Abortion

Second Essay on overpopulation: A Woman’s Right to Choose

Abortion and Pro-Choice

In the 1973 landmark Supreme Court decision, Roe versus Wade, a prior 1850s Texas law was negated when the court decided that the plaintiff’s right to privacy in her petition to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, had been violated under the Fourteenth Amendment. Key elements of this decision that are often forgotten include the fact that this right is not absolute and must be balanced against both the health of the pregnant woman as well as the developmental stage of the fetus.

The ruling also does define the right to life of a fetus once it reaches a point of viability such that it can survive on its own outside the uterus. This is a medically defined physiologic and biologic point usually occurring at about 24 weeks. In addition, it preserves a State’s right to proscribe the late term abortion of a viable fetus unless there is compelling evidence that in not doing so, such as the mother’s health or life being at serious risk.

In the United States today, eighty percent of Americans believe that abortion should be legal. In fact, half of the annual 1.5 million abortions are performed within the first eight weeks of pregnancy while 90% are performed within the first twelve weeks. In general, the number of abortions occurring after this point numbers less than one percent. These statistics reflect a conscious choice to either have the child or not. Nature itself takes a hand in naturally aborting up to as many as sixty percent of conceptions.

Nature also takes a hand in the fact that three percent of pregnancies can result in a severe fetal abnormality. Fortunately, amniocentesis can detect many of these potential problems, which allows time for parental counseling. Unfortunately, however, the science of amniocentesis sometimes requires up to twenty weeks of fetal development to allow detection of one of several hundred potentially severe fetal abnormalities that may prompt a woman or family to seek termination of the pregnancy.

Abortion is an emotionally charged subject. It is a topic rife with opinion and value judgments. The problem is that the controversy surrounding the subject is for the most part fomented and kept in the limelight not by those people who have the abortions, but by those people who believe that no one should be able to have one.

Whatever their motivation, people who advocate for the fetus uniformly do so because they sincerely believe they are speaking out against murder, as well as a philosophy that life starts at conception. This is a personal ethical and moral value judgment. It is also rhetorical.

Unfortunately, the opinion that all pregnancies, from time of conception, should go to term is one that completely negates the wishes of the mother who has to bear the burden of birth, or of the couple who has to bear the burden of child rearing. It is an opinion that also condemns an inseminated rape victim to live with lifetime evidence and a living memory of the crime, or a woman advised of a serious fetal abnormality to live with the guilt and the burden of being obligated to take care of a freak of nature.

This is all rolled up into a medieval religious concept that life is fated or predestined; meaning that all lots in life however they might be cast must become a personal cross to bear. It is a conservative religious dogma that discounts the ability of modern science to potentially militate against disaster.

When I was a second year medical student at Tufts, as part of our genetics class, we were taken to a relatively secret facility that housed and kept alive some of these genetic mishaps. These poor souls included children with no brains, (such as Trisomy13), Kleeblattschadel syndrome skulls, absent limbs, missing parts, serious inborn errors of metabolism, or grotesquely malformed body parts; all of whom had become wards of the state and who uniformly had no hope for any quality of life whatsoever.

Reading about them was one thing. Seeing them was entirely something else. Most of them only existed as bed ridden non-cognizant, non-self sufficient breathing blobs of flesh. They could barely be categorized as human and made a Downs Syndrome victim seem to be something relatively good by comparison. It was horrible.

Forgetting the enormous cost to society to keep these beings alive, I could not even begin to imagine the pain, the guilt, the loss of self-esteem and the fear a woman has when she bears one of these monsters; especially when genetic counseling could have successfully advised against it. Another sad fact is that some of these women who go on to delivery actually believe then there is something innately wrong with themselves, which leads them to harbor great reservations about attempting another pregnancy.

The Right to Life movement is deeply rooted in arch political conservatism, New Right Christianity and in Old World Catholicism.

