Tierra Encantada

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

On the Anniversary of Roe v. Wade

I've been wanting to write about an experience I had on this most recent anniversary of Roe v. Wade, but being such a highly controversial subject, I wanted to give it time and care.

I happened to have an appointment with my primary care physician on 1/22/2008, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. My PCP also happens to be the only doctor (at least that I know of) in the city who performs abortions. I am used to seeing a protestor or two out on the highway with signs depicting mangled, bloody babies, far too well formed to represent aborted fetuses, and as gross and unrealistic as it is, I believe in the freedom of speech. On this day, there were far more protestors that usual. What initally drew my attention was the number of cars parked on the side of the road. I thought perhaps there had been a traffic accident. It was only when I stopped in the turning lane to pull into the complex that I realized they were protestors.

The parking lot happened to be packed and had to park a good distance away. I had to carefully trek my way up to the row of offices to avoid slipping on the ice. As I walked up the steps to get to the sidewalk lining the front of the various offices I was approached by a man and woman. They said hello and I reciprocated trying to be friendly. The woman then followed behind, even before I was at my PCPs office to tell me that they would be there to talk to me when I came back out about options and that they only wanted what was best for me and my family. Needless to say I was filled with shock, horror and anger all at the same time and walked away and only turned around once I was at the door and feebly managed to say, "She's my PCP, why do you people bug?" Here I am to get my blood pressure checked and I was sure it had just gone through the roof.

I think the first swell of emotion came from the fact that those two people made a judgement and an assumption about me that was not true. First, I'm not pregnant or even sexually active for that matter. Second, I am not sure that I personally could ever have an abortion - I don't think any woman really knows what she would or wouldn't do until she is faced with that decision.

The second swell of emotion came from their ignorance. This doctor is a PCP who happens to offer a service that no one else is willing to provide, at least openly, in an area that is already short of medical professionals of all sorts. She runs a good practice, I get excellent medical care and never have to wait long as they do not overscheduled patients like most doctors do. I have recommended her practice to several people with the warning that she does provide abortion services in the event they have a problem with that. The people I have referred have been nothing but happy with the level of care her office has provided them. Most people walking into that office are regular patients, they are not there to have an abortion.

The third swell of emotion came from the fact this woman said she wanted what was best for me and my family. You already know I am suspicious of people and I can't help but feel like people who spend their time trying to intimidate others are lying when they say they want what is best for someone. Often the biggest opponents of abortion are also the same people that support the death penalty and the war in Iraq, then oppose universal health care, welfare and social services. On so many obvious levels there is contradiction and hypocrisy there.

If I give these people the benefit of the doubt and they really do care and want what is best for someone, how can they really help? They aren't going to help anyone support a child for 18 years or change the person's life situations that cause them to consider abortion in the first place are they? They can't play God and make a deformed or unviable fetus healthy, can they? If they are so full of compassion, can they just be content to comfort you in situations where abortion is the best option for you and your family?

As hard as I try, I cannot see abortion in terms of being only a moral issue; it is also a medical issue, an emotional issue, a financial issue, a safety issue, a health and well being issue, a major life determining issue. Personally, I cannot have so little compassion for the human condition to think that it is a clear cut matter. People that protest in front of doctor's offices and abortion clinics have no clue what each person facing that decision is dealing with.

When I did see the LNP, she commented that my blood pressure was quite low, I told her I was surprised considering the experience I had right before walking in the office. We talked some about why people makes the decision to have an abortion and the fact that the protestors don't know what people are facing. Some people are carrying babies that have severe defects or deformities, sometimes the mother's health is in danger, some are victims of rape or incest, some are in abusive relationships, some cannot financially or emotionally support a child or another child, some miscarry and require a D&C or D&E. There are so many reasons. I can only imagine that it must be one of the most difficut decisions a woman has to make and ultimately they are guided by their conscience and desire to make the best decision they can in their circumstances.

It is inconceivable to me that some people could be so cruel, so inhumane, as to want to force a woman to attempt to carry to term a baby that would be born with severe defects or deformities or to carry the fetus until it inevitably died inside of her, to expect that a victim of rape or incest to carry a product of that crime to term only to be a constant reminder of the hell they are already suffering through and will always be affected by. If a woman doesn't want to bring a child into a negative environment or cannot physically, financially and/or emotionally raise a child to the best of their abilities and cannot bare the thought of giving up a child to strangers, she does so with the deepest amount of care and consideration both for the child and for herself. It is not a completely selfish act.

