A Woman’s Parachute [A Short Story by JVR]

Abortion is a Woman’s Parachute



When I was a boy, a boy not so unlike any other boy, whatever boy it was I knew, we knew, in our blue collar Catholic neighborhood–there were others living there too, no? Of course there were Protestants and Jews–for my parents Jews were not as invisible or grotesque as they were for other families I knew. Working class has become–what has it become in your contemporary parlance? Yes, when I was child,  my father and I were avid followers of NASA and the space agency’s progress to the moon. It was then I learned that in every command capsule, of every mission to space, there was a rather conspicuous red button to push if the mission should need to be aborted on the launch pad.

Less than a decade after this, the Supreme court majority decision in Roe versus Wade established a woman’s legal right to have an abortion, although no red button was forthcoming.

In the seventies we had too many discussions and not enough argument about a woman’s right to choose an abortion, a right I did not oppose, a right she had always had in spite of legislation to the contrary. I would eventually come to the position that it is not the law that gives a woman the right to choose, but that that right existed in spite of any law that might speak to the contrary.

The law provides legal sanction, thus hopefully legal protection, thus a loosening of the grip that social conventions might impulsively tighten around a woman, and in our contemporary political climate, a hard rain is about to fall, or as Alice said her older sister had said.

To choose to end a pregnancy has always been a dilemma, and after Roe versus Wade the number of rocks and hard places did not quickly lessen. No.

If a woman–what woman, which woman, do you know any woman for whom if she had come to the point where she needed to make a choice . . . again, what is this all about?

To choose or not to choose became every woman’s to be or not? That is it in essence. Choice. The human right to choose.

After Roe versus Wade, a woman was not a criminal for choosing one way, and was expressing free-will if she should choose the other. Yes, free-will. To have a baby or not to have a baby, that was certainly the question.

How long had it been for women feeling they had no choice but to do what a man wanted, and how easy it was for a man to deny, to abandon his responsibility, his awareness, his sensitivity, the truth?

The Right to choose also frees the woman who wants to have a baby. Pro-choice is not only a position for a woman who wants to have an abortion. The legally sanctioned right to choose a medically induced miscarriage  honors, fore-mostly, a woman’s right to choose, which may be to have the baby, as it is also to have an abortion.

Having a baby became more about a woman’s choice than her obligation as a breeder after Roe versus Wade. I cannot tell you how many women there are who are set against women, who do not support women in their struggles for equality or liberation, I remember she she said, used to say, had said, did say, would have continued to say . . . Alice Buconiglio said as much in these and in how many other words for what she believed, wanted to say and say again to drive home the point that a woman’s right to choose an induced miscarriage was one of themes important issues facing a woman, no pun intended.

I too did see how many women were set against women, were Cain to every other Abel-woman; and do not confuse or confound the issue or the analogy. Please do not be pedantic as it seems most people in most societies cannot help but be, I would have liked to say here, but decided against, as you can see why, or should that be, hear why? To know or not to know another person, but especially a woman if a man . . . you do know that the only thing you need to know to tell you anything you think you might want to understand is that the voice herein is the only voice you should listen to, and anything else you might want to know is truly incidental.

The story is the thing to capture the conscious of every man, everything any man can know . . . me telling, what? It is not what I have said, alone . . . what means this alone? There are choices you make in your reading too, you should know, I think you do, already have shown the ability to act upon this. What then should I say based on what it is that I have already said. All women choose between having a child and aborting the pregnancy when the choice arises to have a baby or not, although not quite as easily or safely as missions to space.

There have always been ways to induce miscarriage, some of them frightening and almost concentration camp like in manner, others just dangerous, but choice is always elemental. The idea that an induced “miscarriage” has not always been an option is a mistake. The difference in a legally sanctioned abortion is the matter of safety. It is the difference between having a parachute and not having a parachute when the plane is going down in flames. Of course, this is not practical in contemporary commercial air travel, but fighter pilots still have parachutes and ejector seats to save their lives. This is the idea. Presumably, under sanction of the law, a woman now has the option to safely end her pregnancy, where before she did not. She can pull the ejector lever?


Our medical establishment assures us of the safety involved, yet more women die annually from medical malpractice than from breast cancer. Another essay is needed, one addressing the persistent second class status for the still second sex. Who then am I if we are still puzzling over who she is, a woman is? Who would I have to be to say what I have so far said, the way I have herein said it . . . for her? Who am I to speak for any woman anywhere at any time? Who am I to speak for me? I could ask. Alice spoke for herself. I am not speaking for her.