The Catholics have their own agenda. Cleverly disguised behind the ridiculous tenet that a woman’s duty is to help create an army for Jesus, although not being actually necessary since the last day of the Crusades, the real reason is relatively transparent: The more Catholics, the more potential financial exploitation.

I could never understand why, especially in third world Latin American or in other hopelessly impoverished Catholic countries, the Church insists on and the devout laity subscribes to, unlimited procreation. Meanwhile, as these poor people struggle to feed themselves, the celibate Pope flies around in a private jet drinking fine 10-point wine and eating filet mignon. After all, everyone has his own cross to bear and also knows it is very hard work indeed to be in charge of supervising a large family of global misery, while never having had to raise a child yourself.

Far right political conservative philosophy, which often goes hand in hand with Bible Belt Christianity, is harder to explain. Their proscriptions against abortion seem to be rooted in perverse interpretations of the Bible, yet not at all in the teachings of Jesus, who probably did not even know what an abortion was. Obviously for him, there was no such thing.

At an even more absurd extreme we are even beginning to see cases of pharmacists and rape counselors refusing to give women the “morning after pill” because of their personal religious beliefs. These people are crossing a dangerous line that pits supposedly non-judgmental professionalism, tainted by personal opinions, against personal rights that should not even enter the public domain. What’s the next step? A pharmacist who believes that natural selection should intervene in cases of pneumonia, diabetes, high cholesterol or hypertension then refuses to fill prescriptions for these maladies.

There are even other more practical reasons not to restrict human abortion. The world is already overpopulated while its population continues to grow at a geometric rate.

In 1 AD there were 300 million people on the planet. In 1000 AD there were 310 million people. There are now, in 2013 AD, 7.125 billion people living on this planet, with a majority of those people living in filth, in squalor, in abject poverty, or only in marginally supportive environments. In retrospect some rational form of parental planning, including birth control as well as abortion, could have vastly improved the lot in life for some of these poor people, as well as improving the quality that derives from limiting family sizes.

That plays into another third world human foible: that a man’s virility is directly related to how many children he sires. This type of cultural thinking is Neanderthal. There are also a significant number of unwanted children of neglect and abuse walking the streets of modern America, who although genetically intact will sometimes behave as though they too were subhuman.

The toll they take on the rest of society because of crime, theft, disruption of schools, drug dealing and gang intimidation is an incalculable, unfortunate consequence that is not necessarily their own fault. The blame lies with our society as well as our culture and in a country as wealthy as the United States there is no excuse for the ensuing vicious cycle that follows when in time it becomes these lost souls turn to breed. Also as a direct result of a global population explosion, planetary resources and animal habitats are shrinking, species are disappearing at a rate of 50,000 per year, and economic wars are perpetrated while human suffering is pandemic.

Loss of plant ecology in the shrinking deforested Amazon basin deprives the world of many as yet undiscovered possible plant related disease cures, as well as having unforeseen effects on global climatology. If it does not simply accelerate the problem, loss of this rain forest will make the issue of global warming look small in comparison. Rather than advocating for uncontrolled human reproduction, intelligent people in wealthier countries should advocate for the quality of life and not for the quantity of it.

There should also be an acute awareness that animals as well as humans should have a Right to Life and that unchecked human reproduction makes no sense for the long term survival of the human species itself if we destroy every living plant or animal that lives around us.

What makes human life more sanctified and worth more than any other? How can a hunter justify stalking and then shooting any other one of God’s innocent creatures? How does one explain the justification of a Right to Life advocate murdering the doctor who works at the Planned Parenthood Clinic? Try to explain the perverted logic behind that paradox or how it relates to Moses’ Sixth Commandment.

Better yet, since the Right to Life movement seems to be intimately linked to the far political right, it is not unusual to have the same people who advocate against abortion are the same ones who have no moral or ethical issue with supporting and promoting America’s involvement in what seems to be an endless string of murderous modern international conflicts. Raise a baby to carry a gun so he can join the Army and go out to shoot someone else’s baby.

