Abortion, contraception, reproductive rights — these are issues of both men and women. Here are two stories.
In today’s New York Times, Susan Heath writes an opinion piece titled “No One Called Me a Slut” describing a time when she went to an abortion clinic with her husband.
As she describes her experience at the time:
It’s 1978, five years after Roe v. Wade. I’m 38, I have four sons — the oldest is 17, the youngest is turning 12. I’m at school, getting a B.A., and I’m loving it.
I’m about two and a half months pregnant.
I don’t want this child.
I have a family, a large family. I love my children with a passion, but I don’t want any more. I know this with absolute certainty. I’ve got other things to do, and I don’t have it in me to be a good enough mother to a fifth child. I delight in newborn babies with their delicate weightlessness, the curl of their small fingers around my thumb, but the best thing about them now is that they belong to other people. I don’t want to bear them, feed them, bring them up, be responsible for them.
I don’t want this child.
So I’m on my way to Planned Parenthood to have a legal abortion. My husband drives me there — this is a serious matter for both of us, but we absolutely agree it’s my decision to make. We have been conscientiously using contraception and it’s failed us this time.
I’m pregnant but I’m not trapped.
All I had to do was call the clinic and make an appointment. I don’t have to be ashamed or terrified, because brave women before me fought to make abortion legal, have gone public with their stories of shame and terror and made sure that no woman ever again has to die from a back-alley abortion or bear an unwanted child.
We park and walk up to the entrance. No running the gantlet between pickets shouting at me that I’m a murderer, no fear that someone will throw a bomb.
Compare that to the experience Aaron Gouveia went through when going with his wife to a Planned Parenthood clinic:
“You’re killing your unborn baby!”
That’s what they yelled at me and my wife on the worst day of our lives. As we entered the women’s health center on an otherwise perfect summer morning in Brookline, two women we had never met decided to pile onto the nightmare we had been living for three weeks. These “Christians” verbally accosted us—judged us—as we steeled ourselves for the horror of making the unimaginable, but necessary, decision to end our pregnancy at 16 weeks.
After extensive testing at a renowned Boston hospital three weeks earlier, we were told our baby had Sirenomelia. Otherwise known as Mermaid Syndrome, it’s a rare (one in every 100,000 pregnancies) congenital deformity in which the legs are fused together. Worse than that, our baby had no bladder or kidneys. Our doctors told us there was zero chance for survival.
I’m not a religious person and I’ve never believed in heaven or hell. But there is a hell on Earth. Hell is sitting next to the person you love most and listening to her wail hysterically because her heart just broke into a million pieces. Hell is watching her entire body convulse with sobs because she’s being tortured with grief. For as long as I live and no matter how many children we have, I will never forget that sound. And I vowed to do everything in my power to make sure she’d never make it again.
Across a crowded street, two people with “God Is Pro-Life!” signs and pictures of torn-up fetuses managed to drive the blade in even deeper. Again, I was left trying to console the inconsolable, feeling even more helpless this time, because I wasn’t allowed into surgery with her.
Aaron goes on to confront the protesters, and videotapes the heated exchange that takes place. You can see the video on the post, here. Aaron ends with this message:
My wife and I wanted our second child. We loved her. We even had a name for her, Alexandra.
You never know the circumstances surrounding this kind of decision. Consider this my plea: stop terrorizing women. Stop adding trauma to their trauma.
And Susan Heath ends her story:
I don’t have and never have had a single qualm about not bringing that child into the world. I know many women who have grieved greatly over the children they decided not to have, and I am thankful to have been spared that agonizing sadness of guilt and regret. I also know many women who, like me, have felt only gratitude and relief at having been able to take control over their lives safely and legally.
I’m 72 now. I have five grandsons and three granddaughters, and I passionately want each one of them to be responsible and have the same legal right to choose that I had.
Abortion, contraception, reproductive rights — these are issues of both men and women. They need to be talked about — in ways that are respectful, intelligent and civil.
These are complicated, provocative issues. Let’s learn together how to talk about them.
photo: fibonacciblue / flickr