Hamlet’s dilemma is to be or not to be, which is also any woman’s who has to decide if she is going to carry her pregnancy to term or not and thus choose to terminate it. Hamlet did not raise the issue of having a parachute or not having a parachute because there were no parachutes . . . the way she decided, how I imagined she had . . .  there were the equivalents of life boats in the sailing of the time.

When a woman wants to have a baby, tries to have a baby, gets pregnant and has no apparent dilemma before her, she has chosen not to abort. To bail out or not to bail out is always a question. When the plane’s going down in flames, it would be great if a parachute were available. It’s sensible; it’s rational; it’s reasonable to expect our culture, our civilization, to support a woman’s inalienable right to choose. However, this is not the case in America today with how many religious nuts getting behind the move toward eliminating laws that support a woman’s right to choose. I do fear the Republicans.

What was it that we used to say back in college? If the people want to go to hell in a handcart . . . fucking democracy in a society where systematic under-education is the rule to keep the welfare roles full and unemployment down by insuring there will be a steady river of applicants for McDonald’s and Walmart.

I could have come to many of the same conclusions, have made many of the same assertions, without having known Alice Buconiglio–and I do not know exactly why I am using her surname when everyone I know and she knows know that we were together in a way that would never require surnames–but then I am not me here as I know I am who I am in these lines, and this narrator expositor is a persona, as I tried to say above, but whether I was successful or not has not yet been determined? Even with me being who I was with her; the mask of narrator worn covers the mask of boyfriend having been worn.

We are on our way to this; I am sure there are those of you who have greater optimism as I am sure that there are those of you who have greater pessimism. What then do I say about what we then must do?

To try is not to do a Speech Professor once told me with mock derision. What world do you want to live in? I do not want to live in a world where there are too few life boats, that’s all. Is it important to you if I am a man or a woman? Why? The same topic. The same intensity. The same speaker to a similar audience. Is he preaching to the choir? How is preaching to the choir not integral to the preacher’s sermon? He is I; I am he; I am we in the many pages I write–what then the story line here . . . can a woman use he as a general pronoun? When? Where? How? Why? What then does that say about her or about me, whatever I might be.

When I was an undergraduate for the first time, there was an argument in college that went as follows: You can’t tell me that a fifteen year old girl is ready, emotionally or psychologically, to have a baby; that it might not be a stress in these ways too much for her to handle. Pregnancy was traumatic. Everyone was supposed to know, or was it we were supposed to think?Not the same.

I understood this argument. I too felt the emotional power behind it. I was sensitive to it, or so I assumed; perhaps I should say I was not insensitive to it. The former and latter, sensitive and not insensitive are not the same thing, stating the obvious? Nothing more easily overlooked than the obvious?

A pregnancy for a fifteen year old girl–Alice was not fifteen when . . . yes, in any middle class home or community, this would be traumatic, perhaps as much, if not more, for her parents.

I am not so sure it would be equally devastating for girls in other communities, or from other economic classes, but let us assume that bourgeois mentality and morality have pervaded, which is not to say that ethics and morality (and they are not synonyms) only exist among those of the American middle class.

I am sure there are a plethora of responses from parents or elders of any back ground, some of them sane and reasonable and others quite irrational and frightening. Could I be a woman writing an fictional essay as a man who then tries to pretend to be a woman writing?

Can I wear the mask of Alice as I do sometimes inside me, the masks I wear within should be examined, Eugene, I know. I do wear many masks, all the world we know, the many players, the many roles, what we create from how we prepare or are prepared.

If there were no boy to marry, this would pose a problem for a girl who was of any religious or cultural tradition, or economic or educational status, for how far have we come in this world from the condition of women in society since Ms. Wollstonecraft wrote her Vindication of the Rights of Women? What then must we say about what it is that has been said over time, through history, as we like to say, concerning a woman, a woman socially, a woman economically, a woman intellectually, a woman educationally, a woman as a writer, a woman as a writer’s subject, a woman as object, a woman as presumptive objectivity, a woman as a political movement, the subject, the ficus, the locus, the justification for a political movement, a woman as human, a woman as humane, a woman as a homo-sapiens female, a woman as a breeder, woman as liberated, a woman as powerful, as the enforcer of power, how and where and when and with whom and to whom; a woman as the receiver of the brunt of power plays, as the chattel of men; woman as woman as women all women some women this woman as singular and plural. Alice.

