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Friday, March 26, 2010

Abortion, "choice," women and responsibility

I have a lot of thoughts about this topic swirling around in my head, at the forefront because on Saturday I’m doing something I’ve never done before: accompanying a friend as picking up a friend after she gets an abortion (apparently I'm not allowed to go inside with her). When I was younger, I was super paranoid, constantly thinking I was pregnant even when I’d used a condom, even when I’d had my period. As I got older, I got slightly less careful, and I think the lesson I’ve learned most fiercely is that just as what to do with our bodies once we get pregnant is our choice, so is what we do before that point our responsibility. In part because men cannot know exactly what it is like to worry about being pregnant, to suffer the effects of birth control gone awry, or what the cost of that worry is.

Which brings me back to my friend, and makes me angry to the point of hysteria at the psychotic “baby killer” people. I just can't listen to that. It’s not my place to share her story other than to say that she does not in any sense of the word “want” to have an abortion. It is not a happy situation. It’s a tough and challenging and difficult and lonely one, as far as I can tell, and I can only be a friend and offer as much comfort as I can and say that I wish she were in a position to not have to do this, but she's not.

But it brought back to me both the primacy of women having the right to control our bodies and also the farce behind the idea of “choice,” so binary, so simple, yet this is not a simple decision for I would imagine many women. Certainly not for my friend. Yes, she had to make a choice, but it was not one where she could simply tally up the pros and cons. Similarly, I made a lot of choices that weekend—the lending of the money, the unprotected sex—that put me in a really bad situation. And it would be very tempting to try to pass off both of those onto the other people involved, but that is wrong. I chose both actions, and cannot say I was coerced in any way. I have rehashed and admonished myself about them plenty, so I’ll move on to say that I learned two major actions I don’t intend to repeat in the future. I don’t lend money, and am grateful no one’s asked because I also lent money to a friend close to that time and it caused (momentary) rifts in our relationship. And I do my best to make sure I have my birth control under control.

I realized when all that drama went down, when I was both emotionally miserable and not loving the aftereffects of Plan B, that I was acting like a child, like the girl who at 18 and 21 thought she was pregnant when there was pretty much no chance of that, but in the opposite way. I’d replaced her hypervigilance and neuroticism with a devil-may-care attitude hardly befitting someone my age.

And I realized that I need to surround myself with people who will help me be that mature person I want to be, not the childish one who lurks in me on even my best days. I don’t want to be coddled or not be forced to reckon with my actions, but I want to be with someone who I can actually talk to about Hard Topics, who will recognize both that my body is mine and mine alone to make decisions about how to use it, yet who wants to help me make the most informed decisions I can. For various reasons, that was not the relationship and would never be, with that person in that random city, and that’s okay. I am grateful for that rocky week because it taught me the value of money, of mistakes, of balancing living in the moment with actually living.

For the record, I’m not trying to give men a pass on taking responsibility for their actions either. But ultimately, I can’t really waste my time worrying about what the fuck men think about what I do with my body, even men who are my lovers. That might sound harsh and I’m not saying I’d make a decision as profound as what to do about a pregnancy without informing and discussing it with the other person but that at the end of the day, really, they are not the ones dealing with the day-to-day reality. Certainly not in my friend’s case, but even if he were, no matter how “supportive” a man may want to be, he is not the one going through those changes. That was a good lesson for me to learn, and I don’t think it made me more cynical, just more of a realist, and hopefully, a more responsible person who takes better care of myself, to everyone around me’s benefit.

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