Mistress of the Mix: Making the Hard Choice

Check out the collage of photos above. Can you guess which one doesn’t belong? If you guessed the one on the bottom right, you’re correct. There shouldn’t be a man in the picture, at least when it comes to making reproductive health decisions for women. I’m not just bashing men. I don’t think anyone – man or woman – should be getting involved in making reproductive health decisions for a woman, except for the individual woman.

If I get cancer, nobody else gets to decide what kind of treatment I get, or whether I get treatment at all. That’s my decision. Because it’s my body. And if a man suffers from erectile dysfunction, women don’t get to choose which of the many treatments a man might pick from to get that boner back up in working order again, or whether he chooses to limp around without an assist from science. Yet here we are, in a world where the people making all the decisions about what a woman can and can’t do with her reproductive system absolutely cannot truly relate to a woman’s situation because they will never be pregnant. Ever. That’s what just happened in Alabama.

There are people I love who are deeply against abortion, and as such, they are supportive of the current renaissance in our country, and the politicians that are working overtime to severely restrict pregnancy termination options for women, or remove them altogether. For my friends and family who claim they would never choose to end a pregnancy because they don’t feel that it’s right or that God wouldn’t approve, to them I say that’s great, for you. Make that choice for yourself. You should have that right. But you should not have the right to make that choice for another human being. Kind of like gay marriage. Don’t like it? Don’t get one. But it’s not right to deny others the opportunity.

I actually think it’s an act of extreme cruelty for any person to try to exert that kind of control over the personal liberties of women. Even more so if the person exerting the control is someone who will never ever find themselves in the position of being pregnant. You know, like a man.

Like these 25 men who voted last week to pass the harshest abortion law in the country. Guys, you know it’s bad if even Tomi Lahren complains that it’s “too restrictive.” You have no idea how much it pains me to say this, but I agree with her 100% on this one point: a law like this “doesn’t save life, it simply forces women into more dangerous methods” when faced with the difficult choice of continuing or terminating a pregnancy.

In the past week or so after the Alabama vote to ban abortion, I have been astounded by the naivete of people – not just men, but women too, even nursing students – who seem to have no concept of how reproduction and birth control works – and doesn’t work. Or the great imposition it is to assume it’s no big deal for a woman to be forced to carry for nine months, give birth, and then give a baby up for adoption. Or keep it and derail her professional or education dreams.

At first I was shocked at how ignorant so much of the conservative population seems to be about the traumatic scenarios pregnant women routinely find themselves facing that lead them to the choice of ending a pregnancy. And then I realized that this is our fault. Us. Women. It’s our fault for not feeling more comfortable sharing our experience for fear of judgment, hate, or the trauma associated with dredging up our own personal horror stories. Nobody looks back on her abortion with fond memories. That would be like jumping up and down with excitement about a root canal. I haven’t met one woman who was proud of the day she terminated a pregnancy. But every single one was thankful for being able to make the choice.

There is a movement abreast, perhaps you’ve heard about it. Actress Busy Phillips is credited with popularizing the #YouKnowMe movement that is barely a week old, encouraging women to find the courage to share their stories publicly in the hope it will build a better understanding for those who would like to remove the choice of abortion as an option for women.

In just a few days, thousands of women have told their stories. Celebrities and other public figures, and regular women across the nation. But for every woman who has the courage to share her story, there are thousands upon thousands who haven’t, because they’re just not (and may never be) ready. And that’s OK. It shouldn’t be anybody’s business what a woman does with her body. But as we inch closer and closer to The Handmaid’s Tale becoming a reality instead of dystopian fiction, that’s where we are now. Making our most painful moments public because the men making the laws think women are using abortion simply as birth control, and not considering the potential of the life growing inside them. That’s not the case. It’s almost never the case. Every woman I’ve known who has had an abortion went through hand-wringing grief to come to that hard decision.

I decided to share the stories of four women who have had to make that hard choice, and have additionally made the hard choice of reliving the experience by sharing their story. These women are from our community. They are women you might see strolling across the Sundial Bridge, or standing behind you in line at Holiday Market, or dropping their kids off at school in the morning. You won’t recognize their names, but that’s just because I’ve made them up. They are brave women who are willing to share their unique journies through an unexpected pregnancy, and the impact it had on them. You know them, but their names are not important. Their stories are.

Growing up, I was never one of those girls who aspired to be a wife and mother. I had so many ambitions and plans of travel and things I wanted to do. Everyone thought I was way too independent to get married or have kids.  I got an education, and jumped into my career head first.

I found out as a teenager that I had lupus, a chronic illness with no cure. I had to make changes in my life to keep it in remission, but have always tried to not let it slow me down or stop me from doing anything.

A few years ago, I fell in love with a man who changed everything. He had a little girl that I bonded with immediately, and it was at that moment that I became a mom. I have always believed that biology does not make a family. We are a family.

I started to think I’d actually love to add a child to our family. But then a mass was discovered on one of my organs. While in the process of trying to figure out exactly what this mass was, I discovered that despite being on birth control, I was pregnant. I became increasingly sick over the next few weeks. Violently ill. I was hospitalized numerous times, lost over 10 percent of my body weight, and doctors were at a loss. I was sent to a hospital in a larger city. It was there that doctors sat me down and told me they believed I had cancer. And then they told me that with the already present illness combined with the cancer, that I would never be able to carry a baby safely or full term without risking both of our lives. They would hold off on cancer treatment until I had made my decision.

I was devastated. My husband made his opinion known from the beginning. That he chose me. He said we had our daughter, and our family was enough. So I made the best and only decision I could. The termination was handled by some very kind doctors and nurses and I am forever grateful to them. I am grateful that I live in a state where I had this option. Where my life was saved. I mourned and grieved and yet I know that I made the right decision. I am at peace with it.

