Women Are More Than The Sum Of Their Fertility: Abortion Rights

Let’s face it, rich privileged women will always be able to get an abortion if they want one, it will just cost them a little more. Money buys freedom. It would seem it can also buy basic human rights. Any rich woman will be able to get in a car, drive to the closest state where abortion will remain legal, and get a safe procedure in murky legal territory. Cannabis is federally illegal, but that doesn’t stop California and other enlightened states from making it legal enough to tax, and the same will go for abortion rights. The State will decide, that said, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that women will be hounded back in their home states. Back to the days of utter secrecy, whispered rumors about who is pregnant and what happened to it, spurious court cases where women are put on trial for miscarriages and abusive husbands using the law as yet another stick to beat women with.

I perhaps know a little more than most about legal sticks that abusive husbands use against their wives. I have the Hague and its extravagant sentences for protecting children from violent fathers and husbands, dangled over my head like the sword of Damocles for the larger portion of my adult life. When police come to any domestic violence issue it is a crap shoot as to whether the victim will end up in cuffs and dragged off to jail, or if the police will stop being ridiculous and take the man out of the situation to protect everyone else. I myself have languished in a Japanese jail cell upon occasion, with my children locked in with me, after my husband beat me up in the street. There was no question that I had done anything wrong. I was merely being held like property for him to pick up. They would not let me go. No one accused me of any violence, or any wrong doing. I was taken in there black and blue and bloody, with a screaming child, and the cops called him to come and get me and refused to take a statement from me. Assholes. The law is not here to protect women, not in the USA, not in Japan, not in anywhere that I know of. The law is to protect men and their interests, and on a big picture level, those interests include keeping women down, controlling us by our childbearing possibilities, and keeping the warmongering, death machine status quo of testosterone supremacy.

I was once in a group women’s shelter many years ago with a woman who had beaten a murder charge for killing her husband. I can’t remember if it was ruled self defense or if she got off because of extended abuse towards her, whichever, whatever, she was sharing a living space with me and my child. No one looked at her the same. Not even the other women. Not even me. I wonder how many opportunities the cops had to protect her, and save the useless and abusive bastard’s life? The simple fact of the matter is that we live in a patriarchy, and the patriarchy is set up to benefit men and the women that serve them loyally only.

I do not trust the legal system only because I had an intimate and painful lesson on how cops don’t protect people equally, courts harass victims, and there is no justice unless you have power and money. It was quite the lesson for me to learn. I did not come at these harsh realities from a point of standing still and trust. As the victim of childhood abuse who was not believed when I asked for help, and made to feel like it was all my fault, trust was never my strong point, and good job too. If I had been struggling to believe the reality of the situation, it would have gone so much worse for me. I still can’t stop sitting here, though, like a bewildered goldfish, my mouth opening and closing in a mixture of horror and confusion at the news that Roe vs Wade, that enshrined abortion rights for all women, is now on the chopping block and looking as if it is in extreme danger.

The murmurings about ‘it is down to the individual states’ by those who should have the reins firmly in hand, do not inspire me with confidence. I am unfairly pinning all my hopes on the wonderful Kentaji Brown Jackson, but one just, intelligent and caring woman will not be able to hold back the tide of ignorance and religious-based authoritarian insanity from the members of the Supreme Court, who business should surely be upholding laws, not making or breaking them; but I digress. I am no lawyer, and have no business in thinking too deeply about such things: it is way above my ‘pay grade’, and concerning myself too much in the workings of this country I love so dearly, yet I fear does not love me back, always feels somewhat dangerous.

The mistake the ordinary decent human being in the USA has made is to think that laws are made to benefit us all equally. They failed to pay attention to the inequity and history of inequality, and presume their rights were safe, so did not fight hard enough for those who were languishing in fear and subjugation. It is not to say that hearts were not in the right place, merely that in the day to day struggle to make enough money to survive in a country where everything costs far too much in comparison to wages, that the basic precepts of justice, rights and needs have been put on the backburner way too much. The active few have been left to hold back the tide of authoritarian privileged unfettered republicanism, and it has been far too much to ask of those without their fair share of power in the first place. BLM and Antifa look more and more like freedom fighters by the moment, but the state of play is such that someone in my position would probably be advised to keep their own counsel. I never was much good at taking my own advice or keeping quiet, besides, I am a writer. Quiet is more or less against the job description.

