Women’s Bodies Held Hostage = Election Year


2-day-old human embryo (zygote)

It’s election time, so once again, just like the swallows coming home to Capistrano and geese flying South for the Winter, women’s bodies are being held hostage. It’s predictable.

One of the first signs this election cycle was when word came that Obama voted to not give life-saving measures to babies who survive late-term abortions. Have you ever heard of such a thing? Obviously, this was a vote to assuage his potential evangelical voter base. However, after Sarah Palin entered the race, those voters, knowing they now had the real deal, swung back to McCain, whom they were hesitant to support previously. Obama’s vote “No” was meant as a protest against late term abortion. So, then if life prevailed, kill it anyway? This makes no sense whatsoever.

A more recent sign of the “election-year women’s-bodies-as-hostage cycle” is today’s news that Rep. Nancy Pelosi will be given some schoolin’ on Catholic Cathechism by the San Francisco Archdiocese. It seems that the House Speaker made some controversial statements about abortion following Sarah Palin’s VP nom. Nancy was trying to show that although she’s Catholic, she’s pro-choice, so as to distinguish herself from the smarmy pro-life Palin who would have us revert to back room abortions. To Nancy, her choice about choice was as plain as day, but the Catholic Church thought otherwise: her views approached heresy. It was even suggested that perhaps Pelosi should not be offered Holy Communion if she was going to be that way. The uproar is due to Pelosi’s statement that she didn’t know when life begins, and that no one, even the Catholic Church, can know for certain.

The Church has replied: oh no you dit-‘nt. The Church has stated unequivocally that life begins at conception.

Now, I’m going to state something very, very controversial for a pro-choicer: I agree in part with the Catholic Church — life begins at conception. You know those carriers of life, the swimming little sperm and the big egg? Ever see them under a microscope, magnified, like on film? They pulse, they move, they form a zygote whose cells multiply and divide. The zygote beats with the mother’s heart, and grows into an embryo as it receives nutrients. What the heck else do you call it? Any woman who’s carried a fetus, whether it’s been born or aborted, feels the life within her. Way beyond religion, to call it anything but life defies scientific definition.

I’ve done a lot, I mean a lot, of transformational work in the process of becoming a body-centered therapist. I’ve literally experienced my parents’ emotional and psychological states leading up to my conception. Let’s just say they weren’t happy and knew as soon as they got married that they didn’t want to be together. They were among those post-war couples who “stayed together for the kids.” So my personal work, which has taken a long time, years, has been to unburden myself from that first cause of being a burden, somebody’s fault for being stuck together. Please, don’t worry. I’m fine.

So why am I delving into my past in this oh-so-revealing way? Yes, this is anecdotal, but I’ve seen it over and over again in my clients — the affect of one or both parents being unhappy during pregnancy and perinatally. Any psychologist can tell many of these stories. Although science has barely caught up, our memory, our life experience lives in our bodies. I am saying that our cells, the zygote, the fetus, are conscious.

Here comes the really controversial part: anyone who’s ever had an abortion knows that she is terminating the life of a baby. Otherwise, it would just be like having a period. Bloop and that’s it. There wouldn’t be the severe emotionally distraught feelings of fear, guilt, sadness, and trauma. Although we are determined to have that choice, who has ever had an abortion and felt happy about it? The fact of the matter is: a woman knows she is choosing to end a life AND that it is her choice.

Have you ever heard this point? No. Instead a woman is forced to either deny that she is ending a life when she has an abortion, or if she admits to herself, God, and Country that she is ending a life, then abortion must cease to be available. Isn’t that what the entire debate has been about — forever? So, Nancy Pelosi, by gosh, you did do something while in Congress! You made me come out about this topic. I say that both are true, and I stand by my right to choose, over and above all.

Of course, as we all know, if men had babies, it wouldn’t even be a discussion. Birth control and every other thing about reproduction, pregnancy, birth, and abortion would be highly studied, bought and paid for, and designed for his maximum empowerment, comfort, and control. And life would begin at birth, including for the Catholic Church, although I guess women would be running it.

Women I know, who lived on my same long-time hippy commune, where our policy was “don’t have an abortion,” are now staunchly pro-choice like me. Our solution back then was: instead, carry the baby to full-term, and if upon giving birth you still don’t want it, a family will take care of it for you. If you ever decide you want the baby or child back, you can have it. Of course, this policy created its own set of problems, but it tried to solve the “life vs. abortion, preggers but don’t want the child” conundrum.

So, yes, it’s election year, and women’s bodies are once again being held hostage. And so are our brains. We have to pretend that a sperm, egg, zygote, and fetus are dead, so we can do what we want to do with our bodies and the life we create that grows within us. Running for top office, basically, we have four pro-lifers, who say they won’t impose their views on their governance. Their churches would have them do otherwise. (Disclaimer: as a Jew, I don’t claim to know a thing about the Catholic Church or any other.)

