Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Sadly, the issue is way more complicated than that...

[Edited to include the video and give the names of the people involved.]

Yesterday I saw a YouTube clip of some Congressguy Congressman Tim Ryan on some cable news show Hardball talking about President Obama's speech at Notre Dame, and his call to us to find common ground on the issue of abortion and provide access to birth control to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies. The Congressdude Congressman Ryan was described as "against abortion rights" but he was working with, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, a pro-choice legislator to make birth control more affordable and accessible to women, specifically low-income women, to reduce the need for abortions.

I'm all for that, but one thing the guy Congressman Ryan said bugged me. He also went on about adoption and social services, to encourage women to carry the pregnancy to term. As I write that I realize that this guy did a lot of things I like (I might have to go find the video now); he used the words "carry the pregnancy to term" instead of talking about babies or other words that make the issue more emotional. He also pointed out that not having the abortion means carrying the pregnancy to term and needing social services to care for the child, so we need to provide appropriate health care for the infant and welfare for the mother and child. (So often in the abortion debate the anti-choicers scream and holler about the "baby" but forget to add its post-partum existence into the equation.)

But back to what bugged me -- I know he had very little time to make his points and the interviewer dude kept interrupting him and asking stupid questions he'd already answered, but I got the impression the Congressman thought the only reason a woman chooses to abort instead of carrying the pregnancy to term is economic restrictions: if we provide more info and support for adoption services, women will be convinced to carry the pregnancy to term; if we provide them with proper welfare and social services programs to help them care for the child, women will carry the pregnancy to term instead of abort.

Again, the issue is not that simple. There are many, many reasons why a woman would choose to terminate a pregnancy. This is not a minor inconvenience, this is a life-changing event. Even if she does not intend to keep the child, the pregnancy itself will have a huge impact on her life (and take a huge toll on her body). Think about it. Think about, every day of those nine months.

Going to work, pregnant. Dealing with morning sickness (that lasts all day long). Fatigue, because your body is taking every available ounce of energy to form the fetus growing inside of you. Showing.

Buying new clothes to fit your new body -- bigger bras, because your breasts will get bigger (they're making milk, remember?) And, in case you don't know, bras are effin' expensive. Buying new pants. Buying new tops. Buying new shoes because your feet and ankles have swollen that much.

Think about doing your job every day, pregnant. FOR A CHILD YOU WILL NOT KEEP. Are you on your feet all day? Are you talking to people who will ask you about "the baby"? (Most low-income women -- who have difficulties affording birth control -- don't have cushy desk jobs; they have more physically-demanding jobs. Do you want to wait tables or scrub toilets or restock shelves in your third trimester? Or maybe you have a customer service job, where people will ask you all kinds of baby questions and insist on touching your stomach. What fun!)

Can you afford maternity leave? Even one weekend, to give birth and allow your body to recover? What if there are any complications with the pregnancy, and you need bedrest? Can you afford the pre-natal care? Can you afford the time off from work for the pre-natal care doctor's visits? If you suffer post-partum depression, will you be able to afford more time off to go see a psychiatrist or psychologist? What about anti-depressants, will you be able to afford those?

How are you going to face all those people you interact with on a daily basis after the baby is born, and you don't have it? How are you going to deal with their questions?

And even that is not even scratching the surface of the reasons why a woman chooses to terminate a pregnancy.

This is a deeply personal issue. The reasons I had for choosing to terminate my pregnancy are totally different from the reasons any other woman in the waiting room with me in the clinic that morning had. For some, the economic factor is a big deal. For others, money is not the problem -- the problem is much bigger than that.

This is why we need to leave the option open.

We need to do everything in our power to prevent unwanted pregnancies in the first place (birth control, comprehensive sex ed), but we need to leave the option open, for all the other reasons that your average Congressman can't even fathom.

Yesterday I used obesity as an analogy for the reproductive rights debate. I felt a little uneasy writing about it, because I am rather ignorant on the topic. Today, I read Julie Neumann's post on Change.org's Women's Rights blog, and I felt even more unqualified to have written what I did. Eating disorders are an extremely complex issue and the reasons why a person develops an eating disorder are very personal (unique to each person, there is not one easy answer); yesterday I reduced it to the stereotyped, simplified version (in my defense, I was not discussion the issue itself in depth, I was mentioning it as an example, but still).