For those that see abortion as solely a moral issue, I wonder: what they are personally doing for the living - for the babies that are born into enviroments of violence, poverty, substance abuse, situations where a parent or parents do not have the time, money and/or emotional capacity to care for them, those that are abused or neglected, those that are in the foster care system or sitting in orphanges, those born with developmental disabilites, those who are sick and have parents that are having a hard time emotionally, physically and financially caring for them? What are they doing to bring soldiers home from Iraq and Afghanistan, what are they doing to support universal health care intiatives and social services, to feed the hungry and house the homeless, employ the jobless? That is not to say the unborn don't need a voice, but there are plenty of living that need someone to help save them, too.

Oddly, being approached in such a manner, evoked a reaction that surprised me. Now more than ever, I am convinced that abortion needs to remain a safe, legal medical procedure that can be freely accessed by any female. That control over reproduct decisions needs to lie firmly with the woman who is directly affected by the decision. It's not an issue that can be legislated based on religious morality when it is clearly an issue with far more considerations that are not black and white and clearly the true burden, both in body and conscience, is solely that of the woman electing to have the procedure performed. Ultimately, we cannot live the decisions that someone else makes for themselves. For any woman facing such a decision, my only advice could ever be, make the decision you are willing to live with every day, for truly, none of the rest of us has to live with it in our hearts and minds. We cannot really know what is right for someone else because we do not walk in their shoes.

We can hope that there are fewer unwanted pregnancies by supporting preventative programs that provide complete information and access to birth control including the morning after pill, pray that every fetus is healthy and that more women can find it in themselves to see adoption as an alternative because there are so many childless couples that would be thrilled to have a baby, pray that fewer men would sexually assault women and encourage a society where sexual assault was not acceptable. We can push for a society and government that are more child friendly in terms of social services, maternity/parterninty leave laws, health care benefits and accepting of single parents. We can pray for ourselves, that we may have more compassion and understanding for those that must face that decision, and are more generous and compassionate with all of the living.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Money Can't buy Love, Can It? January 29, 2008

Time flies and I hope to get back to writing. So here's my latest pondering...

I'll change the names to protect the innocent, let's call them Kate and John. Kate, then 18 met John then 34, married with two small children 1 and 3. The power of attraction, whatever it was, resulted in John divorcing his wife in order to pursue Kate. Right off the bat one would say a 30 something man leaving his wife to pursue a cute 18 year old is quite easy to figure out. He certainly is more mature and has money a plenty to make the alimony and child support payments with plenty left over to woo an 18 year old with designer handbags and trips and anything else her heart desires. Three years later and Kate and John are now engaged and traveling the world.

I admit at first I was a little jealous of Kate. In theory being a kept woman sounds great and getting to travel the world without having to worry about having the means to do it or the responsibility to hold you back is a dream come true for most anyone. She's had a rough life in many ways and I certainly wish the best for her, she deserves to be treated well and to be happy. In traveling the world she has had and will have the opportunity to do and see things she may never have otherwise. She doesn't have to work or have to worry about bills or where the money is coming from get the Louis Vuitton bag she wants. Yet, after finally getting to meet John and seeing the dynamic of the relationship, any ounce of jealousy went out the window and made me think, can money really buy love or happiness? No doubt it can certainly buy experiences, adventure, and lots of stuff. Can my personal misgivings be red flags for Kate or can some women really be happy living that life?

Personally, I've always been a little suspicious of the attention of older men. Considerable age differences generally indicate that there are considerable differences in life experiences. If he's been married, has kids, went to college, runs his own business, has traveled extensively and she's just barely made it out of high school, what do you have to talk about really? Being close to John's age myself, although never having been married or given birth, I can't imagine pursuing a boy who is barely a college freshman. My uncle, ever perplexed by my singledom, did suggest his 18 year old son's friends as potential dates, but I can't imagine dating a guy who could technically be the age of my own child if I had one. Never say never, but honestly, the thought creeps me out.

I often get the feeling that many May-December romances arise out of the need to control someone, the younger person being perhaps more naive, eager to please, less worldly and less secure, the older perhaps looking to recapture youth, beauty, and calm any insecurities that may come from fear of aging. Maybe it's a relationship that plays off of both parties insecurities? That doesn't mean there aren't cases where it works and people have plenty in common to keep the relationship strong and healthy. I am just suspicious of motivations.

As far as being a kept woman goes, it sounds nice on the surface. Personally though, I have always been happy to be independent, to have my own house, my own car, my own money to spend however I see fit, my own savings and investments, my own retirement plan. I fear financial insecurity and would feel particularly vulnerable in such a relationship. Relationships are not guaranteed and although you could be sure you sign a pre-nup in the event of divorce, what about the other unforeseen circumstances such as death or serious illness or injury or prolonged unemployment? What then? Obviously, you should try to make things work in most situations, that is what commitment is about. But if you are not prepared or haven't built something up on your own, it won't be easy.

