Former Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin was chosen to be on the Republican ticket, in part, because of her “pro-life” views. Palin is one of many Republican women politicians and Americans who think that abortion should be illegal. Here is why they are wrong, and here is why I am offended.
I’ve noticed over the years that the Republican party seems particularly interested with the vagina and the uterus. Media has declared it a war on women, but I don’t think this obsession is a war. Wars are fought to win, and the bottom line is, as long as women have been able to get pregnant, women have also found ways to not stay pregnant.
There is no winning of a war against abortion, because it will always exist for women who do not want to carry a child. The question is should it be safe, clean, and left to the medical professionals or are we going to return to the time when wire hangers punctured uteri and only women with passports and plane tickets have access to the procedure?
That is the war if there is one, and that frankly is a losing battle.
The media attention to the Republican obsession with denying women reproductive choice is somewhat recent, but the ideas of the party are age old.
For a variety of reasons, including faith based reasons, there is a segment of the United States that is uncomfortable with the idea that women will have abortions. Some think that life begins at conception. Those who view life in that manner ignore the truth that at conception and in the days after, all you have is the potential for life. There is no guarantee that any fertilized embryo will gestate for 40 weeks and produce a human being. That is reality regardless of if legal, safe abortions exist or not.
So the “conservatives” decided that instead of acknowledging that a 3 week old fetus is not life, it is the potential for life, they would instead trot out their women, with special needs children to shame those who choose to preserve a woman’s right to choose. Sarah Palin was the most high profile of the we love all life crowd. She spoke with authority when accepting her nomination that families with special needs children would have an advocate in the White House with the election of her ticket. I recall watching that speech, in that moment and cheering her statement without realizing that the cost of that statement was more than many of our families can afford.
Like Sarah Palin I am the mother of a child who has special needs. I have a son on the Autism Spectrum. Unlike Mrs. Palin, I am not married, nor do I have Fox News giving me a salary or organizations paying me speaking fees. We share the title of mother of special needs son, but that is pretty much where it ends.
My path is vastly different than the path of Mrs. Palin, and I argue that I am more like most mothers than Sarah Palin.
My path is one where I had the choice to carry a child. It is a choice that was given to me 40+ years ago when the United States Supreme Court handed down the decisions we now call Roe v Wade. The decision was a simple one – my body is my own, and if I do not want to share it with a fetus I have the absolute right to terminate that fetus.
I made the choice to carry my son, and 13 years later, one Autism diagnosis later, and years of laughter and tears and all in between, I would not make a different choice. I refuse to deny any other woman that choice. I also refuse to trot out my son, who I love, as a reason why I should deny a woman the right to manage her own body.
Like Palin, like Cathy Rodgers, I love my child and all of his being. Special needs matter to me not, I would not trade him for the world. I cannot expect every woman to make the same decision I did to have a child. I also cannot expect them to carry that child knowing that he/she will have special needs that will last a lifetime.
Autism is not a condition that can be broadcast while in utero, it manifests months and years into the actual life of a child. Other conditions that affect children can be predicted, and it is heartless to force a mother to carry a fetus with a diagnosed condition. Some will make that choice, and others will not neither is right or wrong…..except for the family involved.
A woman deserves the opportunity to determine if this is the life she wants to live. She is an actual, existing life, not just the potential for life. Shame on the Republican Party for repeatedly trotting out woman after woman who made a personal choice and telling women that they must also make the same choice.
Cathy Rodgers gave the response to the State of the Union address last night and buried in all her Americana, apple pie, and god bless us everyone rhetoric was the not at all subtle message that she gave birth to a special needs child and that is why other women should also make that choice.
That is just as ridiculous as saying I like Cream of Wheat so therefore YOU should at it for breakfast.
What works for one woman, one family, one White couple with a spouse in Congress and the salary attached to it, will not work for all women in America. While if Sarah Palin or Cathy Rodgers had to live my life they might see things differently, I in their shoes would also live my life differently. I would take my platform, and my privilege, and my choice and explain that it was a personal decision made for me, that should not be universally applied to all women.
I would not shame or bully women into thinking that they are less than because they opt not to use their uterus. I would not fight making contraception available, or encourage schools to teach abstinence only. I would encourage women to find their own voice, make their own decisions and live their lives in authenticity, not deny them autonomy over their own bodies.
Perhaps though… I am just a little bit special in that I believe that women are more than petri dishes designed to cook babies.