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Wednesday, 7 August 2013

The Texan Tampon Missile Crisis - Why I'm Pro-Choice

(Note: Trigger warning for a scene regarding rape and incest.)

You know something strange is happening in the state of Texas when tampons are banned as potential missiles, but concealed handguns and bullets are okay. Yup, they confiscated women's tampons, among other things, during the big abortion debates, prior to the voting. Think it's ridiculous? Don't believe me? Check out this article on HuffPost. Apparently sanitary napkins (yup, they took those, too) make us 'armed and dangerous' even more so than a Beretta or a Ruger.

Until now I've sort of steered clear of any personal remarks about the abortion rights debate for a few reasons. One of the biggest reasons, though, is that I wanted to be certain anything I said was exactly what I meant. I need to be very clear on my feelings about it, lest I be misinterpreted. I'm actually nowhere near as open-minded about abortion as people might think I'd be. I come from a country where abortion is allowed, and is paid for by our healthcare system, up to and including third trimester abortions. I'm perfectly fine with that, despite my personal opinion on the matter. I believe in choice.

So, why do I say I'm not open-minded? Well, I'm not open-minded about people using it as a form of birth control - I'm pretty judgmental about it, actually. When I say that, I'm referring to women and men indiscriminately banging one another without regard for using pregnancy prevention of any sort, and then having to terminate multiple pregnancies because they didn't learn their lesson the first time. Heat-of-the-moment sex, drunken sex, whatever you want to call it, there are plenty of options for birth control out there, so there's really no excuse for not using them. I think it's irresponsible and cruel to have an unprotected sex party and then just turn around to have an abortion to "get rid of" the consequences of idiotic and impulsive actions. Take a pill, use a condom. Even in the most restrictive environments in the United States, I'm pretty sure condoms are available for sale. If they're not, I apologize in advance for my ignorance. I do understand there are places where doctors are pushing anti-choice beliefs on their patients, and that makes things a hell of a lot more difficult, but as long as there are condoms available, people should at least make an effort not to conceive if they don't want to have a child.

That being said, even the most effective birth control isn't 100% protection. If you've tried your best, that's all you can do - well, aside from not having sex at all. Yeah, like that's going to happen in this world, right? In places where HIV is rampant, people are still having all kinds of sex, and you have to think there's some knowledge there that it's potentially a death sentence. If HIV doesn't stop people from having sex, I really can't see what will. Humans are animals, no matter what the religious nuts try to tell you. Scientifically speaking we are still Kingdom of animalia, Class of mammalia, Order of primates. It is what it is, and we are what we are.

I should state before I go any further, that I had an abortion at sixteen. I wasn't using birth control. To be fair, I was madly in love with my boyfriend, I wanted to have his baby and get married, and it devastated me to discover that we weren't at all on the same page. Hey, I was sixteen and a hopeless romantic. I wanted nothing more than to have a family of my own, and to be a wife and mother. It comes with being raised in a dysfunctional family that isn't a family at all - more like sharks circling to figure out the most tender place to bite you.

When it came to the situation with my then-boyfriend, he basically gave a very clear impression that I either get an abortion or we break up. Looking back I see things a bit differently, but hindsight is 20/20. Looking back it was obvious we were going to break up anyway. We were kids, and we were idiots, always looking for drama and excitement in our relationship. Well, there was certainly no shortage of either.

That drama led to major drama with my mother and step-father, of course, because they were dead set against me getting an abortion. They didn't have the legal power to deny me the actual abortion, but they could refuse to sign the papers allowing me to have anesthesia. Otherwise I'd have just gone ahead with or without their permission. I had the biggest fight with them that I ever had, and I never forgot when my mother said it was my own fault she always chose her men over me. It was an odd segue, but a long time coming.

I was really young (age-wise at least) to actually want to have a child, but I did want one. The thing is, I wanted a child with someone I loved, and I wanted them to want to have a child with me. Discovering that it was not going to happen under those circumstances with that boyfriend, took away all my joy at the notion of having his baby. After we broke up, which turned out to be while I was still groggy from the anesthesia from the abortion (I'm not kidding - it was literally the same night), I was devastated and felt cheated, but eventually moved on to someone I thought would be a better companion in life. I was wrong about that, too, but he did at least turn out to want to have a child with me. My daughter is the result of that union.

