Monday, May 23, 2011

Ever been grudgingly told your work is "better than the alternative"? (You might be an abortioneer if...)

So here's another twist on "coming out" to someone as an abortioneer. I have an old school friend, you know the type: we really don't have much in common these days but when we go home for the holidays we give each other a call. I was just remembering the time I told her about my new job after college...

I told my friend I was doing [vaguely hard-to-explain job] at a non-profit reproductive health clinic. In response she asked if they did abortions there, and was our mutual, very-Catholic friend going to have to put me on her "prayer list" -- jokey jokey, of course, except not really I guess.

When I told her yes, she replied, "Well, but you just work in the office, you're not doing the abortions" -- with an unspoken implication of " I guess you're not doing evil," as though the reason I could be at peace with myself is that I wasn't the person holding the cannula or flipping the aspirator switch or what have you, and so I somehow was not implicated in the whole abortion thing.

I suppose I could have just agreed with her and dropped the subject, but that would've made no sense whatsoever. Like, her claim-and-implication were the opposite of fact on both counts. Because in my eyes, even back then when I had not been a clinical assistant, I was implicated in the whole abortion thing, and that felt like doing good. Like, I would never take a job as office staff for (say) Operation Rescue, and if I did I would never rationalize to myself that I wasn't contributing to the mission of the organization.

So I said something in that vein to my friend. "Well, actually I DO feel like I'm helping women who are seeking abortion care obtain abortion care, and I think it's really worthwhile." Then she changed tack and said, "Well, we know that people will try to get abortions whether they're legal or not, so this is better than the alternative." Which is true, of course, but. Like, if outlawing them DID prevent people from trying to obtain them, she'd have no problem with a ban? That's a damn shame.

I know, I should be grateful for small mercies. For example, as it is, many people are not even swayed by stories of women being taken to emergency rooms with their intestines spilling out of their vaginas, and so forth -- so I should be glad she does take that seriously. And I am.

But here's why it's a shame: To many people, it's not enough for women to simply have their lives changed or ruined in less physically gory ways, such as "I had to drop out of high school" or "I couldn't travel the world" or "My partner skipped out on me." All these life-changes that people don't think are bad-enough results of unwanted pregnancy, they're all things that are often called "selfish" reasons for wanting abortion. Oh yes. Women are called selfish all the damn time. Like as soon as you have baby-incubating capacity all your needs and desires and passions properly become baby-focused and anything less would be thinking too much of yourself! Selfish!

So all those things are selfish reasons for deciding to end a pregnancy, but if you, like, DIE, or have your organs fall out of you, then that is more like what we could consider acceptable needs in a person of babymaking capability. Sure, I'm glad that among people who feel uncomfortable about abortion, there are some who at least recognize how terrible a ban on it would be for half the population's physical safety; but I'm simultaneously dismayed to think that, if only they could "safely" ban abortion, such people would be fine with all the other kinds of damage caused to our wellbeing and freedom.

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