This also makes me think about how at one time women were expected to get married and men were expected to take care of their wives. When that relationship was/is gone though, many women did/do not have the skills or confidence to move on easily. How many women were and still are trapped in a relationship for financial reasons and fear of no better prospects? If the equal rights movement should have taught us anything it should be that we have the opportunity to determine our own fate regardless of gender. Women can go out and work for a living and men can chose to be stay at home dads; the point is we, women and men, can all make choices that make our lives richer and fuller. Women are perfectly free to choose to be stay at home wives and mothers their whole lives, if that is what they choose and that is what fulfills them, but certainly not if that is an expectation of them imposed by someone else. It's disappointing to think though that men could still be intimidated by women with an education and a career and her own money. Don't they bring more to the relationship financially and intellectually if they possess those things?

John gives the impression that he would prefer that Kate not pursue a college education, once the world travel is done. Knowing Kate as the high school kid with big dreams and ambitions, it sort of surprises me that she is willing to give those things up, at least for the time being, because he has the money to support him and her, the kids and the ex-wife. Although he has not forbid her from working, she had taken a part time job at a clothing boutique to get her out of the house, his preference is that she stay home and do nothing but keep him company. She's not a domestic goddess or anything close and he seems to never let her forget that she doesn't contribute much to the household in the sly backhanded complimentary way that only southerners can deliver.

My parents always instilled in me the importance of education and certainly there are more ways to learn about the world and life than college. College was the path I chose, though I love to travel and read as well. I definitely would not want anyone to limit my desires to keep learning and growing, whatever form that experience took. My own dislike of anything that smacks of an attempt to control me would be a huge red flag. Further, I could not imagine limiting someone else's desire to learn and grow out of my own selfishness or inconvenience. Does anyone really think it's healthy to be in a relationship where two people can't mutually support and encourage each others hopes, dreams, and goals? I understand sometimes there are delays in pursuing or achieving those things due to various circumstances, but when you really love someone don't you want to help keep the other person's hopes alive just as much as your own?

I'll add that I don't think I could be happy feeling like I wasn't contributing equally to the relationship and the household. Maybe it's just foolish pride. There may be times when one person may have to bare the brunt of the financial burden due to circumstances, but if those times arise, I think most people try not to hold it over the other person's head because roles could easily be reversed. Certainly if one person requests the situation, they should not ever turn it around on the person. I have to say that one friend of mine did quit her job at her husband's request because it was his dream to start a hunting and lodging business on his ranch, unfortunately, he later decided that he did not want to help her pay the mortgage and other bills she had incurred before the marriage. Needless to say, the marriage did not last. In this case, she did not have a hard time finding a new job, but had to take one making less money than the one she left. She gave up her career to help him pursue his dream and he completely turned on her. Makes you realize that you think you know someone and they will always surprise you and make you feel like you never knew them at all.

Do some people really think money can buy love? John certainly acts like money can buy anything, good, services, experiences, certainly freedom from his ex-wife. That's not to say that he does not have plenty of redeeming qualities, though I don't know him well enough to say exactly what those are. I'm assuming if Kate wants to marry him, he must have some, but maybe she is just blinded by gifts and the care and the adventure he offers. If he was willing to give up a marriage to pursue someone else without a second thought, what's to keep him from doing it again? And will Kate be prepared for it if it does happen? Is she setting herself up for some hardships? The shock of divorce seems to have left John's ex-wife reeling and she is having a hard time surviving on several thousand dollars a month and is pushing for more. Can you blame her, she was a kept woman who expected her husband to take care of her until death and now what?

On one hand I think, 'hey, Kate is young, now is the time to take advantage of the opportunity to travel while she has no real responsibilities.' Regardless of whether they make it to the altar, she has that wealth of experiences. When the knot is tied, then what? Is there enough to keep things going once they settle in to the day to day stuff of life? One could argue they'll have this whole set of shared experiences, but you can't live in the past. Will he keep looking for new adventures to keep her interested, new gifts to satisfy her every whim? Will he change? Will he find a new 18 year old to pursue? Will she change? Will sacrificing any personal goals be worth it for her? Will she be fulfilled? Will he? For Kate and John the story is still being written and I wish them the best.

From where I sit though, I'm skeptical that they will have one of those enduring marriages, but you never know. Sometimes the marriages that appear solid are the ones that fail and the couples you think should be splitting up stay together. Maybe I am too jaded and overly suspicious of motivations in relationships, explains why I am single, doesn't it? Maybe I'm kidding myself if I think that I couldn't be lured into a similar situation. For now though, I will just be happy to have my independence and freedom.