The fact that any girl who was accepted to Harvard, let us say, and who also became pregnant at 18 would be a shock for any family is easy to understand.But then why should it be easy or not easy to understand.

The presumption that any girl accepted to Harvard as an undergraduate might make an acceptable candidate to any one of number of top tier PhD programs in whatever field she was to choose would increase the anxiety. What is her pregnancy at 18 going to do to any of her family’s imagined prospects, if they were in fact pinning their hopes of future advancement on the daughter graduating from Harvard, whether fairly or unfairly?

No one is going to assume initially that the girl can easily, or if at all, complete her education once pregnant. I am not going to argue against the merits of the perception, only present that the perception exists.

I’m still not surest why we have or had assumed that a girl who would be traumatized by a pregnancy at fifteen, let’s say as we had before, is fit and able to handle an abortion. Why do we conveniently leave out this fact? That she might not be any better prepared to handle an abortion than she is to handle a pregnancy.

If there were a boy to marry and marriage ensued, I presume any parents who would have been shocked ethically or morally or in their sense of propriety would suffer a lesser shock. The matrimony that might ensue could soothe their previous embarrassment, but any parents with aspirations of the daughter’s self-reliance or career advancement as a result of her advanced education beyond the B.A. would not be assuaged by the baby having a father present.

I am not herein considering the psychopathic, whereby a woman’s, or a girl’s, life or limb is in jeopardy, from those who say they love her when she becomes pregnant without marriage. Emotional trauma correspondent to the level of ostracizing a girl would endure from her community would have to be measured separately. I make no assumptions for how progressive all of us are; history is anything but progressive.

We do have to see that if the girl were of an upper-middle class family where one or both of the parents were university educated, perhaps where both or at least one has a post-graduate degree–the expectations would be for her to go to college, and not just college, but as aforementioned, graduate school.

And so,  pregnancy, even if there were a boy to marry, would be an impediment to her going to college and then to graduate school, at least in some minds. Of course, the economic aspirations of the girl’s family would be stunted, as well, cut off, even; and this might be especially frightening to a family with bourgeois aspirations who are not yet bourgeois, or bourgeois by proxy through the social advancement of the daughter, who is now “with child.” Ah! With child. No embryo can be called a child if the argument sides with pro choice against con, can it? Yes, it.

Under any of the aforementioned circumstances, medically induced miscarriage would certainly be less traumatic, or as many of the so called middle class arguments in favor of pro choice would go. I am not as certain as some of these who support this line of reasoning. I do not assume the only traumatic thing for a woman in this predicament is to have a baby she does not want. Even when choosing an abortion under the best of pro-choice circumstances, there is loss.

Women, after having an abortion, have felt in a way quite similar to women who have suffered a miscarriage of a baby they have chosen to have. When life begins is not invited here. This is not support for those who are against the pro-choice position. I am not arguing for or against a woman’s legal right to choose. Again the right precedes the law; the law gives the guarantee that the right of the woman is protected and supported by the legal justice system, thus supported by the government bureaucracies, thus a normal mainstream event. Please spare me the simian responses born of a simian understanding of your religion and your foul place in the cess of dogma you misunderstand and dis-understand so you can continue to be the narrow-minded neo-fascist you have become in complete betrayal of your youth.

Do you imagine that you have thought all there is to think about on the issue of safe medical procedures when the choice of terminating a pregnancy arises—and it is the issue of safe medical procedure because the legality or illegality of abortion is not going to either eliminate the need for them or the wish for them if illegal, nor is it going to proliferate them if otherwise made legal. A legal abortion or illegal abortion does not give nor remove a woman’s Right to Choose; her right to choose is apart from whatever the law says. The law cannot give her rights she has irrespective of the law. The law can only help or impede her acting on her rights. I do not know what you imagine? The story is inferred by the telling, the saying, what gets said and how.

I did love Alice.

