Abortion 2017

In 1968 I was a 17-year-old philosophy major living in the dorms at U.C. Riverside. Along with all the usual adjustments to living away from home, like eating dorm food, one incident is nearly as vivid today as it was all those years ago. One of my dorm mates became pregnant. Five years away from Roe v. Wade, my dormie somehow arranged for an illegal abortion and came up with the cold hard cash to pay for it. It was definitely a cash-only business. As I recall her boyfriend was freaked out at the news so I volunteered to drive her; after rattling around in my red VW Bug for awhile we arrived in a downscale L.A. neighborhood in front of a building identified as a dental clinic. We entered a room filled with women sitting on folding chairs arranged along the walls. There wasn’t much conversation, but when there was a frazzled receptionist hurried out to warn us against even uttering the word “abortion.”

The disquieting sounds of groans and even some quickly muffled screams periodically reached us in the waiting room. In due course my dormie’s name was called and she disappeared into what certainly sounded like a frightening place. An hour or so later she came out again, pale and subdued. She had received no anesthetic and said that the abortion had been excruciatingly painful.

I can’t wrap my head around the possibility that anti-abortion lawmakers, who are incidentally overwhelmingly male, fully understand how their efforts to make abortion illegal again could so easily relegate their own daughters and granddaughters to this fate.

Like many young women at the time, my dormie had ultra-religious parents who would have been appalled at their daughter’s pregnancy and who would have doubtless decreed that she carry the pregnancy to term.

So there she was, all alone, 17 with a 17-year-old boyfriend clearly unable to deal with the situation. She would have somehow terminated her pregnancy even if forced down an even worse back alley, a much more dangerous choice than the illegal clinic. Desperate women, all over the world, have always found a way.

Anti-abortionists have unfortunately proved to be brilliant strategists, particularly in blurring the line between fetus and child. A couple years ago while I was listening to a panel of pro- and anti-abortionists on NPR, the reporter asked one of the latter what choice he would make if a fire broke out and he had to choose between saving a 3-year-old child or a tray of embryos. To his credit he had the grace to at least pause for a second before answering firmly that he would have to think about it. To believe that a 3-year-old child could lose out to a bunch of embryos on a tray in this theoretical contest is insanity – there’s simply no other word for it. Yet this extreme hypothetical example clearly illustrates the legal rights (“personhood”) of a fetus that are so effectively promoted (and apparently accepted by) anti-abortionists.

There is no shortage of real-life examples of this. I unfortunately had to pass through a corner of the medieval state of Texas a few years back while driving from a job in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania back home to California. To ease the monotony of the endlessly barren landscape, I tuned in to a local AM station out of Amarillo.

The lead story was about an induced miscarriage. A young woman attempting to end her pregnancy had thrown herself down stairs, punched herself in the stomach, and resorted to other sorts of physical self-harm, all to no avail: she was still pregnant. She finally asked her boyfriend to jump up and down on her abdomen, which finally caused her to miscarry. When news of this somehow got out the boyfriend was charged, convicted, and imprisoned for the murder of the fetus. The girlfriend who had requested the trouncing got off scot-free.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Getting back to the anti-abortion political strategy, the public emphasis has shifted from the woman to the fetus. When Roe v. Wade was enacted its primary benefits were described in terms of a woman’s health and a woman’s choice to either end a pregnancy or carry it to term. Anti-abortionists jumped on the band wagon of a kind of mythical buyer’s remorse, claiming that women regret their abortions after the fact, a theme they continue to exploit to this day.

There is no evidence to support such a claim, though in the rare instances where a woman does regret her decision to end her pregnancy she is seized upon by anti-abortion leaders and featured prominently in their publicity.

Given this history, how did we end up in today’s mess, where some 30 laws in 14 states have made it harder to get an abortion? There’s no shortage of theories. One is that the court got too far ahead of public opinion in passing Roe, thus allowing creation of a wave of anti-abortion sentiment that is still with us all these years later. This is often compared with same-sex marriage, which, in court time, was passed with lightning speed. According to that theory same-sex marriage was on a growing tide of public acceptance, taking the wind out of the sails of opponents. Or maybe we’ve just gotten complacent about the issue; it’s tempting to do so here in California.

