beginning excerpt from “An Understanding of Reproductive Health and Justice from a Grieving Mother”

April 27th, 2014

We looked at the pictures one of my nurses, Lisa, took of you tonight. You would have been a week old yesterday. It was hard to see you from different angles and to see our parents grieving over you, but I needed to know. I needed to know the totality of what we have of you. Now everything is accounted for. We have your little shirt and swaddling blanket, your crochet blanket, your beautiful locks of hair, the mold impressions of both feet, the ink impressions of both hands and feet, the little hat they first put on you, the ugly bonnet I took off the second they put it on, and a disc with 54 pictures. . .

*~*

A Letter to Pro-Lifers

October 5th, 2012

 

Dear Pro-Lifer,

Let’s get a few things straight so that we may discuss this sensitive and important topic without any lies or slander flying around. Abortion is a horrible thing to have to contemplate. It doesn’t matter which side of the issue you fall on, no one wants a single woman to find herself in a position where she is carrying an unwanted child, a child she fears she cannot care for, a child conceived because of rape, etc. So if you have ever thrown names like baby-haters or baby-killers at someone else – stop it. Being pro-choice does not mean being pro killing babies. You are the reason that ambiguity exists, because you didn’t have the decency to keep the facts straight. You allowed this significant little obscurity into the debate, and even supported it. How can we have a real discussion when we cannot stop playing the name game like fourth graders?

We have a common goal. We both want a world where abortions are a thing of the past, we just differ on how to get there. Now, virtually everyone out there has an opinion on abortion, and most people are passionate about their position. Imagine if both sides, all those people, were to realize the actuality of their goal—abortions no longer being a necessity—and work together to see it happen?

The women in these positions are pushed up against a wall. They are desperate and without help. They want to be strong, but there are too many things stacked against them. Do not condemn the woman who contemplates and eventually has an abortion in your god’s name; you do not know where she stands with god. Blame the system that did not support her enough to have the child. Blame the education system for not providing adequate means to prevent a child in the first place. Blame yourself; if you wanted her to have that baby, why did you not go to her, tell her that no matter what she was dealing with you would help her? Why were you not there for her?

At this point, you may feel personally attacked, and allow me to reassure you that is completely my intent. When I say you, I mean YOU. Not your political party, not your community or your church. You. You are to blame for her abortion. Your soul will bear the mark of her decision. Your conscious will be plagued by could-have-been’s. If you disagree with the way I have categorized you here then flame the hell out of me and then go do something about it! Please! You have let others represent you and these are the lies they have told to muddy the water. You are silent, and in the absence of voice you become a statistic, a number used to support ideas you had no part in creating. Feel appreciated?

We want a world where women’s inalienable rights to our own bodies are recognized and respected. You want a world where babies are not killed. The two are not mutually exclusive.

*~*

One of the biggest problems women by and large have with the reproductive health, contraceptives and abortions argument is that many of the people voicing their opinions should not be. Men speak often as if they have legitimate understanding of what it is to be a pregnant woman. Political men, ideological men, men who think they carry power enough to sway the world, men on the streets, men in their pulpits and the men in our lives. Everywhere an inkling of this discussion exists there exists a man who has never been pregnant and who has never been in an intimate relationship with a woman while she was pregnant, who feels justified in speaking his mind and demanding that his vision of the world be met.

Let me first establish my right to speak and write on these delicate and tremendously important topics. I am a woman. I am a woman who has periods and is biologically and physically capable of carrying and giving birth to a child. I am a woman who, in April of 2014, gave birth to a daughter who only lived for forty-seven minutes because her lungs were underdeveloped. I am an eternally-grieving mother who is still staunchly pro-choice. For those who have never lost a child, there are no words that I can write and you can read that can explain the agony, the never-ending totality of being without your child. Even carrying this grief as I do, though, and hating even more than I ever have the idea of a child lost, I still support each and every woman’s right to choose for herself if and when she will be a mother. My first question to you, as my reader, is simply this – do you still feel justified in voicing and attempting to force your opinion on another?

men with signs

IMAG0442This man was standing outside a women’s health clinic in my neighborhood earlier today. My fiancé made the comment that he wondered if the guy realized that he was doing the same job as the sign that’s stuck in the snow mound behind him, and I agreed to an extent. There’s something to be said about the mentality and dedication someone has to stand out on the roadside with a sign, especially a controversial one. He got in his car before the train was past, otherwise I might have asked what he thought he was doing.

This is the thing that about abortion that we’re all too busy arguing about to understand. Pro-lifers and pro-choicers have a common goal. No one wants to see a woman in the position of having to contemplate an abortion; it’s the how and why that we get stuck on. If we taught our teens how to be responsible with their bodies, if we were more supportive of pregnancy as a society, if we refused to condone rape—if we created a culture in which pregnancy did not threaten a woman then we would have accomplished the ultimate goal. Women would still have their lives and fetuses wouldn’t be aborted.

woman dies after being denied abortion by irish hospital

This article was originally posted on Ms. Magazine’s website.