I fully support women’s rights and reproductive rights. I would never question any woman’s motive or reasoning. This is never an easy decision. Every woman should have the right to choose what’s best for them. My story is unique, but so is every other woman’s. I know many Pro-Lifers will call mine an ‘acceptable exception’ while persecuting others, and that’s wrong. We shouldn’t be judging any woman on choices she makes with her own body.

I married young and had two daughters by the time I was in my early twenties. I was one of those people that said horrible things to women when I found out they had an abortion. I had even wished death on them.

I received a cold splash of reality when I found myself sitting in the clinic. After the birth of my second daughter, I was diagnosed with a tumor on my liver. It grew with hormones, so was cautioned not to have any more children, as pregnancy could cause my liver to rupture. Then, just before my 24th birthday, I found out I was pregnant again. My husband and I had just separated, and I was have a difficult time coping and was drinking heavily. I made the choice to terminate the pregnancy.

Six months later, I found myself pregnant again. This time I had done everything right, and birth control failed. This time I was emotionally in a better place and thought about trying to continue the pregnancy, but the reality was that I was gambling with my life, and I already had two little girls who need me.

It was really hard to go back through those clinic doors. But when I did, I saw so many terrified women in the waiting room. I shared with them everything that they were about to go through. I told them that they weren’t alone. That it was a difficult choice to make, but I did it for my children. Yes, I feel guilt, but I’m confident I made the right choices.

Right now women are being persecuted for making decisions about their own bodies. Every time I go on social media I see posts about women being horrible monsters for murdering their babies. To people that feel that way, I ask you: Have you ever asked a woman WHY she made the choice to terminate a pregnancy? Have you ever sat in a clinic and held a woman’s hand as she cries because she has to make an impossible choice?

I can tell you that women who go through with it after hearing all the criticism and horrible ignorance spewed at them are brave. I can tell you that it’s so difficult. It’s even harder when you have to do it alone. It’s scary, it’s painful, and most of all, it leaves you feeling ashamed when you shouldn’t.

After I recovered from my surgery, I immediately apologized to the women I had so ignorantly bashed and shamed. You can argue that a woman is being selfish and shouldn’t have the right to end a life, you can throw statistics and religion at me. But after what I went through, and after talking to the other women I sat with in the clinic, you can’t tell me that women who make this choice are just trying to take the easy way out. Not one woman left that office intact. They were broken and devastated, carrying heavy guilt.

Now the government is trying to make these decisions for us by taking away the right to choose. It is a disgrace that you can go to prison longer for helping a rape victim than you would for committing rape. I ask women to look past your differences and opinions and find some understanding and compassion. Don’t criticize someone when you have no idea what she is going through. You don’t want to an abortion? I support you. You want to have the baby and give it up for adoption? I support you. You want to choose to terminate? I support you. I’ll go with you and we will mourn together, and feel the relief together when it’s over. I choose to stand up for women and support them.

It was the second time I had found myself in this waiting room. Yep, you read that right. I knew how I got here. No one needed to rub it in my face. Especially not the protesters I had to walk through to get here, the ones who would rather shame me and tell me I shouldn’t be doing this, that I had made a mistake. No solutions, just shame.

I remember at the young age of 10 doing the same thing. My family had always been heavily involved in the church. We went at least 4 days a week, and back then it felt like our whole world. At 10 I was also outside picketing and shaming other women.

I had already chosen to have a child out of wedlock, with a man in the church who lied about so many things. He left. With my car. Then I got a call from the Montana troopers informing me that they had found my car, and it was full of drugs, and was driven by a man whose name did not match  the one he had introduced himself to me with. My innocence was spoiled, and at the time I vowed not to be led astray again simply because I wanted to feel connected and loved by someone. But the pull to feel loved is strong.

And so I found myself in the waiting room. My first abortion was on the tail end of my brother’s death, when I was struggling to find some kind of love and normalcy. I knew I was unable to care for another child as I was struggling to care for the one I already had. I was a single mom, going to school, working as a CNA in a care facility.

I told no one about my situation. The self-deprecating thoughts and shame ingrained in me all those years earlier rang so loud and fueled the fear and humility that was sure to follow if anyone else know. I was scared. Would I rot in hell, like everyone had said?

In that moment I realized that no one else was there but me. Just me. And it was time to make the decision that was best for me and the child I had already birthed. She needed me. She was the priority. It was then that I knew this was the right decision. The fear and doubt melted, faded into an assurance that I was taking control of my life.

The second time I had been in a relationship for two years, but there was no long-term commitment between us, and he didn’t want to be a father. I was still struggling to make it on my own as a single mother, trying to advance myself to a place where I was self-sufficient. I was working two jobs. I had a roller coaster life, but was a little older and a little wiser, and knew that I did not want another fatherless child.

This time I walked past the protesters without shame. I held my head strong and high, not out of pride but out of knowing that I would be the one living my life, not them. I knew what I wanted to provide for the child I had chosen to have, the life I was trying so hard to provide, the life she deserved.

If you’re reading this wondering if I feel bad for terminating these pregnancies, the answer is yes. I don’t expect you to understand or even agree. I expect nothing from you, not sadness, empathy, shame, judgement or approval, for the simple reason that this decision had nothing to do with you. As I look back on my life, I don’t regret those decisions. I have walked through hell so many times since these two appointments. I have graduated with two high level college degrees, I run a highly successful business. I have a fierce confidence within that is unshakable. I know myself so well that there is rarely a glimpse of self-doubt and a knowing that there is a higher power that lives inside of me that guides me and knows my heart and soul in the deepest ways.

