Saturday, June 6, 2009

Domestic Terrorism

As soon as I heard about the killing of Dr. Tiller, I thought, "Domestic terrorism."

Although I am a card-carrying member of NARAL Pro-Choice America, I always had qualms about late-term abortion. The murder of this man has brought some facts to light about this procedure. Now that I have read stories about what drove women to seek out late-term abortion, I firmly believe that the state has no grounds for interfering in a woman's decision, even in this case. This procedure must remain safe and legal.

I'm ambivalent about abortion. I wish it were never necessary. Like President Clinton, I want it to be "rare and safe," but we live in the real world. It's a necessary safety valve.

I can tell you three stories from my own experience. Both grandmothers and my mother had abortions. My maternal grandmother started married life in Cambridge Springs, PA, which was then a resort town. She and her husband lived with his mother. When grandmother got pregnant, her mother-in-law said, "You'll not have that baby in this house!" I was in my mid-30's when Grandmother told me this story. I pictured Great-Grandmother standing at her front door, sternly pointing out into the stormy night, as the young couple slunk away.

"No, not at all," said Grandmother, "I just went to see this doctor in Cambridge Springs, who performed D&C's all the time." Such things were possible in pre-World War I Cambridge Springs.

My paternal grandmother, Grammy, made no bones about it: "I never wanted children, " she'd say, when she'd had one drink too many. Nevertheless, she bore two sons in her early twenties, 16 months apart. These unplanned pregnancies nearly broke up the marriage. She loved her boys, but she never had any more children. Mother told me disapprovingly that Grammy "got rid of" the others. I'm sure contraceptive devices, such as the diaphragm, were available, if you could somehow get one. The laws of that time made it nearly impossible. The founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger, spent time in jail for providing women with contraceptives.

During the Depression and leading up the World War II, abortion went underground. My dad, like his mother, did not want children. Mother wanted a large family. Eventually, they had two daughters, and eventually, they divorced. Early in their marriage, my dad convinced my mother to abort her first pregnancy. She said it was a humiliating and horrifying experience, performed in a back-alley room without pain relief of any kind.

I'm still ambivalent about abortion, but not about a woman's right to choose. I grieve for Dr. Tiller and his family and shudder to think of the terror that haunts others who provide this service.


Xanadu said...

What's so ironic about the Dr. Tiller incident, is that THEY don't want him killing babies, so they in turn kill HIM? Yeah, that's justified, isn't it? Hugs.

Lena said...

What a well written and thought provoking piece!

It is rare for a family to share that kind of information, so I am impressed that your family talked so openly about it.

Nan said...

I think killing is killing whether it is a doctor, or other person or an unborn baby. While I feel that some certain health concerns may warrant certain actions. I think that it should be a very rare thing to have an abortion. Before contraceptives were available I can understand that women did desperate things, but I feel that too often, there is a lack of responsiblility these days and then the end result is an un-called for abortion. There is such a thing as personal responsibility for ones actions that many do not take these days and the end result is the baby pays for that lack of responsibility. Either way, I dont think it should be taken as lightly as I have seen among some these days. What you shared here is very thought provoking ...a good insight into what women dealt with in days gone by and all we can do is make the best decision we can for ourselves at the time but I dont think that is always the case right now. Too much irresponsibility. There are too many contraceptives these days for so many abortions to be happening.

forsythia said...

Xanadu, Yes, it is indeed ironic. The man who killed the doctor sounds as if he is mentally unbalanced.

Lena, Thank you for your comment, although I have to point out that Mother, divorced at the time she told me, thought she was telling me something bad about her former mother-in-law. Kids whose parents are divorced soon learn to tune out half of this stuff. :-)

Nan, I agree. I wish women would take care of themselves, never risking pregnancy when they do not want a child. I wish abortion were as rare as unicorns.

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

I think I'm slowly coming around to your position on this (after having spent most of my life unequivocably pro-life). But even in my most fundamentalist days, I would never have thought killing an abortion provider was justified.

PseudoPiskie said...

Years ago Mom wanted to volunteer with Planned Parenthood but they wouldn't allow her. She always advocated for teaching the men to take responsibility by using "rubbers" if they didn't want to be fathers. The idea that men might be told that was not what PP wanted. Sixty years later it is still a major part of the problem and still basically ignored.