Then to make matters worse, the campaign to end legalized abortion has become tied to prohibitions against the stem cell research that can potentially cure or ameliorate some of our species worst diseases, including ones like Diabetes or the Alzheimer’s disease that has ruined my mother. No, let’s not lift those awful crosses off anyone’s back, because as a means of buying a ticket to heaven, suffering is the way one atones for one’s sins.

A law written on a piece of paper can never change human nature. So while we are at it then, let’s also bring back the barbaric green soap or the coat hanger abortion, because just like the failure of Prohibition to stop people from drinking alcohol, people will always find a way to get what they want.

The Red Chinese Communist government has been called “Godless.” When it comes to population control it should be called “Enlightened.” Determining what percentage of land would be required to feed and support the country’s population, while knowing that land is finite, the government established a policy of zero population growth. Citizens are only allowed to have one child and as heartless or as monolithic that policy may seem to be, it may in the long run be the only thing that keeps that country from seeking a war of territorial imperative that could dwarf the last two great ones. The nations of the world could learn a lesson from the Chinese in seeking a more global reappraisal of the finite nature of all our planetary resources, much of which will never become renewable.

A woman’s right to choose as well as to choose it in a way that is safe, should be preserved and private. This includes the right to enjoy all the resources available at Planned Parenthood clinics: Counselling, education regarding contraception (probably the ideal solution), and unwanted pregnancy termination. At the same time, late term abortion, with the exception of an abnormal amniotic fluid testing result, should be prohibited. Certainly a woman should know within a few weeks of conception whether or not she wants a child or later on if it is doomed to a serious genetic fault.

Choice is a deeply personal decision that has no place in the arena of National politics. It does not even belong in the arena of religion either. It is something that is basically no one else’s business.

To be really fair, anyone passing judgment on another person’s right to decide for himself whether or not to bring a life into this world, should first be required to adopt and raise an unwanted child of the ghetto or the third world. Or better yet, a vegetating genetic human deformity languishing in the ward of some unknown clinic that dedicates itself to the documentation, cataloguing, and the study of biological human freaks.

Then taking it to yet an even higher level, every prospective parent should be required to first pass a test, and then get a License to Reproduce, which would be granted only after he or she could fully demonstrate an understanding of the realistically intellectual, emotional and financial requirements that come with the otherwise romantic notion of having a baby. Why not? You need to have a license for everything else. Even for driving cars; which abort about 50,000 lives a year on our highways.

Taking God at his word in Genesis when he tells Adam and Eve to go forth, multiply and fill the Earth does not play out in practical terms when the only thing left to eat on the planet may be your own dog, horse or next-door neighbor and his children.

That is unless he gets the jump on you: and eats you first.

Holbein

Eat or be eaten

Bosch painting akumagoro.wordpress.com
Some facts obtained from Planned Parenthood at http://www.ppacca.org
World population figures from Wikipedia
Species decline from an article by Dan Olsen of the Minnesota Public Radio

 

The Notorious Summer of 1967

The Summer of 1967  

I would venture a guess that even today by about the middle to the end of sophomore year most college students probably become “know it alls”. I was no exception.

During the summer of 1966 after freshman year, I began to have political arguments with my father. These debates became progressively more vehement and ugly, once again reflecting the political division of the country. He was a hawkish conservative who believed in the righteous cause of anti- communism while I had become liberally freethinking and socially compassionate. My honest beliefs were that the Military industrial complex was fascist to the core, while America had forgotten its poor, its illiterates and its impoverished classes.

My father would rant about the economic waste of social welfare programs or the inability and lack of desire on the part of poor people to “raise themselves up by their own bootstraps,” because after all his father as well as himself were self-made, so why could not everyone else be so or do so as well. Of course in his later years, however, he certainly did not mind buying into and deriving certain expected benefits from Lyndon Johnson’s Great Societal experiment called Medicare.