I had a birth control fail when I was in high school. I was on the Pill and also got a bronchial infection that I was given antibiotics for, and this was just before the news came out that antibiotics can render the Pill useless. I was 17. There was no way. I had a long-term boyfriend that I thought I’d be with forever (however we broke up before the year was over), but I knew that having a baby would stop my entire life in its tracks. I had no money, but I borrowed it from a lady I babysat for, and my doctor kindly terminated the pregnancy. His nurse held my hand and told me that someday, when I was ready, I would have children.

Nine months later, I was in college, and was dating a new guy, Chris. It wasn’t super serious. In fact, we were making plans to split up to follow separate opportunities. He was heading to Virginia to transfer to a new college, and I was heading to Boston to be a nanny. We flew to the east coast together, and parted ways. We planned to stay in touch, but that was difficult, because he had no phone. But I could call the mini-market his brother worked at and leave a message for him to call me back.

It wasn’t long before I realized that I was probably pregnant. Another birth control fail (condom & spermicide). I called Chris and told him that I hadn’t taken a test yet, but my period was late. He sounded scared. As if HIS life was in jeopardy, not mine. Like my pregnancy might derail HIS life, not mine. He asked me what I planned to do. I said I wasn’t sure yet, but we made plans to talk again in the next few days after I knew for sure. When the pregnancy was confirmed, I called the market and left a message for him to call me back, and he never did. I was on my own.

In fact, I was completely on my own, living with a family I barely knew, my own family thousands of miles away, with barely a whisper of an income, and no insurance in a city where abortion clinics were on high alert. A clinic in Florida had just been bombed on Christmas day by a group of people who said it was a gift to Jesus on his birthday. A Benedictine priest in Alabama had just burst into a clinic and assaulted three workers, breaking the neck of one. Although my appointment was completely legitimate and the entire procedure was legal, I had to prove it by going to one location for a test to confirm I was actually pregnant the day before the appointment, give them my entire month’s salary, and only then was I given the location for the final appointment the next day at a clinic with no sign on the door. It was pretty close to back alley. I sat in a cubicle behind a curtain waiting for my appointment, terrified out of my wits that we were going to be blown up any moment, and the staff was too battle weary to show any compassion for their own clients. Nobody held my hand this time. Afterwards, in pain and traumatized, I went home and curled up into a ball for the rest of the weekend.

The experience was awful, but I have no doubt that I made the right choice. If I had not had the option to terminate my pregnancy, I would have been completely alone with no money, jobless and homeless in a city I didn’t know. I would’ve had to throw myself on the mercy of the welfare system in order to survive, and may never have been given the opportunity to crawl out of it, stuck in an oppressive cycle.

Instead, I had the time to get my life together, go to college and forge a successful career. Finally, I lovingly welcomed a beautiful baby into the world. This time I was ready, prepared with the resources I needed to raise a child correctly: a stable home, income and loving partner.  I am a self-sufficient woman who has made my own way in the world, although I had to make some hard choices along the way. But they were my choices to make, and that’s the way it should be.

So there you have it. Four stories of women you know. I’ll leave you with a few final thoughts (and a playlist, of course, because there have been a lot of great songs written on the subject).

I believe women should have affordable access to birth control and pregnancy termination options. I also believe that when lawmakers try to ban or put restrictions on abortion because they believe every life is valuable, that they’re putting the cart before the horse.

The current conservative political trend is placing more value on the life of a fetus than the life of the woman carrying the fetus. And once that fetus has been brought into the world by a woman forced to have it, we don’t have a decent system in place to nurture that new life, only a broken welfare, healthcare, education and immigration system that our government would like to…for lack of a better word, abort. Until we can do better, we are setting ourselves up for only a greater disaster.

I wish we lived in a perfect world where women didn’t suffer from rape. A world where birth control was always 100% effective. A world where being pregnant and having a baby doesn’t have the potential to derail (or end) a woman’s life forever. A world where there was a loving family ready to adopt every single baby brought into the world that a woman wasn’t ready to have. But that world doesn’t exist.

You can listen to the #YouKnowMe streaming Spotify playlist by clicking on the link, or on the play arrow below.

Valerie Ing
Valerie Ing has been the Northern California Program Coordinator for Jefferson Public Radio in Redding for 14 years and can often be found serving as Mistress of Ceremonies at the Cascade Theatre. For her, ultimate satisfaction comes from a perfect segue. She and her husband are parents to a couple of college students and a pair of West Highland Terriers, and Valerie can’t imagine life without them or music. The Mistress of the Mix wakes up every day with a song in her head, she sings in the shower and at the top of her lungs in the car.
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82 Responses

  1. Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

    As a man I agree this is a choice that the woman should make. The same people who are anti abortion are the same people who post cruel posts about poor women who shouldn’t have had kids if they couldn’t afford them. Duh. Don’t worry about Alabama, they don’t set national policy, besides who would want to live there anyway.
    Under different circumstances there could have been no Tim McGraw but that is the exception. My youngest daughter and my daughter-in-law both work with children who are not wanted. I worked at Epworth Village in York, Nebraska after retiring. I saw a lot of unwanted children whose parents were invisible. The one I always remember is a ten year old boy who was really depressed and I asked him what was wrong. He replied that his mother didn’t show up for their weekly meeting. Don’t be that mother, wait to have children or don’t have children.

  2. Avatar Doug Cook says:

    “…I don’t think anyone – man or woman – should be getting involved in making reproductive health decisions for a woman, except for the individual woman.”
    But it was 9 old white men that decided Roe v Wade. That worked out ok for you? Right? It’s like saying during the slavery debate, those that didn’t have slaves should not be involved in the slave debate. A ridiculous notion that men can’t be involved in this subject. “Reproductive health care”. Why don’t you call it what it is… abortion. Why the need for euphemisms

  3. Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

    Mistress, you and those ladies said it so well. You know what, I just had several sentences aimed at Doug Cook’s post then deleted them because I decided weeks ago not to be goaded into a discussion with him.

