I saw Wendy Davis’s filibuster the other night and was ecstatic to see someone from the left, besides Hillary, actually forcefully defending a woman’s right to choose. And then I witnessed all of the hysterical, emotional responses from the left blogosphere about just how incredibly awful it would be if we can’t get abortions at any point in time during a pregnancy, and despaired.
Both the right and the left seem to be hung up on something and it took me awhile to pin it down. Here it is:
Pregnancy is a temporary condition. Motherhood is FOREVER.
Neither side can get past the first part. Pregnancy is temporary. It has a finite duration. There is definitely an endpoint and you pretty much know when that endpoint is coming so you can prepare for it in advance.
The right would like to extend that period indefinitely and insists that women become instant mothers from the moment of conception. Women are supposed to love and feel nurturing feelings towards a temporary visitor. Of course, that works for the right politically and economically on several levels. Mostly, abortion is a political football and a defining issue for the right. If the other side is for it, they’re agin it. But they are agin it for economic reasons as well. More women staying at home being mothers frees up more of the shrinking pie for the menfolk. Amiright? You know I am. So all this romanticization of the fetus is designed to make mothers stay out of the workforce. Let’s just be honest about that up front, OK?
The left seems to believe that pregnancy is forever. It is not. It’s also not punitive or a death sentence. It is what it is- a temporary condition, like many other temporary physical conditions. And no one can make you be a mother if you don’t want to be. It is true that labor and delivery is painful, somewhat dangerous, time consuming and recovery can take awhile. But putting your body through that pain and inconvenience does not make you a mother. Sure, there are a lot of conservative assholes who would like to shame women for getting pregnant and if women are forced to endure shame for getting pregnant but not wanting to be mothers, that’s something we can definitely work on. Think of it as a Gay Straight Alliance type activity. If the state insists that women carry a pregnancy past the 20th week, it really should pick up the tab for that and forcefully prohibit employers from terminating employment of pregnant employees. Where is that legislation? Why aren’t women insisting on it? Where is Wendy Davis when we need that kind of bill?
Don’t get me wrong. I am strongly pro-choice. I don’t think the state has an interest in what you do with your womb. But I do kinda draw the line when the fetus is viable. I’m not talking about when the fetus is compromised or has a genetic abnormality or when the woman’s health or life is in danger or in cases of rape or incest or when the person carrying the fetus is only a little girl or in cases where a previous legal abortion was unsuccessful. (let me see, have I covered all exceptions? I think I have) In those cases, I don’t have a problem with abortions extending beyond the 20th week. And as for fetuses experiencing pain, I’d be very surprised if TEXAS can’t figure out a way of lethally injecting a human being without pain prior to removal from a uterus. Please. Governor Perry has done it 261 times.
What one person may consider an unacceptable infringement of their time and persons may be a premature infant worth lifesaving measures to another. At the point of viability, I have to apply my Good Samaritan test. If I found a premature infant at 21 weeks gasping for breath at the side of the road, what would I do? I think most of us would pick up that infant and rush it to the nearest neonatal intensive care unit. I think I would have the same concern for the fetus who can survive on its own but is not yet gasping for breath. The difference between an aborted fetus and a premature infant mandating special care is extremely thin at the age of viability.
For every infant, the dividing line between viability and non-viability is different and the call should probably go to a group of physicians. The danger in that is that you might get a group of rightwing crackpots with an agenda. But oddly enough, this is how they do it in some of the world’s most progressive countries and I’m assuming they’ve managed to avoid that scenario. Sweden, for example, allows abortions only until the 18th week. After that, you need to appeal to a panel of doctors who will make the call and they usually only do it in cases when the fetus or the woman carrying the fetus have some kind of health complication or abnormality. Otherwise, I suppose, you’re denied an abortion and are back on that train until you reach your destination a few months later.
I don’t hear Swedish women or Norwegian women or Danish women screaming bloody murder or telling sob stories about how hard it is to carry a baby to term or whining that the state is not treating them as fully human simply because it makes them wait out a temporary condition and make some hard choices afterwards. Yes, adoption is a hard choice. I’m not sure that it is a harder choice than aborting a fetus after 20 weeks though. Yes, they have a lot of social safety net options that we don’t, including socialized medicine. Maybe we should focus on that instead. Women who are forced to endure a temporary condition should be given all the support and medical services that women in Scandinavian countries get. If they don’t want to continue on with motherhood, right wingers should be forced to stuff a sock in it.
But I don’t think there is any really good excuse for someone to wait until the 20th week to get an elective abortion. Yep, I’ve heard that some ditzy women don’t know they’re pregnant until then. For some reason, American women seem particularly prone to not knowing they’re pregnant until the fifth month. The rest of the world seems to have gotten the memo but we haven’t. I don’t hear any bloggers on the left attempting to explain that disparity. There MUST be a good reason for why American women wait so fricking long to take a pregnancy test but no one has come forward to tell us why that is.
That’s not to say it doesn’t happen. It’s unfortunate but probably a lot more rare than we would like to admit. I don’t know how those unfortunate who miss the deadline would react to a Good Samaritan test. Probably not well. But it is a temporary condition and if other countries have limits, especially countries with higher gender equality cultures, then imposing a 20 week viability test is probably not going to kill what little gender equality we have here in the US.
What WILL kill gender equality here is all the proscriptions and obstacles women face before that 20 week limit. And I stand with Wendy on fighting that. There’s no good reason why we are still living with bronze age tribal morality in the twentieth century. That’s what is preventing women from being fully human and getting on with their lives after a temporary physical condition.