I am going to share something very personal. You might ask why I feel the need to tell anyone about something that happened when I was 19 years old, SO long ago (!). Well, when I woke up yesterday and read about the proposed law in Mississippi [read about this on Huffington Post and in the New York Times] that would consider any fertilized egg a “person”, and then when I woke up today and read about the law just passed in Utah [read about this on alternet blog] that would criminalize miscarriage, I got really, really scared. And really, really angry. You should be, too. If you are a girl or a woman who is sexually active or who will be at some point in your life–be outraged. If you are a boy or a man who loves the girls and women in your life, and who believes their bodies are sacred–be outraged.
Unintended pregnancies happen every day. They happen for lots of reasons. Maybe you and your partner just had an ‘oops’ even though you are usually careful. Maybe your birth control method failed for some reason. Maybe you are a teenager and it’s hard to say ‘no’, and even harder to access condoms or the pill. Maybe you were raped.
When I was 19, a sophomore in college, I became unexpectedly pregnant. I thought I was doing everything ‘right’. I took my pill every day. I was monogamous with my boyfriend. But a little round of antibiotics for a sinus infection made my life suddenly messy. The antibiotics reduced the effectiveness of my birth control pills. Unfortunately I was not warned by the college health center to use “back-up” birth control while taking the antibiotics. So I found myself pregnant. It was an awful, awful time. I couldn’t imagine having an abortion. I couldn’t imagine carrying the baby to term and giving it up for adoption. I couldn’t imagine parenting a newborn while attending college hundreds of miles away from my family. There were no good choices, no easy answers. My boyfriend wanted me to terminate the pregnancy. I didn’t want to. We fought back and forth for a few weeks. And then, at around ten weeks, I had a miscarriage.
I was relieved. I was sad. I felt lucky. I felt guilty for feeling relieved and lucky. I felt I would always wonder who that little baby would have become. I felt so many conflicting emotions.
These situations happen every day. And they are intensely private, intensely personal. They are NOT THE STATE’S BUSINESS. These crazy laws may seem sort of funny to some people–oh, look at those crazy hicks in Mississippi, look at those silly Mormons out in Utah, that would never happen HERE. Well, it could. Easily. Here in North Carolina we have a legislature who has already passed the vile “Woman’s Right to Know” act, which forces women considering abortion to see a sonogram of their fetus. We have a legislature that is doing everything in its power to control women’s bodies, through restricting abortion, allowing pharmacists to refuse to dispense birth control due to “conscience”, gutting family planning programs, defunding Planned Parenthood. They are trying to make us afraid–afraid to be our full sexual selves, afraid of our bodies and what they might do, afraid that our every personal choice could lead to judgment, shame–and even prosecution.
I will always remember getting pregnant in college, and the terrible choices I was faced with. I will always wonder who that child might have been. I will always feel relieved that my body made the decision for me, ultimately, by terminating a pregnancy itself–probably because there was something wrong with that particular fetus. Did you know that, according to the NIH, “It is estimated that up to half of all fertilized eggs die and are lost (aborted) spontaneously, usually before the woman knows she is pregnant. Among those women who know they are pregnant, the miscarriage rate is about 15-20%.”? This law in Utah could penalize a woman who got drunk or smoked pot before she knew she was pregnant, and then miscarried. Were the drinking, or the weed, and the miscarriage related? Highly doubtful. Could Utah authorities use this new law to charge this woman with ‘murder’? YES.
Whatever your thoughts are about abortion–and I personally believe that a soul is lost when abortion happens, that there is a death involved–these kinds of laws have no place in a country that purportedly cares about freedom. The irony is that many of these laws are being pushed by the same right wing “Tea Party” types who are so enraged about being asked to pay taxes for our roads and schools. To them I say, on behalf of all girls and women who may become unintentionally pregnant in their lives: DON’T TREAD ON ME.