    I read a wonderful come-back by a women who was being derided as she waded through the riffraff outside an abortion clinic. The riffraff was yelling to her, “Don’t go in there! We can help you!” Her response was, “Oh, can you refill my birth control pill prescription?”

    • Avatar Doug Cook says:

      “goaded into s discussion with him”. You mean you only have discussions with those you are aligned with? For the record, I am pro choice like most Americans, and like most Americans I believe in certain limitations on abortions. As Tim says, the debate is not about “reproductive health decisions”, it is about abortion.

      • Avatar Larry Winter says:

        Abortion and abort are mentioned 13 times in this piece. Reproductive health only twice. Both you and Tim, in trying to ignore this fact are just providing rabbit hole bait. Some of those that have taken it in the past learn from it.

        • Avatar Linda Cooper says:

          Larry Winter, exactly. I too returned to the article and counted. Valerie Ing wasn’t skirting the topic.

        • Avatar Tim says:

          We were both responding to the section with the offensive assertion that men have no right to advocate for another’s life.

          Almost no one is saying women ought not be able to buy their own contraceptives. The few who do are just as looney as those who advocate for women having the right to terminate at 39 weeks for convenience. That’s the straw man rabbit hole…

          • Valerie Ing Valerie Ing says:

            Two words: Hobby Lobby. Google it. Then in 2017 the Trump administration expanded the rights of employers to deny women health care coverage for contraceptives.

          • Avatar Tim says:

            Which stopped you from buying your own contraceptives how?

          • Valerie Ing Valerie Ing says:

            Tim…I’m glad you asked how I’ve been obstructed from buying contraceptives. I have been using an IUD. I feel it is the best, most reliable method for me. It needs to be replaced every 5 years. The last time I made an appointment with my vajayjay doctor to have that piece of plastic replaced, she refused. Because the cost to purchase the IUD was more than my insurance company would allow. The cost of that tiny piece of plastic with a string? $600. I had to take time off of work & travel to another state in order to get the procedure done. I hope this helps you understand the myriad difficulties women face when trying to make their own reproductive health choices. ( I hope this comment posts in the correct place…there wasn’t an option to reply directly to your question.)

          • Avatar Tim says:

            $600 is a great price for an IUD – I have seen up to $2,000. I’m all for you having the right for you to choose to get an IUD at your expense – I just have no desire to pay for it like I’m sure you have no desire to pay for my $1500 vasectomy (which, incidentally, is not covered by Obamacare).

          • Valerie Ing Valerie Ing says:

            Being a responsible sex partner can be expensive…and while you & I can afford it, not everyone is in that position. Reproductive health care should be available & affordable for all. And I would never try to get involved in your own reproductive healthcare decisions, nor you mine.

          • Barbara Rice Barbara Rice says:

            Jumping in here:

            “I’m sure you have no desire to pay for my $1500 vasectomy ”

            I am totally on board with my tax dollars going to health care for all, including abortion, vasectomies, birth control, STD testing. So yeah – I’m good with money going toward a common good like health care for all, regardless of whether the recipient’s need is considered justified by folks who don’t think they’re worthy.

      • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:

        Doug Cook,

        Exactly what “limitations” do you imagine are necessary? Ninety-nine percent of abortions take place in the early stages, while the remaining one percent (so-called “late-term abortions”, which are phenomenally expensive and difficult to obtain) are typically performed because what is often a wanted baby is either dead or dying in the womb, and/or the woman’s life and health are seriously threatened. What further “limitations” do we need?

  4. Avatar Tim says:

    “There shouldn’t be a man in the picture, at least when it comes to making reproductive health decisions for women.”

    But we’re not talking about reproductive health decisions, are we? No one is telling you whether and what kind of sex to have – or contraceptives to use. Many may object to paying for your “reproductive health choices,” but that’s another matter.

    No, what your euphemism avoids recognizing is that we’re really talking about the ending of an existing life. “Men shouldn’t have a say” is as ridiculous as saying white Yankees shouldn’t have had a say in how southern plantation owners treated black slaves. Civil rights are everybody’s business.

    • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:

      Tim,

      Have you made any effort to study biology as it pertains to the development of the fetus in the womb? Per every legitimate medical organization world-wide, the organism present at the stage of pregnancy when 99 percent of abortions are performed doesn’t have the remotest capability of experiencing pain, or even awareness of anything that takes place in its environment. At most it’s a potential child, and is no more “human” for all practical purposes than a fertilized egg. To compare that organism to the suffering of actual feeling, thinking, aware human beings during slavery is an inexcusable minimalization of that suffering.

      • Avatar Tim says:

        As a matter of fact I have. 91% of surgical abortions (and virtually all chemical abortions) are performed during the first trimester, when the fetus likely has no capacity to feel.

        9% of surgical abortions – that’s about 90,000 abortions in the US annually — are performed during the second trimester, when the fetus can respond to stimuli like music (and presumably pain). The majority of these second trimester pregnancies are aborted because the child won’t be normal – e.g. “complications” like down syndrome which are confirmed with amniocentesis (not usually performed until around 14 weeks).

        Almost no abortions are performed in the third trimester in the US – something like 100 of the 1.5 million annual US abortions. These are virtually all due to medical necessity.

        • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:

          No Tim – the main reasons for abortion in the second trimester are deformities that are “incapatible with life”, and urgent medical situations in general. There is also no legitimate research which supports your contention that babies in the womb respond to sounds any earlier than the third trimester.

          https://www.self.com/story/why-people-get-second-trimester-abortions

          • Avatar Tim says:

            Fetal response to music at 16 weeks: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4616906/

            6,000 babies are born with down syndrome in the US, with an estimated 67%-92% of US women chosing to abort. That translates to 20,000-50,000 of the 90,000 second trimester abortions being from down syndrome.