He said:

  • That’s different. I earned it.
  • I’m not sure you really earned Carte blanch ad infinitum for any and all of your medical bills, dad.
  • And why not?

For my part, I had been exposed to the continued abject poverty in the South where poor whites lorded over poor blacks and where closer to home, black workers on campus were not even getting minimum wages. I think they were agitating to get up to 90 cents an hour, but without a union and with no advocates, they were not making any headway. My father told me I would change my mind when I began to pay taxes, while I told him he was a heartless fascist. It was a no-win Mexican standoff.

In the summer of 1967, my father finally did get the last word and played his trump card. I had lined up a job the previous year as a busboy at an old hotel, The Irving in Southampton, which at that time catered to the blue bloods who wintered in Florida or Palm Desert, and who summered on Long island’s famous East End. Many of these people moved into the hotel for the entire summer, allowing common folk like myself to get a first hand look at their decadent lifestyles.

The Irving Hotel was an elegant old establishment complete with a black tie Maître D’hôtel. An old professional German named Fritz, he supervised a formal dining room that still set tables with real silverware and Pewter accessories. If I thought that the summer of 1966 was bad because I had struggled through work with mononucleosis, little did I know how much worse the summer of 1967 would turn out to be.

My long unruly hair embarrassed my father. He had already freaked out earlier in the year when we made a rare family appearance at church for Easter Sunday at which time the long hair had caused numerous stares and giggles, all of which culminated in a great row after the fact of getting home. When my Aunt Jean saw this mop on a visit to Texas she was more direct. She followed me around all day, every day, torturing me by repeatedly calling me a “little girl” and offering to take me to town to buy a calico dress. But I could care less and indifferently let the taunts roll off my back because just like the Beetle Haircut in high school, I knew in my heart that I was in the fashion vanguard and adamantly refused to capitulate.

However, when my father got my grades for the last semester, he delivered his ultimatum in a true “come to Jesus” diatribe: I was going to get a haircut, I was going on probation for the next semester, if I did not pull my grades up to an A level he was not going to pay for school, I could get drafted into the Army on my lost educational deferment and I could go to Vietnam. He said that was it and he didn’t even care if I came home in a body bag. Although I tried to play on his guilt by telling him that he would not like to see me come back in a pine box, I really had no choice. He said again that he didn’t care one way or the other; that being hidden away in a body bag would avoid public embarrassment and thus because obviously my life on the line, I finally capitulated and got a haircut. I may have been stubborn, but I was not stupidly suicidal.

The only time I head ever seen him that mad was the night I tried to sneak into the house two hours past my curfew because of a sincerely dedicated but failed attempt to seduce a date in the back seat of the family station wagon. I had just crept into the final turn before the hallway leading to the safety of my bedroom when my father bolted out of the shadows, grabbed me in a neck throttle and slammed me up against the wall.

  • You’re late. Do that to me once more and you will never drive again.

How was I supposed to know he had a slipped disc and was trying to unsuccessfully sleep away the foul mood inducing pain in the living room recliner?

Meanwhile more shit hit the fan when my mother and Aunt Polly raided my bedroom one day, ransacked the drawers and were sitting at the kitchen table burning incense sticks when I came home from the beach.

  • We found your pot and we’re burning it up. What we really want to know is how you can get high by smoking this awful smelling stuff. We’re surprised it doesn’t kill you and if you ever bring this stuff into the house again, you’re out of school, you’ll have to get a job, then maybe get drafted, then go into the Army and we don’t care.

Although things settled down after I educated them as to their error by telling them that I only used incense to make my room smell nice, I felt it nonetheless best to be safe by giving away the safely hidden lump of the real hashish I had procured at school which was earmarked to get me through the entire summer.

Then to make matters worse, the girl I had met at the SDS meetings and had started seriously date informed me that she was pregnant.

