Life vs Law

Is it antithetical to believe that life begins at conception and Roe v. Wade is the law of the land?

Perhaps I am paradoxical or unorthodox in my views. I know I would certainly seem so to my ultra-conservative Catholic Church peers here in the South.

I know my beliefs don’t completely comport with the doctrine of my Church.

But then, my Church pays little attention to women unless they have beatific visions of Jesus and Mary, are reformed and penitent prostitutes like Mary Magdalene, or are submitting their beauty and bodies to men in service to God for the purpose of Biblical lineage or the preservation of the nation of Israel (Ruth, Esther).

The real question is: can I be capable of exercising my God given free will versus having my body legislated by the government?

In other words, is my religious freedom trumped by the government’s right to create laws governing my reproductive system when it fails to do the same to men?

First, is this new attempt of states to impose abortion restrictions above and beyond what has already been decided by Roe v. Wade and ensconced in Constitutional law for more than 40 years even legal?

Following the legal tradition of “stare decisis” (following established legal principle), the answer should be “no.” (That legal reasoning was the basis of Justice Roberts’ decision today.)

From the legal ideal we are all “equal in the eyes of the law,” why should women’s bodies be legislated when men’s are not? In equality terms, why should men not be legislated to wear condoms when having sex, to both protect women from the cancer causing effects of the spread of HPV as well as to prevent untimed pregnancies that lead women to the contemplation of abortion?

Even with my own belief that life begins at the moment of conception, I have many mixed reasons for this belief beyond that which my Church tells me I MUST believe.

My birth mother was only 16 when I was born. She once told me that she was allegedly given some kind of medication that was supposed to cause an abortion.

What that concoction could have been in 1953 I do not know. She claims to have flushed it down the toilet.

But little less than a year after I was born, she divorced the man named as my father on my birth certificate and ran off with another, leaving Indiana for Oklahoma and later Texas.

I was raised by my maternal grandfather and his second wife, whom I came to call Dad and Mom, though they were always only my legal guardians and we had different surnames.

When I was about 6 or 7, I learned the truth about my birth in a shocking way. Along with other things told me by my parents as I grew, it led me to wonder if I was so unloveable that my own mother would choose to leave me behind to create a new life, have more children, with another man.

It has interfered with my ability to feel loved, to feel chosen for love, for the rest of my life. It has colored every relationship I have ever had, from boyfriends to my husband, friends in general and even with my own son.

This despite many years of counseling and my ability to recognize my birth mother was simply too young to be a parent; that in all the critical ways, she herself was too undeveloped as a person to carry the burden of mothering.

Yet had she really had a chance to abort me and took it, I would not be here now, writing these words.

I also have scientific sensibilities that lead me to support the idea life begins at conception. We may have scientific names for the stages of a baby’s development: zygote, fetus, etc. And yes, there is the issue of viability of the cellular matter that after 9 months produces a fully developed human being.

But there is also the knowledge that these developmental “stages” are comprised of cellular material that is partly the chromosomes of the mother and the other part that is the father’s that will result in a new and unique person. Not a puppy.

There is also the scientific phenomenon known as “fetal microchimerism” by which there as a transfer of fetal cells to the mother that never leave her, whether she carries that baby to term or not. After six weeks of development, that child is ALWAYS a part of its mother.

Most women are just figuring out they are pregnant at this point.

Why do I advocate condoms as opposed to other forms of birth control? Again this is based on my own life experience.

I did not date in high school. The only information I received about my body was the admonition of the mother who raised me “not to get pregnant” and to learn to type so I could always get a job.

When I was 18 and waitressing, I began a relationship with a man 10 years older than I and a recent Vietnam War Veteran. We were attending the same college and rode back and forth from there to our jobs at the same restaurant.

Of course he wanted a “mature” relationship with me and insisted I get on birth control before we “did anything.”

Dutifully I complied because – love – and was lucky not to get pregnant, because we waited only one month to have sex instead of what I now know should have been two.

Of course, that relationship ended badly; how else could one between a romantically immature teen and an older mature man who had seen war up close and personal?

Later, after I was married and birthed my son, I started using the Copper-7 IUD, then switched to a plastic IUD and finally used a diaphragm and spermicidal control.

By the end of this, I was divorced, ended up having endometriosis (rare in a woman who has had a child) and cysts on my ovaries, things I had not previously experienced.

As a single working mother, I felt I had no choice but to have at first a partial and then a second operation for a full hysterectomy. I wouldn’t let myself think about the little girl I had always wanted to complete my family.

I focused on the child I already had and for whom I needed to provide,  my career, and the occasional, always wrong for me relationship I happened to stumble into out of my own loneliness and need.

The grief for my daughter finally hit me a few years ago. It was as deep and real as the delight I have always had in my son.

I have always wondered whether or not one or all of the artificial contraceptive techniques I used led to my hysterectomy and inability to have more children of my own at 32. I know it did lead to more than 20 years of estrogen replacement therapy I ended up using to avoid the shock of “surgical menopause” at a young age.

Does chemical contraception in women, the insertion of foreign items into our bodies, lead to the higher infertility rates of women who wait to have established careers before children? I don’t know; I confess I have not studied the issue.

But it seems we women always pay a price for our sex: whether it is unwanted pregnancy, complications from artificial birth control or the deep grief felt later for the child that never was.

Still, we should be held equal before the law, on a par with men.

So I will continue to acknowledge Roe v. Wade as law of the land and women as having the right to choose, even though abortion is not a decision I don’t think I would have personally pursued.

But unless and until men are willing to have their ability to sexually reproduce on a par with which they are trying to control women’s, my beliefs are not something I can push on others.

I will always believe in the free will God gave me and everyone else, and pray that others use theirs more wisely than I sometimes used my own.

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