Monday, March 11, 2013


A recent CNN article demonized a Pennsylvania doctor who is accused of providing abortions to women in what are described as incredibly filthy, dangerous, deplorable conditions ( Records show that the terminations occurred well after the legal cut-off for abortion, and that the man and his staff repeatedly manipulated records and communication with clients to portray pregnancies as being within the legal allowable limits. Without going into the more gruesome, heartwrenching accusations of the story - nor the spectrum of sociopolitical questions that it raises - I have to admit that I got caught up in the "comments" section of the article. (A bad habit of mine --- trying to defend what I see as the under-defended, unheard, unspoken --- and getting riled up by the trolls who exist simply to do just that online, it seems!)

One comment that particular irked me came in response to a comment I made which offered some defense of the women who may have sought this man's supposed "care" (I use the word lightly --- as much as I wish to presume his innocence until court proceedings are complete... the mama/baby lover in me is broken up reading and hearing the stories of the women who survived procedures at this clinic). In the midst of hundreds of comments calling for the women who had been victimized to be charged with murder, I related that for many women, an unintended pregnancy is not just a momentary emergency or stress that can be more or less resolved once the shock has passed, and resources found, support gathered; I posted details that had been published in several news outlets previously (the story had broken over a year earlier) to clarify that many of the women had been deceived into thinking they were much earlier into their pregnancies, and that several related stories of being forced against their will into completing the procedure after having second thoughts.

Following this plea for understanding and empathy, another commentator argued (repeatedly) that "the idea of 'unintended pregnancy' is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard" (or something similar - I cannot pull up the actual thread today). This particular person's feeling was that by engaging in sex, the woman was asking for pregnancy and therefore responsible for the intention of it when the pregnancy did occur. And, as with any argument - there was no negotiation. According to my newest friend, the purpose of intercourse is solely procreation; sex = babies, and for any woman to deny that fact - or to deny the product of the act, specifically, by seeking an abortion, is absurd. If you're having sex, suck it up and have the baby, apparently.

Clearly, contraception may be a moot point for this fellow (for the sake of convenience I will imagine this poster was a male, although it may have just as easily been a woman of course). The argument that women who take EVERY single precaution to avoid pregnancy can still become pregnant was irrelevant. You know, like the woman who is taking oral contraceptives (which are supposed to be 95%+ effective --- so pretty darn good --- and doesn't miss a single one) and still ends up missing her period, and ... surprise!! Or, the couple who religiously uses a condom every single time they have sex --- but apparently there is a failure... surprise!!! Or... the mom who has an IUD placed (the one that is 99% effective...) yet still ends up with you-know-what ... surprise!!! Or --- these are always my (not) favorite --- the mother who *just* gave birth, is coming back to the clinic in two weeks for her first postpartum checkup to discuss contraception (and was under strict instructions not to have anything near her vagina until then for several reasons, including but not limited to increased fertility) --- but who is pressured (or forced?) into sex within a few days of birth... surprise!!

And that doesn't even go into the *unusual* cases --- you know, the incest cases, the rapes, the pregnancies which result from forced prostitution or that risk a mother's life...

What would a "surprise!" be in your life? Ten years ago, it would have been --- a surprise, all right! The Warm One and I wouldn't have been married, but I imagine we would've figured it out. Our families may have been a bit disappointed, but as with most families I think a baby can be enveloped with love and understanding --- especially given that (at that point) we had been together several years, well into our college educations, and stable for the most part. A struggle - but okay. Five years ago? Well, five-ish, years ago, anyway --- the Mini-ist would have just been born... the surprise would have been completely overwhelming. I was deeply buried in the shadows of postpartum depression, begging my provider for help and barely mentally/emotionally/spiritually alive. The presence of another life - even the glimpse of that thought in the year ahead - may have been enough to topple me over the precarious edge that I teetered on. Today? A surprise would test us, again, in many similar ways; the fear of coming to that same cliff, pulling the Warm One and the Mini's along (much less another blessed life) terrifies me.

Yet, if my 99.8% effective contraceptive method failed, and our path in life led to these hypothetical crossroads? We'd deal, I think. The same comforting thoughts that come to me picturing that surprise 10 years ago kick in --- family, the Warm One, faith in "what will be, will be..." Somehow, I think, a child would be loved. My sister and her girlfriend? My brother and his wife? Here, with us, to affirm my own faith in my body and mind --- that I am not broken, that I can be a mother even in those first hard weeks when everything fell apart last time?

And then I think about the women I see, and the differences in what a "surprise" means to them.... less food (or no food) for the children they have. Beatings from their partners. Knowing that the growing life in their body is being bathed in chemicals as often as they take them in. Another child,longed for --- only to be taken away "to a better/safer/cleaner home". Lost hope.

How would your surprise fit?

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