Time to put an end to this month's drama: I got my period. On one hand, of course, I'm disappointed. I want to be pregnant. On the other, I'm relieved. I don't want another miscarriage, and I've been told to wait at least another month before trying again.
Time also to take a stab at articulating this month's thought on reproductive rights:
I heard Jimmy Carter interviewed on NPR recently, about his position on abortion and his thoughts about it while president. "I tried to think what would Jesus do," he said, or something along those lines. Of course he was thinking about what Jesus would do if he found himself president. Not if he found himself pregnant, say, in his sophomore year of college with no money and no reliable partner and a desire to grow professionally beyond check-out girl at the concession stand so that he(she) might one day have children he(she) might properly provide and care for.
It occurs to me that all our god-figures are male. All our presidents are male. But women posess the ultimate power of denying or bringing forth life. It's a huge responsibility, and a huge burden, either way. And it makes us girls awfully vulnerable, because we need help and support to make those difficult decisions, to do the hard work, and to not lose our identities, not to mention our lives, in the process.
In the clinic, I hear all the time from women who struggled with their decision to have an abortion because until they were pregnant themselves, they were steadfastly against "it." These are women who have trouble saying the word abortion in a first-person affirmative sentence. That is, until they face the crossroads themselves and realize that they'd be completely unsupported either way. The pregnancy itself brands them as bad, and once knocked off the moral pedestal, their thinking becomes a hell of a lot more practical.
Even more often then the converted pro-lifers, I meet women who have not told the "FOP" (Father of Pregnancy) that "P" existed in the first place. There must be an awful lot of men out there who remain solid in their anti-abortion stance, spared from the guilt and pedestal-crushing decision they didn't have to be part of, or the financial and emotional burden of fatherhood before they were ready or able to bear it, spared even any memory at all of that drunken fling after the frat party, or the time the diaphram slipped or condom fell off or the pill wasn't reliable thanks to the flu or her new, unfortunately not-right perscription.
A medical student in training (male, by the way) who once tagged along in a counseling session with me, later asked, what did I do when the woman reported that she hadn't told the FOP. "Do you feel some ethical responsibility there?" He was earnestly leaning forward as he said this, and I had to stifle a snort of surprise. I was shocked to realize this could even be an issue in today's day and age. It went without saying for me that though a man is still responsible for the actions of his sperm once they leave his penis, he loses claim to decisions regarding the fate of the life they spark whie still dependant on another person's womb.
Skirting the issue entirely in my response, I said that if a woman tells me she hasn't told the FOP, my concern is for her. I wonder if she's in an abusive relationship, or if she was raped and is ashamed to admit it, or if she will suffer from self-punishment, cutting herself off from potential emotional support. My attention goes to these possibilities, and providing guidance as necessary.
Of course I realize now that I was naive. The man's right-to-know issue isn't so black and white, and certainly not so well-resolved in the minds of others as it is in my own. They even explored it on my obsession of a show, Sex in the City, which shies away from few difficult topics but makes no conclusive statement about right and wrong on this one. "It seems like the guy gets the short end of the stick," one of the male characters said, in discussing a secret pregnancy that the FOP would have wanted to keep. I had to laugh when I heard this, because it seems to me a pretty good bargain to be spared from such a painful experience. The woman, it seems to me, gets a pretty short stick!
But then again, I started to get the point.
Men get an awful lot of long ends of the stick, but when it comes to having babies, they have very little power. They can say no by withholding sperm, but ultimately, it is always up to the woman to say yes (that is, unless we make "it", and you know what I mean by "it", illegal). Then again, men also have very little responsibility. No wonder they were the hunters and women were the gatherers, and no wonder there's never been a woman president, and no wonder we're so hard-pressed to visualize a female god beyond "mother nature," who, let's face it, is so very blue collar, the mindless goddess of (re)production.
Isn't this what it comes down to anyway, the whole woman's rights and equality of the sexes thing? The fact that we're not equal? In some very important ways men have the upper hand. Religion and politics can change most of these. But in a single, very major way, they don't. Religion and politics can threaten hell and jail and head-to-toe bhurkas, but even so, can do nothing about it. Women will always have the wombs, the Broadway/Park Place ultimate human life real estate. And because of this, whatever Jesus or Jimmy would have done, unfortunately, because they both seem like pretty smart and peaceful guys, is a moot point.