to speed and I end up killing a person, to say that I didn’t mean to kill anyone is no defense. You still have to own up to your actions even if it’s to a different degree.

    Thanks for posting.

  2. Sounds like me! You go girl!

  3. I am a man who grew up in a house full of women. I was originally pro-life but after hearing pro-choice ideas, I switch sides. Everything you just said reminded me why I switched sides in the first place, and why I’m happy to support women and their right to control their bodies. Thank you, Caitlin.

  4. It’s a very personal decision, clearly. I can’t tolerate male politicians telling us how to live our most intimate lives. Thanks for weighing in.

  5. the moderator asked biden and romney about their faith and also about abortion. they both said the same thing regarding their catholic orientation, life beginning at conception, all that. the difference was that biden said that position works for him, but he feels he does not have the right to impose that on everyone else. ryan still thinks that “his” religion is the only one that counts.

  6. I don’t think they really understand that what they will do by adopting the personhood amendment is to 1) outlaw most, if not all, forms of birth control and 2) create legal chaos. How can a zygote inherit? What happens if the mother miscarries when she is in a car accident? I don’t think they have thought this out very carefully.

  7. I am pro choice. Choice. I know many women who have had abortions, but not one who took it “lightly,” or saw it as a reasonable alternative to a condom. For more reasons than I can or should possibly detail here, but I can say the older I get, the longer that list of reasons grows. “Rape, incest, or life of the mother.” Hmmm, well, you detailed the many ways the life of the mother can be impacted by an unplanned pregnancy, how about we add the squishy factors to rape and incest? Many, many rapes/cases of incest aren’t reported (again for numerous reasons). Who will decide if a pregnancy is a result of rape? Will only certain rapes count? Unreported incest? Food for thought: many of the same politicians who want to take away choice also want to take away Medicaid waivers for babies/children with life threatening conditions, dependent on trachs, etc. Life is only sacred before birth?

  8. This was another point ….the extremely low rates of reported rape and incest (and one is really a proxy for the other as how many young girls are having consensual sex with their father or brothers or uncle,etc.?) Unless they are mentally ill or incapacitated women know very well what they want to do with their own bodies. We do not need men who have no personal relationship to us or our unborn children to dictate their morality.

    Thanks for your comment!

  9. This powerful post speaks to me and for me. Thank you for putting my thoughts into words. The idea of a Romney/Ryan presidency terrifies me. If the one-issue (abortion) voters would LISTEN to what those two are saying, I think they, too, would be fearful.

  10. A new study recently came out that showed the availability of free birth control lowered birth rates in teens and unwed mothers as well as lowered the number of abortions in the birth control group as opposed to the group who were not given birth control. That should say a lot to people who want to really abolish abortion.

    My personal views is that abortion should be legal because there will always be a desire for it. Better that than the return to back alley butchers and trips to Canada for the rich.

  11. Well …. I have watched the debate for decades. And it is sad that women need a choice.

    You wrote to each their own, as if you are willing to allow discourse, but then you wrote you can’t tolerate men ….

    wow …. so much for equality.

    ghost.

  12. You did not read this post carefully if this is what you understood. I cannot tolerate men telling women what to do with their bodies. Women vote. Discourse is great. But I do not have any room, personally, to debate whether women deserve and need autonomy over our reproductive systems.

    • Exactly. If men had any physical, mental and emotional impact on their bodies as intense as that of pregnancy, labour and motherhood, they would want a way out. It’s like if somebody got on a bus and then were told that a bomb would go off after nine miles: you’d want to get off, right? You might not die, you might not even be hurt badly, but you’ll experience something you never wanted to.

  13. A mother is a complex thing, and nobody who doesn’t think they could handle it should have to. If a woman doesn’t want or cannot look after her child, the child will almost certainly suffer. I chose not to have an abortion, because I already loved my baby too much, and couldn’t go back to pre-pregnancy life so easily, but that was MY choice. Nobody else’s. Pro-choice is the only humane way to treat women and children.

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