The Right to Choose, the Right to Want

I have been meaning to write this entry for a few days but have been too busy to find a few minutes for my thoughts. Given my last entry, I’m sure you can appreciate that the busyness is, for all other purposes, an excellent thing. And hey! Thanks! to everyone for your understanding about the impatience trying to conceive breeds in us all.

Tuesday was the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision in the U.S. Supreme Court. For my international readers (yay!) – this made abortion safe and legal in all 50 U.S. States, overturning individual state laws prohibiting abortion. It was then and continues to be now a contentious issue. Its also one I care deeply about.

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Right to choose politics were some of the first feminist philosophies I ever encountered. The Campus NARAL (National Abortion Rights Action League) was my first taste of radical campus organizing. From there, my life has progressed in a steady progressive queer direction towards more complex and nuanced intersectional politics. But the issue has stayed close to my heart.

Now that I work full time in the sexual health education field, it is more relevant in my thoughts. Although I work for an organization that doesn’t have an official stance on abortion (to maintain relationships, avoid controversy and focus the issue) – the goals are deeply interwoven. Teaching people about their bodies and sexual health means creating an environment where pregnancy, among other choices, can be chosen and parenthood can be intentional.

I’ve never been in the position of having an unplanned pregnancy, although I certainly didn’t help myself out with that much when I was younger (first hand experience with a lack of accurate information is part of why I got into this game) and had a scare or two in my late teens. I also don’t run in circles where too many of my close friends have had direct experience with abortion, although I find out every day that more and more people I know have had them – and I am so grateful for their courage and willingness to share their stories.

So my personal relationship is a unique one. But I do think a lot about the right to choose when it comes to reproduction. And I think you should too, even if you are a person who has never (and will never) have the kind of sex that could get you knocked up and your only choice is to spend hours and dollars getting pregnant.

The same fucked up systems that keep the Roe v. Wade decision a tentative and controversial one play out in the experience many queer folks have in trying to GET pregnant. Yep. Sometimes NOT wanting something and WANTING something are more similar that you’d guess.

One of the biggest legal hoops we had to jump through (and which can really complicate your life if you don’t – see here) using a known donor was having our inseminations “supervised” by a physician or advanced practice nurse. Our awesome doc – also queer and so super supportive – wouldn’t do it because of legal liability, neither would the OB-GYN. We had to hunt around all over until we found a friend who was willing to put her name on the line to help us out. Without the form she signed, La’s parental rights could be called into question and – like the Kansas case I linked to above – BFF donor could be sued for child support BY THE STATE.

The reasoning is that without medical intervention, the ‘donation’ isn’t a donation but rather a relationship that warrants equal parenting rights – no matter what other contract is signed between parties. The existence of a medical third party is what makes it legit.  Without that signature, BFF and I just had a series of very unusual one night stands, I guess?

This is the same reason that most clinics won’t let you use a known donor sample unless it has been quarantined for 6 months and rigorously tested (not just for HIV and STIs, but genetic issues, mobility and motility, etc. – stuff that costs a lot of money) They are taking on the liability – putting their medical name on the line – and passing the cost along to the intended parents.

In all cases, the medical industry and the sperm donor (‘father’) is considered to be more culpable and responsible than the woman getting pregnant. And, at its root – its the same damned issue as abortion. In both cases, women aren’t trusted to make decisions about their own bodies and what happens in them, especially when it comes to having (or not having) babies.

Of course, there’s a lot of homophobia in this as well, as a married woman can use her husband’s sperm donation at a clinic without having it quarantined. BUT if a donor is still needed then the same rules apply.

So, this week, I am grateful for Roe v. Wade and the difference is has made in millions of lives. But I’m also reminded that it is not the be-all-end-all. That the Hyde Amendment still keeps the women who most need reproductive support far from it, and the almost daily barrage of new legislation to make abortion difficult, illegal or just really shitty is depressing. So, its not done.

What do you all think? Am I grasping at straws? What are your feelings about termination of pregnancy as people who are working hard to achieve a wanted pregnancy?

In semi-related other news: The Colorado Civil Unions bill passed out of its first senate committee yesterday – which is awesome! One step closer!

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3 thoughts on “The Right to Choose, the Right to Want

  1. Honestly? I still feel the same about abortion now as I did while I was trying to avoid: if you don’t believe in abortion, don’t have one. Simple, really. The only decisions I am required to make regarding abortion are the ones centered on my uterus, and I trust myself to make the decision that is right for me should the need to make a decision ever arise.

    One thing that I have brushed up against a lot in the months since starting the whole TTC circus is a variety in what people consider to be “an abortion,” which I have put in quotes to differentiate the feeling behind the word from the medical definition of the word. It’s been interesting to me to see how many women claim the word “abortion” when they could use terminology like D&C instead (because the procedure ended up happening for medical reasons). Like, the woman who has a missed miscarriage and needs a D&C to take care of it because it won’t start naturally. Or the woman with known womb defects who can’t carry to term anyway or an ectopic pregnancy. I always figured that if I needed a D&C that I would call it that; I always attached the word “abortion” to women who were terminating healthy pregnancies (and I think many many people in the debate mash this social definition of the word “abortion” with medical words intentionally). It’s opened my eyes to the idea that there’s this whole continuum of feelings behind the word “abortion,” and that even though it may have happened for medical reasons, there are always going to be complex feelings surrounding the termination of a pregnancy.

    I’ve never had a termination for any reason, so I don’t have any personal experience.

    I totally agree that so much of this bullshit is at bottom about policing women’s bodies. I read a great essay awhile back written by someone who had once been a staunch pro-lifer but went turncoat after coming across certain sobering facts. Like, how if pro-life politics were really about unborn babies, more money would be spent trying to figure out why the chemical pregnancy and first trimester miscarriage rates are so high and be working diligently toward solutions. Not to mention the idea that if pro-life was really about life at all, so many pro-lifers would not be against providing well-woman care on a sliding scale, or against certain kinds of birth control, which after all provide women from all class strata with the means to plan their babies and take better care of themselves and the children they may already have.

    I didn’t know that about the medical community acting as the filter for paternal rights. It seems that there should be an easy way for donors to “sign off” on ownership of their gametes.

  2. Abortion is an important, deep and sensitive issue. Like the writer above mentioned, I try to concern myself with my uterus. Despite my personal belief on the right and wrong and the situation, etc. I try to consistently to support Women’s rights to make choices for themselves, etc. TTC and having our baby didn’t change my my feelings about abortion in general. but the experience was eye-opening week by week. in terms of the baby’s development. We were TTC and then it happens- we’ve peed on the stick and we are pregnant. Working with an RE, we had blood test, blood test, and then our first ultrasound. By our second ultrasound (only two short wks after our BFP) we saw the little heart on the screen beating it was a steady flicker with measurable beats! Every step of the way was amazing. I even remember our 3D ultra sound at 14 wks, seeing the baby growing and even sucking her thumb?!? My random point is, TTC did help me to better realize how precious life is, how much of a child or baby is really going on growing and changing. Even at ages that someone would have had an abortion I saw my baby put her hands behind her head, I heard her perfect heart beat!

  3. This is fantastic. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how my (very) pro-choice politics intersect with attempting to make a baby. I’ll write about it at some point!

    (Also, I’m a new blog follower, also trying to make a gayby.)

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