            There is a blood test now available to screen for down syndrome earlier, but it is not yet in widespread use in the US and is not 100% accurate.

          • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:

            Tim,

            Your post is contradictory. Downs Syndrome babies can’t be both “born” and aborted.

          • Avatar Tim says:

            If train A leaves the station going 60mph and train B leaves 1 hour later going 85… 😛

            If 6,000 down foeti are born after 67% were aborted, there were 18,182 to begin with:
            6,000 / (1.00-0.67) = 18,182

            If we take the high estimate of 92% aborted we come to:
            6,000 / (1.00-0.92) = 75,000

            Subtract the 6,000 births from those totals and you get a range of 12,182 – 69,000 aborted down foeti annually (in the ballpark of the 20,000-50,000 I originally spitballed).

    • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

      Tim, do human embryos hold some sort of sacred value in your opinion? If so, can you describe the philosophical basis for that opinion? If it’s uncritical acceptance of a religious edict, that’s okay….many people base their opinions on authoritarian moral prescriptions.

      Or are human embryos to be valued based on degree of sentience? If that’s the case, do you afford that value to other forms of life that have equal or more sentience? If you do, you must be a vegan, and I congratulate you on your philosophical clarity and rigor.

      • Avatar Tim says:

        Morally? I think during pregnancy there is a gradual shift from bacteria-like lifeform to a human worthy of legal protection, but I don’t know precisely where that delineation is. I get uncomfortable when the fetus begins to exhibit signs of sentience (e.g. responding to music at 16 weeks) and think of it as killing after potential viability (21 weeks 5 days).

        How does the value of a 20-week human fetus compare to a dog – you wouldn’t allow your neighbor to slaughter his dog just because it no longer fits into his life plans, right? Or is it more like a goldfish you can flush down the toilet when you decide to move? (Nirvana: “It’s ok to eat fish cause they don’t have any feelings…” )

        Legally? I see nothing in federal law that should prevent a state from outright banning abortion. Roe v Wade argued fairly convincingly that there is an implicit right to privacy within the constitution, but really failed to justify how that right to privacy extends to elective medical procedures. So while I think Alabama’s law is bad policy, I don’t see it as illegal.

        Best policy for mankind? Probably preventative sterilization for everyone followed by a permitting process for to allow reversals for those who wish to have children. Perhaps not even allowing that – maybe making designer babies in test tubes. Civil liberties be damned, environmental threats like global warming demands population control!

        Hypocritical? Absolutely…

        • Avatar Larry Winter says:

          Legally? I think there was judicial overreach in determining the State has a compelling interest to ban abortions for any reason.
          What is the compelling interest for the State to intervene against the wishes of a women, who for whatever reason, decides to end her pregnancy? “Protecting potential life”? Really? Where did the judges come up with the idea that potential life can override rights of persons as defined in the Constitution. This “potential life” is being used by judicial activists in the Southern States to allow them to take over a women’s control of her body, which in turn will bring it to the SCOTUS.

          Authoritarian/fascism? You betcha!

          • Avatar Doug Cook says:

            Larry, “potential life”? That’s the sticking point, isn’t it? Scott Peterson was convicted of 2 counts of murder. For his wife and his unborn “potential life”. In your opinion, should he have not been charged with that murder? So you can legally abort a “potential life” at that stage, and can also be charged with murder of a “potential life” at that stage. Seems rather inconsistent, doesn’t it?

          • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:

            Doug Cook,

            As I recall Scott Peterson’s wife a good 8 months pregnant. The baby was unquestionably viable at that late stage, which is why he was charged with two murders.

          • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:

            *was* a good 8 months pregnant…

        • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:

          Tim,

          Aside from the fact that there is absolutely no medical consensus that a fetus “responds” to music (or sound in general) as early as 16 weeks, your concern about fetuses at 20-plus weeks is a straw man argument.

          Only one percent of abortions take place at or beyond that point, and are prohibitively expensive and hard to obtain. And as I’ve pointed out before, they are typically performed to remove a dead fetus from the womb which is poisoning the mother, to address some other urgent medical situation, and often involve wanted babies. No one is getting an abortion at that late stage on a lark.

          • Avatar Tim says:

            “The earliest fetal responses to sound were reported at 16 weeks of gestation, much before the development of the fetal ear is complete.”

            “Proprioception, sensitivity to touch, develops from 8 weeks GA and by 32 weeks GA most of the body is sensitive to the light stroke of a feather.”
            https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4460088/

          • Avatar Doug Cook says:

            Patricia, “…Only one percent of abortions take place at or beyond that point “. That is still a significant number. It’s the same as saying that a miniscule percent of AR-15s are involved in school shootings, so we shouldn’t ban those rifles.

          • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:

            Doug Cook – See my post above.

  5. Avatar Patricia Barrett says:

    I’m more than old enough to remember the nightmare world that existed for women before abortion became legal. In addition, my grandmother (who I never had the opportunity to know) suddenly became a widow and the sole support of her family when my mother was 7 years old. When she discovered she was pregnant she knew she had no choice but to seek out a back-alley abortion, from which she died. As a result my mother was thrown into an institutional and foster care system so abusive that she spent the rest of her life in and out of mental hospitals.

    If anti-abortionists really cared about the potential children they are pretending to “save”, they would want them born into the optimal circumstances every child deserves. They would abandon their push to force every child into existence no matter how much they may suffer, and would instead advocate effective free birth control and (failing that) safe, legal early abortion available on every corner. Children with disabilities (including the life-long disability of fetal drug and alcohol syndrom), Black children, and older children with a history of abuse are over-represented as long-term/permanent residents of the foster care system, who hypocritical pro-lifers aren’t exactly rushing to adopt.

    • Avatar Tim says:

      “If anti-abortionists really cared about the potential children they are pretending to “save”, they would want them born into the optimal circumstances every child deserves.”