—-

Feminists and pro-choice politicians are calling for an urgent revamp of Irish abortion law after the death of Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year-old dentist who died in the Republic of Ireland after doctors refusedto terminate her pregnancy. Halappanavar went to University Hospital Galway on October 21 and was found to be miscarrying, but doctors refused to induce an abortion as long as a fetal heartbeat was present.

Halappanavar’s husband, Praveen, claims his wife requested an abortion several times but was told, “This is a Catholic country.” She spent several days “in agony” before the fetal heartbeat stopped and doctors removed the dead fetus, and then died in the intensive care unit of the hospital from septicemia. Investigations into Halappanavar’s death will now be held by Ireland’s health executive and by the hospital itself.

Abortion law in the Republic of Ireland last came under international scrutiny when the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that the law violated the rights of a woman forced to travel to England to obtain an abortion. The court stated that the woman’s treatment violated her right to a private and family life–similar to the legal basis for Roe v. Wade. However, no changes have been implemented in Irish abortion law since the 2010 ruling, and it appears that legislators’ slowness to act has now claimed its first victim.

Even though the Irish Medical Council states that abortion may be performed if “there is real and substantial risk to the life (as distinct from the health) of the mother,” the reality is that decisions are left to the discretion of individual doctors. The ECHR found “a lack of effective procedure in the Irish Republic for [a woman] to determine her right to an abortion,” whereby women are not necessarily informed of their right to an abortion in life-threatening cases.

More worryingly, a conference of Irish medical professionals held just six weeks before Halappanavar’s death claimed that “direct abortion is not medically necessary to save the life of a woman.” Today’s news runs in direct contradiction to these doctors’ conclusion that “the prohibition of abortion does not affect, in any way, the availability of optimal care to pregnant women.”

While provoking heated debate about the need for Ireland to overhaul its 151-year-old abortion law, Halappanavar’s needless death may also serve as a warning of things to come if Ohio’s fetal heartbeat bill passes. As opponents point out, despite an exception to save the mother’s life, the bill would mean doctors have to wait until a woman is gravely ill before being certain that they can perform an abortion without prosecution.

And as we can see from this case in Ireland, there can be no waiting. There can be no obstruction to a woman’s right to abort a non-viable fetus. Because when there is, women can die.

Photo from 2012 pro-choice rally in Dublin by Flickr user informatique under license from Creative Commons 2.0

the difference between pro-choice and baby-killer

A Letter to Pro-Lifers

Dear Pro-Lifer,

Let’s get a few things straight so that we may discuss this sensitive and important topic without any lies or slander flying around. Abortion is a horrible thing to have to contemplate. It doesn’t matter which side of the issue you fall on, no one wants a single woman to find herself in a position where she is carrying an unwanted child, a child she fears she cannot care for, a child conceived because of rape, etc. So if you have ever thrown names like baby-haters or baby-killers at someone else – stop it. Being pro-choice does not mean being are pro killing babies. You are the reason that ambiguity exists, because you didn’t have the decency to keep the facts straight. You allowed this significant little obscurity into the debate, and even supported it. How can we have a real discussion when we cannot stop playing the name game like fourth graders?

We have a common goal. We both want a world where abortions are a thing of the past, we just differ on how to get there. Now, virtually everyone out there has an opinion on abortion, and most people are passionate about their position. Imagine if both sides, all those people, were to realize the actuality of their goal—abortions no longer being a necessity—and work together to see it happen?

The women in these positions are pushed up against a wall. They are desperate and without help. They want to be strong, but there are too many things stacked against them. Do not condemn the woman who contemplates and eventually has an abortion in your god’s name; you do not know where she stands with god. Blame the system that did not support her enough to have the child. Blame the education system for not providing adequate means to prevent a child in the first place. Blame yourself; if you wanted her to have that baby, why did you not go to her, tell her that no matter what she was dealing with you would help her? Why were you not there for her?

At this point, you may feel personally attacked, and allow me to reassure you that is completely my intent. When I say you, I mean YOU. Not your political party, not your community or your church. You. You are to blame for her abortion. Your soul will bear the mark of her decision. Your conscious will be plagued by could-have-been’s. If you disagree with the way I have categorized you here then flame the hell out of me and then go do something about it! Please! You have let others represent you and these are the lies they have told to muddy the water. You are silent, and in the absence of voice you become a statistic, a number used to support ideas you had no part in creating. Feel appreciated?

We want a world where women’s inalienable rights to our own bodies are recognized and respected. You want a world where babies are not killed. The two are not mutually exclusive.