In those days birth control pills had just come onto the market, were hard to obtain and still carried a certain stigmata as to their safety as well as the real intention behind their proposed use. Women who used ‘The Pill’ naturally then had to be secret sluts. God forbid, Grandma, if they smoked too, what you might think of the combined pharmacopeia of estrogen, progesterone and nicotine. (I have previously alluded to the fact that my Italian Grandmother’s favorite query about my father’s potential dates was to ask if they smoked. If he said” No” she was happy. So when he asked her why she wanted to know she quipped: “Because if she smokes, she fucks.”)

Completing the stupidly circular argument, women who got pregnant out of wedlock were labeled as obviously proven sluts, leaving the only logical conclusion to be that chastity should be the easiest and safest way out of the raging hormone dilemma. However, no matter how the argument is sliced or no matter what religion one subscribes to, there will never be a way to stop pre-marital sex because as previously elucidated; we are all biologically programmed to have it in our teens. For a young woman the, birth control pills and diaphragms would ultimately be easier to hide from a mother, than an oddly shaped ever expanding midline and suddenly larger bra cup size.

My girlfriend and I were both 19. She was a Baltimore debutant who went home from school for the summer, while all I could hear playing in my head were the wrathful expletives about to be delivered by my mother if I told her what was going on. It would undoubtedly be one of her worst nightmares come true: A pot smoking college-drop-out, longhaired hippie teenaged son, who was about to become a father. Not good.

However, being one of the original “Women’s Libbers”, my girlfriend made an automatic unilateral decision that we were both too young to become parents, that our prudish families would be horribly scandalized, and that our academic careers or any potential future careers for that matter would very likely be ruined or severely hampered. She wanted an abortion.

We were in quite a bind with the outlook seeming hopeless at best, if not bleak at worst We would probably have to confess the plight and then take whatever consequences came of it, including teen-age parenthood. There weren’t too many available options because unfortunately at that time in America, abortion was illegal. It was also associated with numerous real or anecdotal stories about women dying from clandestine coat hanger jobs or green soap dilatations and curettages at the hands of self styled home schooled butchers.

I was emotionally prepared to become a hotel busboy for life.

The Irving Hotel in Southampton imported help for the summer, most of it being college age students who were housed in a motel like hovel on the large grounds owned by the hotel corporation. I had already befriended one of these itinerants, Bradley, a bright guy from Springfield, Massachusetts, who was going to high school at home and was in his second summer stint at the Irving to make money for college at the University of Massachusetts.

He was an eternal optimist and a gentle soul with a great sense of humor who glibly brushed off any and all adversity. He was also a fellow pothead, and although quite bright intellectually, managed to hide the fact behind a likable goofy affect that reminded me of Our Gang’s Stymie who once told Alfalfa that:

  • I ain’t gonna show my intelligence to noooo body”

Some of the best times we had during the summer were to smoke pot after work in the concrete bunker provided as housing for the summer help, put on headphones and listen for hours to The Doors, Canned Heat, or Iron Butterfly.

When I confided the pregnancy situation, he seemed completely nonplussed and told me he knew a man at home in Springfield who had dedicated himself to a campaign for the legal right to abortion. He had also helped numerous women in trouble, or women who wanted to have their own right to choose. When I contacted Brad’s friend by phone he related how he had helped a number of women to have safe legitimate abortions in Nogales, Mexico and outlined how it could be accomplished over a weekend. There was nothing in it for himself other than to ensure medical safety, so he subsequently arranged the appointment for us with his Mexican connection, Dr. Jose Romo De Vivar who completed the circle of the notorious Massachusetts-Mexico illegal abortion ring.

Financing this endeavor was not easy, but I somehow managed to borrow about $1500 from a friend at Duke, the son of a wealthy Jewish lawyer from Northern New Jersey who happened to have had his own relatively flush personal savings account.

I procured airline tickets and successfully communicated with the doctor’s office. That was the easy part.

