I’m winding down from my day, stretched out on the sofa, glass of wine in hand, music in the air, making plans for dinner, when the telephone rings.
At my hello, she introduces herself: “Hi, I’m Gwen Madden with the pro-life movement.”
Of course I’m pro-life. I love mine, and begrudge no one else theirs. I wish that war, cruelty, bigotry, greed, massive egos, and mistreatment of all living things would stop immediately, and kindness, acceptance, laughter, would amplify life for all living things. But I bet she’s not addressing this problem. The movement is concerned mostly with preventing abortions.
Abortion was outlawed in most U.S. states by the 1880s, promoted by doctors who feared losing patients, and people against women’s rights. This didn’t stop the practice, and by the 1950s, an estimated 1.2 million abortions were performed. Rather than being a safe and relatively minor procedure, it was forced underground, causing death to many women from incompetency and infection. The passage of Roe vs. Wade in 1973 legalized it nationally, although states could enforce restrictions, which many did.
I said, “Well, I believe that the realities of a woman’s life when she becomes pregnant must guide her decision.”
Gwen said, “Of course we’re for choice ...” Perhaps Gwen believed adoption was a good choice; I didn’t ask. I said, “Who are we to tell her what’s best for her life and that of an unwanted child? Do we need more wasted lives on earth?”
Gwen hung up on me, no surprises there.
I’ve been in this exact position myself. Divorced, with two children, and suddenly, terribly, I was pregnant. My ex had ceased paying the mortgage and other bills without mentioning it to me. I had a part-time job, and our home was large and near UNR, so I also had four bedrooms rented out, kitchen privileges. I could easily have paid the modest mortgage. However, the ex had sold the house, evicting us all.
So I was terrified. Out on the streets with two children, facing nine months of discomfort ending with another mouth to feed, another personality to integrate into the family. Another child to find day care for. The pain, uproar, and upset of actually having a newborn. And, no place to live and my income cut in half.
From the students, I had heard of someone who had visited a legitimate, practicing doctor and gotten help, and I made an appointment. In his office, I asked my question, and he told me that he could not help me because it was against the law. Of course. The law wanted this child born, never mind the woman who had to bear it, raise it, feed and clothe it, for 18 years, or more.
I didn’t argue or urge him, although I wanted to wail and scream. In addition, the tension from the impending changes had made me feel crummy, and my throat had been raspy for days. So I said, “While I’m here, I’ve got a sore throat. Can you help me with that?”
“Yes,” he said. “I’ll give you some penicillin.”
He left the room and I heard him tell his nurse to prepare a million units of penicillin. I was a little stunned, that seemed like a lot. But he was the doctor, after all. So I got the shot. It seems that such a large dose will cause a miscarriage. You might imagine my gratitude for this compassionate person.
If a woman can avoid having an unwanted child, who’s to say that’s not the best solution for both? It certainly was for me. I believe that little spark of life returns immediately to what the Tibetan Book of the Dead calls the space of unborn mind. My resources were gone, and I didn’t want another child. How can a child not know it isn’t welcome? Even “wanted” children can have trouble fitting into life. Today monsters run amok, shooting people, or poisoning lives worldwide with selfish political decisions or dogmatic religious beliefs, just as rats crowded into too little space eat each other.
The larger problem is overpopulation. Over 7 billion people inhabit earth. We’re stripping the oceans of life and dumping 6.4 million tons of plastic trash into them annually, which enter the food chain. I’m tortured by doomsday scenarios where the sea is dead and garbage dumps are the only resources we’ve left for future generations. If we’re serious about protecting children, let’s support Zero Population Growth.
Susan Stornetta is a retired archaeologist and a longtime Comstock resident.