I’ve had an abortion. (If you’re an old hand around these parts, you’re aware of this fact, because I’ve noted it before).
I’ve had an abortion, but I’ll be honest: For me, it wasn’t an easy decision. I don’t believe I ended a life, but I know I ended the potential for life, and while it was the best of (what felt to me like) two bad choices, that didn’t make it a happy thing.
I figure that’s ok. I’m not required meet the anti-choice stereotype of just loooooving me some good ol’ abortions in order to have the right to avail myself of a legal medical procedure. One may be conflicted, unsure, sad, even grieving, and still be pro-choice.
Which is why, despite whatever ambivalence I may have had about my own abortion, the following information (from a post by Sarah Kliff on the Washington Post‘s WonkBlog) makes my hair stand on end:
“We’re looking at about 430 abortion restrictions that have been introduced into state legislatures this year, which is pretty much in the same ballpark as 2011,” says Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy group that focuses on health and reproductive rights. This year, Nash says, “is shaping up to be quite busy.”
In terms of specifics:
Next week, Texas will enact a law that bans Planned Parenthood clinics from participating in a Medicaid-affiliated family planning program….
Virginia has moved forward with its much-protested bill to require a woman to undergo an ultrasound before terminating a pregnancy. At the request of Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), legislators tweaked the bill to guarantee that it would not require more invasive, transvaginal ultrasounds. [McDonnell signed the changed bill this afternoon]. “It’s not any better than what they introduced in the first place,” says Nash.
…The Oklahoma Senate passed a requirement Wednesday that women be invited to hear the fetus’s heartbeat before the pregnancy is terminated. Georgia is weighing a ban on late-term abortion (passed by five states in 2011); Alabama is looking at an ultrasound requirement.
I would argue that for the Virginia women who will not now be required to undergo state-sanctioned rape at the hands of their doctors, the new law is, in fact, “better than what they introduced in the first place” — but that’s still a very, very long way from “good,” in that it exists at all.
I’m not willing to chalk up the furious round of efforts to limit women’s reproductive autonomy to any one cause. I think some people (and it’s definitely not just men) are genuinely seeking to punish women for having the temerity to have active sex lives, but I also think some people genuinely believe abortion to be murder — that doesn’t give those people the right to determine my fate for me, but I can see being strongly opposed to the murder of babies, if that’s what you think abortion is. I think some folks are following religious dictates that they haven’t thought much about, and I think others are craven opportunists who either don’t know, or don’t care about, the impact their band-wagon hopping will have on real people’s lives. And I’ve probably missed a few reasons.
But that’s a big part of why it’s so hard to stem this tide. There’s no one thing, no one person, no one idea against which we can rally. There’s no one way to direct our energies, and our energies are being desperately sapped right now, in no small part because some anti-choice advocates are smart enough to know that if they hit us on 430 fronts at once, we’ll have a very hard time hitting back.
But we have to keep fighting, and it is absolutely vital that we understand just where the front line lies: elections.
“This is still fallout from the 2010 election,” says Nash. “On the state level, just like on the federal level, we had a number of conservative candidates elected. They shifted very quickly to a social issues agenda, and they’re continuing it as we head into another election year.”
I believe (and on this I have no ambivalence) that the Tea Party-infused GOP currently passing all these heinous, damaging laws is losing the American people, and that progressives and pro-choice advocates are on the right side of history. I’ve said so here, and here, and I absolutely believe it to be so.
But in the meantime, as we push ahead and plow on, actual lives are destroyed.
If we want to see an end to this assault on the dignity and autonomy of half of America’s citizens, we have got to see to it that 2012 is a banner year for Democrats, at all levels. Elections have consequences — at least 430 of them.