No one knows what it is like to be a woman, except a woman. This seems to be such an obvious statement; so, why are so many men claiming to be experts on the functions of the woman’s body?
They are so knowledgeable that they are rushing to make statements and pass laws concerning our bodies. One man, Rep. Todd Akin, notoriously got it wrong when he claimed that few women get pregnant when they are raped.
Men have no idea of the physical pain and emotional upheaval our bodies cause us. A woman’s decision whether or not to have children and when is a very personal and emotional decision, one that no man can even begin to understand. Men can never know how much a woman loves and worries about her family. The hours spent caring for her family and creating a safe and nurturing home for them are all part of a woman’s nature. I sometimes think it must be built into her DNA. There must be a mysterious Mom gene that hasn’t yet been identified.
Decisions are not black and white
No matter how loving, caring, and devoted a woman may be, there are times when some women must face a gut-wrenching decision whether or not to bring a child into this world. Every circumstance is as unique as a woman’s fingerprints. I can’t imagine there has ever been a woman who did not face such a decision lightly. It would be easy if the world and its decisions were all black and white—a right and a wrong answer—but it never is.
Let me say right here, before you jump to conclusions, I am not advocating abortion. But I am asking for the right to be able to make our own decisions that will affect the rest of our lives and the future of many others. I am not against pro-life; rather, I am for pro-choice. I feel a woman should be able to make her own decisions concerning her body, especially in cases of rape and incest.
A neighbor’s painful journey
I never gave the debate over pro-choice versus pro-life much thought until a neighbor told me of her very personal and painful journey. She was a young elementary teacher who found herself pregnant at the same time there was a rubella epidemic in her school. Rubella has been known to cause birth defects so she had herself tested and, yes, she had contracted rubella and they thought the fetus was affected. This was in the ‘70’s before Roe v. Wade and she had to petition the legislature before she could have an abortion. She had to undergo three tests with at least two out of the three showing positive results. Each test had to be spaced a few weeks apart and during this whole process she agonized over the results and decisions.
During this time she visited the school for the blind and the deaf where many of the students had been exposed to rubella while in the womb. This experience convinced her to terminate the pregnancy. She knew if she had a physically and/or mentally handicapped child she would never be able to bring herself to have another child. As we looked at her two healthy children playing in the yard, with tears in our eyes, she said she knew she made the right decision.
No one can know the fear, anguish, sleepless nights, and heart break she suffered. She put herself through this long and difficult process because she felt in her heart it was not fair to the child to bring it into this world with so much against it.
Her story moved me to the point that I became a believer in pro-choice. If this had happened to her during a time of legal abortions, she would not have had to undergo the humiliating experience of petitioning the legislature and endure the long wait for the testing, results, and finally the legislature’s decision. One look at the pain in her face told me the process had not been easy for her.
Rep. Akin and VP candidate Ryan sponsored “personhood” bill
Now women are faced with the prospect of NO legalized abortions—even in the case of rape or incest. By now we all know of the statement by Rep. Akin saying that a woman’s body has a way of shutting down in case of rape to prevent pregnancy. But did you know that vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan and Rep. Todd Akin have worked together in the past to cosponsor a “personhood” bill that would not only prevent rape victims from terminating the pregnancy but would also treat any abortions resulting from rape as a homicide crime. In addition they also sponsored a bill to prevent Medicaid recipients who are raped from obtaining an abortion unless it is a “forcible rape.”
What does that mean? Are we now at the point that we are defining degrees of rape? Rape is rape. Ryan admitted this in a recent interview however he also said that he still stands behind his position on abortion. In another interview Ryan stated that rape is just another form of conception. As a woman I find these words and attitude too cavalier and offensive.
Several terms have been tossed about recently in connection with rape. We have heard forcible rape, legitimate rape, and statutory rape. What do these terms mean? Let’s take the easy term first—statutory rape. The legal definition of statutory rape is sexual intercourse with a person (girl or boy) who has not reached the age of consent. Rape is legally defined as the crime of forcing a woman to submit to sexual intercourse against her will. If this is the definition of rape why do we need to add the term forcible or legitimate to it? Does this mean that if a woman didn’t fight hard enough then it is considered legitimate? To examine this further, one of the definitions of legitimate is complying with the law, or having official status defined by law or complying with recognized rules, standards, or traditions.
As you can see, by adding qualifying adjectives we are opening Pandora’s Box. Rape is rape. So where did Rep. Akin and his colleagues get the idea that a woman’s body shuts down and does not become pregnant after a rape? The St. Louis Post-Dispatch looked into this and found the origins of this claim. It comes from a 1972 article by Dr. Fred Mecklenburg titled “The Indications for Induced Abortion: A Physician’s Perspective” published in Abortion and Social Justice compiled by Dr. Thomas W. Hilger. In his piece he states—a woman exposed to rape, “will not ovulate even if she is ‘scheduled’ to.”
Digging deeper they found this statement came from a study done by Nazi doctors. Dr. Mecklenburg, who wrote the paper, says “the doctors tested their hypothesis ‘by selecting women who were about to ovulate and sending them to the gas chambers, only to bring them back after their realistic mock-killing, to see what the effect this had on their ovulatory patterns. An extremely high percentage of these women did not ovulate.”
There are two major problems with this theory. The first is that these women were malnourished and the second is they were abused and both conditions have been known to cause infertility. The Post-Dispatch quoted Dr. Barbara Levy, vice president for health policy at the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists:
“From a scientific standpoint, what’s legitimate and fair to say is that a woman who is raped has the same chances of getting pregnant as a woman who engaged in consensual intercourse during the same time in her menstrual cycle.”
Love, understanding and counseling needed
We will hear a lot about this topic in the future. Rather than rushing to judgment to condemn and convict women who seek abortions, wouldn’t love, understanding and counseling (without preaching) be better? These decisions are never easy and we don’t live in a black and white world.