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Thursday, February 23, 2006

Try Standing in Someone Else's Shoes

We knew the issue of choice would be the first thing that the evangelical right tried to hit out of the park after Justice Alito was elevated to the bench. It's one of the main reasons that Jane and I worked our tails off trying to stop the appointment -- and the prior appointment of Justice Roberts. It was a big part of why I hit the pavement and the phone banks and did everything I could for the Kerry campaign for months back in 2004.

Around the time of the Alito vote, I talked about my rationale for being pro-choice. I want to raise a couple of points I discussed then, so I'm going to re-print something I wrote back on January 24th:
Above and beyond the issues of personal liberty and freedom (as though that isn't enough), there are also questions of privacy and choice. I've actually had to spend time with young teens who have been impregnated by family members (father, stepfather, brother) through rape and incest, and then had to make the decision as to whether or not to terminate the pregnancy or carry a child of incest to term for nine long months. I can tell you that it is heartbreaking for everyone involved, no matter what the decision. To try and criminalize someone who has already been victimized in that manner is horrendous -- but to use this issue as a dividing line through inflamatory speech and no compassion for the people facing this heart-rending choice is unconscionable.

That Alito is the number one selection for people like Tom Coburn based solely on whatever wink and a nod someone has given him in a back room that "Alito is one of us" is beyond infuriating.

I don't want people to have more abortions. If I could, I'd wave a wand and make all babies be born under ideal circumstances to parents who would love and care for them.

But I happen to live in the all-too-real world, where sexual abuse and violent rape and all those other nasty things happen, where children wake up and wonder if there will be any food for them to eat -- right here in the US of A -- and where other things that most people can never even imagine happen within families and neighborhoods and all over the place.

And I know enough to know this: I don't speak for God, and neither should anyone else. That's why it is an individual choice -- you make peace with your own soul, your own faith and your own family and friends based on your own, individual and hideous circumstances in each case -- and beyond that, it's no one's business. And I say this as someone who struggled with fertility issues for close to seven years and fully understands how very precious that life is. But I've seen enough horrible things in my life in the law to know that there are just some circumstances where you cannot know unless you happen to be walking in those particular shoes...those very dismal, very difficult shoes.
I want to let you all in on something that I don't talk about very often. I am a rape survivor. It happened when I was very young, and to my lifetime shame, I never reported the rape to law enforcement, because I was too ashamed and was afraid that I would be blamed for it.

As I said, I was young -- but despite how horribly brutal the rape was, I was lucky. I never had to face the choice of an abortion because I did not get pregnant. Thank God.

But every single time I hear someone talk about being pro-life without giving a thought to the woman involved, I cringe. Because I could have easily been impregnated against my will. Violently, viciously impregnated.

And now, some young girl in South Dakota who is raped and finds herself pregnant will be forced to carry the child of her rapist, feeling it grow and move, a daily reminder of the rape -- with the flashbacks, the terror, the nightmares, the gut-wrenching fear -- everything that you have to overcome after being raped, along with handling the emotions and the responsibilities that come along with a pregnancy.

Wealthy women will be able to travel to other states and obtain an abortion. But, as with so many other things, the poor will be disproportionately affected because they will not be able to pay to travel, stay overnight somewhere, have an abortion and then get the necessary adequate follow-up medical care, let alone the necessary counseling.

Poor women will face the unenviable choice of carrying the child of a rapist or a child conceived of incest (imagine the hell of being impregnated by your own father for a moment)...or perhaps the choice of a back-alley, unsafe abortion and then the resulting sterility or worse, an infection that leads to death, that caused abortion laws to be fought so hard for in the 1970s.

Being pro-life does not mean that you can only value the life of the fetus while it is in the womb. If you are pro-life, you have to value all life. You have to work to make life better for all living people. Not just the ones that live in your sterile, gated community or who attend your Laura Ashley-dressed church ladies society or who volunteer at the PTA.

Life is ugly, messy and unfair. Last time I read my Bible, Christ asked his followers to do for the least of his bretheren as they would do for the highest of them.

Last I checked, rape and incest victims didn't ask for the violent, terrifying, horrible action taken against them. But clearly someone in South Dakota disagrees.

Shame on them. And shame on every single "pro-choice" politician who voted for cloture on Alito. Every woman in this nation is about to reap what those politicians so cavilierly have sown. Shame, shame, shame.

I agree with Jane -- put your money where your values are.