California is sort of an island of social liberalism in the West. My daughter and her friends have never doubted that safe, legal abortion has been and will continue to be an option for them, that it is in every sense their choice to make. But what about our sisters in other states who are being subjected to ultrasounds, heartbeat monitors, and other guilt-intended tactics to get pregnant women to change their minds? Surely we have some obligation to protect their rights as well.

And be extra skeptical as the anti-abortion movement craftily shifts its focus to maximum political effect. Now that more women have access to a two-step pharmaceutical abortion, for example, their movement is expanding a network designed to counsel women on how to continue with their pregnancies after the first medication has been taken and before the second. The fix is on to shame women into changing their minds, even after the procedure has begun.

And the question that no one seems to think to ask these social conservatives is this: If every fetus is so important why do they oppose efforts to feed, clothe, and educate children after they’re actually born and in the world?

26 Responses to "Abortion 2017"

  1. Delamr Bolshi   July 26, 2017 at 3:57 pm

    The rhetorical question which M Davin moots is as old as the knowledge of life itself – and the answer too – which is unspeakable. Everybody knows the answer, but nobody will say it.

    Let me help…

    Elites do not care about you. If you are female they care even less, but they fear you too – because you may insist on a better life for your child.

    If they can keep the girl desperate, then they ladies will have zero political or economic power…

    It’s all about the power….keeping it away from mothers….and of course making sure that there cannot be that most basic political cell – the family.

    This has a trace back to the original male-female split in human religious belief…5000 years or more….

    Abortion is a woman’s arena…men have no place in the discussion.

    Reply
  2. Sue Sponte   July 26, 2017 at 9:59 pm

    Well, I think women need to decide this issue and there are plenty of women who are activists on both sides of this it as certainly there is too much male hypocrisy around or as Kid Rock put it, I’m not into talking down to women.

    But the glib descriptions of women getting illegal abortions if it is not kept fully legal in its current form is politically inept and culturally tone deaf and is rightly held up as an example of the moral bankruptcy of “liberals” and their avatar Hillary. I mean that logic could be used to justify capital punishment, since after all without legalized killing, we’d be left with people resorting to sneaking around seeking retributin by committing illegal homicides at great risk to themselves, a nihilistic hypothetical that avoids confronting the moral issue whether after a certain point the unborn child has rights.

    Ripping a baby apart limb from limb or smashing its head in with a hammer. Kind of horrifying isn’t it? Facts that slogans and euphemisms like “choice” obscure, but a reality that gives people of conscience pause when they are confronted with it. Sure, we need full access to birth control and a fertilized egg is not an unborn child.

    Reply
  3. BB Grace   July 27, 2017 at 11:03 am

    I’m inspired by both replies to Ms. Davin’s Article, “Abortion 2017”, as I agree with both replies in, this is a Western woman’s issue and we need to talk.

    I’ll begin by saying that growing up in the military I was no stranger to Wives Clubs events where I recall one of the tragedies for military wives was they were unable to travel with their husbands when they were pregnant. Women went through great length to hide their pregnancy, or they had a procedure called a D & C, even if it was an abortion, and back then trimester babies were sacrificed so the wife and kids could be with their husband and Dad.

    Catholic hospitals were common and refused to preform the procedure and why the need for clinics, which needed support from the communities, and became a political issue described as women’s rights and pro-choice. What a lousy choice.

    Wouldn’t fighting for women’s rights actually be fighting for the right of military wives to travel while being pregnant? Isn’t women’s rights really about the freedom to afford children with or without a man?

    My Dad took me to our family graveyard in the 80s. He hadn’t been there in a long time. As he told me about the people named on the headstones we came to a section where there was babies buried. He hadn’t seen it before, or maybe he didn’t remember, or just put it out of his mind, but I watched him as it dawned on him that those babies were his siblings. He had grown up without sisters, and there they were, which profoundly touched him as an adult now with his own family. Things were not convenient in those days. Maybe he saw his mother as weak being she was apparently more pregnant than not, and maybe he had suddenly found her as very strong, being she bore and buried her babies? He treated his mother much different when he returned from the grave yard.

