Have We Come a Long Way, Baby?

Planning your family -- or planning not to have a family. Whose choice is it?
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Planning your family -- or planning not to have a family. Whose choice is it?

When a woman miscarries during pregnancy she mourns, but she has many supporters. She is "allowed" to be depressed and to share her sadness. However, why is it taboo for a woman who chooses not to become a parent to express those same feelings? A close friend of mine, Chrissy, explained that her abortion was completely necessary because she would not have been able to care for a child at that time in her life. Yet, at times she felt "remorse, doubt and sorrow," which she was not able to share with her close family members due to their disapproval. Had abortion been illegal at the time, Chrissy confided in me, she definitely wouldn't have gone through with it.

The Supreme Court's decision on January 22, 1973 in the Roe vs. Wade case not only legalized but legitimized a woman's right to choose whether she wanted to be a parent or not. Allowing a woman to consider her options regarding her pregnancy gave women like Chrissy the strength to do what she needed and wanted to do.

In the mid 1800s the first anti-abortion movement was introduced in the U.S. led largely by physicians. Women were having abortions or used other means to terminate pregnancies yet it was never spoken about because it was considered obscene. Largely, unwed women that were of lower economic status were those that wanted abortions, yet they found much difficulty in receiving safe, medical abortions. Considering the amount birth planning and abortion services today in the US it is still extremely difficult for non-privileged women to receive funding or access to abortions or clinics.

Back in 1828, New York passed its first anti-abortion law as an attempt to protect the life of the mother from unsafe medical procedures. In these 35 years since Roe v Wade has passed, many pro-life supporters disregard the health of the woman. A bill signed by Governor Mike Rounds on March 6, 2006 in South Dakota, makes abortion illegal in most cases including rape or incest. This bill allows doctors to perform abortions only to save the lives of pregnant women, but encourages them to save the mothers and continues pregnancies.

In the 1800s the United States outlawed the use of birth control. By 1873, the US Congress passed the Comstock Act making it illegal to send "obscene, lewd, and/or lascivious" materials through the mail.

Under this law the definition included (and still includes) contraceptive devices and information regarding birth control. Has the U.S. really made progressive strides to evolve with a changing society? How far is this society from the antiquated laws of the 1800s?

George W.'s war on women began when he stepped into his new office in Washington; when he reinstated the Mexico City Policy. This policy became known as the "gag rule," because it quiets freedom of speech. The gag rule restricts U.S. family planning assistance to provide any services to foreign Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) that use funds to perform abortions except in those cases of rape, incest or to save a woman's life. This policy also prohibits money from being provided to organizations that enable counseling or referral for abortions. Basically, if abstinence is not practiced, the U.S. withdraws funding, as was done in Brazil. Many college campuses in the U.S. stopped distributing oral contraceptives for the same reason. Are we that disillusioned to believe that if we don't see it, it won't happen? Instead of being open about sex, teens and young adults may feel the need to hide their sexual behavior, possibly avoid using contraceptives and risk disease transmissions and unwanted pregnancies.

As a former college party girl who visited her campus women's clinic I was relieved that it provided necessary services to me and other women.

High school sexual education has always been a sensitive issue among parents, teachers and students. What is being taught in schools? Obviously the best way to avoid becoming pregnant and transmitting STDs is to abstain from having sex. Several school districts became embroiled in controversies with students' parents regarding sex education. In Westbrook, Maine parents argue that an abstinence only curriculum should be taught because "comprehensive sexual education curriculums encourage sexual experimentation by sending students mixed signals about what's expected of them." (Education Digest: Essential Readings Condensed for Quick Review, v72 n5 p41-48 Jan 2007)

This reminds me of a hokey cliché my grandmother used to say, "Hear No Evil, See No Evil." What is the future of the U.S. youth? Pregnant teens with STDs without any other options besides carrying an unwanted child or looking for somebody who is handy with a wire hanger?

How far have we really come?

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