I’ll begin by apologizing to my male friends, if they feel they are being bashed. I’m a feminist, yes, but I like men. (Far too much for my own good, if my past relationships are any example.) That, however, doesn’t stop me from asking, “When will men just shut up and let women decide about their bodies?”
Because women are the only gender who can actually gestate a fetus, I feel, and I always have, that we should get to say when or if we do that. For some reason, men–well, a lot of Republican men–can’t stand that. In an unprecedented attack on women’s ability to make serious decisions about their health and well-being, Republican men–and women–in state legislatures have offered bill after bill to restrict access to abortion. From bills that define personhood as the moment sperm fertilizes egg (meaning a condom is an abortion to them) to proposals that women would have to prove their miscarriages were spontaneous to bills that suggested criminal charges against doctors who perform abortions and the women who seek them, we have seen a year thus far in which the dystopia described in Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale looms.
Presidential hopeful Rick Santorum recently declared that women who seek abortions for the health and survivability of the mother are essentially lying. Then, we learn his wife had a second-trimester dilation and extraction to save her life. Apparently, though, the only way to convince Santorum it was necessary was to point out that his existing children would lose a mother. Mrs. Santorum had had a risky in utero procedure to correct a fetal defect, but it failed and the fetus became a source of sepsis for its mother. Even knowing the now-dead fetus would result in his wife’s death, Santorum hesitated before agreeing to the procedure. In the meantime, Mrs. Santorum went into premature labor, and the die was cast. When someone pointed this out to Santorum after his “women are lying about needing abortions” statement, his response was? Oh, our abortion was different. Not that I would have voted for him under any circumstance, but the hypocrisy just floors me. Abortion for my family but no one else–that’s what he means, people.
This is why, damn it, I want to make my own decisions about my body–because I have the intelligence, the information, the knowledge, and the ability to make important choices. I don’t want a man to hesitate before he says, “Oh, okay, save the mother if nothing else can be done.”
A reporter in Afghanistan once asked a man why he hesitated to bring his struggling, pregnant wife to a doctor so she wouldn’t have almost died. “It’s no matter,” he said, “I can always find another wife.” Many men in America are that close to thinking of women the same way. We are baby machines to them, uteruses with legs. We exist only to gestate, and the fetus’ well being takes precedence, even when it is the potential cause of a woman’s death. That is not acceptable.
And I love babies. I have the three cutest grandchildren in the world, and I respect their mothers’ choices. Moreover, I’m glad they were able to make that choice, that it wasn’t made for them by anyone else. I look forward to the day when no child is an accident and every child is wanted. I look forward to the day when a woman can think long and hard and make the choice best for her by herself, with no recrimination. I marched in the streets for choice, and I thought we’d already seen that day. Now, I see it slipping away through the crass manipulation of emotions by people who hate women, who believe we are incapable of making a choice after a rational, internal debate, that we lie in order to kill babies.
As if this renewed assault against a legitimate, legal, medical procedure isn’t enough, rightwingnutjobs are now focusing on contraception–as in the banning of it. This is their vision of America: Women burdened by constant pregnancy who won’t be able to compete with men in the boardroom, in Congress, anywhere. Their nostalgia for medieval times rivals that of the Taliban.
Yes, I sound angry and abrasive and all those words men use against women who believe in choice. Just understand what choice means in this instance: The woman decides. Not the government, not the minister, not the doctor. The woman. Most of the time she decides to give birth, and that’s perfect because that’s her choice. We cannot take away the other side of that choice because if we do, there is no choice without options. If a woman doesn’t want to give birth, she should have the choice not to, preferably by unfettered access to contraception. As a last resort, she must have access to safe, clean, properly performed abortion.
Anti-choice men need to understand this: We will not go back.