      That’s why so many of the biblical pro-lifers also want abstinence-only sex ed. In their view, ‘no sex until marriage’ ensures babies will be born into “optimal circumstances.”

      • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:

        Abstinence-only doesn’t work. However, it’s been proven that expanding access to effective free/low-cost birth control and comprehensive sex education DOES (a fact which they’ve managed to ignore).

  6. Valerie Ing Valerie Ing says:

    Unfortunately, that is EXACTLY what is happening, Tim. Men have been making all the decisions about whether and what kind of sex women have for time eternal when it comes to rape. Let’s not forget that.
    And yes, Tim, one of the first shots fired in this war against women’s reproductive health war was when large employers lobbied to not include covering women’s contraceptive healthcare in insurance plans. And finally Tim, my column is absolutely addressing the actual and euphemistic ending of an existing life….the woman being forced to carry and deliver a fetus she was not expecting, nor prepared to become a parent to.

  7. Avatar Eleanor Townsend says:

    Val, this is an extremely well written article. The true stories of people who have actually experienced abortions are very telling. Thank you for a very thoughtful and thought-provoking piece.

    • Valerie Ing Valerie Ing says:

      Thanks, Eleanor. I was stunned by some of the stories I’ve heard from women this week. Not just the ones that were written here, but women have also come up to me on the street to share their stories. It’s been a hard week for me…There’ve been tears, for sure.

  8. Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

    I’m a biologist by training and profession, so my thoughts on this subject are informed by embryology, recapitulation theory (ontogeny parallels phylogeny), developmental neurobiology (especially regarding capacity to suffer), population ecology (we have more than enough damned people on this planet), and developmental psychobiology (we especially have more than enough unwanted, neglected, and very damaged kids on this planet).

    My opinion is also informed by politics. I’m acutely aware that most anti-abortion Americans don’t give a hot damn about sanctity of life and human thriving once the babies of others are born.

    Add that all up, and I have a pronounced shades-of-gray attitude about abortion that differs from the relatively common extreme positions:

    1. Every zygote is sacred, every blastula is great! If an embryo’s aborted, God gets quite irate!

    or at the other end…

    2. Abortion is purely a question of the pregnant woman’s reproductive health, period!

    The illogic that pervades this subject drives me to distraction, including the argument that the opinions of men are invalid. I think my opinions on the subject are well-considered, and at least as valid as the opinions of people whose opinions are based purely on appeals to unbending religious authority or fanatical gender politics.

    But in the end, I think my considered and valid opinions on this issue should properly weigh next to zero.

    I can’t get pregnant, and I’m not eager to adopt your unwanted baby and take care of it for 18 years if *you* get pregnant, so I can f*** right off down the street and into the sunset.

    • Valerie Ing Valerie Ing says:

      H, Steve. I f***ing love your way with words. I do think everyone is entitled to an opinion on the matter, and entitled to express it, but ultimately nobody, man or woman should be able to control a woman’s reproductive health choice (sex, contraception, termination and birth) except for that woman. It just happens to be that the men still have the vast majority of votes in the political sphere right now. But the tide seems to be turning on that.

  9. Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

    What this article was about was how an individual woman feels about her own pregnancy and what to do about it, an agonizing decision at best.
    Now the comments, from both sides, has degenerated into another, My google stats are better than yours, debate. No man can relate to the trauma of what a woman goes through deciding what to do about her pregnancy.

  10. Adrienne Jacoby Adrienne Jacoby says:

    The day you can tell me whether or not I can or cannot control my uterus, is that day I can tell you whether or not you must or must not have a vasectomy! Neither of those things are ANYONE else’s business. PERIOD!
    Val, thank you for a very brave step into this very volatile arena.
    Oh . .. and how about Papa Don’t Preach?

    • Valerie Ing Valerie Ing says:

      Oh yeah! Great song! (Siri just tried to auto-correct this comment to Great Dong!)

    • Avatar Doug Cook says:

      Does that mean women that went through menopause shouldn’t have a say in other women’s reproductive Rights?

      • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:

        Doug Cook – At that point women have spent nearly half a century (almost their entire lives) being at risk of an unwanted pregnancy, and have likely given birth to more than one child.

        In addition, older women remember the horrors of a society in which safe, legal abortion wasn’t available (from a woman’s perspective that very much affected them), and may have been forced at some point to give birth against their will. They have earned the privilege of speaking out on this subject.

        • Avatar Doug Cook says:

          Patricia, the point being is that of course my comment was ridiculous…as is the notion that men should have no say in the abortion debate. Here is where the pro abortion coalition is making a big mistake. Back in the 90’s the mantra was that abortion should be “Safe, Legal and Rare”. Most Americans could go along with that, even many pro-life individuals. The abortion debate has changed recently where pro abortionists think abortion is a good thing, that we should celebrate abortion. In a recent demonstration at the Supreme Court, there were well known women speakers, Jackie Spier for one. that admitted having an abortion and the crowd cheered with glee. Why? Now having an abortion is something to be proud of? Seems rather ghoulish to me,

      • Adrienne Jacoby Adrienne Jacoby says:

        Let me clarify here. Any and everyone is welcome to an opinion. Your opinion and $5 will buy me a Starbucks. Everyone is even welcome to spout their opinion out loud . . . just not in my face please. BUT YOU DO NOT GET TO MAKE THE CHOICE.

        • Avatar Tim says:

          With no limits on her ability to choose? So you would support a mother’s right to abort a 6 month old fetus that she learned would be gay?

          • Adrienne Jacoby Adrienne Jacoby says:

            Are you asking for a judgement or an opinion here.? Not my uterus, not my decision. Do I have a strong opinion? YOU BET? ButI do not get make the judgement? The only other person that could insert themselves into this extreme scenario would be the doctor . . . but then, I guess you’ll never have to make that kind of decision will you?