    Abortion as birth control has been a pox on Western women. It’s not made us stronger or more prosperous, or made better families. I think it’s part of the decline and destruction of the Western Woman, who is not reproducing but sacrificing her own flesh and blood for what? A job that will not be there for her when she’s old?

    Have you ever heard a woman say she’s saving her money for an abortion or she would rather an abortion than a weekend vacation or new wardrobe?

    No one wants an abortion.

    It would cost much less and be a greater service to Western civilization to give men who have no intention of having children the choice to freeze sperm and have a vasectomy.

    We’re a society that eliminates the most innocent and helpless among ourselves for lack of money and real choice. It’s a shame abortion is making worse.

    Reply
    • james marmon   July 27, 2017 at 11:22 am

      I actually belong to a sperm donor group on facebook. Thanks to my purchase of “Super Male Vitality” I am able to give to others.

      https://www.facebook.com/groups/468112573387267/

      Reply
      • Harvey Reading   July 27, 2017 at 12:11 pm

        Proving that sometimes it’s better to look a gift horse in the mouth?

        Reply
  4. STEVE HUMPHREY   July 29, 2017 at 9:46 am

    Ahh… another article right out of the Saul Alinsky Handbook. It’s as though abortion is the great liberator of women. Finally, a way out of the daily chores of hanging the laundry on the clothesline and bathing the kids. A way out from under the rule of “da man”, erh, “da men”.

    It’s not just the premise of the article that is so misguided, but the conveniently shallow assertions that most readers today easily identify as misleading.
    Few are fooled by the fact that most lawmakers are male. Less than 20% of our elected federal lawmakers are female. I suppose we could argue why, but the fact that these results derive from election in an open democratic forum is a tough rebuttal by anyone who favors freedom of choice. By the way, fully one fourth of the women in congress have openly claimed pro life beliefs. The fear from the abortionists is that number is rising.

    I’m convinced most readers are shocked when a reporter asks what choice one would make between saving a three year old and a tray of embryos if a fire broke out. The respondent’s hesitation in answering may have been one of horror that anyone would refer to a tray of embryos as though it were a tray of bait anchovies. The question should have been the choice of a three year old or a second trimester pregnant 17 year old. The answer would have hopefully been both. Furthermore, who among us finds comfort in placing embryos on a tray and saying it like it happens all the time? Really have we become so callous?

    To claim that “there is no evidence to support” the remorse of post abortion patients is absurd. Everyone knows someone who has faced this issue, both female and male, that felt terrible. Some never get over it. For the author to say there is no evidence of guilt is another counter culture tactic. Throw out a claim, even if unsupported, then call anyone who disagrees stupid, racist, or bigoted. Make sure you close with the same sort of claim, such as “they oppose efforts to feed, clothe, and educate children after they’re actually born and in the world” (like that’s when life really begins!). The “they” being “da man”. Here come the stupid remarks.

    The world has changed a lot since 1968. No longer do you have to go ask the pharmacist for condoms. Instead, you can buy them next to the gum at the gas station counter. You have choices too. Young women have access to all kinds of birth control. They don’t even need a parents note. Society no longer condemns a pregnancy out of wedlock, but arguably applauds those who carry full term and go the adoption route. There are numerous loving and generous agencies to assist this choice along with families that need those children.

    Yep, the world has changed since 1968. The only thing that hasn’t changed is the counter culture’s continued claim of victim, fear, and false assertions.

    Reply
    • james marmon   July 29, 2017 at 10:10 am

      Women, the most dangerous species in the world, they will kill their young based only on convenience.

      Reply
      • LouisBedrock   July 29, 2017 at 11:14 am

        James, you have a daughter whom you care for a lot.
        What would she think if she read some of your misogynistic garbage?

        Reply
        • james marmon   July 29, 2017 at 11:41 am

          I have two daughters and 3 granddaughters, all of them are aware that I blame feminism for destroying America. I don’t bullshit them.

