discomfort (2006-16)

The “A” Word

Can you say it?

by Steve Dupree

So, I’m sitting at my favorite pub a while back on what is normally an off night for me (an off night being one in which I’m not guaranteed to be at the pub). Somehow, standoffish type that I am, I end up in a conversation with a stranger who is just briefly here in town. Because I ignore dumb pseudo-rules, and because I value democracy, when political subjects come up, we do not shy away—even though we’re in a bar.

Lo and behold, the gent is a Republican. Not just any Republican, mind you, this guy is a true believer. If Karl Rove (or his mindless and soulless avatar G. Dumya) said it, well then it must by Gawd be gospel! That was an embarrassingly large part of his argument during the course of our conversation—some statement or other about how if the administration said it, and since clearly its members are above reproach and/or suspicion, then it is obviously so.

People like that make me fear for my democracy. They really do. Their lack of informed opinion and willingness to latch onto a politician or party and swallow whole hog whatever swill they put out there can neither be good for us nor encouraging for developing democracies. I had to try to turn on a light in there somehow.

Eventually, the subject of abortion comes up. The gentleman allows that he has two daughters and that he has raised them so as to understand that abortion is not an option. He says that he’s taught them to value life, that he has discussed it with them and is absolutely sure that they understand.

By now, I’m getting desperate to find that light switch, and I think I see an opening here. So I ask the gent a question that comes to me on the spot. I want all of you to answer the question honestly as well. You don’t have to answer it to me; answer it to yourself.

I say to him, what if the unthinkable happens, if despite all of his good work, one of his daughters should, like so many others, discover that weakness of flesh and succumb to the ministrations of some young man. What if proper precautions were not taken, or they somehow failed. What if his daughter turned up pregnant. (No, that isn’t the question; that is just the setup.)

Then I ask, “What if she goes against everything you stand for and everything you have taught her and decides to get an abortion? Do you think that your daughter should get the death penalty if that happens?”

We have all heard about back-alley abortions. Allusions are made to coat hangers and unsanitary conditions. It isn’t hard to envision something going horribly wrong and there being the double whammy of not having a medical institution around to fix it, and the performer being reluctant to admit to having participated in an illegal act. Death for the pregnant woman during illicit abortions was not uncommon in the past when they were illegal, so I felt it was, and is, a fair question.

There’s a short silence. Then we’re discussing again, but the question has not been answered. So, I return to it. Again. And again. Never will the gentleman answer the question. For all I know, he may actually be refusing to frame the situation in his mind. I can’t read minds, but it really looks like he’s avoiding even thinking about the scenario I described. Of course, as I said, I can’t read minds. He could well have been in serious internal anguish and may remain so to this day. I imagine that I will never know. I hope that he could not avoid thinking about it and eventually had to tell himself the truth of how he felt.

I sincerely hope that the gentleman never has reason to identify with my scenario. I hope that none of you do. But I do hope that you will all consider the question. It is easy to spout your disbelief in the rightness or necessity of a procedure that you will never need. If Roe v. Wade were overturned tomorrow, it will not affect my ability to get pregnant. However, I have some family members I would really rather not see consigned to the morgue if it can be avoided. I think the world would truly be a worse place without some of my friends who are of an age and gender that pregnancy is possible and of an intellect and mindset that significant societal contributions are likely. I do not wish to see them discarded.

The wealthy have always had options. They can get on a plane and in hours be in a nation where abortion is legal and safe. They can do it quickly enough that they might need to be gone less than a full day if they make prior arrangements. They simply will not be in the back alleys for their “procedure”.

If you have verbalized in opposition to abortion, you need to be able to answer the question. Consider your daughter, your sister, your friend, or heroine. Are you also willing to have them pay with their lives for getting an abortion, or do you favor the death penalty only for poor people?