          • Avatar Tim says:

            Apparently the conservatives on the Supreme Court – except Clarence Thomas – agree with you. They were unwilling to reverse a lower court allowing eugenic abortions and didn’t signal a willingness to revisit the issue anytime soon.

  11. R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

    It’s telling that all of the new restrictive abortion laws being rolled out in the Deep South place all accountability on the women and doctors, and none on the men who contributed to the pregnancies. Why should men have a say, when they’re not willing to hold themselves accountable?

    • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

      Some of these anti-abortion laws are purposefully extreme and uncompromising so that they elicit the lower courts throwing them out based on their flagrant disregard for precident (Roe vs. Wade). The goal is to get those cases to the Supreme Court in the hopes that the current majority will rule in favor of the laws based primarily on the legal theory that abortion isn’t a constitutionally protected right, so it’s a matter for the individual states to decide.

      If they succeed, abortion is only the beginning. Next they’ll go after federal environmental laws, civil rights laws, education laws……

      • R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

        I am convinced that the right-wing evangelists have grossly over-reached. Gorsuch and Kavanaugh may have signaled they’d overturn Roe vs. Wade in their writings before becoming Supreme Court justices, but now that they have ascended to the highest court in the land, they bear the enormous responsibility of maintaining the court’s credibility. The Supremes as a rule do not take kindly to local jurisdictions attempting to game the system to get their shoddy cases in front of them. Overturning a 7-2 precedent, especially a decision directly affecting 50 percent of the population, is not a task the court will approach lightly. I say the chances are 50-50–if the court even agrees to hear a case–which is bad, but it’s no slam dunk.

        • Avatar Doug Cook says:

          Chief Justice Roberts and Kavanaugh, joined the court’s four liberal jurist in siding with Planned Parenthood in whether states can block Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers from their Medicaid programs. I give better odds than you that the Supreme Court will not take up this case. I think it is 75-25 that they will pass on this case. I agree that it is a shoddy case and shady way to try to forces the SCOTUS’s hand.

          • Avatar Patricia Barrett says:

            I’m not convinced that Trump’s appointees (who he promised his rabidly anti-abortion base would overturn Roe) are quite that harmless. As a federal judge just the year before being appointed to the Supreme Court, Kavanaugh ruled against a pregnant teenaged immigrant asking for an abortion. He claimed that the government shouldn’t be “complicit” in allowing something he considers morally objectionable.

            I don’t know what his reasons were for declining to hear the Planned Parenthood funding case at this time, but it likely fits some agenda we’re not yet privy to.

    • Avatar Linda Cooper says:

      Alabama and Georgia abortion laws are very consistent with WASP-aspirant Jim Crow state totalitarianism. Those laws date back to the days of chattel slavery when a woman of African descent was forced – by the government – to bear the kid of the slaveholder rapist. The very idea of an independent woman with complete physical and sexual autonomy opens up a portal of Hell directly into their entire (conservative) existence.

  12. Avatar Judith Salter says:

    My uterus , my choice.

  13. Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

    I’m guessing the omission of the autobiographical “Brick” by Ben Folds is purposeful. I can understand why women might not like the song, but I think it does a decent job of trying to capture the male perspective. Most especially the dawning realization that what his girlfriend is going through is going to be far more than he has to endure, and his guilt over his role in it.

    The song’s portrait of sadness, confusion, and alienation—and even a selfish, unearned sense of resentment—are more honest and empathetic than some dude’s self-righteous and probably self-serving pro-choice anthem.

    • Valerie Ing Valerie Ing says:

      I did consider the song, and later removed it from the list with a handful of other songs… I might put it back in along with other reader suggestions, if I get around to it. I’m on the road, and editing the list is more difficult on my phone.

    • Avatar Tim says:

      Songs in a similar vein to Brick:

      Kitchenware & Candybars – Stone Temple Pilots
      Freshmen – Verve Pipe
      What it’s Like – Everlast
      Slide – Goo Goo Dolls
      Third Planet – Modest Mouse

  14. Avatar Anita Brady says:

    UNTIL the Republicans develop/pass a robust nationwide program for childhood health, education, daycare, and financial family support along with maternal medical programs reducing pregnancy-related deaths and significant maternal disability/paid postpartum leave, GOPers like those commenting about abortion above can kiss my big, fat a$$.

    I CAN’T BELIEVE WE STILL HAVE TO PROTEST THIS SH*T.

    • Avatar Doug Cook says:

      Anita, the country does in fact have numerous programs for childhood health, education, child care, maternal programs. We spend hundreds of billions a year on programs like those. What exactly are we missing?

  15. Avatar Candace C says:

    I’m unapologetically Pro Choice. So is my son, who recently said the following to me. I agree with him. “Playing “you don’t get to talk you’re a man” is a dangerous game. You lose allies, you lose strategic assets, you get f****d over when something is a “men’s issue”. What if it’s a thing that affects primarily men BECAUSE of historical injustice?”

  16. Avatar Candace C says:

    And Anita? Party and social programs aside, I can’t believe we still have to protest this sh*t either. Then again, there’s a whole lot I can’t believe we still have to protest.

  17. Barbara Rice Barbara Rice says:

    I don’t care if a woman needs an abortion for medical reasons, if she is unable to care for a child, if she was raped, if she is indigent, or whatever personal reason she might have. No woman – or man – should have to justify their need for health care. I would never say, “Nope, you don’t deserve it” to a smoker who needs lung cancer treatment and shame them. It’s none of my business. It’s not my journey. And I am fine (as I said above) with my tax dollars funding it.

    And yeah. Why are we having to protest this shit again?

    • Avatar Linda Cooper says:

      Barbara Rice. I have waited some hours to reply to your comment. I can’t keep my mouth shut, however. Your comment brought tears to my eyes. From my world view, spot on thinking. So, thank you. I join all the folks who have posted, the “why this shit again.”

