[Four speeches by the same man–and yes, man, not woman–given on four separate occasions, but composed together as one essay and divided into four separate presentations, delivered each time to a mixed audience of undergraduates, graduates, professors and other university staff who may have attended these talks sponsored by the undergraduate Women’s Studies Club, itself adjunct to the Women’s Studies Program on campus, which campus is irrelevant, and herein becomes part of the fictionalization of this piece, where is everywhere, more specifically, anywhere. I do recall the medieval Everyman, but then that, I have assumed from time to time, but never persistently past the time of its arising, that Everyman should really have been Anyman, but even more specifically, any person, even if the woman contained by the boundaries of any text were to bleed to death from a botched abortion, it would be about any person, as it is this anyone that I have attached myself to, and whether or not it is valid the way I assert it to be, that is, everyman is anyman is anyperson, the compound is imperative here, then this is what I am going for here, although the pieces written were not written for any fictional intention and were written as essays are often written on topics such as abortion. So here we have four speeches delivered by someone somewhere on some university campus in America at some time in the near past, to another group of someones present gathered by some students who are members of a group on this campus funded by the college they are or were attending.]
When I was a boy and my father and I were avid followers of NASA and the space agency’s progress to the moon, I learned that in every command capsule 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, that that right exists in spite of the law. What the law does or can do is provide legal sanction, thus hopefully legal protection, thus a loosening of the grip that social conventions might impulsively tighten against her, and in our contemporary political climate, a hard rain is about to fall.
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. If a woman had come to the point where she had to make a choice, though, at least after Roe versus Wade, she was not a criminal for choosing one way, and was expressing free-will if she should choose the other. To have a baby or not to have a baby . . . 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 an abortion 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.
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. 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.
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. 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. I do fear the Republicans, but that is too easy––ducks in a barrel? Again, they are what they are and irrepsectivce of what we might want to think reflexively, they have not always been this way. In the 60s, it was Republican politicians that got behind a Woman’s right to choice, or what we called then her reproductive rights. This all changed when Regan––or the Regan Republican Party––decided to politicize the Evangelicals, mobilizing politically a group that had always remained on the periphery of politics, certainly nowhere near the driving force of any political party, yes, marginalized at best. But then Trump mobilized the Trailer Park? And as regretfully as BLM has decided to mobilize the less-than-better-angels of the ghetto (and I am only saying that because they do side step and avoid addressing issues of class in favor of race only, in order not to address real Power in its legacy of class warfare––always leaving poor whites out of every articulation of power dynamics [especially police shooting and fatal police shootings], making in their rhetoric race to be the driving force of all abuses of power, not ever addressing any other dynamism when focus is on that Elite structure of Power enforces itself brutally along the lines of race––all in an effort to get another 100 million dollar grant? like the one they received from the [White Supremacist?] Ford Foundation, itself an extension in the legacy of the Anti-Labor, Anti-Union Ford Motor Family).
What was that we used to say back in college? If the people want to go to hell in a handcart . . . . We are well on our way.
Where are we going now from where have we come? Where are we now in this America where its print and broadcast journalists do tow the line of their publishers serving a propaganda function for Elites, keeping real Money and real Power in the shadows––and Blankfein is not even the real Money that is Wall Street?
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. 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. Nonetheless, a pregnancy for a fifteen year old girl in any middle class home or community 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.
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? 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; 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. For some it would be horrible.
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 a bourgeois family–and by this I mean an upper or mid level middle class family, where one or both of the parents are 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. A 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, cut off; 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.
What is normal we like to ask, have asked, seem as if we will continue to ask? We love to imagine what is now is new and what is new is as never before imagined, dreamed, wished, hoped . . . now is the best of times? now is the worst of times? Now seems as if it has become the only time. There is no other time than now is a dogma we hold and enforce, no? But it is appropriate to ask what is normal? It is appropriate so long as it is appropriately asked, which is like saying an action is good if it is good, but that is true, is it not?
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 reasonable to all rationally minded persons in our society, seems the only sane solution for what some see as dilemma while 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 forth 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 do I have to say, should I have to say? What is there that I must do, must say, must think—we hate ‘must,’ have to . . . should is always suspect in our thoughts, no? In mine? I always use we when I cannot speak I, which is not to say that every time I say we it is only a veiled I. Fuck what you think; what you think is for you. I can imagine what anyone who lives as a fundamentalist Christian thinks about this; I imagine grotesquely just what most everyday average Muslims think, far, far too many of whom who are not here for freedom but to impose themselves and Sharia Law as willfully as they can get away with on a Constitutional Democracy, and to do so without love of other, without respect for other, and with only contempt, condescension, animosity and loathing for everything we take to be normal and free; how many of them who think Sharia Law should be above the Constitution you would be horrified to discover, I know, as I know we have contempt for any way of life that opposes our dogmas on freedom and democracy. I can tell you now that I oppose Sharia Law with every fiber of my being; that I hold Sharia Law in contempt of Democracy and Freedom; that anyone believing Sharia Law should be above the Constitution and violates the Constitutional rights of anyone is an enemy of freedom, of democracy, of the Constitution, of the People of the United States. Public Enemy Number One is Sharia Law (Obama is Public Enemy Number Two; aiding and abetting ISIS by not having taken it seriously enough in the beginning and thinking it could use its push to create a putsch in Syria, I say [which is not exactly what my author believes or his publisher thinks, so spare me your semi-literate, under-educated diatribes. I do not wish to play your political ping-pong]; talk about shaking hands with the devil—Obama’s greatest hubris has been the level of his naivté).
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.
I am an old fashioned humanist that believes in a universal human nature that is not only worthy of protection but mandates our protection. 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 . . .)
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.