Creating a social context (I did have to bite my tongue not to say matrix) where we honor a woman’s basic human right to choose, and where respecting and protecting a woman’s unalienable right to sole proprietorship over her body are sane and reasonable to all rationally-minded persons in our society, seems the only right solution for what some see as dilemma where others see the choice between bearing the embryo-fetus-child and having an abortion as lacking in predicament, whether they are on the side of pro or con. But my question is this, and I feel that it is most important to present–do we think that a girl who might not be emotionally and psychologically fit to endure a pregnancy is able to an abortion?

If I am not mistaken, a pregnancy and a birth are both natural occurrences. I have not yet assumed that an abortion is also natural, unless that is what we are saying, that the natural flip-side of pregnancy and birth is abortion. I do not know if this is viable. Disputing the validity of abortion being a natural occurrence as are pregnancy and birth is not by necessity a pro or con argument. In the ways that biology and psychology are connected, interconnected, mutually influential, I am not so sure that abortion is a natural occurrence in the same as let us say getting pregnant is–even by artificial insemination, pregnancy is still more natural in the ways drawn herein. I am, though, a bit puzzled by anyone who claims that abortion must be made available to a young girl because we would be saving this girl emotional distress by doing so. Does anyone who puts forth this argument listen to what he is saying when he says this: abortion saves a girl the trauma of a pregnancy.

Legislation that sanctions a woman’s right to choose an abortion is put forward to ensure that it is safe, if it is chosen. The argument presented above, inferring that an abortion may or may not be as traumatic for a girl as a pregnancy is not a rebuttal for abortion, but one against what others see as a crucial point in their argument. The best argument for legislation to get behind a woman’s right to choose is to ensure a woman has a safe choice and not a horrible dilemma (safe and antiseptic have become motifs in the pro-choice argument). The choice is between safe and unsafe abortion because abortion has been and will always remain an option for anyone so inclined. Dilemmas will always exist; problems can ensue. However, with the legal right to choose, abortion presumably will not be the nightmare it was before Roe versus Wade. And before Roe versus Wade, the options before a woman, likely a girl, were nightmarish. But then there were not enough lifeboats on the Titanic, and the dearth was felt by steerage. Parachutes and lifeboats, however, of whatever variety, have always been available for the rich.

If every woman is macrocosmic to the universe of being as I hold to be a priori true, then every galaxy of argument for or against the legal right becomes irrelevant. She is. Her choice is. What happens, happens for her and to her and to no one else. Is the embryo a someone? The fetus is what? Where does personhood begin is going to be a matter of faith for a while, so we are going to have clashing metaphysics for a while. I am not here to argue, as I have already asserted above, when life begins. I know there are cultures where a child has to undergo a ritual initiation into becoming a human being and before this his parents have the right of life and death over the thing the child is in the eyes of the culture. I am not here to justify or condemn cultural practices in the social context in which they have arisen, but there can be no allowance for any cultural practice or religious law that enforces misogyny here in the United States, or places a woman at the whimsy or fanatically narrow minded religiosity we see across the world in some religious contexts. A man being allowed to kill his sister for eloping is not the same thing as a woman choosing to have an abortion, and part of the problem is, it does not take Muslim Theocracies to produce men who act on the impulse to control women and seek to put them or keep them in second class/second sex status socially; we have it right here at home in our own homegrown Christian Fundamentalists.

What more is there to say about her, about him, who I am, who anyone is, any woman might be or could be or should be? What we still hold in front of her like a carrot, sometimes a different carrot before her called could-be. The possibilities are infinite. We do like to say to her as we do to everyone else . . .  what about him, this he I am, this he another man is, this he I become, this he this narrator/expositor is even if the writer is she? Who he is, is what? What his name is, is what? Is it important what his educational background is?  Or what his ethnicity is? her ethnicity? We think so. We imagine so. What is his religion, her religion; his politics, her politics; her epistemology, his epistemology, if you will? What are his philosophies, anyone’s philosophies? The skullduggery of academics. What should be made plural?

All the women on either side of the Pro-choice issue do not countermand a woman in any of her decisions. They do not outweigh her. How could they; I already hold this truth to be self-evident, each woman is macrocosmic to her gender/sex, to humanity, to society, to all institutions seeking to levy their weight against her. If we could prove there was or was not a personhood present in the fetus, then what would we have to say, on either side of this issue? Are there not more than just two sides here. If we remember the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, we again will realize that the working poor, the immigrant poor, the minority poor, the poor poor are not worthy of parachutes; parachutes of all kinds and forms are expensive, they cost a lot of money to make. Just ask the builders of the Titanic. Why should we have fire exits, or fire escapes; and why not lock teenage girls inside unsafe workplaces, and, she said, do not tell me wanting to deny a woman access to safe medical procedure is not the same as the greed that lead to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire tragedy.