Julie shares quotes from several people with eating disorders saying what their eating disorder is "all about" -- the reasons why they do what they do. I felt extremely narrow-minded and ignorant as I read; there is so much more to this issue that we don't even realize, because we are not there. (It's an excellent post, please read it.)

We're not going to fix it with a Band-Aid (eating disorders or reproductive rights). We need to do everything we can to fix the known causes and fix the stuff that we can fix (health care, access to birth control, comprehensive sex ed), but we're never going to make it go away completely. Which is why we need to allow each woman to make the choice for herself.


  1. Oh man. I am so torn about all of this. On one hand I say kudos to the congress guy (though i wish I could see the video you're talking about) for considering the economic reasons. It's not really a choice if women have to give up a baby because of finances. But I hear you on the adoption thing. It is so much to ask of a woman. So much. I'm grateful that there are women who do it because it means that loving families get to have the babies they deserve. However, I hate that economics allows wealthy moms to adopt and poor moms to give up babies that they may otherwise want AND that poor women might have more unintended pregnancies because of unequal access to birth control.

    In a just society reproductive choices must be divorced from economic factors.

  2. I found the video and updated the post (I didn't embed, just linked to it).

    Another problem I have with adoption being thrown around as the end-all solution is that we keep putting kids into the system, but who's taking them out? Who's adopting? Here, locally (not from Africa, like all the trendy celebrities)? Who's adopting multi-racial older children? Children with disabilities? Crack babies?

    Yes, we need to put more money into adoption services, to get kids adopted, not to add more to the system. (But that's a rant for another post...)

  3. Hardball is an awful show that completely discourages any sort of discourse. I don't know why anyone goes on that show.

    I completely agree with you. But even baby steps are still steps forward. If we can give women better coverage and better services and help solve one small part of this huge problem we have on our hands, that's something we should work towards.

  4. Anonymous9:03 PM

    I guess if I was a "fetus", (I call it a baby), I would want to give adoption a try, (call me crazy)rather than be snuffed out of existence. This discussion reminds me of how very materialistic America has become. That's the real issue being discussed when we talk about how unplanned pregnancies are going to affect me...Our materialism is all about future posessions, houses, cars,jobs and also most apparent here, our looks. what if a baby makes me not so hot to look at anymore. Watch TV sometime and see this message being bombarded at us. Does anyone believe God has a hand in conception anymore? I can't find anyone who truly believes it! We would all do well to listen to the stories of adults who were the product of rape sometime. Without almost no exceptions they are happy their mother allowed them to live and did not decide to kill them at the start of their precious God given lives. Is life precious or are we all just animals? Even our constitution demands we have the right to Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Why or why is life listed first? Our founding fathers were not as dumb as certain parties, our President for one, would have us believe.

  5. "I guess if I was a "fetus", (I call it a baby), I would want to give adoption a try..."

    Good to know. If I were a fetus, I would not want to abuse a woman in that way. I'm also not as naive about the reality of this magical land you call "adoption," and I really would not want to take my chances with that.

    "Our materialism is all about future posessions, houses, cars,jobs and also most apparent here, our looks. what if a baby makes me not so hot to look at anymore."

    You know what really helps when you're trying to make a point when responding to a blog post? It REALLY helps to READ the post itself.

    I did not mention one word about "looks." I talked about keeping my body clothed; clothing is one of the five basic human needs.

    Have you ever been pregnant? I'm on my second one. Just today I was chatting with two friends of mine, one on her first pregnancy, the other with an almost-2-year-old daughter. We were talking about first-trimester exhaustion. You know, where you come home from work and go straight to bed, because you don't have the energy to do anything else. Like fix dinner for yourself. None of us went through this with another child at home already, so thank goodness we were not required to take care of anyone during this time... had it not been for our loving partners, who picked up the slack and took care of cooking, laundry, dishes, sending out the rent check, etc.

    Now, what you call "materialistic" is what I call "keeping your job so you can continue to have a roof over your head and can still afford to feed yourself (two more of a human's basic needs)."

    I'd go on, but... I already did. I wrote it in the original post. You either chose to not read it, or you chose to ignore it, or you lack the mental capacity to understand it, or you lack the basic human compassion to understand it.

    Therefore, there's no point in chatting with you longer, since you either can't or won't listen.

    Thanks for stopping by!