You Can Lose It, You Can Fall

Yesterday, I was boiling milk for yogurt, setting up the washing machine, scrubbing dishes and airing out my little throw rugs but felt like I wasn’t doing enough so I rung up Daria.

Tata: Whatcha doin’?
Daria: You called me because you thought I’d be at the wedding?
Tata: What wedding? Whose wedding?
Daria: Our cousin Browne. You remember Browne. Tall guy, same age as you, stands next to you in decades’ worth of family pictures…?
Tata: Right. Sent my regrets. Forgot all about it. Why are you at home, then?
Daria: My husband came home from Atlantic City with the stomach flu.
Tata: You’d think an insurance agent would pick out the healthy hookers.
Daria: I’ve finally stopped puking but I’ll make an exception for you. Can you hop on over?
Tata: Can’t. Gotta read up. Roe v. Wade is going to be overturned and we have to be ready.
Daria: Never happen.
Tata: What? Have you read about South Dakota?
Daria: It will never happen. Never happen.

Bless her heart, Daria is very bright, diligent, well-informed and every bit the feminist pinko I am, yet she’s married to an Ann Coulter fan. We love him dearly but the first rule of getting along with Tyler is never, ever discuss politics with him if you want to finish lunch. Or keep down lunch. Or refrain from throwing lunch at your beloved in-law. So Daria’s deeply invested in cognitive dissonance as a useful tool in day-to-day life. I get that. I don’t like it, but I get it. It is too much and too hard to imagine being the parent of three very young children in a time when one’s and one’s children’s reproductive rights are endangered, especially if a person feels there’s nothing to be done about it.

I work in a library. For years, I handed out reserve materials to undergrads. In that capacity, I met some astounding, gifted people but I also bumped into some of the most willfully stupid human beings it has ever been my nauseated displeasure to encounter.

Tata: Can I help you?
Dumbi!: My professor left something here.
Tata: Look up your professor’s name, write down what you want and I’ll be happy to find it for you.
Dumbi!: I don’t know my professor’s name.
Tata: What’s the class, then?
Dumbi!: I don’t know.
Tata: Okay, what’s the subject?
Dumbi!: I don’t know that, either.
Tata: Is your class in English?
Dumbi!: I think so.
Tata: Do you…talk about money?
Dumbi!: Sometimes.
Tata: (Retrieving a slim paperback from the stacks) Your professor wants you to read this.
Dumbi!: Thanks!

Sometimes Good and Evil look exactly alike, and may in fact be exactly the same, and if I’d never taken matters into my own hands there’s no way in Hell that idiot would’ve read The Communist Manifesto. I wasn’t trying to turn this mouthbreather into a bomb-thrower and I’m certain she failed her exam – or even to find her exam in, like, a classroom – but there was one chance, just one, to crack a window and get a breeze through that musty little mind, and I took it.

Bless him, Lance Mannion, that smart cookie, has a little problem with uncertainty about abortion, like when and who and why. Maybe not.

We know it isn’t during the first three months, which is why a sane country would allow an unrestricted right to abortion during the first trimester, but we don’t know what’s going on in the second trimester. Exactly when does the fetus start paying attention to its surroundings? When does it start to learn?

Some pro-choice people are content to think and act and argue as if it really is the very first day of the third trimester. Before that day, the fetus is a thing. A growth. And the woman who finds that thing growing inside her has every right to decide all on her own, without any interference from the thing’s male co-planter, the state, and certainly not anti-abortion zealots, to keep it and see what comes of it or have it excised, just as she is free to have a burst appendix or an impacted wisdom tooth or unsightly mole removed.

Maybe.

But besides this, the third trimester date is arbitrary. Babies outside the womb develop at different rates; so do fetuses within the womb. One fetus can become a baby a few days shy of entering its third trimester, another might need another week in. We don’t know.

On top of this it often can’t be said for sure when the third trimester begins. Some women know exactly what day they conceived. Others have to guess. A woman who think she’s in her second trimester may be a few days, even a couple of weeks, into her third. What if she has her abortion too late?

