A Pyrate Perspective
The thoughts and feelings of a Pirate Wiccan on Pagan issues and community.
41 Years Later
Yesterday was the 41stanniversary of Roe v. Wade in the U.S. For those of you who are not familiar, this was the landmark case that made abortion legal.
In the last few years, the U.S. has seen a war against women's access to these sorts of services: personhood bills, trans-vaginal ultrasound laws, laws taking away access to affordable services and care, laws that make it harder and harder for centers like Planned Parenthood to operate, and a rise in support of pregnancy crisis centers that give out false information to pregnant women. And recently, the supreme court has been looking at taking away buffer zones around women’s health clinics, once again possibly taking us back to the days where even walking into a women’s health clinic could be physically unsafe.
Since we won the vote and won the decision that was made during Roe v. Wade, our society’s obsession with controlling women’s bodies has reached a new all-time high. While certain elements fight to take away our rights to make choices for the ways our bodies are handled, much of it seems to be about distracting the public from issues of our economy and the wars in the Middle East. Women's bodies seem to have become both a battlefield and a scapegoat in the public eye.
This year, a report put out by the U.N.’s special rapporteur on torture, Juan E. Mendez, stated that lack of access to abortion should be considered torture and a human rights violation:
International and regional human rights bodies have begun to recognize that abuse and mistreatment of women seeking reproductive health services can cause tremendous and lasting physical and emotional suffering, inflicted on the basis of gender. Examples of such violations include abusive treatment and humiliation in institutional settings; involuntary sterilization; denial of legally available health services such as abortion and post-abortion care; forced abortions and sterilizations; female genital mutilation; violations of medical secrecy and confidentiality in health-care settings, such as denunciations of women by medical personnel when evidence of illegal abortion is found; and the practice of attempting to obtain confessions as a condition of potentially life-saving medical treatment after abortion.
Other studies have shown that women’s health and access to these services are essential to a thriving society.
In the Pagan community, we celebrate women. We celebrate our connection to Goddess, our ability to make choices for the good of ourselves and for our families; we celebrate our place as Priestess and Wise Woman. We are healers, warriors, artists and so much more. We celebrate our sexuality and our fertility. We revel in our connection to our partners and the healthy partnerships we create with our loved ones, no matter what gender they are or their sexual preferences. Education is important to us, and no matter what choice we decide to make, based on our ethics or our path, we endeavor to make an informed one.
In all of our celebration of the cycle of life, as a community we don’t usually discuss abortion.
Gus diZerega wrote a very well thought out piece on Pagans and abortion that I highly appreciated. But I also think it’s important for those of us with our own stories, to tell them.
In my own life, my choice over how I practice my religion is second only to my choice in how my body is handled. My body is my own and no one else has a right to make decisions about it for me.
A few years ago I had an abortion. I knew that having a child at that moment in time would ruin not just my chance at a happy, healthy life, but the chance for the child I carried to have a happy and healthy life as well.
My Goddess walked with me throughout every step of the way. She gave me no moral condemnation, no guilt, no upset, simply accepted back into herself the life I decided not to bear.
I grieved over the decision to give up that particular life path, but I have never cried over the decision itself. It was a hard decision, but it was the correct one.
While spiritually, my experience was peaceful, the actual experience of having to go to Planned Parenthood was certainly not.
The only clinic available to me in my area was in a very bad part of town. The clinic itself was old and run down. The doctors and the nurses were wonderful; they discussed everything with me and made sure I understood my choices and decisions for how my care would be handled. They held my hands, gave me their unconditional support and gave me the best care possible. There was no judgment or upset.
I could also tell they were stressed over their lack of funding and the state constraints against how they handled their decisions in my care. They too were aware of the atmosphere they worked in and understood the effect it had on us, their patients. They explained each legality to me every step of the way and they were openly ashamed that they had to tell me exactly what my government thought of my decision through those legalities.
They also had to warn me that the day I would go in, I would have to walk through protestors.
The atmosphere of the clinic itself was depressing. Having to walk through that line of protestors, into a locked entry way where you had to be identified and buzzed through and then talk to the nurse at the desk behind bullet proof glass was a stark reminder every step of the way of what other people thought of us being there. Once you left the waiting room, you couldn’t take anyone back with you for safety issues. There were downcast eyes, slumped shoulders and a general feeling of defensiveness.
I went by myself, walked through those protestors by myself and felt blessed that I was able to do so.
I didn’t take the pain killers; I thought the pain was an appropriate part of my personal experience, a physical manifestation of my anger at the entire situation.
In the end, I was lucky that I lived in a state that had access to a clinic at all. I was able to take time off of work. I didn’t have to drive to another state and lose pay for missing work. I didn’t have to resort to home remedies. I had the access to information that explained to me my choices and care. I didn’t have to go to another country or find a back alley abortion provider.
I also give thanks regularly that I had the ability to make that choice. The thought of having someone else tell me that that was not a choice I could make is absolutely terrifying.
The fact that I had that experience in this country in this era is disgusting. No woman should have to go through that when we have the resources and abilities we need for safe care.
It doesn’t matter if you think abortion is the right decision. It is important that we support the right of every individual to make that choice for themselves. No one should be able to tell you what is right or wrong for your body. No one should be forced to bring a new life into this world that they don’t wish to.
At the end of my own experience, I took everything involved with it, including the bloody menstrual pads that I had to wear, and burned them. I offered my physical and emotional pain back to my Lady. I listened to her whisper back to me about the beauty of the dance of life and I promised her that I would continue to acknowledge my responsibility as a woman in making my choices.
If I had made a different choice, my life would be very different. I would probably be working more than I should. I would not be in graduate school. I would not have written a book or become a Priestess. I would not live in a city that I love. I would not have found the love of my life. I am grateful for my ability to have made that choice.
For this very significant anniversary, I give thanks to the women who were willing to fight against overwhelming odds to allow me to have that choice, that were willing to stand up to religious hatred, violent fanatics and stubborn lawmakers. While I wish that I lived in a world where the original Roe v. Wade was all we needed, I also know that it is not. This war is far from won, but on anniversaries such as this, we can at least give thanks for those battles that have yielded victory.
I hope that future generations don’t have to face such fear in their decision. I hope they don’t have to go to depressing clinics and force their way through protestors. I hope that my daughters can safely go to their doctors and discuss their options for full access to birth control and obstetrical care, that they can make choices about how to birth their children without interference of the government, and that their choices are never questioned again. I hope they have medical care that recognizes women as equal individuals with different health care needs than men. I hope that their voices within these arguments are finally being heard and listened to by those making these decisions on a state and federal level. Most importantly, I want them to feel safe in a way that I did not. I want them to not be alone in their choices.
Choice is power. Choice is personal agency. No matter what your choice is, you deserve to have it.
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