Sunday, February 26, 2006

Who will pay the highest price?

Woke up this morning thinking about what happened this week in South Dakota, and how the decision of one legislature, and a governor, in a small state, may be the catalyst the Supreme Court needs to overturn one of the most decisive (and divisive) victories for women since we were empowered with the right to vote, the right to decide whether or not to continue a pregnancy.

On this overcast, and menacing Sunday, where I live in a suburb outside of San Francisco, I look out at my balcony, and the cobblestone garden below, up at the cobalt blue awnings, and I think about how fortunate I am to have come of age at the time a constitutional amendment affirmed my right to choose, as well as who will pay the highest price if the South Dakota case turns out to be the one that tests Roe v. Wade, and if it is overturned.

If a woman's right to choose becomes a matter of state, not federal, law, who will be most affected? Will it be women who can afford to fly from South Dakota, where abortion is banned, to California, where it is legal? I don't think so. An examination of who was most affected by Katrina will show that, once again, it will be those without cars, without credit cards, without bank accounts, and without funds, who will be forced into unwanted parenthood. According to Bill Quigley, civil and human rights attorney, and professor of law at Loyola University in New Orleans, nearly 80% of those who were unable to evacuate in the wake of Katrina had children below the age of 18, 72% had no insurance, 64% rented, more than half had no car, and nearly 60% had total household incomes below $20,000 a year. If Roe v. Wade is repealed, most likely, an equal number of households will be forced into greater poverty not because of their religious beliefs, but for no other reason that they are not able to obtain a safe, and affordable abortion. Is this any reason to start a family? Moreover, is this any way to raise a country?

If Roe v. Wade is overturned, what will happen to the incidence of domestic violence, spousal abuse, and homicide? What will happen if even more Scott Petersons, and Neil Entwistles, find themselves with pregnant wives, and/or small children, who they can't afford to take care of? How many more young husbands, who can't provide for their families, will feel backed into a corner, and in a moment of insanity, choose to take the lives of their pregnant wives, or infants? How many more women will have to suffer their partner's frustration, rage, and upset because they feel like men condemned to a lifetime of financial turbulence?

Moreover, if, once again, a woman's right to control her destiny becomes a matter of privilege, and not priority, how many young women will have to leave college, enter into dubious marriages, and be forced into motherhood prematurely? How many more frustrated, miserable women who were compelled by the state to go through a nine month cycle, labor, and then raise a child before they were ready, and at a sacrifice for which they were not emotionally prepared, will abuse or, worse, take the lives of their children?

What will become of all these unwanted children in a country that has no health coverage, and no social services to provide for them? When our childcare agencies can't provide for the record number of homeless children, and families living below the poverty line now, how would they be able to provide for the 50 million "babies" our pro-life friends would have among us if women, and their spouses, were forced to carry to term a pregnancy for which they are unprepared emotionally, and/or economically?

More frightening still, if, as "right-to-lifers" argue, birth begins at the moment of conception, what happens to contracepti0n down the road? Will the argument against ending a pregnancy lead to the position of sex only for procreation as the Puritans who founded this country would have it? Indeed, those same Puritans who are dead and buried where the Bill of Rights is concerned might then be conveniently resurrected to raid Planned Parenthood, and medical clinics, throughout America, and divest our working families of their constitutional right to self-determination.

Where is our outrage, is it hiding under the umbrella of apathy? Where is our outrage at the lawmakers of South Dakota, and at all those self-righteous Philistines whose hypocrisy may yet force a most egregious crime-infested, and spiritually bankrupt future on a generation of those yet to be born, and equally unsuspecting citizens? Where are all those Newt Gingriches, and Dan Quayles, who got us as a country, and as a planet, into the mess we're in now, what will happen to their great plans for doing away with "big government" when we have millions of poor men, women, and children added to our welfare rolls as a result of their grandiose delusion of protecting the lives of the unborn at the expense of the living?

More importantly, are we prepared as informed, and intelligent consumers to buy this insanity lock, stock, and barrel, or will we stand up now, and let it be known that those who cry out to save the lives of those yet to walk among us daily divest us of our pensions, savings, outsource our jobs, as well as send our sons and daughters to fight a war, so they can get more bang for their buck on their oil investments, and contracts, in the Middle East. More than half a century ago, a great leader, Winston Churchill, said "We have nothing to fear but fear itself;" indeed, it is not Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda, or terrorism, that poses the gravest threat to this democracy. it is apathy.

On an overcast Sunday morning, I think about what would have happened to me, more than 30 years ago, only weeks after Roe v. Wade was passed, if I had to go through with a pregnancy for which I was woefully unprepared. You may wonder if having an abortion was something I wanted to do. It was the single hardest decision of my entire life, and the most responsible one. When you get to crawl inside my skin, and feel my pain, you get to make those decisions for me. Until then, tend to your own garden, and leave me to tend mine.