For what it is worth I think those of us who have had abortions need to speak out about our experiences, demystify a mundane procedure that saves women’s lives. I have had it said to me time and time again, while I was being broken down into pieces by domestic violence, my hearing wrecked by blows to the head, my sight ruined on one side after a fist split my cornea and caused permanent damage that I deal with to this day, that I was to think of the children first. I was cautioned and lectured to put the child first and myself and my safety and happiness last. The day I gave birth to my child I ceased to matter to society.

I stopped being “Detroit, the person with autonomy that mattered”, and became an incubator, protector to my last breath, a punch bag, an escape artist, a long distance runner, and only of any worth for my abilities as a mother, whilst also being judged and sanctioned for the extreme love I held for my baby. I was to love and devote myself, whilst also being willing to abide by courts that were poised to destroy any relationship I had with that very child, and remove them because I had married a man of a different nationality to my own and had children in the country of his residence. I would do the same thing all over again if I had to, I have very few regrets, and I love my son who is the light and joy of my life more than anything. He is the one person in this world that I love unconditionally and consider being his mother to be a privilege and an immense pleasure; but no woman should be forced into the kind of life that I have suffered because of lack of access to abortion. What is right for me, what was right for me, is not a choice I would ever impose upon others. I am not that vain, self centered, authoritarian or privileged.

I had an abortion in my early twenties. I was in a terrible state at the time, suffering with addiction. The nurse told me that the drugs I was using at the time were going to cause terrible birth defects. This was an untruth. Opiates are not a cause of birth defects. I was not even drinking alcohol at the time. Nevertheless, it was made clear that because of my difficulties that the baby would likely be removed at birth. I chose to have an abortion, and it was absolutely the right choice for me at the time. If I had proceeded I would have been vilified as the mother of a baby born addicted. Coming off opiates while pregnant is not an option, the withdrawals are too dangerous for the fetus. My only real option to keep me and the fetus safe would have been methadone, and then baby, once born, would be in withdrawal and removed from my care.

The doctors were kind enough at the clinic, but I still had to fight my way past selfish protestors who sought to impose their will and their cockamamie religious beliefs upon me. I had to listen to their inane praying while I was waiting to be taken down to surgery, and deal with pushing past them on the way out. It was immensely traumatic. I, of course, was sad. From my experience most women do not escape without some kind of emotional distress, however the distress from the procedure is nowhere close to the distress of having to raise an unwanted child who cannot be provided for, or else who will be removed from the mother’s care.

It took me a while to recover physically, but longer to recover emotionally. The judgement of others slowed my bounce-back. I was judged as a failure as a woman. I was judged as an addict. I was judged as a mother when I had no desire at that time to be one. Society needs to be far less concerned about the choices and acts of others, and to stop imposing outmoded or strange beliefs on the masses who have no desire for them.

Birth control is not absolute. Rape and incest are a fact of life in this patriarchal nightmare we live in. Abortion is a need and a right, not a luxury to only be purchased by those who have the means within this capitalist system. The poor and most desperate will struggle to gain access, and some will turn to backstreet abortions, being forced to risk their health, lives and future fertility. A fetus is not a baby, it is a symbiote which requires the mother’s body to survive. It is not separate from her. Women matter too. They matter not just for their motherhood or their children, they matter in their own right. I matter not just as a mother, but as myself. Women need to be recognized as more than the sum of their fertility, and a vessel of reproduction. I thought we had already got part of the way there, but clearly not. Women do not cease to matter when they have reproduced. A fetus does not have more right to autonomy than a woman, and not at her expense. A woman and her hopes and dreams, her safety and desires, her life and possibilities are limited by motherhood, but they should not be if she does not want them to be.

I fear it won’t stop there. Same sex marriage looks like it will be in the sights of these religious nutcases, and then who knows where this right wing authoritarian nightmare and over reach of the State will stop?

The future does not look bright from where I am sitting, it does not look bright at all.


Leave a Reply