Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Anecdotal Evidence

It's the best I can do in response to the Senate criminalizing the act of transporting a minor girl across state lines to obtain an abortion, if said transportation is intended to circumvent the girl's home state laws requiring parental notification or consent. Fortunately for me, I don't have direct experience in this arena, only secondhad accounts from friends and scenarios conjured from What If Land for myself.

The bill's proponents argue the law would prevent girls from being exploited by older boyfriends coercing them into abortions they really don't want. They argue the absence of such a law actually helps child molestors and incestuous fathers because it somehow "destroys the evidence" of a crime, as if compelling a young girl to carry her father's baby to term and then deliver it so it can become Exhibit A in family court isn't a crime itself.

The rest of us in the Reality Based Community worry about girls being disowned, physically abused, emotionally abused, or perhaps killed by angry parents learning that their prized virgin is no longer pure, the sad story of Spring Adams the worst case in point. We wonder why a non-parental relative, say a grandmother or aunt or big sister, should face jail time for making the courageous decision to help a loved one in an impossible position.

But we also understand that it's not just the "at-risk" girls who are threatened by this legislation. Even those of us who were and are fortunate enough to have an open, trusting relationship with our parents may not have felt at liberty to tell our parents about an unplanned pregnancy. I sure as hell couldn't have. Not out of any fear of violence at my father's hands, but at the worse fate--in my teenaged perception--of his disappointment, the shame of knowing I'd let him down, the shame of my parents knowing exactly what I'd done to end up in that state.

Again, a situation that existed for me, luckily, only in my nightmares. I didn't get pregnant in high school. Hell, I didn't even kiss a guy more than twice, if memory serves. College was a slightly different story, with more than a handful of late periods, dread-filled walks to the Osco farther from campus where I'd be less likely to run into a dorm-mate while carrying my EPT to the checkout stand.

Some of my friends got pregnant at one point or another down the line, before they wanted to. One was impregnated by a 22-year-old when she was 14. Her mother took her for the abortion and then dropped her off at the boyfriend's house because she (the mother) couldn't stand to look at my friend any more. Another got knocked up around 16, by a guy roughly the same age. Her mother paid for the abortion but allowed her to come back home.

My own mother got her little surprise midway through her freshman year in college, and, since it was 1967, ended up married to my dad (hi, folks!) a month later. Abortion wasn't an option then, although they stayed married long enough, I learned later, to create another unwanted pregancy. This one came post-Roe v. Wade, though, and was quickly terminated.

Perhaps oddly, I don't have any sense of relief that I was conceived in the dark ages when the only recourse to a missed period in small-town southern Illinois was a hasty wedding. Her parents were furious. They were rather conservative Methodists who never liked my dad, a rowdy Catholic boy with a reputation for getting into fights, stealing beer, and other mayhem. They had planned to send my mother to France to study piano. Instead, my parents got married (in the Catholic church, at my dad's parents' insistence), and stuck it out 8 years before discovering they'd grown up into vastly different people who had no business being married to each other.

Had it happened five years later, I most likely wouldn't be typing this. They most likely would have marched in straightaway for the abortion, considering that they were both in their first year of college, they most likely wouldn't have married, saving them both a world of grief, and they sure as hell wouldn't have told either of their parental units, saving them both years of approbation. Of course, I wouldn't exist, but I also wouldn't have known the difference, so it's a fair cop. I don't breathe a sigh of relief over that any more than I mourn the loss of the embryo-sibling I never had. Quite simply, I understanf that they were faced with difficult situations and made the best choices available to them at the time.

All girls should be able to make that best choice for themselves, with the counsel of their choosing. Ideally it's a trusted adult, but you gotta work with what you have. Involve your parents if you feel that is the safest choice for you, or involve your aunt or your best friend's mom or buy a Greyhound ticket on your own if that is your only safe option. No one can dictate from a distance what that option will be.

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