As could be expected, during the campaign Obama once again voted present with his statement that determining when life begins “is above [his] paygrade.” Well, he was caught in a woman’s situation, because he was speaking at evangelical, Rick Warren’s forum, and didn’t want to alienate either side of his lady voter base. He actually was right: it is above his paygrade, but that doesn’t excuse his choosing ambiguity for expediency’s sake. As a Democrat, he was expected to come down on the side of pro-choice, but then how could he in that venue and not be cast out?

Pro-choice leaders, orgs, and Democrats are threatening that we run for our lives, because a woman’s right to choose will be removed from the table if the Repubs win, what with SCOTUS conservative appointees and all. Pro-life women are happy, because a woman of their own beliefs may come to national power, and life at conception might be recognized. Either way, women have to fake it once again. If we admit that we’re harboring life and abort, we’re baby-killers, murderers, plain and simple. This would make repeal of Roe v. Wade a foregone conclusion. If we divorce our brains from our bodies so as to simulate a dead zone, well then, I guess we’re alright. I don’t know about you, but doesn’t making judgments and taking control of women’s bodies remind you of how it was for us during those Salem witch-huntin’ days?

Not pretty, but in the end, who bears the responsibility, the shame, the guilt? Whose bodies and lives are at stake and held hostage because of it? You guessed it. This is a messy deal, this living thing and all.

Although a bit of a jog off the path, a few more things about the judgmental attitudes that other people make about bodies and lives not their own: We exist on living things — whether a plant or an animal. Anyone who’s ever raised an animal, or had a pet for that matter, knows they’re conscious. Many gardeners speak to their plants, and research studies show that plants respond to music and human emotion. Gardeners would agree. Whatever we eat has to die so that we may live. If we rid ourselves of pesky pests like bugs, rodents, or wildlife, we are killing. If we go to war or order others to go, we may end up taking a life or helping others to do so. Buddhists would have us not kill at all. In choosing what we eat and how we live, we are also choosing whether something or someone will live or will die.

In other words, to judge women as reckless for a choice about their own bodies denies the fact that in each moment we make life and death decisions.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

8 thoughts on “Women’s Bodies Held Hostage = Election Year

  1. Wow, I was beginning to think I was alone in those feelings. I still support the need for abortion in the case of rape or incest, but …
    At the same time, I was one of those premies that Senator Obama would have denied medical care. I was born at seven months gestation and needed special care for a month before being taken out of the incubator. When Obama made those votes he clearly stated that life begins at nine months gestation and birth. Well Senator I know that if left in your not so caring hands there would be another six taxpayers that would never have been born, not to mention the five and counting future taxpayers following them. Your vote in the Illonois senate is but one reason I will never respect or support you. The truth is that you simply wanted to save taxpayers from ahving to pay for premature infants whose parents did not have the insurance or money to pay for special care. Maybe because it would have meant that you had less to siphon off to your crooked buddies Rezco and company for the buildings that the American Taxpayer is now paying for the forclosure price.

  2. Wow. That was moving. I’m gay and unless I’m raped will probably never have to make this choice, but my sister did and I’ve never judged her. I feel very sorry for women when hey have a choice like that t make. I’ve already been thinking when this election ends, I’m going to open this debate up again and try to find common ground between Republicans and Democrats. I know that neither side is evil, the Republicans let the religious aspect of it get in the way of the facts. If they outlaw it, it won’t go away! That’s their biggest flaw in the theory! I really think abortion rights will remain an option during a McCain Presidency! I don’t think the Supreme Court would overturn it, but I doubt thy will even get conservative judges with McCain. he said in 2000 he didn’t want it overturned b/c of women getting unsafe abortions. He is pandering in an awful way this year b/c those Republicans wouldn’t vote for him in 2000. He may be the one start this debate with. I respect McCain! Vote for whomever you want, but I urge you to vote for McCain b/c Obama will put us in the next Depression for sure. Then, we will be starving in the streets! I really believe that. Thanks for your post, it was very emotionally compelling. It mad me cry.

  3. Thank you, The Audacity of Hype. The sad thing, and part of the article’s point between the lines, is that we’re only one-half of the equation and yet women are burdened with all of the responsibility, guilt, and shame of their decision. Yes, men want to weigh in if it’s half theirs, but women are given the power of creation by the baby growing within their bodies alone, and should alone have the power of the decision.

    The mean-spiritedness of the ongoing choice vs. life debate is mirrored by that same MO in the Democratic leadership during this election. I always thought it only belonged to the Republican opposition.

