Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Womb Of The Unknown Woman

You did not know her, and if you did, you did not know of her. Her life appeared in the broad view of passing time as a smooth, flowing continuum, wearing a path through the world along well-worn channels, but the quantized fragments of that path at the level below the skin and behind the eye were an unknown universe of misery, heartache, doubt, and uncertainty. The end point of her journey was at a place and time unforeseen in the delta streams of motion through her life and the world around her, but that end point was no less certain for being unknown.

A point before the end came, and that moment was either quite well illuminated or somewhere in the murk of human interaction, but cell met cell, and triggered a sequence of predetermined events that, unchecked, would lead to an irrevocable altering of her life. The product of the merger of many functions collapsed into a certainty, and with that, a potential new being was formed, consisting at first, of undifferentiated bits, merely dividing and expanding to fill space, mindless and automatic. Straight replication gave way under coded signals and altered to become differentiation, and at this point, still an insignificant and insubstantial mass, it settled down in a new home, tapping into the environment surrounding it, and drawing on the power it found there, accelerated its growth.

She was pregnant.

The path from that initial moment to its the end point was not a given, ever. The fluctuations of energy and chemistry do not allow for pure certainty in a universe governed by quantum mechanics. At any point, the new cluster of cells, slowly growing, replicating, differentiating, could hit a wall, or take a path leading from the norm to a place that would leave it wrecked. No guarantee is given, no bargain offered.

That initial moment though, itself, was not the most important part of the story, but how it came about and the environment she was in when it occurred bore greater weight. It might have been wholly unintentional, this fusion of male and female reproductive packets. The odds are normally stacked against them meeting in the normal course of circumstances, in a manner conducive to the start of reproduction. It can happen though, at times not chosen or for reasons unfathomable, and leave a woman with a dreadful and life-altering decision.

So we do not know what happened, we do not know how it came to pass, and we could not see the day when the test came back positive and the hand reached to parted lips to tamp the escaping gasp of shock. We did not have an inkling of the rush of adrenaline and endorphins and neural activity, as the import of the moment became clear. We don't know the myriad paths her mind calculated, the thoughts that rushed hither and yon behind weary and wary eyes. We could not feel the rapid pulse, nor the hammering heart, nor feel the sweat beading upon her furrowed brow. We only know that a choice had to be made, and was, and given circumstances and the time, was committed to with great reluctance and trepidation.

Then she died.

Died in a room in a back alley.

Died of a coat hanger.

Died of an overdose, or many deep cuts, or a rope, or the screech of tires on pavement.

She died. Died because she was pregnant, with a fetus growing insider her, and a future shrinking outside her. Handed a surprise, a shock, unwanted or ill-timed, or worse, the production of a crime, but given her with no thought as to her welfare or wants. She died, because at that time, abortion was not a safe medical procedure, but a product of arcane arts, dark practices, folklore, and fear. To wish to terminate a pregnancy, no matter the reason, was a heresy and a blasphemy, compounding the evil of having sex out of wedlock or with someone not your betrothed. So, backed into a corner, she took matters into her own hands, took a course of action, and paid the ultimate price.

We have marked the thirty-ninth anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that cast off the patriarchal power that kept women from being able to make choices about their sexual lives, by ensuring their right to accessible, legal, and medically-regulated abortions. Since that very moment, the patriarchal and self-righteous forces of rectitude have been struggling to put abortion back behind closed doors at the end of alleyways, or upon kitchen tables, or in shady motel rooms. They have sought to ensure that women are kept in perpetual reproductive servitude, working at every turn to strip women of their sovereign rights, rights granted them by the Constitution, itself, inalienable rights that when removed, reduce the individual to slavery. This will not, cannot, stand.

In the last year, Congressional and State legislators made it a mission, while the economy continued to slump and jobs were in short supply, to turn their energies toward further stripping women of their rights to bodily autonomy, as if by turning back the clock before 1973, suddenly America would be magically restored to prosperity and goodness. Spurred on by the full-throated roar of hundreds of thousands of sycophantic religious hypocrites, they wasted time and effort looking to block access to abortions, looking to place further restrictions on legal abortions, and trying to turn cells into citizens.

Abortion, like it or not -- and who can say they actually like the thing itself -- is here to stay. The problem is, in what form? Are we to return to the days of monstrous deaths at the hands of ill-trained butchers? Are we to promote the deaths of thousands of pregnant women from infection, internal injury, or disease? Is the product of a hit-and-miss reproductive system so much greater than the system itself, being that two gametes may never produce a viable embryo, but certainly a grown and fertile woman is already alive? Is a woman, already violated at the hands of a stranger or a family member, to be forced to bear the fruit of rape or incest?

It is very easy to stand at the sideline and pass judgment on a woman who has become pregnant, but ultimately, if we honor the freedom and liberty our nation was founded on and has codified in its highest laws, we must leave the decision to bear or not to bear a child to her. If individual liberty is the valued prize it is made out to be, we have no business trying to take it from women, no matter our intentions. If we believe abortion to be abhorrent, then it behooves us to do a better job educating women and men as to human sexuality and their responsibilities therein, to prevent it, where we can. To ban abortion is not to end abortion; it only serves to swell the ranks of the needlessly dead.

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