Thursday, November 03, 2005

This woman's work

It is not my intent in this blog to repeat myself or rehash subjects I have already discussed, and that have already been discussed so eloquently on blogs like Sappho’s Manifesto, Tennessee Guerilla Women, and Bitch, PhD. Yet I feel, in light of discussions I have had with my husband and the opinions of others on this matter, that perhaps I should make some things clear in regards to why I believe is not ok for the law to dictate that a woman must inform her husband that she is having an abortion.

My husband, and many others, tend to mock the decree of “our body, our choice”, and other such feminist claims. At least in the case of my husband, I don’t think he is being cruel, but he feels that where a baby is concerned, a husband, or even a boyfriend, should have some rights too. As I said before, I think it is immoral for a woman who is in a good marriage to have an abortion and keep it hidden from her husband. Yet there are cases where a woman has to make a choice to have an abortion for the protection of herself and her unborn child. The most obvious case is when the wife is abused -physically, mentally, or both – and these are the women we have to protect. Bitch, PhD does a really good job of covering the ground here, but in simple terms, Judge Alito felt that while some women are abused, most women are not. Thus, the law requiring a woman to inform her husband of her intent to have an abortion does not cause an “undue burden” for “most” women. Why does this upset me? Because of the danger and possible consequences to “some” women. Not to mention I’m afraid that if we really looked at the truth of the world, we’d find a hell of a lot more women are abused in some way by their husbands than statistics tell us.

My husband’s reply to this was “she should just get out”. Get and out and go where? Getting out of an abusive relationship isn’t easy when you have family and friends willing to help you, what about those women who have no one and nothing? Not to mention the strength of the vows that a woman has made for better or for worse, and the apologies that come, sometimes with presents. Do you really think it is easy for these women, when they find themselves pregnant, to make a decision to have an abortion? Do you think it is easy for them to hide it from their husbands? Do you think it pleases them in any way whatsoever? Would any caring, loving person want to force this woman to confide in her husband, and end up plagued by a life of abuse, possibly even sentencing the child to a lifetime of abuse? Is that really the better choice here? Because the reality is, once the child comes there is little chance the woman and the child will get out of the abusive home. And we all know that children who grow up witnessing abuse or being abused themselves often grow up to be abusers as well. So no, Mr. Alito, I don’t think your decision was moral OR right. It isn’t a balance between “some” and “most”. If it is even one, that one must be protected.

This is just one type of circumstance. There are many others that may or may not justify a woman keeping an abortion to herself. Either way, if a woman feels that it should be her decision, and her decision alone, she has to have that right. She can’t be told by law that she doesn’t. And the law doesn’t fully understand the consequences in any circumstance. The law doesn’t care about the consequences. The law would only care that you notify your husband. WE MUST PROTECT THESE WOMEN.

When it comes to women’s rights, I’m afraid we can’t give an inch, a millimeter, in our fight. It wasn’t until 85 years ago that women had the right to vote in America. 85 years – a relatively short time. Four generations may have come in that time, but there are some from that first generation who are still alive. As recently as the 1950’s, women were still regulated to the position of wife and mother, housekeeper, servant. Women were taught to respect and obey their fathers and their husbands. Even educated women were on the fast track to marriage and home life. It was such an irony, how women kept America running during World War II, only to be sent home again. I can’t entirely blame the men, it seems there was a great lack of communication. Men either didn’t think about what their wives wanted, or they assumed they had what they wanted. Women themselves probably didn’t even realize that they were allowed to want something other than the role of housewife. I am the first to accept that some women really did want this life. But others didn’t. And so by the 60’s, women’s voices started to get louder, and louder, and today, we have some rights, some assurances. We are allowed to make our own choices and do what we want. But we cannot go backwards. We cannot take a misstep. The foot may be poised to take a step backwards, but we cannot let it hit the ground, lest it take us back too far.

So yes, I suppose to some extent I am a feminist. I believe that women are smart, beautiful, and capable of whatever they want. I believe a woman’s choices are difficult, heartbreaking, but they must be their own. I believe we must protect women’s choices and women’s rights. And I swear, by my life and my love of it, I will not let that foot go down.


Sandra said...

The idea that any adult woman would need permission or be required to inform anyone about a medical procedure is ridiculous.

Eff said...

Melusina, I agree, but, speaking personally, what I can say regarding abortion without notification is that if I impregnated a wife or girlfriend and I was not told before hand that she was aborting the fetus/child, unless I have the presence of mind and honesty with myself to know what it is about me that could explain why I was not told, in which case I might reconsider this, I would dump her in a hot second. As you said, not informing a decent father is immoral. Sandra, tell me something, do you consider the emotional loss a man might feel knowing he missed an opportunity to raise a child? And why is it ridiculous to inform the father? The word ridiculous seems like a bit of hyperbole to me. However, it might be better for men interested in being fathers if their wives or girlfriends do not tell them about their abortions, since it could avoid causing their men pain. Still, on the subject of a man knowing himself well enough to understand why he is not told, I do not know if I could know myself that well, but I would still be inclined to want to leave since I am obviously not respected. As far as I am concerned, she can cope with any emotional issues she might have with others, and if they think ill of me, too bad.

BallAndDust said...

As a man, my viewpoint is this. If the safety of women can be universally guaranteed, then she should be required to inform the father of the child.

The safety of women is a higher societal concern (ok, it should be) than the feelings of a potential father losing the opportunity to raise a child.

The first husband of a friend of mine was quite violent. He eventually went to prison for crimes against other women. She "got out", however, it was next to impossible. She had two days in a women's shelter with her two sons. That's it. Luckily, family was not that far away. There is a tremendous lack of infrastructure for women to escape domestic violence. If men feel so strongly about this issue, they should contribute significantly to these shelters so that if a woman wants out of a violence household, she can.

I'm completely open to discussing the rights of a potential father once the safety of women is universally guaranteed.


sappho said...

Beautifully said Mel!