There was a collective sigh of relief last week when the Supreme Court failed to banish the use of the abortion drug, mifepristone. But it’s only a temporary decision — this will be back before the court in the near future, and Justice Samuel Alito’s written dissent should make it clear that we have nothing to feel relieved about. Among other things, he said that, if the drug had been banned, no harm would be done. Really? Tell that to thousands of women who find themselves pregnant after a rape, or incest, or who are unable to care for a child because of health issues or financial difficulties. This is like a brief interlude of calm in an abusive relationship. You’re relieved that you haven’t been attacked again, but you know another assault is just around the corner. 

 Many of those assaults are already happening. In Texas, a doctor who performs an abortion can be imprisoned for felony murder. In South Carolina, there was just an effort by Republicans to impose the death penalty on any woman who has an abortion after charging her with homicide. In fact, five states are considering legislation that will allow women who have abortions to be charged with murder: Texas, Kentucky, South Carolina, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. In Florida, Ron DeSantis just signed a bill making abortion illegal after six weeks. Many women don’t even know they’re pregnant at six weeks. 

Those who profess to care about the unborn appear to care nothing about the women carrying those fetuses. This is not about humanity, it’s about politics and the power that comes from making an entire group of people helpless. There are a million stories about unwanted pregnancies. Here are two:

This is about a woman you will never meet. She died years ago from inoperable lung cancer. But before she died, despite the precautions she and her husband took, she learned she was pregnant. Stirrings of new life in a body that was rapidly dying. It was early enough that she was able to take the abortion pill and terminate the pregnancy. She died without having to bear the horrible knowledge that a developing fetus was perishing along with her. Whatever peace she had at the end was because she had the dignity of choice. 

Another story: A woman who finally extricated herself from an emotionally abusive relationship missed a period, felt mysterious changes in her body, and had trouble buttoning her jeans. She took a home pregnancy test and the stick turned pink – not vibrant pink, but still a confirmation of what she suspected. Panic gripped her, depression plunged her into dark waters. She didn’t want this man in her life, and certainly not in the life of a child. Could she legally prohibit him from coming around? And should she even have a child? She was around 40, there probably wouldn’t be another chance to have a baby, but she was alone and was not exactly well off financially. Her nights were a swirl of sleeplessness and tears. The only lifeline she could grab onto was the reality that she had a choice. She could end the pregnancy. It was the only thing that pulled her out of her despair. When she went to her doctor for a blood test, he informed her that she was having a false pregnancy. He said he had seen women go months with their bodies acting as if they were pregnant, women who looked pregnant even though they knew, clinically, that they weren’t. Hopefully, he said, that wouldn’t be the case with her; thankfully, it wasn’t.

That woman was me. What I remember most now is the lifeline I clung to when I believed I was pregnant – the irrefutable fact that I had a choice. But I also remember the quicksand of depression. Again and again I told myself I have a way out of this – I can end the pregnancy, and that knowledge kept me from the murky depths of a despair that would have swallowed me.

 I’m old enough to remember when girls and women put sharp objects up themselves to abort a fetus. Or drank a bottle of castor oil, or cups of Pennyroyal tea, which can have serious side effects. I remember the stories of bus trips to Mexico and women being blindfolded while an abortion was done crudely and painfully.

When you impose control over people’s bodies, over the most intimate areas of their health, you hold them hostage. You imprison them behind the bars of your own opinions and ideology, making it clear to them that their feelings are worthless. That they are worthless.

Years ago, I heard a quote that was attributed to Nikolae Ceausescu, the Romanian dictator who was in power from 1974 to 1989. I’ve never been able to conclusively verify he said it, but someone did. The quote is, “You can do whatever you want if you keep the people frightened enough.” 

 We don’t have the luxury of breathing easy. Many of us never believed Roe v. Wade would be overturned; we saw it as settled law. Now look where we are, with legislators trying to convict women of felony murder if they have an abortion, with a justice system that was transformed under Donald Trump. The most dangerous thing we can say right now is, “It can’t happen here.”

One Response to DON’T BREATHE EASY

  1. Bill Hayden says:

    Totally Unacceptable!!

    50% of the American 🇺🇸 population are women!!

    Aside from all the discrimination of races & colors & religion the GOP are saying 1/2 the population is 2nd class!! Not equal and can be dictated to by the other 50%??!!

    How dare anyone take their own religious views / values and impose them on others!!

    Sad 😞. Mad 😡

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