Wednesday, May 15, 2019

What's chosen (a potentially controversial post)

I've never had an abortion. That's just luck. I never needed one. I have thought a great deal about what I would do, on sweat-soaked sheets unable to sleep for worry because I was a day late. I have thought about what I would do and I think I know, but I don't know. Neither do you. No one can know unless they are in the situation.

For my whole life I thought that I would not. That I would be interested enough in who might come out of my body that I would do what it took to make it work, but do my best to make sure that it never happened. Still, too many times to count, when I was waiting, hoping not to see the second bar, all I could think was: End it now, before it grows. Get it out.

A baby is a parasite. I can say this, because I have grown and birthed two of them from my body. Pregnancy is a highly traumatic event for a body, over a long period of time, that changes your physiology, sometimes forever. The longer it goes, the more damage it does. At first it makes you sick to your stomach, light-headed, fuzzy, irritable, bloated. That's before there's anything that anyone would recognize as a baby, but it could be enough to get you fired. That's when you're begging for this tiny glob to take shape as the seed of a human, when you want the pregnancy. That's the tiny little group of cells that you love love love into, hoping for that big head, spinal cord tail, to show up on as early an ultrasound as your doctor will let you have. When you want the pregnancy.

We have separated abortion and motherhood, but they are the same conversation. Motherhood is a choice. When we make that choice, as women, whether under duress of "didn't expect this now" or the excitement of "I want to be a mom right now!"; when we make the choice, the first thing that we have to do is agree to a significant sacrifice. We choose to allow our bodies to be used as an incubation factory for another life. The only bodies we get to live in, for our one and only life on Earth. If we don't want to do that, we are not ready for Motherhood. That only stands to reason, because Motherhood will ask so much more than just our bodies.

We choose to allow our bodies to be abused, stretched, examined, poked, thrown off-kilter, our brains inundated with chemicals designed to cloud our judgement. We choose to allow our skin to stretch into shapes it will never recover from, our hips to be pushed wide so our backs will never sit right again. We agree to pain and difficulty navigating daily life, prejudice in our workplaces, not fitting into our own clothes or skin. We agree, even, to the birthing process. No one has invented a process to remove a new human from another human's body without pain and difficulty for the body carrying the new human. We get cut open, ripped open, or stretched past capacity, and many of us will never have sex the same way again, never pee the same way again, never enjoy life like we did before we consented to this sacrifice.

Motherhood must be chosen to be consensual. Sex is not consent for motherhood.

Every child deserves to be wanted. Would you choose the life that many children will certainly be born into, through women who felt they had no choice but to seek an abortion, but were denied? I want my mother to be looking forward to me, not dreading me. I want my mother to step into the role of mother, not step out with mental health, depression, addiction. I want to be wanted. We all do.

Every woman who wants to deserves to feel the joy of expectation, even if mixed with trepidation, with a pregnancy chosen; with Motherhood, chosen. That is the sacred bond. Sex is not consent for Motherhood. Sex is no more or less sex for women than for men. Pregnancy is a consequence borne solely by women, and pregnancy does not have to mean motherhood.

Did you know, that when you have a miscarriage, they call your much-desired, already-loved baby a "product of conception"? I know that. Do you know how I know? Guess. When a pregnancy is wanted and lost, they call it a "Product of Conception" or even just a "Pregnancy." Like it was nothing. But when a pregnancy is unwanted, they call it a "baby" and try to guilt you into making the kind of choice that no one should be forced to make if there are alternatives. Which there are.

Like you, I have a limited life in a body. I am a full fledged human and I demand consent over any time any person is inside my body for any reason. I am the owner of this body, it's the only one I get to live in, and I have as much right as any man to say that I don't choose motherhood right now, so I am not going to let this pregnancy continue.

If every early pregnancy is a baby, then so is every sperm. Men don't get to treat me like a machine, an incubator, just because they didn't protect themselves, or me, for that matter, during sex. When does the glom of cells become a baby? I don't know. I honestly don't. I wanted my pregnancies, so I always thought about the baby at the end when I was gestating whatever stage that end-baby was at. But I know that if I hadn't wanted the pregnancy, I would have felt very differently. I can't predict how.

When does the glom of cells become conscious and aware of feeling? Medical science does seem to have some information about that - nerves, brain function. When abortion access is not restricted, most abortions for unwanted pregnancies come before that point. Since pregnancy is very hard on the body from the start, and only gets worse as the pregnancy continues, most women would not prolong the decision. Most abortions that happen after the first trimester are for wanted pregnancies that must be discontinued because of medical issues with the pregnancy or fetus. Personally, myself, I feel comfortable with pregnancies ending in both those situations. Beyond that, maybe I, personally, would feel uncomfortable to make that choice. But it's not my situation, it's not my perception, it's not my body, it's not my life, and it's not my choice. So, unless it is, I feel strongly we need to leave that choice to the people in the unfortunate position of having to make it for themselves.

I claim this as my basic, human right to life: I get to pick how my body is used. I choose how I handle whatever happens to me after I have sex. I get to pick whether my body is going to be fundamentally changed. Me. Not you. Not them. Not him, or him, or him, or her, or him or him or him. Me. My body. Me. You would want nothing less for yourself.

If we want less abortion, we need to make birth control widely available in choices women want and men are willing to use. We need to provide early and regular education about consent and sexuality, honest and clear. We need to provide women with enough community support to leave abusive situations, say no to sex they don't want, and keep their bodies safe. We need to provide support to men to learn about responsibility, valuing women and our bodies, condom use, consent, and a host of emotional intelligence skills. We need to make sure the kids who are born have enough to eat and smaller class sizes and stable homes that lead to stable citizenhood, health care when they need it. That's what we need to pay attention to. There are already more people here than we as a society are willing to care for. Let's focus on that.

The abortion debate is about the personhood of women, and whether our personhood is less than that of men. Men would never allow a pregnancy to continue in their body if they didn't commit to wanting the baby. They only expect it of us because we are women, and it is a way to control us. The men making these decisions fear that they don't own the birthing process, and they want to control it, despite the fact that doing so requires enslaving my body to that purpose.

My body is female. My self is a person. A human. Full-on equal, brothers. I give consent to share my body. You don't get to decide if I submit my body to sex, or to a pregnancy. You don't get to say. That's equality of personhood.

Men take their own bodily autonomy for granted, yet somehow think it's fine to question ours. If you won't stand for my right to bodily autonomy, try to understand why mine is less important than yours.

Someone else's pregnancy is no one else's business.