Author Topic: Day 2: Terror, Then and Now  (Read 3409 times)

fern hill

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Day 2: Terror, Then and Now
« on: November 24, 2006, 08:18:24 AM »
An email is zipping around the feminist ether from a television documentary researcher who is looking for women who have had abortions. Much like Ms magazine's list of women who had abortions they did not regret, the purpose of the documentary is to give a voice to the people usually not heard from.

I have had two abortions in my life. I regret neither of them, and, in fact, rarely think about them. But since this email crossed my screen yesterday morning, I have been thinking about them.

The first was in 1972. I was 19 and in first-year university. The relationship was about three months old and we had been using condoms. I had had pregnancy scares before but had always been lucky. When pregnancy was confirmed, I was terrified. The Worst Thing had happened.

You see, back in the bad old days, everyone knew or knew of someone to whom The Worst Thing had happened. Most of us knew a few. With different outcomes. The parents of my best friend whisked her off to the UK where abortion was legal. Another girl I knew in highschool disappeared for a year, then reappeared looking wan and sad. Another had a hasty marriage, followed by a 'premature' but surprisingly big and healthy baby.

There was no thought of anything but abortion. I was not going to get married. I had university to finish and a career to get going. No way was I having a baby that I had tried to avoid conceiving.

This was in the time of the 'abortion committee'; three doctors had to agree that your life or health was at risk if you carried on with the pregnancy. I found out how to get an appointment (a scarifyingly long way off, I thought, knowing I had ten weeks, two of which were gone) and waited. Then went to be interviewed by only one doctor, the coldest fish of a human I had ever met. Male, of course.

Where are the other two? I wanted to know. 'You talk to me. I talk to them', I was told. Great. I had only one shot. I was so scared, I could barely speak. I don't remember what I said, but I vividly remember the feeling I carried away. I had blown it. I was going to be turned down.

Now there was another week to wait for the verdict. I was a mess. I didn't go to school, I didn't see anyone. I sat in my room and cried. Finally, I kicked myself in the butt. OK, I said to self, you're going to be turned down. Don't you think you should check out some options?

I called some women's counselling outfit and they gave me the names of a couple of doctors across the border in New York State. They also told me how much it was going to cost. Hundred and fifty bucks, US. OK, I could do the money, but I needed a ride. I lined up a ride then made an appointment at the US clinic. Then I called the number for the 'abortion committee' and told them to take my name off the list. Just on the off-chance I hadn't blown it, I didn't want some other woman to be bumped by my no-show.

The relief was immediate and enormous. The procedure itself was a breeze after the terror of the preceeding weeks.

The second abortion was eight years later. I had gone off the pill because my doctor said my body needed a 'rest'. We were using a diaphragm. And my luck turned bad again. By now, it was far easier to get an abortion in Ontario. My family doctor referred me to an ob/gyn and that was it. I knew exactly what was going to happen, and all was well.

There was no physical trauma, no emotional scarring. I had necessary medical procedures. I talk freely about these experiences when appropriate with friends and online under my handle.

So, yesterday and today, I'm thinking about talking about them on camera, presumably using my face, my voice, and my name.

And I'm struck again with terror. Because bad as the bad old days were, there weren't any clinic bombings in 1972. There weren't any abortion providers being shot, blown up, spat on, stalked. Women entering clinics didn't have to run a gauntlet of hissing, placard-waving haters.

In 1972 and 1979, my abortion years, there was action to extend the availability of abortion, not to restrict it. Feminists were working to improve sex education, counselling, and access for ourselves and, we thought, our daughters and grand-daughters. And things looked pretty good back then. We were winning.

Now I'm 54 years old, married, respectable, yadayada. And I'm scared to talk on television about medical procedures that happened 35 and 27 years ago. Because I'm afraid to come to the attention of the nutbars.  Because the nutbars are seemingly on the ascendancy. The nutbars are calling the tune both here and in the US. The nutbars. . .  No, call them by the correct term -- the terrorists.

Look at these US numbers on 'abortion terrorists' in an article from alternet.

Quote
Since 1977, casualties from this war include seven murders, 17 attempted murders, three kidnappings, 152 assaults, 305 completed or attempted bombings and arsons, 375 invasions, 482 stalking incidents, 380 death threats, 618 bomb threats, 100 acid attacks, and 1,254 acts of vandalism, according to the National Abortion Federation.

Abortion providers and activists received 77 letters threatening anthrax attacks before 9/11, yet the media never considered anthrax threats as terrorism until after 9/11, when such letters were delivered to journalists and members of Congress.


Terror still walks the streets for far too many women. It takes courage to face it and face it down. This December 6 we will again mourn the loss of 14 young women who dared to go to engineering school.

I still hadn't decided whether to participate when the researcher returned my call. I raised my concern and asked if other women she had spoken to had similiar concerns. Not so far, she said.

I wanted to do it, I was afraid of doing it.

I was mostly surprised at my fear. When push came to shove, I was too scared. I thought I was braver, tougher.

skdadl

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Day 2: Terror, Then and Now
« Reply #1 on: November 24, 2006, 08:30:41 AM »
I hope that you put this on the Front Page, fern hill.

I'm not as aware of the active haters who might pose a real-life threat to me as I am of a kind of low-level hostility to anyone who raises women's issues generally. That attitude seems to me to be on the rise. It took me by surprise, and I'm still a bit dumbfounded by it.

Where did it come from? A lot of the defensiveness towards women is coming from people who are certainly not fundies, although I recognize the propaganda role that social conservatives have played. But it is more widespread than that.

If you had been willing to go on the program, fern hill, I would have suggested only one thing further: anticipating any questions the interviewer might ask you about your experiences. You know the kind of thing msm interviewers will do: "But fern hill, a lot of people say ..." -- and then you're listening to one of the prejudices you've fought all your life.

I'm not sure m'self how to fill in the blanks there. What could an interviewer ask that would make a woman feel unprepared?

fern hill

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Day 2: Terror, Then and Now
« Reply #2 on: November 24, 2006, 08:54:21 AM »
Yes, I know the low-level hostility, too. What's surprising to me about it is its casualness, its unconsciousness. It's just there and the people who exhibit it don't seem to realize it.

As for the Front Page, Fearless Leader TOLD ME to put it here. (Aye, aye, ma'am.) And *cough* there are 12 more days, you guys. Me, I am off the hook. :wink:

 

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