The hard part was to come later as for one full year after the fact, I ate nothing but small tins of Star Kist Tuna as I had to live on about two dollars a day in order to be able to pay back my friend. Guilt, of course, having played a significant role in this self-imposed sacrifice, I did not ask my girlfriend for a single dime toward our expenses as I assumed complete financial responsibility for my actions. My girlfriend and I double lied by informing our parents that we were going to visit each other. Then I flew to Baltimore where I picked her up, we then flew to Arizona, rented a car and drove over the border to Nogales, Mexico.

Nogales is a twin city. There is the American Nogales that is neat, clean modernly prosperous town. Then, just across the border there is the Mexican Nogales that is filthy, dirty, antiquated and impoverished. Nothing could better highlight the difference between America and the third world than the juxtaposition of these two towns, while nothing could better predict the future mass exodus of Mexican immigrants and illegal aliens than the visible opportunities that beckoned these poor people, who were only separated from a better life by an imaginary line drawn in the sand. The abject poverty and the juxtaposition of these two towns bearing the same name but existing in two diametrically opposed worlds was a startling eye-opener for me, because an International border was the only thing separating a bustling, clean United States village from a dilapidated, run down slum.

It was easy enough to locate the doctor’s office although it first required navigating our way trough a bevy of urchins; street beggars and shoe shine boys who hung on our heels like lampreys.

Among other things, prostitution happened to be a considerable portion of the local underground economy and was not too seriously suppressed by local authorities making the town seem to be a Mecca for U.S. citizens looking for a cheap trick. The street pimps were quite brazen, as exemplified by one of the more pernicious street solicitors, a young boy in his early teens, who nonchalantly approached us and repeatedly proposed:

  • Hey meestah. You wanna fuck my seestah? You can have her for a quarter. An’ don’ worry. You can go upstairs while I stay down here an’ watch your girlfriend. Everything weel be OK. I weel take especial good care of your girlfriend.

Given the circumstances of our situation and purpose, the solicitation was not appreciated, but was not dissimilar to a proposition we got in New York City the next summer when a street solicitor wanted us both to do a screen test for a pornographic film. It must have been something in the way she moved because I knew for sure I didn’t happen to have any of the same ‘je ne se pas de quoi.’ Or as they say in the street vernacular:

  • It must be jelly, ‘cause jam sure ‘nough don’t shake like that.

Even discounting the time value of money, I can hardly imagine what other unsolicited calamity or health hazard might have come along with that quick ride on a twenty-five cent Mexican whore. All I really needed to complete the vision of hell I already thought I was in would be to get an incurable strain of VD, a stolen wallet, no U.S identification, a kidnapped pregnant girlfriend and no way to get back home. Ultimately, although entirely nerve racking, and despite biting my fingernails to nubs while I waited, the D& C was completely uneventful and mercifully uncomplicated, which then allowed us to scramble back to our respective homes.

The entire episode lasted less than 48 hours during which time fortunately no parent had called any other parent while we both went on to make up lies about how great each other’s respective home visits had gone. Putting it all behind us was a great but nevertheless very sobering relief, as well a very harsh lesson in the value of practicing very careful birth control methods.

Thank goodness contraceptive pills soon became readily available and over a short period of time after coming on the market finally lost the stigma that those women who used them were nothing better than street whores, common sluts or lost souls who were doomed forever to roast in hell.

 

Nogales

(Nogales, Mexico / Nogales, Arizona)

 

 

Laid back in an old saloon, with a peso in my hand

Watching flies and children on the street.

And I catch a glimpse of black-eyed girls who giggle when I smile

There’s a little boy who wants to shine my feet.

And it’s three days ride from Bakersfield

And I don’t’ know why I came.

I guess I came to keep from payin’ dues.

So instead I’ve got a bottle and a girl who’s just fourteen

And a damned good case of the Mexicali blues.

Is there anything a man don’t stand to lose

When the devil wants to take it all away

Cherish all your thoughts. Keep a tight grip on your booze

‘Cause thinking and drinking are all I have today.

(John Barlow and Bob Weir: The Grateful Dead: Mexicali Blues)