Friday, January 20, 2006

On difficult choices

Okay, so the Georgia legislature is currently considering SB 429, a bill that would require any doctor performing an abortion or referring a patient to another doctor for an abortion to have access to ultrasound or sonogram equipment, perform an ultrasound or sonogram on the patient, and give the patient the option of viewing the resulting image. Check out the AJC's editorial on the subject here, and a response by State Sen. Nancy Schaefer, who introduced the bill, here.

Proponents of the bill say that they're just trying to give women every opportunity to make an informed decision about their reproductive health. Pardon me if I set aside my ladylike demeanor long enough to call bullshit. What they want to do is shame women into carrying out a pregnancy that they, for whatever reason, don't want to continue. Maybe she can't afford a kid. Maybe the baby's father ran out on her. Maybe she'll get beaten if her parents find out, maybe her the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, maybe the baby has some horrific birth defect that won't allow it to survive past birth, maybe the process of gestating or delivering the baby would kill her. Maybe she just doesn't want a kid, or doesn't want another kid. A woman who makes the decision to terminate her pregnancy has her reasons.

If the state senators who are sponsoring this bill really cared about the mother, they would be proposing legislature to support her instead of trying to bully her. They're willing to spend tax money on legislation that has no other purpose than to lay a guilt trip down on a woman who's already going through so much in her life, but they can't be bothered with things like sex education, birth control, extracurricular programs to help raise teen girls' self-esteem and keep them busy (two keys to preventing teen pregnancy), domestic violence programs, adoption, anything that would help prevent unwanted pregnancies and provide the kind of support necessary for a woman with a crisis pregnancy to really make an informed decision.

People like to demonize women who get abortions because it makes it easier to dismiss them. If a woman goes into a doctor's office and says, "I've got this parasite in me and I want to get it out," then all of the anti-choice activists who enjoy the simplicity of a black-and-white world can say, "She's evil! She hates innocent babies and wants to kill every one of them!" But that's simply not how it happens. Most women who choose to have an abortion are scared and upset, faced with a pregnancy that they didn't want - or one that they desperately wanted, but can't carry. A lot of women already feel guilty about it, but see no other option. Regardless of the myriad views on the subject, no woman wants to get an abortion. Any woman would just as soon not get one if that was an option. The only person who really knows what options are right for her is the woman herself. But anti-choicers feel the need to pile shame upon fear and guilt in the hopes of making a decision that isn't theirs to make.

In her op-ed, Sen. Schaefer said that "it was the sonogram viewed by former U.S. Sen. Zell Miller (D-Ga.) of his great grandchild that turned him into a strong anti-abortion statesman." I'm happy for him, but that still doesn't make it his choice. People, men and women, women who have had abortions and who have chosen not to, feel that they have some justification for making that decision for everyone else. Let me lay it out flat: you don't. If you've had an abortion, I feel for you, and if you've chosen no to have one, I feel for you, and if you don't have a uterus to begin with, you have the right to your opinion, but none of you has the right to tell another woman what to do with her body. You're not her, you're not in her situation, you don't have her life, and to use cruel and underhanded tactics to force your views on her is the wrongest of wrongs.

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