Sunday, February 27, 2011

I stand here.

Watch out, this one's a doozy. If you don't feel like thinking of serious things, please skip it.

I was originally planning yet another adventure post, perhaps even the seemingly elusive "Sisterhood-post", but when I got home yesterday, two things happened.

First, there was a letter from Planned Parenthood waiting in the pile of mail on the kitchen table, reminding me that it was time for my annual check-up. As a (relatively) poor woman without insurance in These United States, they are my sole mainstream health-care provider.

Second, as I began to wade trough the pile of virtual mail that had stacked up in my absence, I came upon a message from a friend telling me that the House of Representatives had passed a bill to cut all federal funding for Planned Parenthood and that there was a letter I could sign.

Now, it is obvious that the House of Representatives isn't actually trying to ban me from getting my annual pap-smear, though they would probably like it better if I would go ahead and get one from a private entity, thus stimulating the economy. (Unfortunately I like a lot of women in my financial bracket I might just go to bi-annual examinations were I forced to do so.)

What the Republican majority is attacking, albeit in a very indirect manner, is the arm of Planned Parenthood that offers women options. Or to put it more bluntly: abortions. This in spite the fact that federal funding in no way directly funds those services, it is those very services that The House is looking to cut millions of women off of. Me losing my affordable examination is just a side effect of that goal.

Here's one of the lines that divide people so sharply in this country. You can either be "pro-life", or "pro-choice". Most likely the group you identify with defines your opinion on Planned Parenthood.

In a country very much enamored with the idea of freedom of choice in everything for everyone, those who, like myself, believe the right to terminate a pregnancy the fundamental right of women, like to refer to it as "a woman's choice". Those who claim abortion should not be a choice we can make as free individuals claim that it is an act equivalent to pre-meditated murder. For a lot of people this is more or less the crux of the whole argument; whether one believes that in one way or another, each unique, individual life begins at the moment of conception and to vanquish it is to kill a whole human being. I believe it is a little more complicated than that.

Like most American debates in the public sphere these days, this one too seems to go to whoever happens to be shouting the loudest at any given moment. And many (if not most) of the people doing the debating have no first-hand knowledge of physical, emotional and financial implications of the very procedure they are debating over.

I do. When I was twenty-three, I had an abortion. I was lucky enough to have it in a country where all women's reproductive health services (all of everyone's health services, in fact) were readily available and free, thanks to being funded by the government. The procedure was relatively easy to procure, I was well taken care of, and there was minimal social stigma.

I recently read a article in MoJo about Harod Cassidy, a lawyer who's mission is to seek out women who've had a bad, emotionally scarring abortion experiences and then tout them as examples of the ills of abortion. His thesis: abortion is bad for women. It effects their mental health. No kidding. Having an abortion was probably the hardest decision I have ever had to make, and I did not had to make it with tens of millions of people screaming into my ear that what I was considering doing was morally wrong, possibly murder. I was not denied service by someone pretending to be a provider, forced to look at a sonogram image of the baby, or go through lengthy "counseling" to prove to me that what I was doing was wrong.

Not that any of this would have done any good in convincing me. I already knew that my baby had fingernails (A popular tactic, who's triumph over fictional teen-pregnancy poster-child Juno, always drove me crazy.), and I already believed that I was terminating a unique life that I would have loved and cared and fought to death for had they been born. I made a conscious decision to watch the sonogram image just to be absolutely sure of my choice. I even intuitively knew that she was a girl.

And I was sure. When I got pregnant I was living paycheck to paycheck in a foreign country, with nothing to my name, suffering from some fairly intense mental problems and the "father to be" was a worthless piece of string, whom I did not love, and who I later learned had already managed (and trust me, I grew up in a nation where they do teach you about contraceptives, so I did not pull a Juno) to father a child he rarely saw.

Without going too much further into my life circumstances at the time, I will just say that I've never regretted having an abortion. In the nine years (this March) that have passed since then, I've thought of my "baby" if not daily, then at least weekly. I think of her with great tenderness and not a little sorrow. And, each time I think of her, I absolutely know that I did the right thing.

For a split second I considered adoption, but I had enough self-awareness to know that I could not be that selfless. Suffice to say: I pondered the options as long as I could and determined that they would all crush me, but this one the least. I made a choice. It was to save my own life.

What Mr. Cassidy and various other "pro-lifers" concerned for the lives of innocents fail to note is that there are already a number of things that adversely effect women's emotional lives, some of which might cause them to be in a position to need an abortion to begin with. Furthermore, they are saying that women on the whole cannot be trusted to make choices for themselves, but rather these choices should be limited by kind, concerned legislators, most of them men.

It is never the legislators, or the outraged public who's votes they crusade for, who have to deal with the consequences of an unwanted pregnancy, whether it is terminated or not. And until we as a society start taking responsibility for all lives, not just those unborn, I feel there is no argument that can convince me that abortion is wrong. Just as there is no argument on the other side that can convince me that each child conceived is not indeed a unique life of their own.

I would love to live in a world where abortion didn't exist. A perfect world where the many causes of unwanted pregnancy would have simply vanished; poverty, mental illness, ignorance, rape, prejudice, societal malaise, all gone. But we don't live in a perfect world, or even a world where we as a society are actively trying to fix these problems. We're just looking to blame someone, and who's easier to target than already downtrodden women and, by proxy, those who are trying to help them?