          James Marmon MSW
          Personal Growth Consultant

          ‘don’t just go through it, grow through it’

          Reply
          • james marmon   July 29, 2017 at 11:54 am

            My son died of Cystic Fibrosis. We were urged by his doctors not to have anymore children together. My first wife reluctantly chose to have an abortion and we separated. The last I heard she had a shitload of kids, I always wonder what out lives would have been like if she and I were not carriers of the CF gene and were able to be normal parents. 45 years ago, the life expectancy of CF babies was under 3 years old, and we were told that the chances of any of our children being born with CF was over 90%. After watching our son suffer a horrible death neither one of us wanted to take that chance again.

            Reply
    • Harvey Reading   July 29, 2017 at 12:51 pm

      “By the way, fully one fourth of the women in congress have openly claimed pro life beliefs. The fear from the abortionists is that number is rising.”

      Which means that fully three-fourths do not so claim. And, of the one-fourth, how many are conservative? Or fundamentalist? Your second sentence quoted is pure hearsay.

      “To claim that “there is no evidence to support” the remorse of post abortion patients is absurd. Everyone knows someone who has faced this issue, both female and male, that felt terrible. Some never get over it.”

      Let’s see some real evidence to support your first sentence, not just antiabortion, fundamentalist propaganda. I assert that in fact, not “everyone” knows such a person. I have not. How many of those you claim to have experienced the remorse were raised in a fundamentalist background and thus imbued with the notion that they should feel remorse over many things that others do not so feel about. How many, for comparison, in your one-sided diatribe, in fact do NOT feel remorse? How many in fact feel relief over not being burdened with an unwanted child. A very, very few may never get over it, and how many of those are hounded constantly by fundamentalist relatives or friends?

      “Society no longer condemns a pregnancy out of wedlock, but arguably applauds those who carry full term and go the adoption route.”

      Again, let’s see some proof to support the last clause of this assertion. You make it seem as if The Handmaid’s Tale was a fine example of real life in the U.S. The applauding, such as it may be, is likely done by fundamentalist Christians, particularly barren fundamentalist Christian couples.

      “Yep, the world has changed since 1968.” Nope, it hasn’t change all that much. More gadgets, more channels. Human nature remains the same, including the false assertions of right-wing authoritarians who believe they can control the bodies of women.

      Reply
      • sohumlily   July 29, 2017 at 1:33 pm

        I worked at Planned Parenthood in Eureka for 2 years as the recovery room nurse.

        There was plenty of remorse. And it is not an easy decision to make. Yes, some women were quite flip about it. But for someone to say that it’s no big deal, that someone is likely male. It’s a spiritual and huge life event to be pregnant. I had tons of incredible and awe-inspiring conversations and witnessed some shocking revelations (the shear number of women who have been raped/sexually assaulted is mind boggling, at least to me). I made it a point to play the HSU Saturday morning opera show on the recovery room radio cuz who the hell wants to listen to some sappy love song while getting yourself together after your procedure? I wouldn’t want to. I learned to love opera from those days…

        I believe with my whole being that abortion must be made available to women who find themselves pregnant and don’t want to be. I think it’s tacky to use it as a form of birth control, which I saw often enough. But the whole thing is fraught with ambivalence, and it bothers me when some of you act so casual about it. For most of the women I dealt with it was heavy duty shit.

        If conservatives are so concerned about ‘life’ (as has been said ad infinitum) then lets take care of those who are already here on this overcrowed planet, and make sure that babies are born to parents who want them and have what it takes to raise competent, compassionate, confident human beings.

        Reply
        • Harvey Reading   July 29, 2017 at 1:45 pm

          How much of the remorse you saw was a hormonal response? My ex-wife had an abortion in the late 70s. After her hormone levels, assiciated with pregnancy, got back to normal, she felt no remorse and was back to her old self in no time.

          Reply
          • Harvey Reading   July 29, 2017 at 1:57 pm

            Incidentally, her doctor had advised her of such normal, shor-term reactions to hormonal changes prior to the abortion. That, of course, was before the rise of the fundamentalist antiabortion crowd.

            Reply
            • sohumlily   July 29, 2017 at 2:11 pm

              Oh, well, whatever the doctor said then, Harvey.

              Reply
          • Harvey Reading   July 29, 2017 at 2:43 pm

            It used to be called, maybe still is called, post-partum blues.

            Reply
            • sohumlily   July 29, 2017 at 3:51 pm

              Are you manslaining to me about women’s experiences?

              Just asking.

