It's chilly out there.
A year ago, for NARAL's "Blog for Choice" day, I was feeling the gratitude for people who bring empathy and nuance to the the public conversation about abortion, a conversation that spins so wildly into hysterics and theory rather than focusing on the human beings at the center of it. I was feeling immense thanks for those who work every day to create a space for a very basic human right to decide when and how to have children. And I was feeling inspiration for all the many, many people who have taught me about how the crazed national "debate" unfolds in real lives.
Today, I'm feeling the cold.
The theme for this year's "Blog for Choice" day is "Trust Women"--a favorite saying of Dr. George Tiller who, after decades of being terrorized, was murdered in his church. The brutal act brought to light, once again, the horrific war-like environment that abortion clinics are forced to endure simply for providing a legal and common medical procedure. (One in three American women has an abortion at some point in her life; don't fool yourself in thinking that you don't know and love any of them.)
And the man who gunned down Dr. Tiller in daylight in a public place, who confessed to the act, and who says that he has "no regrets" about it? Scott Roeder? The Wichita judge in the case has denied the prosecutors' motion to disallow the defense to argue that the act was "voluntary manslaughter," asking the jury to apply the lesser charge to Roeder. Why? Because Roeder had an "honest belief" that this murder was justified. Now. Think on that. Think about the precedent that sets for American homicide trials. I'm sure a hell of a lot of murderers believe that the murder they committed was justified. Most of them. All of them. Such an argument in Roeder's case is akin to negating murder anytime that the murderer thinks it was all right to do. But the thing is, while I respect the fact that people have differing beliefs about abortion, Roeder's murder of Tiller is clearly and indisputably an act that our culture condemns. Or it should, anyway. Because he took this man's life. Purposefully.
And that's not all. Also this year, the Catholic Church excommunicated a mother and doctor in Brazil because they helped a nine-year-old girl who was pregnant with her rapist stepfather's twins--a pregnancy that could've killed her, to say nothing of the trauma--to get an abortion. The Church did not excommunicate the man who molested and raped the girl or her sister for years. Which reveals such a skewed sense of priorities that I ... well, I had a lot to say about it.
And that's not all. Abortion was manipulated as a skewering tactic in the health care reform bill in Washington, D.C., a tactic marked by so much wrongheadedness and illogic as to make the mind spin.
On the 37th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade, I feel the winter of where we're at today.
I do, however, feel like the violence of this year comes couched in a bit of happy context. A lot of people who don't talk about abortion too often were catalyzed to step into the conversation -- and it has helped to remedy the distortions. Among the voices I've most valued, often appearing in unexpected places:
- "Abortion: The Serious Health Decision Women Aren't Talking About Until Now" (Glamour)
- "Abortion Providers Under Siege" (NOW on PBS)
- "The Abortion Debate: What Would You Do?" (Marie Claire)
- "The Last Abortion Doctor" (Esquire) (and also, this important correction to the provocative headline)
- "Why LeRoy Carhart Won't Stop Doing Abortions" (Newsweek)
- The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power, and the Future of the World, by Michelle Goldberg
- And these people. And these. And these. These. The people who showed up and paid their respects to Dr. Tiller.
I'm hopeful that the more voices that participate in this conversation in honest and compassionate ways, the more we'll de-mystify an issue that shouldn't even be an issue.
For my part, I'll take poet Sonya Renee as my guide (Editor's note: I first saw this when she performed it one afternoon at the Haley House Bakery Cafe in Boston. Jaw on the floor, people.)