Floodlight On The Unexamined Center, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:57am
It wasn’t a good night for sleep.
If I could write about anything other than the United States’ Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade, I would. But I have two reactions I haven’t seen anywhere else, so here goes. Feel free to click away. It is all too much, and the last thing I want is to be a burden.
If you’re online these days, you already know marginalized women will suffer most, you understand the costs society will face–economic and other– from no-exemption bans, and you see the irony in our how we treat children in our healthcare, guns, and immigration policies. You know to donate to abortion funds and how to vote. You have heard the language from the right. I won’t repeat it.
So let us, for the sake of thought, imagine that we aren’t arguing brutal and unresolvable beliefs. Let us, for the sake of, well, for my sake, approach this as though we’re solving a problem. Clearly, we can’t do that for the extremes. But only a minority of Americans want abortion at any time on demand and only a minority want a total ban. So what if we just zoom in such that we don’t even see those opinions? What shows up in the center?
Here are my two idiosyncratic reactions.
First, I don’t really care about “rights.” The Constitution was written as a manifesto to throw off distant rulers. We rule ourselves now. I wish we could shift the pivotal nouns of our culture to “responsibility” and “care.” At the highest level I worry far less about my “rights” being taken away than I do about how to live in a country where so many are allowed to suffer. I get we needed to fight in 1776. And I see we took land and lives from others. At this point, given the sheer abundance of resources, we communally have enough to go around. Quit shoving. I know, dream on. I have nowhere to go with this thought.
Second, and I didn’t realize I felt this until the actual decision came down, somewhere in the center of the abortion debate lies the way America has historically framed women’s sexual desire. Here I have a whole voyage.
The world’s abortion laws can be mapped out by 1) gestational age and 2) hazards to the mother. Let’s use these parameters to deconstruct.
- I believe that science could, with some effort, allow the center to find an unconstrained gestational age we could live with, somewhere between 9 and 17 weeks, maybe 20 weeks, if we found the federal political will.
- What about hazards to the mother to extend the timeframe? We know the big ones: physical health–including abusive relationships and mental health for rape and incest survivors. Legislators could, with some effort, set those parameters and the national majority would support.
I get caught, and this is a personal and highly privileged, reaction, but it’s mine, in a smaller set of hazards to the woman. Imagine she who follows an impulse. Without access to abortion she has to bear almost 100% of the burden of an experience that someone else was at least 50% responsible for. I’m not even talking about the woman who is too young, or forced, or failed by birth control. I mean the woman who just plain felt like having sex with a man and said, “Nah, I don’t want to use my diaphragm, it gives me UTIs,” or maybe meant to start up the pill again after a breakup but hadn’t gotten around to it. The woman who knew rhythm was unreliable but felt like it had worked before so what was the harm?
She just plain wanted to.
If the gestational age is set late enough, she’s OK. America doesn’t have to openly that she just plain gets to make that decision. But if it’s set too low, well, imagine.
By the way, just on the other side of this woman is the bogeywoman who uses abortion consistently as birth control. I do not believe she exists. I think if we zoom in to the center, she’s not there. She’s a phantom of the right. Don’t @ me to disagree because we’re looking now at the woman who made a mistake. She’s not me, by the way. None of those scenarios are me. But they are someone and they could have been me because I have liked boys for a long, long time and boys, IME, rarely turn down desire.
Here’s what I really wanted to say.
I grew up just as the 1950s and early 60s pressure to be a “good girl” was fading, at least in Northern California. We knew almost nothing in those days. Boys knew less than nothing. If, and this is wholly hypothetical, “good girl” pressure served an evolutionary purpose of preventing unsupported pregnancies, when women can be forced to have babies, does that shame return? If so, just because some of us have resources, doesn’t mean our lives won’t change, even if only in how we are seen by society.
This is trivial in comparison to the terrible outcomes for women across the country. But it’s my triviality, and you all read my blathering, so I’m telling you.
Have a good weekend. It helps to talk about it. I reserve the right to delete comments if I feel they forward nothing. Edited to add: I am deeply embarrassed as I write but I’m ignoring it. I come from a culture of political liberalism but body denial. We were barely allowed to have toenails.