Good afternoon, God,
While I have written to you in my private journal, this would be the first time going public with my thoughts, if in truth I do finally press the “publish” button. Might still chicken out and keep under the radar just because this is such a contentious and fraught-filled topic. I can already hear the cries of outrage and ugly commenting that may appear after posting from both sides. From friends and total strangers. So, I might well chicken out. Makes my stomach tighten just to type the thoughts… Breathe.
Some history here. When Roe v. Wade was passed and upheld as the law of the land, that a woman had the right to her own body, which included the right to abort or go to full term, I turned 18 that year. (breathe) When I was 15, a friend of the family became pregnant and had an abortion. But, in order for it to be legal and safe, she had to be declared mentally unfit to be a mother. That designation played out throughout her life, and for all I know, to this day. Imagine. Having to be tagged “unfit to be a mother.” (breathe)
In 1972, a film, The Carey Treatment was released. Wikipedia has a short entry on it, stating “The Carey Treatment is a 1972 film by Blake Edwards based on the novel A Case of Need credited to Jeffery Hudson, a pseudonym for Michael Crichton.” I saw that film several times when it came out. It revolved around a love story and a murder that occurs after an illegal abortion. I did a Google search today – critics panned it – said it was silly, unserious, and boring. Wikipedia again,
“The Carey Treatment received mostly mediocre to negative reviews. Roger Ebert wrote, “The problem is in the script. There are long, sterile patches of dialog during which nothing at all is communicated. These are no doubt important in order to convey the essential meaninglessness of life, but how can a director make them interesting? Edwards tries.” Vincent Canby of The New York Times was amused by the film but wrote, “…I don’t think we have to take this too seriously, for ‘The Carey Treatment,’ like so many respectable private-eye movies, is sustained almost entirely by irrelevancies.”
Funny that. It’s probably a coincidence that both those reviewers are men. I retain a horror of back street abortions, not the in-clinic ones we have now, that the film portrayed. I thought to see it again today just to see what I’d think now. I can rent it on Amazon.com for $9.99 instant streaming. Maybe I will. What’s important for this talk, God, is how that film affected me. When I think illegal abortion, backstreet abortion, I see a scared girl going into a dirty room, and a hanger being used – I have no idea if that matches the film, but that is what I retain as an image. To prevent going back to those days, I would do a lot.
Fast forward to today, 2013, the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. (breathe). Despite the Pill being invented and on the market since 1957, and approved for contraceptive use in 1960, as well as other forms of birth control, in the past 40 years, an estimated 55 million abortions have taken place in the United States alone. Planned Parenthood states, “Abortions are very common. In fact, 1 out of 3 women in the U.S. have an abortion by the time they are 45 years old.” Isn’t that kind of staggering, God? And, the count on a world-wide basis is 1.285 billion and that is only counting from 1980…. The Centers for Disease Control noted that in 2009, the trend was coming down.
A couple of years ago, a friend and I went to see Bodies: The Exhibition here in Seattle. It is a lucky thing we did. Bodies: The Exhibition came here twice, in 2006 and 2009, very popular and very successful. July 19, 2010 the Seattle City Council voted to ban the Exhibit and anything like it from ever appearing again. The reason is that we have no provenance for those bodies, no permission from the dead or their kin to display them.
I have to admit I quizzed the guards on duty as to where the bodies came from, thinking of Chinese prisoners and/or a black market in bodies. But as you can see from the video, the overwhelming reaction is awe, joy, education and often deep thought afterwards.
I bring Bodies: The Exhibition up for a reason. Tucked away was a small room entitled The Fetal-Development Room, with a warning sign before entering that this room could be very disturbing. Quoting from The Official (Las) Vegas Travel site, “There is also a more sensitive section of the exhibition showing fetal development. Guests can see different stages of a baby’s development, from eight weeks old to eight months, as well as fetuses with various birth defects, such as conjoined twins. …”
It was very quiet in that small room with people moving slowly along from glassed exhibit tables lined up in short rows showing the progression of growth. It was stunning. The last table was of stillborn children and as I stood staring down, I realized my brain was insisting I was looking at Thumbelina, a popular doll from my childhood. My brain refused to process the information that these were or had been human children and I stood there until it did. I think I may have walked around that room twice – maybe not. It was as if someone was splitting my head open and saying, “Look. Really look. Understand.” These were not pictures in a book, nicely sterilized and presented for my education. Or a write-up explaining my choices if pregnant, as they do at the Planned Parenthood website. I walked out of Bodies: The Exhibition not the same woman who walked in. I no longer felt as sure of my conviction that abortion was the right way to go.
This past election year with the “War on Women” personified by Sandra Fluke and her desire to have her birth control paid for by the taxpayer, a friend pointed out to me that perhaps that was better than an abortion. With Obamacare now pushing for all insurance policies that carry coverage for pregnancy to also cover abortions…. and recently passed here by the Washington Legislature, I am still trying to come to a firm decision one way or the other. I actually do not have to, I can hold both possibilities for an individual’s choice, and yet…
On the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, something called 40 Days for Life is staging a vigil in front on the local Planned Parenthood facility. Two days a week, in 2 hour shifts, volunteers pray. Another good friend is taking part and she wanted to bring attention to the event and wrote a Letter to the Editor of our local paper – not sure he would even publish it. She asked me to proof it for her and sent it via email. I was in a very bad frustrated mood, having experienced technical difficulties all morning. I didn’t want to view her paper while I was in such a bad mood and knowing I’ve kept away from even slightly being seen as someone who would pray in front of Planned Parenthood. Sigh. It is Sunday and I had been tapped to do a good deed. So, I opened her short letter to the editor, fearing to read what she might say to push her cause. It was short, sweet and to the point. Being pregnant and having options is choice time – a critical, stress-filled choice if you are unsure. This is what she wrote,
“We are praying for the helpless. The defenseless. Unborn babies. And, we pray for their mothers and fathers, too. We pray for guidance for those who are scared, worried or feel they are in crisis. We also say prayers for the doctors, and the Planned Parenthood workers, and our community.
Yes, we can love them all. We can help both baby and mother.”
I can do that.
Here’s the thing, God. I still have a hard time calling an abortion “Murder.” I have no problem calling it “Murder,” when it is done as a partial birth abortion, especially if the child survives the abortion and is denied care, left to die. I am not willing for an all outright ban on abortion. The image of that backstreet alley is still with me and I would not want any girl or woman to face that – ever. I was very grateful when I was younger to know if I ever needed an abortion, it would be available and safe. I also remember writing a letter either to the editor or my congressmen in my 20s, outraged that federal monies could not be used for abortion. I remember thinking, really? So, who will pay for the upkeep of this unwanted child? It took years for me to understand that position. Mostly because, as a taxpayer, I now pay for things I do not agree with.
These days, I’ve lost track of whether pharmacies must supply Ru-486 or the Morning-After Pill – two types of medicines to end a pregnancy or even the possibility of a pregnancy. I know that locally, one of our pharmacies was fighting it on moral grounds. Now, with Obamacare, the hospitals run by the Catholic Church are in Court to protest being forced to provide insurance to their employees that includes abortion and/or having to provide the service as it is strictly against their religion. If forced to do so, they will close their doors or take the hit financially rather than submit to acting against their religious beliefs. This is what it has come to, God, and I have no sure answers. I may just have to pray.