Friday, November 07, 2003

Sometimes It's Hard to Be a Woman
Volume Two: Keeping America (and God) out of my uterus.

"Every person has a special dignity. This right to life cannot be granted or denied by government, because it does not come from government, it comes from the creator of life." Thanks President Bush. Maybe he should have repeated this cute little maxim when he gave the final order to put over 100 people to death during his Texas governorship. I was also under the impression that, even if you believe life is derived from a divine creator, that law comes from the government, not said creator. But this post is about abortion, not about hypocricy or comingling of church and state.

I have no doubt that the United States government's most recent attempt to stifle a form of abortion will die a bloody death in the high courts. I am, however, frightened that this anti-"partial-birth abortion" (no such medical term exists) bill even got past congress. It bothers me that a few hundred men and women (oh, but mostly men) in Washington are attempting to dictate what occurs inside a woman's own body. I'm peeved that a rare procedure that is almost only used to protect the life of a woman or to prevent the birth of a baby who cannot survive outside its mother's womb falls under the jurisdiction of a select few, the vast majority of whom don't have the capacity to get pregnant, and the even more overwhelming majority of whom have no medical experience.

I believe this issue goes beyond the right's attempt to protect the health of fetuses. (Otherwise it would be illegal to smoke in the same room as a pregnant woman.) As I've stated before, I think this blind anti-abortion sentiment is rooted in a disrespect for a woman's self-determination. I believe that, subversive though this mentality may be, there persists an idea that the female body does not bear the capacity to take care of itself. Women menstruate, they have "hormonal" outbursts, they're physically weaker than men, they have bodies which are believed to be tied to nature because of their reproductive functions. The idea is that women have an inability to control their bodies (we can't really opt out of our periods without negative health repurcussions, and our hormones follow suit), and thus that men, and by extension the men in government (and religion), should have jurisdiction over the feminine physical entity.

Many conservative figures in religion and politics are attempting to get "morning after pills" like Previn off the market, claiming that life begins at conception, despite the fact that a 72-hour old embryo is composed of only a few hundred undifferentiated cells. (It's comparable to biting the inside of your cheek and "killing" the skin that comes off.) This opposition to the "abortion pill" (what a charming and inaccurate name) is based not only on a distorted definition of life, but also a resistance to grant women control over their bodies. If abortions are available quickly and (relatively) painlessly, so the argument goes, then women will have sex whenever they want without worrying about the consequences. Drugs that prevent implantation are not going to encourage women to have willy-nilly sex (as much as Pat Robertson would love to picture that); it will give women and men who made a mistake a chance not to give birth to an unwanted, unaffordable child. Also, given that fathers of unwanted pregnancies out of wedlock rarely have to suffer the same consequences as the mothers, it provides women with a limited opportunity to decide for themselves what consequences their bodies will suffer.

On a lighter note, when I gave blood today I got a free 15 minute phone card. Woo hoo!


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