Now we get to the part about debunking some myths about the whole process. For one thing, I have no regrets about having my abortion, which is the opposite of what the anti-choice people will tell you. It was the way my life was meant to be. Do I feel sadness about it? Well, years ago I would have dreams about my unknown children (yes, plural, as I also had three miscarriages), and there was definitely a sadness there. However, it wasn't the kind of sadness that made me say, "I wish I hadn't done that." If I hadn't done it, I would not have the child I have today. I'd have had a different child altogether. Wishing I hadn't had an abortion would be tantamount to saying I wish I'd had a different kid. You see, I was pregnant with my daughter before my aborted child would have been born. Therefore it would have been impossible for her to exist, and she's the child I was meant to raise. My life is the way it was meant to be, as is her existence.

As for the second misconception (no pun intended) with abortion, I'll start by saying that mine took place during the first trimester. I knew I was pregnant, and I made my decision early enough that it wasn't a political thing. I'd seen the videos by a group called "Birthright" about second trimester abortions, and was properly horrified by the footage. Of course, the videos were really slanted, and were in fact third trimester abortions if my memory serves me correctly. They showed a fetus basically being decapitated in order to remove it from its mother's womb. Not an image a teenager is likely to forget, and sadly I was not at an age where critical thinking was necessarily a part of my mental processes. I just believed it to be true.

Continuing on in that vein of thought, the fact is that most abortions performed for women who become accidentally pregnant, are done in the early stages of pregnancy. Most women are pretty in tune with their bodies, so they know when they're pregnant. Occasionally there's some denial involved there, so there can be a bit of a delay, but that's not really the norm. The anti-choice advocates would like people to think that everyone is killing fully-formed babies that are in agonizing pain, which isn't at all true. Approximately 1.5% of terminations occur after twenty weeks. (This link automatically downloads a PDF file from NARAL, regarding abortion bans at twenty weeks.) This means that 98.5% of pregnancies are terminated before twenty weeks.

That leads me to the third myth about abortion that's being bandied about by those against it. Pain is a very specific process in the human body. A fetus doesn't even have the precursors of organs until the tenth week of gestational age (which is taken from the date the last menstrual period began, approximately two weeks before conception, so ten weeks' gestational age, is actually 8 weeks after fertilization takes place). The central nervous system, on the other hand, takes much longer to develop - 27 weeks, actually.

If you know anything about pain signals, you will already know that they are sent from the body to the brain by way of the nerves (ergo, the central nervous system is a requirement). However, the part of the central nervous system that actually registers pain does not connect to those nerves until approximately 24 weeks' gestation, according to The Journal of the American Medical Association. Basically when it comes down to fetal pain and abortion, what's being showcased in the media is a load of horror stories and drivel - typical of mainstream media, but disheartening and harmful to say the least.

Here's the thing. There are as many reasons for women having abortions, as there are abortions being performed. This is an issue that cannot be simplified and narrowed down. This is an issue where not a single person in the world has an answer as to exactly what to do in every circumstance. Take for instance the story shared in the middle of this article on Salon about a husband and wife who wanted to have their baby. They were eighteen weeks into the pregnancy when they were told the child would need multiple heart surgeries to survive after it was born. They chose to continue with the pregnancy. At twenty-one weeks they were given further, devastating news, that other organs were affected and a good outcome was unlikely. That's when they decided on an abortion, as there was risk of infection and other complications with the mother. As rare as these conditions are, they're not found until a pregnancy is in its advanced stages.

Of course, one of the more infuriating things about the new legislation being passed in various states, Texas included, is that they refuse to allow exceptions for incest and rape. Now, picture this:

A fourteen-year-old girl is being raped, repeatedly, by her father. Because she lives in an area where sex education isn't mandatory, and her parents refused to sign the permission form on 'religious and moral grounds,' this girl has no idea why she bleeds every month (other than that it's Eve's sin causing it), much less why she's stopped bleeding suddenly and gets sick all the time. She hides her body in baggy clothing, because she's trying to disguise her attractiveness, hoping her father will leave her alone. Nobody notices when her belly starts to expand, and the girl thinks she's just getting fat. Or maybe she knows the reason. Maybe she's terrified and ashamed. Maybe she's got a new reason to hide her body. The last thing she wants is for anyone to find out what her daddy's been doing to her. They won't believe her, he said. They'll blame her, he said. It's all her fault, he said, and if she tells she's going to get in trouble. Or maybe he threatened her. Maybe he told her he would kill her, or kill her mother.

Finally, one day a teacher sees that her student is 'walking funny' and she starts to observe her more closely. As far as she's aware, there's no boyfriend in the picture, and even if there is it doesn't matter, so she reports it to the authorities - in many areas they're bound by law to report anything they think might be abuse of any kind (or possibly statutory rape from an older boyfriend). So, finally this girl's secret isn't a secret anymore. She's pregnant. It's her father's baby. Now she's heading into the third trimester of her pregnancy. According to the laws that have been passed, she now has to go through with the pregnancy.