If you want to stand here with me here's how again. If you don't, I totally understand.

Edit: I would like to thank everyone for their heartfelt comments, stories and support. I'm very touched by the personal stories on abortion, the difference PP has made in your lives and your beliefs on this loaded issue.

I would especially like to salute two ladies seemingly on the opposite ends of the spectrum: Bellisimama who talks about her experience here and Anne who left a beautiful comment identifying herself as pro-life. Thank you Bellisimama for your honesty and Anne for believing that we can have a dialogue in a non-judgemental sisterly manner and get that much closer to understanding one another.

Lots of love and light to all you beautiful girls.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


As Clover (if you don't know who Clover is you're hopelessly out of the loop ;) might say: Actually I'm too tired and blissed- out and missing my sisters to even post, but I figured I better tell tale of our travels down here before we head back up the coast towards the foggy shores of Washington.

I apologize if this post is scarce in words and a little silly for the above reasons. It will beplentiful in pictures.
As anyone who's ever travelled on it knows, the Oregon coast is a world of wonder: misty pines giving way rocky shores and sandy beaches as far as the eye can see. It's damn near impossible not to stop every five miles or so to gawk at the scenery, have an ice cream cone in the deserted sea-shore towns, or ramble through junk shops. At least if you're us.
Here's the Oregon coast
Sunset Drive
We're really cute now give us our green card
Our first night there we camped at Cape Lookout, where a freak sneaker wave caught up with us shortly after this picture was taken. Our boots didn't really get dry until the second night at Missa's house.
Before the way
One of the things I love about this wild West is that there are awesome murals everywhere. It's my dream to do a little book of them. The best ones are always in little podunk towns.
Yeah, I really am a spazz
Sometimes I wish I wasn't such an awkward dork when someone else takes my picture. In the next few days you will wish this too...
Midway through our second day we stopped at a place called Devil's Gulch. There's surprisingly many places in Oregon who's names evoke the dark lord. I wonder why that is?
Devil's Gulch
Camping can be scarce in Oregon during the winter and by the second night we made it to the sand dunes where we camped by the Umpqua lighthouse. The campground was really quaint, with 50s style out-buildings, yurts, cabins and tent-sites all mixed with well-tended fruit trees and trimmed hedges. There was also a lovely little lake there and a creek that ran behind our campsite. Oh, and did I mention free showers? Oregon is the bomb for cheap camping.

I wasn't that impressed with the dunes though. Too many dune buggies wrecking the tiny life.
The next day we lit out early, and after some coffee, history lessons (the whole place burned down and had to be rebuilt) and pastries at a local hot spot in Bandon (by the beach) the wether got awesomely stormy.
Stormy weather
Faces in the rocks
They call it "Facerock". Pretty accurate, wouldn't you say?
After rounding the mountain behind me (I can't think of it's name right now, but the only and awesome campground between the dunes and the Cali border was there. And it was closed.), we managed to shake the weather. It became sunny and warm and lovely as we headed to Arizona Beach, a campground recommended to us by a friend who said it was absolutely beautiful, camping right on shore.


He wasn't kidding either; it was hands-down one of the most amazing beaches I've ever seen. In a little valley giving out to sand formations and endless shore.
Trouble was it had been a few years since our friend camped here. About fifteen to be exact.
There was no more campground, which was probably a good thing for the place, but still we briefly considered trying to sneak our little tent in. Sometimes it's hard to be good park-keepers and not brake the rules. All the same, we were so happy to have come there.
Now I pulling out of there, I thought this lion-shaped rock was pretty odd, but compared to what waited around the bend it's actually just average.

Methinks that if fifty years ago, you were the proprietor of the only Dinosaur Park for a hundred miles, next to a sweet campground, it was probably a pretty lucrative venture...
Not only am I a dork, I'm also a goof. So I thought this was hilarious.
Our crossing into the golden state of California was fairly uneventful, but before all it's splendor I do have a little travel tip to share: if you're ever near the town of Ophir on a Saturday, best check out the animal shelter thrift store. There's gold in them hills. Or at least home-made 70s clothes and books for 25 cents...
Beneath the trees
Here's where we pitched our tent upon arrival: The Jedediah Smith State Park. Not only do you get to camp in the redwoods, you are right by a river so clear you want to drink right out of it. It was our plan to stay awhile, relax, do crafts and explore and read our newly acquired folklore from America's glory days (thanks Ophir!).
Busy bee
Clear water
Who's there
someone's house
Rocky shore
Sun bathing
Laying on the beach
Folk lore
Sun bathing
Before the accident
I'd like to say all went as planned, and in part it did, but shortly after the taking of this picture on our second night there, C. cut himself with his crook-knife and we had to spend the rest of the night in the emergency room getting seven stitches. Needles to say that this was when we high-tailed it to Missa and Lucas', warm, cozy and endlessly entertaining (provided by Clover) home. Ever tried to keep stitches dry in a rain forest? Yep.
I'm small
A little piece of us remains in these woods though and we hope to return on our way back. Provided that it doesn't snow or something.

I'll see you in a week, but I'm pretty sure there'll be other amazing sources for what happened next on this adventure...I for one can't wait to find out.