Alright, he has a problem.

But because I believe that most people advocating other restrictions are arguing in bad faith doesn’t mean that I can’t see the point in certain restrictions, including parental notification, waiting periods, and mandatory instructions on how to put an unwanted baby up for adoption and why it might be a good idea to consider.

And if the Supreme Court were to decide or Congress were to pass a law stating that except in cases where the mother’s health was at risk, abortions should be banned, or severely restricted, after the fourth month instead of the sixth, I wouldn’t be outraged.

The Court would still be guessing, Congress would be guessing, but as it is we’re all just guessing.

Lance, darling, you’re killing me. Well, not me. I can’t have children. Women who can get pregnant – you’re killing them. In fact, everyone participating in this debate, however well-intentioned, is killing women. I’m not saying this lightly. I’m completely serious, and I mean exactly what I’m saying: the time for debate about abortion was thirty years ago, and what is happening now in South Dakota and Africa is precisely the result of waffling and bad bargaining on the part of people of good faith.

Stop it. I mean it: stop debating abortion. This is democratic, free speech and lefty sacrilege, I know. I doubt this is going to make sense on the first go-round but I hope you’ll give what I’m saying a good think. You’re looking at a big picture. Take a giant step back and look at an even bigger one.

The time to say “I’m pro-choice but…” is so, so indescribably over I find it hard to discuss. Before the ink dried on Roe and Griswold v. Connecticut, their opponents were already strategizing about how to mitigate their effects and eventually overturn these decisions. Perhaps, like I was, you were young when these events took place. Perhaps you weren’t even born yet. The learning curve is steep, but you must, must, must learn the history and realize the opponents of reproductive freedom are organized, well-funded, and they have political clout. You know this, right? Then why are you acting like talking about the issue is going to change anyone’s mind? The religious right has controlled the tone and the language of the conversation for decades. You cannot change the situation without reworking the language to describe what’s happening. Nothing but experience changes opinions on abortion – though sometimes experiences that should change minds fail to let in a little fresh air.

Each time you say, “I’m pro-choice but…” you create room to be bargained out of some seemingly insignificant aspect of repro freedom that you personally won’t miss. Your opponents take advantage of this by accepting what doubts permit you to give away. Perhaps this bargaining gives you a brief respite from the constant arguing. You get tired. You say, “Well, you’re right, I’m pro-choice but I don’t want the federal government to pay for abortions…” Your opponent will help you not pay for the abortions poor women now can’t have. Then you agree this condition bothers you and that situation is troubling and thirty years pass, and you don’t even notice that your waffling and ethical considerations and general theatrics have given your opponent not just the game, but the board, the pieces, and you. This from the comments section is unbearable:

“Who in their right mind gleefully gets an abortion no matter how beneficial the procedure might be to their current situation? I doubt few people take it lightly.”

You know – I’m not sure about this. You automatically think it’s the rape victim, the incest victim – the horrible cases, that drag themselves to get an abortion – but, I bet there are plenty of women – while not going “gleefully” to the abortion clinic – they choose it because it’s there to choose…another problem out of the way.

There is no excuse for this airheaded viciousness. There is no excuse for believing your dime store tin foil conscience matters a whit when a woman 1500 miles or thirty feet away has an unplanned pregnancy and wants an abortion. It’s none of your business why unless she makes it so, and even then, it’s still not up to you to foist your judgments onto her. Having an opinion does not entitle you to fix her wagon for being sexually active, or whatever your ridiculous problem with her is. It’s not your body. When it’s your body you can waffle all you want.

You’re pro-choice. No buts. No arguments. No concessions. No cowardly “I don’t know.” Nobody knows – deal with it. If we wait until we know absolutely everything we will be sitting here not-knowing into willful ignorance, unbearable public policy and suffering on a scale you won’t believe you had a hand in creating, and by that I mean you will deny its existence rather than permit yourself to know it.

Isn’t that what you’re doing now?

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