The Scarlet Letter

The evangelical, right-wing, conservative Pro-Lifers in this country would have you believe that these days the scarlet letter is still an “A”, but instead of standing for “adulteress” it now vilifies those ladies that undergo abortion procedures. Contrary to popular belief (and according to statistics from The Guttmacher Institute), 4 in 10 unplanned pregnancies in the U.S. end in abortion. If the current rate of unintended pregnancy termination continues, 1/3 of America’s women will have had an abortion by the age of 45. 61% of women seeking abortions already have one or more children, which implies that their concern for the welfare of their current offspring plays into their decision to terminate. 78% of the women having abortions in the U.S. report having a religious affiliation but only 33% report ever having been married, which indicates that although most of these ladies got knocked up out-of-wedlock they aren’t the Godless heathens evangelicals would have you believe. Anyhow, my point is that many American women seek out abortion procedures and they aren’t primarily irresponsible atheist ho-bags trying to skirt the repercussions of pre-marital sex. For some reason, anti-choice douche-bag politicians ignore these facts and keep perpetuating the stereotype of ignorant  pregnant women being mislead into aborting by evil clinic workers and left-wing commie bastards, since the women obviously lack the ability to make such a grave decision on their own. When will they learn?

Honestly, once a woman discovers she is knocked up, there is little else you can think about even if you tried. This idea that women don’t (or can’t) weigh the pros and cons of termination before getting an abortion is not only wrong, it is damned right insulting. When I ended up preggo at the age of eighteen, I was fucking scared. I was confused. I was emotionally distraught. This is all true & I am sure that many chicks facing an unintended pregnancy at such a young age have rode a similar emotional roller coaster. Even though I was experiencing the gamut of human emotion, my brain remained fixated on the fate of the pregnancy. I could hardly focus on any other subject, because deciding what I was going to do about my fertilized state was my all-consuming task. I called the Planned Parenthood information hotline 15 or 20 times a day to listen to  pre-recorded statements telling me what to expect if I choose to terminate the pregnancy, what to prepare for if I decided to go through with it, and how I could prevent such a situation in the future. I come from a hilariously dysfunctional family and this was my version of talking things over with an informed trustworthy adult. I spent nearly six weeks as a pregnant teen. Back in the day, when a zygote couldn’t be located on a sonogram, they assumed that you were too early in the pregnancy to terminate & they sent you back home until you were approximately 6-12 weeks along, and this is precisely what happened in my case. I spent the entire six weeks thinking about my decision, possible side effects, unwanted repercussions, and the like. I still believe I made the best decision & that I made it on my own, independent from the input and opinions others made have had on the subject. These days advances in sonogram & hormone detection technology, not to mention the legalization of RU-486 (used for medicinal abortions), has sped up the process a bit, but in this modern age I have witnessed a couple gals grapple with their decision & undergo an abortion. These women spent most of their waking hours thinking about their options, their decisions, their situations just as I did years before. They sought out information and advice, as needed, and eventually made a sound and informed choice to end their pregnancies, just as women have throughout human history. This is why it is so insulting and condescending, personally offensive and down-right ridiculous, when anti-choice legislation is based on the premise that women aren’t able to make judgement calls in the reproductive department without help from the State, their male caretakers, or some other outside moral figure. It just pisses me the fuck off.

The current spark that lit my reproductive freedom flame came out of South Dakota (no surprise there!). Since the failed attempt to criminalize all abortions in the state, anti-choicer's have been on a mission to push their morality down the throats of S.D.’s women, like it or not. They included the same anti-choice proposition on the very next election’s ballot. They drafted & introduced all manner of regulatory legislation. Grassroots opposition has managed to keep most of the bullshit at bay, but unfortunately the moral crusaders managed to get an “informed consent” law on the books in 2005. This nifty piece of legislation requires that doctors performing abortions inform their perspective patients that "abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being” and "that the pregnant woman has an existing relationship with that unborn human being and that the relationship enjoys protection under the United States Constitution and under the laws of South Dakota." The doctor is also required to certify in writing that (S)he "believes she [the pregnant woman] understands the information imparted." The “informed consent” legislation has been tried up in the state’s judicial system since it’s passage and the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals began hearing the arguments in the case since Wednesday. Today, the Appeals Court ruled to uphold South Dakota’s informed consent regulations and was entirely responsible for pissing me off this afternoon. Essentially, South Dakota’s legislature is under the impression that pregnant women are unaware of the gravity of their situation (what pregnancy entails and all that) and are unable to attest to their own understanding of such information. Until a doctor vouches that a woman understands what pregnancy and abortion is, she is unable to make decisions about her own reproductive future. WTF? Haven’t we come far enough to acknowledge the fact that women are capable and competent enough to make their own decisions and govern their own lives, just as we allow men to do? There will always be those friend-of-a-friend girls that are rumored to use abortion as a method of birth control. There will always be a few women that allow boyfriends or parents decide to terminate a pregnancy they may have wanted to continue. There will always be a few exceptions, just as there are dudes that refused or didn’t think to use a condom or guys that didn’t fully understand the birds and the bees before jumping in the sheets. There will always be these exceptions, but most people can (and should) be The Decider in their lives. Politicians & the Powers That Be really need to start respecting our sovereignty and our right to self-determination. They are not elected to office because we need Mommies and Daddies in the Capitol dictating our daily activities. They are there to protect us from the tyranny of State enforced morality and to uphold the Constitution of the United States, which protects our privacy and our independence on such matters as determined by the Supreme Court in Roe vs. Wade nearly 35 f**cking years ago.

In conclusion, here’s a “Fuck That Shit” Award for South Dakota, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, and backwards misogynistic politicians that continue to insist women are all fucking child-like morons. Honorable mentions go to the other southern states with similar “informed consent” legislation – Florida, Oklahoma, Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

Further reading on the subject can be found in the following locations:

- Consenting Adults: An article for The American Prospect by Sarah Blustain explores the legal aspects of the case and what they translate to in laymen’s terms.

- The Guttmacher Institute has an interesting (and informative) policy review, penned by Rachel Benson Gold and Elizabeth Nash, about the principles of informed consent laws.

- had a post back in April, when Oklahoma’s law was passed, that makes some very good points. Read the reader comments for a wider perspective on the matter.

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