When I was young, before I was married, I took care of a friend who needed to get an abortion. She was a very good girl in a very tough situation. She struggled with herself about her decision, and no one tried to prevent her from doing what, in the end, she felt she must.
This is not about her.
When I was young, before I was married, I missed my period. I was a good girl who almost never had more than one boyfriend at a time. After many sleepless nights it finally became clear that I wasn't pregnant, I didn't need an abortion. But if I had needed one, no one would have stopped me from doing it.
This is not about me. Well not exactly.
Because we were the lucky ones. Girls who grew up during a time when a woman's right to control whether or not she became pregnant had finally become so acceptable as to become law.
How could things change so much in so little time? How could we get to the point where a large part of the collective "we" doesn't want to teach children sex education? Doesn't want to provide women with access to even the most basic birth control, and are fine with big corporations deciding what, if any, access to birth control their employees can get under their insurance (as long as their motivations are right and religious).
We seem to be sliding headfirst into an age where we don't want to provide women with abortions, ever. Except maybe, sometimes, if something really really bad has happened. Something, worse than rape. Something, worse than mortal genetic deformities. No, I can't actually imagine what those things are.
This is what the Republican Party of Wingnuts has come to. With plans that ensure our girls grow up ignorant, pregnant and broke. As Marie Antoinette never said "Let them eat abstinence."
I have always worried about my country, but never more than I do today. Yes, the party has been taken over by extremists, but they don't represent the majority. I've seen the polls, America is evolving. We are becoming more open to gay marriage. We are less racist. We are increasingly worried about the environment. We are supportive of sex education and women's rights. If I only read polls, if I never watched the news, I might think we were headed in the right direction.
So whose story is this and what is my point? It's the most important story of my life, because it's my girls' future story, most immediately my eldest. I have a fourteen year old girl who, as she reminded me the other night, has had more than one boyfriend. Now the first three boyfriends were texting boyfriends. Real in spirit, real in emotion, but not physically present, which as you and I both know, matters a lot. You can't get knocked up by Casper the Invisible Boyfriend.
But the fourth boyfriend was flesh and blood. No virtualness about it, he was a real boy. And while one thing could have led to another, nothing ever went too far. Which is good because she knows that I would kick the stuffing out of her if it did. And yes, the words I actually used with her were considerably stronger than "stuffing" because this subject really, really matters.
But nothing went too far. She came home from vacation much as she left, in all the ways I'm depending on.
Does she know to say no?
Of course she does.
Will she say always say no?
Now, let's not be silly.
She is fourteen. She will get older.
And while she and I talk, and she is super smart, and I don't think she would do anything stupid, stupid things sometimes happen. For example, she knows she is not allowed to have food in her room, that food attracts rodents and we already have rodents in the garage. It wouldn't take much to gnaw through the wall of the garage to the wall of her room. And yet I have found food in there. Chocolate. Doritos. Vitamin water. Things that smell irresistibly delicious to four- and six-legged creatures.
She does not want to sleep with rodents, she does not want to sleep with ants. But still she occasionally sneaks food to her room. In her 14 year-old developing sense of denial, she does not believe the bad thing will happen. The rodents will not smell the food. They will not gnaw through the wall, they will not scamper across her room.
And maybe they won't because I am like the freaking gestapo when it comes to food in rooms. I search, I interrogate, I confiscate. I vacuum. So maybe they won't come.
And god willing, my girl will turn out to be as smart as I think she is. She will delay a long time before taking one of the most irreversible steps of growing up. She won't give in to pressure from boyfriends, from girlfriends, from the Vampire Diaries and Twilight and the sense of romantic inevitability that comes from teen chicklit.
But not forever.
What happens in 2-3 years? By then we will have talked many, many times about birth control, about being prudent with boys, about not accepting drinks/pills/ingestibles from strangers, etc. Those seeds are planted now and my job, like so many mothers before me, is to make sure they take root so that she can take care of herself.
Still, bad things sometimes happen.
And if she grew up when I grew up, in the relative safety of Roe vs. Wade, something could be done to keep the very bad thing from becoming even more horrifically and permanently life-changing.
But today the political conversation includes terms like "forcible" and "legitimate" rape. As if there was a rape that was more acceptable, less violent, less wrong. There are "legitimate" politicians whose understanding of science is so flawed that they doubt the theory of evolution, doubt global warming, and doubt that a woman can become pregnant as a result of rape.
Today there are 14 states with laws that are considered unconstitutional criminal bans on abortion. Eight of these states ban without any exception for a woman's health. Candidates for World Leadership Romney and Ryan both want to ban abortion. Dougie Ryan, Mr Heartbeat Away from the Presidency candidate, is even more terrifying and extreme than Romney. He's one of those "not even if the woman's life is in danger" people. I wouldn't at all be surprised if his next big idea was to throw women into the river to see if they're witches (next stop, the burning stake).
And when I think of those two getting elected, I don't think about myself, or my friend, or the thousands of other women who have stayed up long nights, engaged in terrible inner conversations, debating what ifs before deciding to do whatever they end up deciding. I think about my daughters. I think about driving to Canada, driving to Mexico, flying to France. Because even though my girls know better and will take precautions and are exceedingly well educated, there is always a risk.
This is a game that requires skin in it, and if you don't actually come with a vagina as part of your original manufacturer's equipment, don't try to tell me what it's like to have a vaginal ultrasound. Don't tell me what it's like to wait 24-48 hours in a strange town where you have no money and no friends just so you can "think about" what you're about to do before you accomplish your desperate mission. Don't tell me what it's like to wait nine months to give birth to your rapist's baby. Until or unless you are able to make that baby within your own body, and face these decisions first hand, I'm afraid I'm going to have to seriously discount your opinion. You can only kind of relate.
But I do and I can. And my skin is in this for my girls' sake. So there can be one less thing for them to risk their precious lives over.