Can you imagine that scenario? Because I certainly can. It happens more often than people think. It's not a George Orwell view that laws such as this could pass. They already have - in several states. Here's some of the craziness I see with this scenario, beyond the fact that the father needs to be neutered the hard way. First, the child stands a very good chance of fetal abnormalities because it was incestuously conceived. Second, it was conceived through rape, and the girl has already gone through more than enough trauma for one lifetime. Third, we're talking about a fourteen-year-old girl here, whose body has yet to develop completely, which means she's a much higher maternal mortality risk than a woman whose reproductive system is full developed.

Here's a final "point to ponder" as they say: What about the menz? Yes, what about the gender that was there in the first place, enjoying the act quite a bit (and statistically speaking they were more likely to enjoy it than the participating females, as male orgasms are far more common and easily attained), and had no compunction about blasting off a few spermatozoa at a high rate of velocity? Sure, there are some men that are fighting for a say in what happens to their progeny. There are some that are fighting to keep their girlfriends, wives, lovers and friends-with-benefits, from aborting what would grow to be their offspring. Okay, well, I have to say something to them first, and then I'll move on to the ones who don't give a rat's ass about the consequences. Here it is:

"If you want your partner to carry your child, you should probably partner with someone who wants to have a child in the first place."

I mean, really! Is it so hard to check on compatibility there? Is it so hard to have a conversation with someone before that momentous occasion, where you actually ask them, "On the off chance we should conceive, how should we handle it?" I guess that's asking a bit much that we be at least that responsible when we make the decision to have sex with someone. Then again, if we're incapable of that level of responsibility and open communication, what does that say about their ability to be parents?

As for the ones who party and move on to greener pastures, I'd really like to know why it is that the legislation is only covering the women who are pregnant, and not the fathers of those children.

Sure, we have legislation regarding child support. We don't, however, have legislation regarding 'time support' of any kind. They aren't stuck with 2 A. M. feedings, diaper changes, and screaming toddlers like the female usually is. They aren't forced to take on the physical responsibilities that start with the birth of a child. A woman could give up her baby for adoption, but when forced to follow through on a pregnancy, that's usually not something a woman finds herself willing to do. Once there's a bond between mother and child, the woman is usually set on the path of raising her offspring for better or worse. So, she's faced with utter exhaustion and a life that is likely filled with hardship as a single mother.

I'm a practical person, but I generally feel a great deal of empathy. I won't always agree with women who choose to terminate their pregnancies, because a lot of times I disagree with their reasons. However, that's strictly a my-own-opinion thing, and I'm educated enough to know when a fetus is likely to be viable outside the womb. I understand that there is unlikely to be any thoughts when there is no brain to have them. And I know there can be no pain when the signals aren't being receive by that brain. We are what we think. If we can't (or don't) think, we aren't anything at all. Sadly I think that applies to far too many grown people on this planet, and not just embryos and fetuses. Too many people are believing the hype from the anti-choice crowd. They're not pro-life in the slightest. They have no interest in what happens to a pregnant woman, or the risks she runs by carrying a child to term. It doesn't matter to them if it's a high-risk pregnancy, and that the woman has been told by her doctor that she's going to die if she doesn't terminate her pregnancy.

Such was the case in Ireland until the law was very recently changed. A woman named Savita Halappanavar died in October of 2012, when she was denied an abortion, causing Ireland to review its abortion laws. The thing is, the anti-choice legislation being passed these days is being pushed through by zealots who care nothing about subtleties. They simply want to ban the option under all circumstance, no matter the consequences. Well, the consequences are coming sooner than they think. Women will die because they go for back-alley abortions, and children will be born that are unwanted. The economy will suffer.

It isn't the least bit surprising that in the vast majority of cases, the more religious and restrictive a place is, the worse their economy. This can easily be seen when viewing the statistics for the various states. Well, lack of abortion means more kids born to those who cannot properly care for them. If they had that kind of money, they could go out of state to have an abortion, so obviously there are going to be poor people who are stuck with another mouth to feed. More welfare recipients, more food stamps, more people without proper health care, more children going hungry, less money from state taxes to pay for proper educational institutions because the funds are going to social programs instead. In the end this means more down-on-their-luck people, and the problem only gets worse with time. It should only take about twenty years for them to see how big the mistake really was, and it will be reflected in their sheets - their balance sheets, that is.