  4. I am pro-life and Catholic. And I have had friends and family members who have had abortions. That’s abortions,more than one for two of the women. I love these women and my heart hurts when they told me their stories. Yep they know I am pro-life and they still told me because they know I still love them. What these women went through was terrible. Each had their own personal story and details of what happened. Two of them got pregnant again right after getting an abortion,they wanted to replace the baby they lost. But because the same situation had not changed for them, they got those babies aborted also. You see except for one of the women, all the men in those relationships with these women DID NOT want the baby and gave those women threats of leaving them. I have found out these scenarios happen a lot. In the Catholic church we have a place for women to go and get support after having an abortion called project Rachael. Just because women get an abortion to solve one problem, the baby,they are left with other life altering problems.A few years ago I was introduced to a beautiful 16 year old girl who I found out was a result of a rape. It shook me to the bones when I thought so many people thought that that beautiful girl should have died because of what some evil MAN did! So the scenario goes, baby is aborted,the woman places herself at risk,and the evil pos gets away. Ladies how did we get into this situation of letting this become a political issue to divide us? Hillary was pro-choice and had more experience than Obama and look what the dems did to her. The abortion issue has taken a lot of responsibilities away from men and put women at risk. Men use abortion as a sexual weapon. There is something called Didache -The twelve teachings of the Apostles and abortion is mentioned. I remember when birth control came out and THAT was suppose to make it so there wouldn’t be so many abortions,well I don’t think that was very correct when we see we have had 50 million abortions and women have died because of abortions. How many men have died because of abortion-0.This country is not ready to get rid of abortion,so each day I pray for women and their babies to get support and love because they deserve it,not a surgical procedure. Life is hard and can be unfair but I believe when we as a people are truly there for one another we can make it beautiful for one another.

  5. Nora, Thank you for your thoughtful comments and your compassion in helping women.

    You wrote: ” . . . we see we have had 50 million abortions and women have died because of abortions. How many men have died because of abortion-0.”

    So true. So true.

  6. I consider myself pro-choice, but in recent years, I’ve become very uncomfortable with the way pro-choice groups talk about the subject. I believe that life does begin at conception and it disturbs me to hear people speak of the zygote, embryo, fetus as if it’s not a growing, developing person. I think abortion is sad, and should be more rare than it is, but I also think it’s sometimes the best of a bunch of bad options.

    I remember when I was in college, I’d walk past Planned Parenthood and watch the Operation Rescue protestors doing their thing. I wanted to talk to them, but I knew I’d never convince them. For them, abortion is always killing and always wrong. I was pro-choice, but I hadn’t yet (and never really did) convince myself that the entity being aborted isn’t alive in some form.

    Around the same time, I recall a friend who got pregnant and whose boyfriend made her have an abortion. I didn’t know about it before the fact, because I probably would have done something to try and stop it. My friend had always wanted a baby. She loved kids, but for this guy, she ended up doing something that she knew in her heart was wrong for her. That’s another part of my problem with the choice issue. Lots of young men are pro-choice, they’re making damn sure that the government can’t touch their girlfriends, wives, or f*ckbuddies uteruses, but sometimes I question their motivation. It couldn’t be selfish could it?

  7. Your post about abortion was profound, and I commend you for being so honest. You gave me some excellent insight into the thoughts and emotions of women on the other side of this issue, and I respect and appreciate that.

    I’m Christian and pro-life, but I have a very close friend, whom I love dearly, who had an abortion as a young woman. I also know a woman who has a son who was the result of her rape by a German soldier during WWII. And, when I was in high school, I knew a girl who’d had three abortions by the time she was 16. For reasons I don’t fully understand, she seemed to use abortion as a method of birth control and often waited until the third trimester. And then there’s my nephew, who is adopted because his birth parents were teens and didn’t want/couldn’t take care of him. I also have a cousin with Down Syndrome.

    I understand the argument that because the woman carries the baby, and because the woman bears so much of the responsibility, that she should have a choice. I also understand the dangers how medical procedures that deal with pregnancy affect the woman’s body and not the man’s. But on the other hand, I also believe that a woman has certain responsibilities before conception. Outside of rape (and I include incest in that, because two of my good friends were abused by their fathers), a woman has a choice about whether or not to have sex, knowing full well that sex can result in pregnancy. For some women like myself, it’s not so much a religious mandate as it is a conviction that since we believe life begins at conception, we also believe human rights begin at conception. Life is a basic human right–therefore abortion is considered murder, especially since the life we are ending has no voice or defense and is completely vulnerable to our whims.

    Throughout history, women’s bodies were victim to the whims of men, and in some cases that’s sadly still true today. We resent that, and rightly so. We don’t want to repeat history; we don’t want to let men dictate how we or our sisters or daughters or mothers should live. That said, how then can we decide that a baby’s body should be vulnerable to *our* whims? We are in control of that baby’s body much like men have, in the past, been in control of ours. That gives us a certain understanding and responsibility to respect the bodies and lives of infants and not to abuse our power over their lives. All life has value. It’s a matter of believing that no matter how inconvenient another human being’s life may seem, that human being is not our property any more than women are the property of men. Once conceived, a human life has worth and meaning and ultimately a choice of its own, whether its physical location is inside or outside a woman’s body.

    That’s just the way I personally see it, and is in no way meant to condemn another woman for the choices she makes. I agree wholeheartedly that women should not allow ideology on this issue to separate us.

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