I am an old fashioned humanist that believes in a universal human nature that is not only worthy of protection but mandates our protection. I believe in universal human rights. I am obliged; we are obliged. Yes, humanity demands noblesse oblige from every human being toward every other human being. The simple separate woman facing this dilemma is everything in this; she is every thought, every choice, every fear, every emotional pang, every anything else she might feel. No one can feel for her–embryos cannot feel it for her. What can the fetus feel? Does medicine tell us? All the arguments for or of the psychological effects of abortion are mute before her singular solitary irreducible voice. Only she faces this; only she can choose. This seems simple enough to say, but remains difficult for us to believe. Just look at much of what you hear at Republican rallies, and the mud that gets slung around the issue of abortion and what has been coined in perfect propagandistic pitch, Pro-Life. But actions do speak louder than words, and the near simian rallies of the Republicans are scary enough, but when Donald Trump leads in most polls concerning Republican candidates, that is horrific. Words are all we have to defend a woman’s right to choose, which is every human’s right to choose. I cannot take up arms against what is no longer the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party but the mainstream of the Party itself . . . the by-product of decades of systematic under-education and raising semi-literacy as not only literate-enough, but literacy to emulate and praise, but then we live in a country where a rose by any other name becomes something else. I have to say that anyone who wants to vote for Trump is either an imbecile or too semi-literate or just greedy enough to imagine himself as a big player in the economic world, like so many Russian Jews, for instance, here in New York, Alice said, deluding themselves as Jews in Germany deluded themselves right up to The Final Solution passed into law 1942. Doing business in Germany as one professor’s father had; I had her for a history course back when I was an undergrad, Alice said. She said the professor had written a book about how Jews in Germany

Abortion is a woman’s parachute, if not her lifeboat, yes, those same things denied to the passengers of steerage on the Titanic and why there were so many deaths–the lifeboats were filled by class first, and no one thought to have enough for everyone on board. Screw the Irish Catholics, must have been the collective unconscious mandate in the minds of contemporary Englishmen. Let’s do the same to women because legislation must be punitive first and punitive last and provide nothing but lashes between. And why do we continue to lament our nature, and it is our nature, isn’t it? I mean, can we say that this propensity we have for . . . what? for creating and enforcing pecking orders, for fabricating and maintaining false hierarchies of socio-economic status and allowing this to dictate out ethics, for perpetual inhumanity to our fellow human beings, for allowing ourselves to understand the idea of human being without being humane, for permitting fear to rule our impulses and choices, for thinking greed is the only appropriate response to our insecurities, for applying greater pressure on the Self by trying to maintain an unrealizable singularity of being, cracking the shell, so to speak, by this gross enforcement of one and only one to be or not?

Of course you know that the “bell tolls for thee.” Why would I assume that you do not know that? Why should I assume that you do? That in itself speaks volumes about me, does it not, what I have said herein at the close in these epi-logic words afterwards; that is, if you were wondering who I am, who I might be, could be if, would be somehow when, where . . . questions begetting questions as I have said before, as I have read elsewhere, in other texts, essays, speeches, stories, both fictional and non-fictional, blogs, what else have we in places where people write or in contexts within which they express themselves in words written? I write. I am a writer. I am writing here. I have written on this elsewhere, in other words, yet similar words.

What words, when words, which words where, how, the words Alice Buconiglio? I used to believe that I did not know what I thought unless I wrote; who was she, is she, has she been, will she be, will she have been by the time it comes to her end? Whatever this says about me, about her it says about you . . . and you would have to decide which me this is inside the text and what that then could say about who it is outside the text, if you insist on there being an outside the text because as far as I am concerned, nothing but what is in the text is valid for interpretation . . . interpretation, interpretation, interpretation, interprets in its petty pace, how often can I refer to the same things, over and again MacBeth and Hamlet follow me until the last syllable of this written record. Shakespeare has been everything to me, I tried to mean, not knowing for sure what it is anyone could mean by saying thus, Shakespeare has been everything to me.

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