The Legislature In Its “Wisdom”

A few months ago, our daughter returned from working on a political race in South Dakota.  While there, she had bought a documentary about the state referendum on prohibiting abortions, except when the mother’s life was endangered.  (The proposed law was defeated in the November 2008 election.)  One night, she and I began to watch the documentary, Unplanned Democracy: America’s First Vote on Abortion.

I found I couldn’t finish watching the documentary, no matter how provocative and well-made it was.  Watching the first half-hour or so, as the politicians dithered and pontificated and the women and men and children in the street demonstrated and spoke heatedly, I felt nothing as much as an overwhelming fatigue.

Roe v. Wade, decided in early 1973, is now 35 years old.  But we are still fighting the same cultural war, still mouthing the same arguments, still locked in a death-embrace of misunderstanding.  All these years later, how can that be?

“I can’t watch the rest of this,” I told my daughter, and we turned it off.  I tried to talk to her about how this particular issue had played out in the foreground and background of my entire adult life.  It made me tired and sad to see nothing had changed.  The years had passed, the minds and hearts had hardened, and we’d all gotten older.  I still have strong pro-choice beliefs, but I couldn’t bear to re-live the struggle again, on film or in real life.  It was time for another generation to step in; mine — speaking personally — was worn out.

Well, so I thought.  But then I read today’s newspaper about how three Republicans in the Texas Legislature are trying to push through a bill requiring each woman seeking an abortion to watch an ultrasound of her uterus, while the doctor explains the images and amplifies the fetus’s heartbeat.  Freedom is not entirely lost, however: The woman can avert her eyes during this mandatory exercise.  That’s because Republicans value freedom from governmental interference when it comes to your eyeballs.

I’m sick of the rampant hypocrisy in a country where an estimated 30-40 percent of women of childbearing age have had abortions, but fail to speak up about it.  It’s still one of the great taboos.

 I happen to think that abortions are private tragedies — but they often avert greater tragedies.  I’ve never regretted the abortion I had in 1974, but it was a wrenching experience I’ll never forget.  I can’t imagine how much worse it would have been with right-wing interference and political posturing at the expense of pregnant women.

You want to prevent abortions?  Try improving sex education and contraceptive availability and stop kidding yourselves that abstinence education really works.  Save us all from these drooling legislative doofuses and conservative zealots who want to bring more kids into the world so they can deny them a good education and comprehensive medical care and any other social services.  There’s nothing remotely pro-life about sparing the fetuses, then neglecting the children they become.

(Copyright 2009 by Ruth Pennebaker)

5 comments… add one
  • The fact that through so many changes in government Roe v Wade has never been overturned seems to me good evidence of the robustness of our Supreme Court system.

    Forcing a woman to endure a pregnancy against her will — a potential life that only she can bring to fulfilment — is not far off slavery.  I cannot approve it.  Most women have abortions sadly and soberly for very good reason, but it is also not the state’s business even if they have them casually or flippantly — up to a point.

    Your statistic of 30-40% doesn’t surprise me.  Sex is meant to cause conception, though we have a few primitive mechanisms to try to prevent it. 

    New technology brings new challenges.  It is hard for a decent society to exist in a world in which in one room doctors struggle to save the life of a wanted baby born early and in another room they are disposing of a foetus deliberately destroyed. 

    I would restrict late abortions under most circumstances.  I understand that that might put heavy burdens on some very young and vulnerable women (and girls).  It might even be unconstitutional.

  • Chris Link

    With you on the abortion issue (must be around the same age).  I actually was going to get one when pregnant with my first child (1978) but opted out. 

    It’s an extremely difficult and sad decision to make, but it’s none of my business what another woman will be doing with her body.  So hard to make younger women understand what those times were like.  I was a member of the last high school class where girls were required to wear skirts to school.  Doesn’t that seem so antiquated now?

  • I am always astonished at the sheer hypocrisy of a gray haired man ranting in congress about the evil of abortion.  What’s needed is a lot more women in legislatures, or a way to make men pregnant.

  • M A Link

    Amen, sistah.  I am totally with you…  Yeah, Ann!  Let the guys be pregnant!  We’d get everyone to stop flapping their mouths about it once & for all!

  • This was a timely post for me. I am putting the finishing touches on an article I am writing about an art gallery that is being installed in the ground floor of the new Planned Parenthood facility in Sarasota. The building is in a neighborhood that mandates retail space at the ground floor, so PP agreed to design the facility with a ground floor store. After extensive discussions with the neighborhood association, PP donated the space to Ringling College of Art and Design so that their students and alumni would have a place to display and sell their artwork. When the pro-life organizations found out about the use, they instantly mounted opposition, using innuendo and misstatement of facts to make their case against the gallery and, by association, Planned Parenthood. In an interview, the head of a national opposition group told me that they had proof that PP’s sex education efforts are designed to encourage teens to become sexually active so they can sell their “sex related” products (birth control pills and condoms??).  Although the gentleman in question promised to send me his “proof” I never received it. Like you, I am sick to death of the whole issue. It’s the law of the land – just get over it. If you don’t want an abortion, don’t have one. But don’t try to tell me what I can do with my body.

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