Last month, Jill and I were having an email discussion about a blogger she linked to who wrote a post about having to choose to terminate a much-wanted pregnancy. The blogger was a man, upon whom the burden of choice had fallen because his wife was dying, and she was considered no longer capable of making her own medical decisions. As important and beautifully written as the piece was, it gave me an increasing sense of dread the closer it got to the end, because I feared the reaction he was going to get from the thousands of anti-choicers who have made violence and cruelty toward those like this man and his wife, who have had to make such a horrible choice, their mission in life.
I’ve read a lot of abortion stories, like Amy Richard’s piece in the New York Times Magazine, and Cecily’s chronicles of the heartbreaking loss of her twin boys at and I wasted all that birth control, and of course Biting Beaver’s horrible experience with abortion after being refused the morning after pill. I knew what this man had set himself up for.
The usual threats of gang rape, the death threats, the vitriolic glee at causing as much emotional pain as humanly possible. This is what happens to people who are known to have had abortions. It doesn’t matter if they were pregnant as a result of rape, or if birth control had failed, or if they got pregnant by their husbands, or if EC was denied, or if the fetus died, or would die, or if they themselves were dying. It does not matter. The reaction is the same. They’re stupid, they’re irresponsible, they’re whores, they should have used birth control, they should have abstained, they hate babies, they made a casual decision to abort, they’re lazy, selfish, and unwilling to try, they’re murderers, if only they’d heard that abortion stops a beating heart, they’d never have made the choice to kill, and look at these photographs of aborted fetuses I’ve linked to, won’t you? Just in case you haven’t seen the banner attached to the plane we circle the beach with every summer. Or our big truck with the billboard on it that we like to have sitting next to you in rush hour traffic. Everything would have worked out if you’d just let go and let God. Probably.
And yet, although his comments section was indeed filled with anti-choicers, it wasn’t like that at all (with one glaring exception, a frightening lunatic who seemed all-to-eager to have a dead wife he could use as a bragging tool to further The Cause). These posters were sympathetic, they understood his heartbreak and his pain. They understood this was a planned and wanted pregnancy, and that his decision was one that although nobody should have to make, it is a harsh reality that sometimes people do. I’ve never seen that level of respect and empathy before, although I understand the author of this L.A. Times editorial was also treated with more respect than usual.
I think about Amy Richards, the selfish, lazy, convenience-oriented slut with a husband who should have put her in her place, or Cecily, the murderer, or Biting Beaver, who struck such a major nerve that her life was threatened, the lives of her three children were threatened, her bodily integrity was threatened by rape, and she was offered, via email, not one, but two recipes for “herbal abortions” that would have killed her had she taken them. And for her the threats began shortly after the condom broke. What was different between his post and theirs? Nothing, really. In fact, his story and Cecily’s story were so similar they could almost have been the same tale, one told by the husband and one by the wife.
The only difference, as far as I can tell, is that he is a man, and thus spared, because vindictive hate and gleeful mockery of pain is a gift only given to women. As Dan Neil, author of that L.A. Times piece, wrote,
I think antiabortion advocates imagine a world in which women — promiscuous, lazy or selfish singletons — roll into the doctor’s office for midterm abortions and stick their feet in the stirrups while still chatting on the cellphone. Recreational abortions, you might say.
There is nothing a woman can say or do that will sway them from this point of view. A poster at Cecily’s blog, one of the more polite ones, had the gall to say, “Oh, come on! Maybe things would have worked out! Give it a try!”
Go read Cecily’s posts about the loss of her twin boys – she’s got an entire category devoted to them so you can read them all at once – and maybe you can understand how cruel that comment is.
But men, men suffer. And women either don’t, not really, or else they deserve to. And as my friend Charlotte Crosson once said, “Men make life and death decisions everyday, why shouldn’t women?” But that’s not something acceptable for women to do, under any circumstances. Even to save her own life. That’s why his choice to terminate his wife’s pregnancy is seen as a choice made logically and rationally, a choice not impeded by frivolity, made by a responsible adult.
And I see these things happening, and I see that it’s the women who are living and dying with these decisions, yet it’s the men, one step removed from it all, whose voices are listened to, and I know that if I think too deeply on the hatred that inspires this behavior, the global hatred for what we are, for the resentment that we even exist on the planet, that I won’t be able to get out of bed in the morning. So I slam the door on it. I’m really good at that by now.
Jill and I went back and forth about my writing this post. I dragged my feet about it, reluctant to do it for fear that the man who inspired it would be further hurt, and it isn’t my intention to trivialize his grief or to suggest that he shouldn’t be treated with empathy and respect from everyone who reads his story. He should. But I would be less than honest if I didn’t say that the reaction to his words illuminated, for me, the hatred thrust at the courageous women who suffered through the same.
- Shocker: Sam Brownback supports forced pregnancy for rape and incest survivors by Jill June 11, 2007
- Leslee Unruh Eats Babies by Jill May 28, 2007
- Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is by zuzu October 15, 2006
- Virginia Pro-Lifers Work to Increase the Abortion Rate by Jill March 5, 2008
- Texas Birth Control Massacre by Jill September 22, 2006