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Hoosier Musings on the Road to Emmaus

Thursday, February 16, 2012


You have no doubt heard the political kerfuffle of late. Abortion, Contraception, Planned Parenthood... all the overlapping issues that come under the general heading of "Women's Reproductive Health." Some wild discussions about "lady parts" are making the news-- and strangely, almost always in the bass clef tones of people who are, biologically speaking, on the outside looking in.

*ahem* Sorry. Couldn't resist.

Anyway, I'd like to hear more women's voices in the conversation. And I'd be glad to join in, even though there are a lot of areas over which I still struggle. Why?

I'm a feminist. That means I mean I believe wholeheartedly in the notion, sometimes quaintly expressed on bumper stickers, that Women Are People-- adults capable of making their own independent decisions, for good or ill. I neither need nor want a representative from the federal government present when I consult with my doctor.


I'm an adoptive parent because a woman carried her child to term, even though any but the most virulent would have supported her decision to do otherwise (and probably driven her to the clinic). The idea that a fetus is only so much tissue? Can't go there.

I have listened to those who chose abortion because they had suffered abuse, or whose health would have been sincerely jeopardized by a pregnancy.


I have also read the interviews of women who were "still having fun," and thought a baby would get in the way.

I have heard the horror stories from before Roe v. Wade-- tales of coat hangers and evil potions and (for those who could afford it) being quietly whisked out of state for a "procedure" that might or might not have been safer than the above.


I have also known women (yes, plural) who were heartbroken because their "safe, legal abortion" had left them infertile.


I have held sobbing young women who chose to have an abortion because of fear over how a pregnancy would be received. Not the "geez, my folks are gonna kill me if I'm not home on time" kind of fear, but real "I'll be kicked out if I'm not beaten to death first" terror.


I have held sobbing young women who chose adoption, only to have kith and kin excoriate them for "throwing away your own flesh and blood."


So, what's the answer? I don't know. But here's what I believe:

I believe that people having sex when they are not ready to be parents has always been. Our sexualized culture may make it more acceptable and prevalent, but it is not a new phenomenon.

I believe that the 1950's mindset of shaming a woman for having sex, let alone getting pregnant (and it clearly is always her fault, of course; boys will be boys. Yes, I'm twitching as I type that.) is a sign of a warped worldview.

I believe the 2012 mindset that something is *wrong* with the person who chooses not to be sexually active (either before she's ready, or before they're married, or ever), is equally warped.

I believe that having safe and reliable contraceptives readily available, along with accurate information about how to use them, reduces the odds that the choice of what to do about an unintended pregnancy will ever have to be made.

I also believe there are good and solid reasons for saying no to sex, and they can be taught right alongside the above with a straight face, and without ridicule.

I believe that other options for an unintended pregnancy (either raising the child or planning for an adoption) ought to receive a whole lot more cultural support, emotionally and financially, than they do.

All this means I am sometimes "pro-life," and sometimes "pro-choice," and always in prayer over the very messy reality. Lord, have mercy.


Blogger Di said...

I love this. I think it's perfect. Thank you.

February 16, 2012 4:34 PM  

Blogger Unknown said...

You also know someone whose doctor recommended terminating a pregnancy when the much wanted baby had a genetic abnormality -- me. I am forever grateful to the medical professionals who cared for me so kindly and grateful that the procedure was legal and in a hospital.
Thank you for your thoughtful words.

February 16, 2012 4:57 PM  

Blogger Jane Ellen+ said...

I'm sorry, Martha. I'm sure that was a hard time, and a hard decision. Thank you, in turn, for sharing a bit of your story.

February 16, 2012 7:16 PM  

Blogger Dr. Laura Marie Grimes said...

Thank you, Jane Ellen, for this courageous statement. As a prolife, procontraception, pro social justice feminist who lives with a disability and who has experienced both the honored loss of a toddler and the discounted loss of a "fetus" I am heartbroken at the strident voices of the extremists on both sides of the aisle. Conservatives who deface the name prolife, IMHO, by fighting health care to prevent pregnancy and allow women to carry to term if it happens(not to mention being prodeath on war, capital punishment, etc.) and viciously attack women for abortions which are driven by the sexism, disabilism, and injustice of our society...And feminists who deface the name feminist, IMHO, by discounting any value for developing fetal life, early and late term, female and male alike, as well as the testimony of the many women who found abortion a tragic and traumatizing experience rather than a liberating one.

February 16, 2012 8:35 PM  

Blogger Dr. Laura Marie Grimes said...

Actually, fetus would have been a lot kinder than "blob," which was how the ultrasound tech described the late first trimester, tiny but beautifully formed baby she couldn't find because I was bleeding him/her out.