  18. Avatar Matthew Grigsby says:

    If those lawmakers meant what they claimed, then this bill should IMMEDIATELY have been followed by bills increasing funding for easy and free access to birth control, prenatal care, reproductive health care, child care, pre-school, expanded public health care, increases in education funding for every public school, better nutrition programs, after-school care, sex education…anything that impacts a child’s life should have been fully funded and expanded. The next bill? Abolishing the dealth penalty. Pro life my ass.

    If we’re going to talk about the sanctity of life, then let’s have that conversation about ALL aspects of that life. Will the state pay the funeral expenses of women who die due to a forced pregnancy that endangers her health? Will the state raise the child of an 11 year old who is raped? Will the state allow gay couples to adopt babies born with special needs because the mother didn’t have access to proper health care and nutrition?

    This is preposterous and infuriating. And I agree with Barbara, I’m happy to have my tax dollars fund all of this. Better that than paying the salaries of rich, white males in public office who vote to ban abortions.

    • Avatar Amy Curran says:

      Well said Matt. I agree.

      • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

        Amen, Matt. It’s maddening to see who is elected to office – from the Pope to POTUS and all the way down to city council members – and what they do once they are installed. Can’t we just vote them off the island?

  19. Val, thanks for the courage to publish this piece and instigate this difficult conversation. And thank you to all the women who told their stories.

    And readers, I have to say, I’m impressed mostly with the caliber of discussion here. It ain’t easy.

    • Avatar Linda Cooper says:

      Dear Doni,
      Of course I can only speak for myself. I try and keep it “clean” for you. Because, indeed, you are the leader of the pack! And Joe is in there as well. We are all travelers on the bus of life. (Reference to Doug’s article.)

  20. Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

    Val, two words, Hobby Lobby. That lawsuit was more about the imperfection of the ACA than Hobby Lobby. As originally written the ACA required birth control which means all plans had to include it. The Democrats, and it was the Democrats because the Republicans were against the ACA from the get go, heeding objections from religious organizations opposed to abortion exempted those groups from the birth control mandate, bad move. Hobby Lobby, stating their religious beliefs, felt they should be exempted too. This opened them up to a flood of complaints from the Left about how hypocritical that statement was, rightly so. But the same complaints could have been made against the religious organizations being given exemptions. The ruling ended up stating that Hobby Lobby was a business and therefore had to include birth control in their plan.
    What that showed is how we need Medicare for all and that is what our tax dollars should be paying for.

    • Avatar Tim says:

      The ACA is a mess. If the government wants medical care for all, it should provide it. Not that I think this is a good idea, but it is supremely less bad than forcing employers to foot the bill (if you hired your neighbors’s daughter to babysit your kids regularly over the summer, should you be on the hook for her $1500 IUD?)

      Trivia:
      On average, women’s health insurance costs ~50% more than men’s. A recent study showed jobs that provide health insurance have a 10% larger (nominal) gender pay gap, which roughly equals the employers extra costs: http://faculty.ses.wsu.edu/cowan/research/gender_ESI.pdf

  21. Avatar Denise Ohm says:

    There is a beautiful Greek term: hamartia.

    In this context it means to me, I will stand before God with all my sins.

    So happened I haven’t had an abortion but on several instances I sure would have. One f’instance was as a 37 year old woman (many years ago), I’d had a tubal ligation. Those are known to grow back around the seven year mark. Therefore when I found my 48 year old boyfriend, it was made clear what would happen if fallopian tubes so chose that.

    Not ONE woman I know is happy about her decision to abort but rather did what she saw fit for her situation.

    Great article!

    • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

      Back when, probably 65+ years ago, two of my Mother’s friends confided that they had had abortions. Neither suffered remorse and were relieved that they found a way to terminate their pregnancies. I didn’t hear if these were back alley procedures, but I doubt it. I’m guessing that in our small town with small-town doctors who still made house calls, they they were “medical” procedures.

  22. Avatar Candace C says:

    Beverly, I’m glad you brought up the remorse thing. Not all women feel remorse, guilt, shame, etc. at having had an abortion. We are not one entity with one feeling or the same view of morality. I don’t think women need to justify nor apologize to anyone regarding how they felt about having an abortion. While I understand the intended sentiment the narrative that women feeling badly as a justification to placate pro-lifers makes me think of the argument that well meaning straight people put forth to defend homosexuality to anti LGBTQ folks which is “don’t judge they can’t help it, they were born that way”. While I’m sure it’s not said with any malice at all, my guess is quite the contrary, it implies that if it were a choice it would then be wrong. As Judy S. and Larry W. said “My Uterus, My Choice”, “It really is that simple.”

    • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

      “. . . they were born that way.” Well meaning, no doubt, it stil sounds “off,” doesn’t it. Another “explanation” of homosexuality is that something in their past happened to them to make them change from straight — the funny uncle, the pedophile babysitter. Conversion therapists probably have a heyday with that one.

  23. Joanne Snyder Joanne Snyder says:

    Thank you for a great article Val. This acutally reminds me of when I was young and there was a huge amount of stigma and guilt connected with spontaneous abortions, or miscarriages. I memember one young woman who confided her problems to my mother. Was God punishing her? Had she done something wrong? My mom assured her that she was in no way responsible for losing four “potential” babies. She eventually had two healthy sons. Two viable babies were born into a family that was waiting for them. When I think of women’s reproduction through history, shame, guilt and power come to mind.

    • Valerie Ing Valerie Ing says:

      Joanne, thank you for reminding me of one very important piece of information when regarding abortion statistics. In the medical field, a miscarriage is called a ‘spontaneous abortion,’ which is no doubt used by some groups to distort the number of actual abortions.

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