Back to Those Shoes…
Back in the days of the Alito confirmation process, and the subsequent vote in South Dakota on an archaic abortion denial law, I wrote a series of posts on how difficult it is to make decisions for someone else without the benefit of being able to stand in their shoes. (See here and here.)
If you have never had to deal with the emotional and physical aftermath of a violent rape, be thankful. What NARAL and Planned Parenthood’s national organizations seem to forget is…there are a LOT of women who can never forget.
No matter how far away from the rape you get, there are things that bring you right back into that moment, and they can be as little as someone touching your arm from behind in a certain way that feels so terrifyingly familiar; or a voice at just the right pitch and tone when you aren’t expecting it; or simply walking out to your car at a time of day when the lighting hits you just right; or, for me, that moment on an elevator when the doors are just about to close, and then someone reaches in to grab it and steps on…and for a moment, I have to gut check to be certain the person is not…well, let’s just say that I gut check and leave it at that.
As I said at the time of the original shoes post:
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….
Strange how we are right back where we started, months later, with two groups that purportedly have a mission that is to support folks in this situation.
Except this time we are talking about a morning after pill, which isn’t even close to an abortion, but which prevents ovulation and, theoretically at least, fertilization. And we are back to Joe Lieberman’s cloture vote — and his constant need to have it both ways, to play both sides of the issue so he covers his ass with everyone.
As I said during the Alito confirmation process, as part of my rationale for opposing his nomination:
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….
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….
That I have to explain this to the national organizations of NARAL and Planned Parenthood — AGAIN — is beyond irritating. And that’s something else that I will not forget — you can bet on it.
A woman who has been raped suffers intense emotional and physical trauma, is often drugged, beaten, stabbed, shot, physically brutalized, and often left for dead. (And I say this having dealt with these types of cases in my criminal legal practice.) That Joe Lieberman would have so little compassion for these women that he would toss off a remark like he did — just get up from the hospital and take a short ride or walk to another one (never mind that it is not a short walk after all) — is appalling enough.
But when you add in the emotional indignity and the physical discomfort of a pelvic examination in the wake of a rape at the hospital, the trauma of having to give the police all the details as you relive the rape step by step, the evidentiary rape kit swabbing that is both invasive and humiliating, and having to confront your family and friends, some of whom are often less than supportive to some women…sure, just get right up off the hospital gurney and hail a cab or take a hike.
Did I mention that violent rapists are also like to rob you blind after they soil your body? So, hopefully you’ve tucked away some cab fare in a secret stash somewhere, because your money, your credit cards, your ATM card, and your car keys are more than likely long gone, honey. Or maybe your vaginal tearing and bruises aren’t so bad that walking won’t be too uncomfortable — and hopefully your rapist has left you with some clothes intact, because those hospital gowns can be a little breezy, especially in New England in the wintertime.
You ask why Jane or I find this rationale on the part of Lieberman, NARAL and Planned Parenthood so appalling? That’s why. I’m pissed. And someone had better damn well not tell me to calm down about this, because this is going to be on a high boil for a long, long time.