I received a link last week that had “humorous” misogynistic videos about women. One of their slogans was that “women just want to hear their opinion in a man’s voice.” While the site tried to mask its misogyny, the readers’ got the message and in graphic terms commented on their hatred (fear) of women.
I was surprised because the true heroes of the women’s movement have always been men. Men recognizing the abilities of their wives, daughters, sisters, aunts, moms, and friends. Without their willingness to share power, the women’s movement would never have been successful.
But I shouldn’t have been surprised. Given the Supreme Court’s recent Roe v Wade decision, it is clear that women’s rights are in retreat. In the opinion of the Court, pregnant women have lost their status as people and are merely a vessel for a fetus.
Women tell many stories about abortion. Here are a few of mine.
Several years ago, I got a call from a friend who asked me to be with her college-age daughter. While on vacation she had to be admitted to the emergency room of Catholic hospital in severe pain. I stayed with the coed until her mother could arrive. The young girl was doubling over and vomiting continuously, clearly in excruciating pain and very, very ill. The day before her trip, she had discovered that she was pregnant. It had been a birth control failure with a former boyfriend, and she intended to end it. After waiting an interminable amount of time in the treatment area, a nurse arrived and announced that the coed was pregnant. The coed indicated that she was terminating the pregnancy. Within 15 minutes a doctor arrived. Not to treat her, but to convince her to keep the baby.
In between her retching and doubling over from the pain, he proceeded to her how it important it was for her to keep the baby. He ordered a fluid IV to prevent dehydration…but nothing else. He told us that he was unwilling to prescribe tests for appendicitis despite her symptoms because he was concerned the test could damage the fetus. I offered to sign a waiver, but he was unmoved. The friend’s fever swelled, and her pain continued relentlessly, but he departed. While we waited for treatment, two nurses attempted to convince her to keep the baby but offered no treatment or solace. Finally, after four hours a different doctor arrived, seeing the coed’s vitals and her extreme pain, she asked the other doctor why no tests had been ordered and no treatment was given for her pain. The doctor explained that he was concerned about harming the fetus. The new doctor was apoplectic.
“If this lady dies, that isn’t going to help the fetus, now, is it?” She ordered tests and a pain killer (that was safe for pregnancy) and stormed off.
The testing took place, now 6 hours after she had arrived at the hospital. But no pain killer; despite the fact that the coed was vomiting so violently that they had difficulty conducting the tests.
I repeatedly went to the nursing station to get her the prescribed painkiller. Instead, I got excuses (we can’t find the order, we’re busy, the order is unclear). It took another two hours to get the prescribed painkiller.
Finally, her mother arrived, and checked her out of the hospital and took her to a facility that would treat her; later that week the pregnancy was terminated.
I realize now that I was seeing the future of women’s healthcare.
The recent Supreme Court decision also reminded me of a conversation that I had with an acquaintance many years ago. A test had revealed that her daughter would be severely disabled. As a practicing Catholic, she and her husband didn’t know what to do. Planned Parenthood gave her contact information for resources, support groups, and advocacy groups for special needs children. She told me how grateful she was for their help, and they decided to keep the baby. I asked her how she felt about her decision. She was glad she chose to keep her daughter, that her daughter had taught her so much about joy and acceptance. But she admitted that it was hard. The daughter was too disabled to go to the Catholic school or even attend CCD. They couldn’t take vacations or be empty nesters because they needed to provide continuous care for their daughter during and after their lifetime.
I asked her about her thoughts about choice. She said that she still didn’t know; but being able to make the choice made her and her husband more invested in their daughter’s care. “When things got tough and we considered an institution,” she said. “We reminded ourselves that this was our choice, our commitment.”
These are two of the many stories about the complexity of abortion and the people who had to make their choices. There is no scientific proof that the fetus or even adults have souls. Since many are convinced that the fetus is a person, I don’t object to their providing pregnant women (on a voluntary basis) with their perspective.
But for most of America, the issue is not about an unborn fetus; but about the living, breathing women who are carrying them. An anti-choice position at its worst is misogyny. Or it is punishing women for having sex (as I believe happened to the young coed in the hospital). At best it is indifference to women.
A woman carrying a fetus has lost her personhood…and that is the real tragedy.
Angela Rieck, a Caroline County native, received her PhD in Mathematical Psychology from the University of Maryland and worked as a scientist at Bell Labs, and other high-tech companies in New Jersey before retiring as a corporate executive. Angela and her dogs divide their time between St Michaels and Key West Florida. Her daughter lives and works in New York City.