February 16, 2012 8:46 PM  

Blogger God_Guurrlll said...

I've struggled with this issue but the bottom line for me is that I will never stand in the way of a woman's choices.

Like you stated in your blog too many women are having to make this painful choice because our world is so messed up. I'm working on changing the world.

February 18, 2012 6:29 AM  

Blogger Jane Ellen+ said...

Thanks for your comments, one and all.

@God_Guurrlll: I do not know that I can say I would "never stand in the way of a woman's choices." And herein lies the quandry: sometimes decisions that women (and men) make are heart-wrenching; but sometimes they are selfish or short-sighted or callous. I guess the best I can say is that I try to treat everyone I come across with love and respect; but that does not mean I must agree with or support the decisions they make.

March 14, 2012 2:43 PM  

Blogger Crimson Rambler said...

Can I come sit beside you? Because this just about says everything I could find to say, on the subject, and I thank you for it.

August 22, 2012 10:18 AM  

Anonymous JCF said...

[Hi Jane Ellen+, just discovered your blog via E Kaeton's "Telling Secrets"]

I have also read the interviews of women who were "still having fun," and thought a baby would get in the way

A statement like this sets off my "hermeneutic of suspicion." Does any woman really think like this, at the time she chose to have an abortion? Or is this the later "remembered" perspective of a woman who had an abortion, and then CONVERTED to a "Pro-Life" (i.e., anti-choice) ideology? The sort of "Zealous Convert" testimony, where claiming "I used to be SO BAD!" is part of the show?

Find me a woman who says "I wanted to keep having fun/thought a baby would get in the way" AND still IDs as Pro-Choice, and maybe I'll believe the former claim.


Count me among those who think a first trimester embryo is a "blob" . . . which doesn't mean, if it's YOUR pregnancy, you can't consider it your beloved child!

I think abortion is a tragedy . . . a consequent tragedy, of the preceding tragedy of a (for whatever reason) impossible pregnancy. As long as there are impossible pregnancies---and this side of heaven, I think they will continue to happen---abortion is a neccessity, and criminalizing it (dejure or merely defacto) is a SIN.

September 28, 2012 1:09 AM  

Blogger Jane Ellen+ said...

I can understand your suspicion, JCF; there's a lot of rhetoric tossed out there. 

There was a series of articles I read several years ago in the Chicago Tribune around the issue-- published, IIRC, to mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.  One of those articles was written by a reporter who spent a week at a local abortion clinic,  talking with the clients.  It was fascinating, in no small part because the reporter did a credible job of letting the women speak for themselves rather than editorializing.

Two vignettes that I recall from that article expressed the spectrum of the issue.  One was a teenager there with her mother, who had signed the necessary consents because both were fearful of what the girl's father would do if he learned she was pregnant.  The other was a woman preparing for her wedding, who feared not being able to fit into an expensive wedding dress, thereby ruining the event.  

Two very different kinds of fear.

Another memory comes from my own college years, and a woman who lived down the hall from me in the dorm.  She was a huge football fan, and one of her stated goals was to sleep with the players, preference given to first string.  Her abortion had less to do with finishing classes than concerns about how a pregnancy would limit her socially.  At least, that's what she said. I have no idea whether her feelings on the issue changed over time; we were not close and have not stayed in touch.

Another article in the Trib series I mentioned above, talked about the Jane Collective-- a group of women in Chicago who had learned to do safer, underground abortions prior to Roe v. Wade.  I have a vivid memory of one of the women discussing how she learned to count and keep track of fetal body parts-- arms and legs, head and torso-- during the procedure, because it was important to remove all the tissue, to prevent post-op problems.  Whatever else you may believe, and whatever reasons there may be to choose an abortion-- and I've already said I accept the necessity in some cases, and never once suggested overturning legal access-- "blob" is simply denial of reality.

September 28, 2012 11:09 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, so I'm admittedly late to this party, but want to register my [whatever is the opposite of "outrage"... "IN-rage" maybe? Or how about just "happy approval"). After a long time of having very firm stances one one side or the other, my current big thought about abortion is, "Wow, this is a really tragic and complicated problem."

October 15, 2012 1:09 PM  

Blogger Lady Anne said...

I just stumbled over here from Rev. Ref's site, so I am even later than Shackbible to this bun fest.

I have a friend who used to work at an abortion clinic. During the procedure she would make small talk with the women, to take their minds off what was happening. She asked one woman something to the effect "is this the first time you've had to do this?" and the reply was, "No, I come in a couple times a year to get cleaned out."

My friend says it was all she could do not to throw up then and there. She turned in her notice the next week.

June 08, 2013 1:01 PM  

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