I Get it Now: Part 1

A lot has been going down in Texas this week. I stayed up past midnight watching the Republicans in the Texas legislature make a mockery of the legislative process, belittle the filibustering Democrat, Wendy Davis, and then take a vote illegally after midnight and change the time stamp. I also watched many friends  post on Facebook as they headed to the Capitol to witness and protest. And I felt shame. Shame that I wasn’t there. Shame that I’d buried my head in the sand for so long. Shame that I had taken all that my mother’s generation and her grandmother’s generation had fought for for granted.

Gen-X women tend to have a complicated relationship with feminism. Many of us grew up with feminist mothers, aunts, teachers, and therapists. You could probably hear me rolling my eyes every time one of them talked about “The Patriarchy.” My parents were a bit of an amalgam – unlike some of my peers, I was never told that having babies was selling out my gender; I was taught that I could be anything I wanted when I grew up, including a mother. Many of my friends received harsher and more confusing messages. They were told by their mothers that motherhood was a cop-out, or signified failure. A bit of a mind-fuck, don’t you think? I’m going to talk more about this in a future post, but in general, I think we’ve distanced ourselves from the 2nd wave feminists for a variety of rational and unconscious reasons, many of which I’m beginning to seriously question. Stay tuned for part 2.

It never occurred to me that I might lose the right to decide whether or not to have a baby. Even when some states, including mine, were passing more and more restrictive bills, I didn’t pay much attention. I got married in my mid 30s and got pregnant, for the first time in my life, at 37. I knew when I met my husband, long before we got married, that if we got pregnant I would want to have a baby with him.

I also came of age in San Francisco in the 90s at the height and epicenter of the AIDS epidemic. We were all so concerned with not dying from sex, that pregnancy was waaaay down the list. I never had unprotected (and by this I mean condom-less) sex other than a brief stint on the pill during a long-term relationship in my 20s, until my pre-husband and I became monogamous.

The women and men who grew up before or after or too far away from the AIDS epidemic to carry the epic paranoia I did about unprotected sex had a different experience. I remember briefly being courted by a man in Austin in my 30s, and when he said he didn’t wear condoms, I was like, “Uh, nice knowing you?” But my peers were having unprotected casual sex pretty regularly.

A young friend of mine, barely out of her teens, recently confided in me that she had gotten pregnant. She was not promiscuous, it was with her first (now ex) boyfriend. They had just neglected to use condoms one night, and it had happened. She felt ashamed and stigmatized; she felt horribly conflicted, and terribly scared. She was lucky to have a supportive and loving mom to help her through the emotional turmoil of making the decision to have an abortion. She’s a good kid, and she made one poor decision. The not so funny part is so did her boyfriend, but he didn’t have to go through any of the physical discomfort,  mental torture, and emotional turmoil that she did.

She lives in Texas, and we have all sorts of fucked-up laws that basically humiliate and dehumanize women who choose to have abortions. She had to have a transvaginal ultrasound. She had to listen as the doctor was forced to tell her lots fun facts about the fetus. She had to listen to the heartbeat (but was allowed to block the sound with headphones if she wished – gah!). And then she took a pill, went home, and cramped and bled by herself in her apartment for two days.

I have to say that her story simultaneously freaked me out and broke my heart. She did not deserve to be criminalized for not wanting to be a mother at 20. She did not deserve to be essentially raped and abused by a doctor on behalf of the state government. I thought about how happy, yet terrified I was when I got pregnant on purpose, and how hard it must have been for her to make the decision to end hers. And it was hard. She had to work through a lot of guilt and sadness about her decision, and it still haunts her. I realized for the first time that this was something lots of women went through, and like my friend, they did not deserve to be criminalized.

I think I stayed away from the abortion debate for a number of reasons. It’s not black and white. To me, there is an ethical issue, and a psychological cost to any abortion. But I get it now. It’s between me, and my God/ess, and my doctor (and most likely my shrink). AND NO ONE ELSE. Pro-Choice does not mean pro-abortion. It does not mean anti-baby.

This bill, SB5, will outlaw abortions after 20 weeks, including in cases of rape and incest, and effectively close all but 5 abortion clinics in Texas. The socio-economic ramifications are staggering. Rural women without transportation will not have access to abortions.

The mostly, but not entirely male group of people who are pushing this travesty through claim to care for women’s health and safety, and the sanctity of life. Maybe a few really believe that’s what this bill is doing. But it is fairly clear to me that they want to shore up their ultra-conservative base before the next round of elections, and the cost to women’s lives and health is a non-consideration.

So I bought me an orange shirt, and I’m heading to the Capitol to protest on Monday. For the first time in about 25 years.

To hear why this is so crucial, please read this testimony by Amy Hagstrom-Miller, CEO of Whole Women’s Health. I have the honor of knowing Amy, and am intensely grateful for the work she does for women in my community, and the fight she’s been leading against this bill.

If you live in Texas, or you care about the women who do, please consider doing something to help us in this effort.

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