              I’m not trying to be a bitch, but can you even hear yourself?

              Reply
              • Harvey Reading   July 29, 2017 at 4:57 pm

                Not sure what mainslaining is. Just relating the experience of my ex-wife, about a decade before the air became polluted with all the fundamentalist, right-wing propaganda. By the way, are you a registered nurse?

                Reply
                • sohumlily   July 29, 2017 at 5:26 pm

                  I *was* when I was working for PP.

                  It’s MANsplaining, Harv.

                  I’m not sure how your one experience can stack up to my dealing with hundreds of women in the clinic (and others health care facilities) over the years.

                  By the way; did you read Ralph Nader’s piece reposted in MCT today?

                  It’s hard to tell digitally, but I feel a bit like you’re patting me on the head and telling me how it *really* is…

                  Reply
                  • Harvey Reading   July 29, 2017 at 5:54 pm

                    What percentage of those you dealt with had long-term regrets over the abortion, that is serious regrets after the hormonal imbalance passed? What percent returned to the clinic once discharged? I have no desire to pat you on the head.

                    Reply
  5. AF   July 29, 2017 at 4:22 pm

    What if I need one? That is why I think abortion should be legal. Can you get pregnant? If not: your opinion is nothing.

    Reply
  6. Delmar Bolshi   July 29, 2017 at 6:15 pm

    Ordinarily a simple procedure, most abortions can be performed by most people with some fairly simple tools. This fact – and it is a fact – stands…no delusion changes this.

    The fact means that there will be abortions. Women can’t be “policed” 24-7. They can teach one another abortion – as they always have. This is not medically good, but it is a fact. If women have privacy they will get abortions, sometimes. Inescapable fact…the famous quotation from Juvenal audio quid ueteres olim moneatis amici,
    “pone seram, cohibe.” sed quis custodiet ipsos
    custodes? cauta est et ab illis incipit uxor. is famous precisely because it deals with policing women…and makes it clear that it’s a pointless task.

    So, Comrades, the “choice” is to ignore abortion when you can so you don’t have to think about it, and then to have one or not. Men give the right to chose away when they engage in certain “contractual” actions…fact, not law.

    The other choice is to leave the matter to women. This is best – they are in the position to best know, and they must carry, or not.

    Some say the State or Society have a vote. Maybe. But when a State spends billions obliterating children it’s a hard sell to get me to believe that State gives a hoot about babies, born or dead.

    In view of this place for Society I look at how Talmudic Law compromises…after the woman feels the baby move “quickening” – after that at about 3 months – abortion is considered pretty marginal… But this is classical tradition in a rural farming community – where kith kin clan and family can provide support… It can’t apply to a 16 year old at wallyworld who is on her own….

    Reply
    • Harvey Reading   July 29, 2017 at 7:00 pm

      Agree.

      Reply
  7. Harvey Reading   July 29, 2017 at 6:32 pm

    From the Planned Parenthood Web Site:

    Serious, long-term emotional problems after an abortion are rare. But everybody’s different, and certain things can make coping with an abortion hard. Most people feel better if they have someone supportive to talk to after an abortion. But even if you don’t think there’s anybody in your life you can talk with, you’re not alone. Your nurse or doctor can talk with you, or help you find a licensed counselor or a non-judgmental support group. You can also call Exhale or All-Options, free after-abortion talklines. They will give you confidential and non-judgmental emotional support after your abortion — no matter how you’re feeling.

    Reply
  8. Harvey Reading   July 29, 2017 at 6:34 pm

    Also form the Planned Parenthood Web Site, which I thought I had included in my original selection:

    There are many myths out there about the effects of abortion. Your nurse or doctor can give you accurate information about any concerns you have.

    Reply
  9. Harvey Reading   July 29, 2017 at 6:49 pm

    I would also point out that in the poisoned atmosphere wrought by right-wing fundamentalists, beginning in earnest the mid 80s, that women who had no complications, physical or mental, whatever during or after an abortion may be reluctant or downright afraid to speak out for fear of recrimination by church groups, co-workers, or even “friends”. The right is good at cherry picking poster girls who do NOT represent the vast majority of women, certainly not the vast majority of women who have chosen to have abortions.

    Reply

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