The male political candidates in 2016 breathed out a few words about “a woman’s right to choose,” but the bulk of discussion about abortion fell to Hillary Clinton, as if only women were qualified to speak on the subject. But if one-third of American women have had an abortion, then one-third of American men have had one, too, and it’s time they spoke up. Almost eighty percent of abortions take place before eight weeks, when the embryo is the size of a small bean. The woman may have suffered some morning sickness or minor discomfort, but the financial, personal, educational, familial, professional, and religious aspects of abortion would be equally shared between the pregnant man and the pregnant woman in an honorable relationship. I don’t hear men who are party to an abortion accused of murder. Do their priests threaten them with excommunication? Are men escorting their partners to an abortion heckled and assaulted as they enter the clinic? Does the silence of men indicate that they quickly put the experience behind them, or are they taking the easy road to avoid accusations and attacks? Men hold the cards, since they comprise a majority in most legislatures. Wouldn’t it be interesting to know which men in each legislature had been party to abortions? They aren’t the province of atheists and pagans, 13% of women who had one are evangelical Protestant and 24% are Catholic, so religious affiliation is no sure indication. Callous dismissal of abortion as an irresponsible abomination might be thrown around less often if male legislators owned up to their own experiences. When will a man stand up in Texas, as a female gubernatorial candidate recently did, and tell his story? His anguish was surely no less painful than his wife's. The nine men on the Supreme Court gave the decision-making power to other men in Article XI of Roe v. Wade, which states: “…the abortion decision and its effectuation must be left to the medical judgment of the pregnant woman’s attending physician.” In 1973, almost all “physicians” were male. Liberals campaigning for “a woman’s right to choose” are hoping to prevent the overturning of Roe v. Wade when, in fact, they should be requesting a rewrite, taking out the middleman physician to give power to the woman herself. Subsequent rulings of the Supreme Court have weighed the rights of the pregnant woman against the rights of the pregnant man (as opposed to the physician), and have favored the woman, because it is she who would be taking the risks if the pregnancy were carried to term. The woman’s decision-making power would be more secure if the original law were rewritten in her favor. It is likely that at least one of the nine justices who ruled in Roe had been party to an abortion. If the one-in-three statistic played out, three of them would have been. One hopes that the affected justice(s) showed more compassion than men who had never faced the consequences of a crisis pregnancy. A man cannot have the power to force a woman either to carry a pregnancy to term, or to have an abortion, but that does not mean that the men are immune to the heavy thoughts that a crisis pregnancy engenders. I had an abortion in 1961, twelve years before Roe v. Wade. When the doctor gave me the bad news, my boyfriend was in Innsbruck, Austria. I wrote him, and he wrote back: “I’m about to leave for a bow-and-arrow hunting trip behind the Iron Curtain in East Germany, and I don’t know when, if ever, I’ll get back. Good luck.” I saw him several months later, and he was solicitous about my health, but he had missed the hard part, and never offered to pay for half of my expenses. I have recently learned that he, let’s call him Frank, now lives in Hawaii, in a town which I visit from time to time. What would happen if I walked into his business and said, “Hi Frank. Remember me?” Would he remember me? How would he feel? Does he occasionally ruminate for a quick second that he might have had a child who would be 58 years old now? Has he ever mentioned his part in an abortion to anyone else? His wife? Is he still glad that I didn’t have the child and give it up for adoption, which would mean he had a son or daughter somewhere? Would he say he was sorry for abandoning me? Has he ever wondered where I got the necessary five hundred dollars – a lot of money in 1961? Did he wonder who drove me to the abortionist’s office and waited for hours till I came out? Did his feelings about having children, or, for that matter, having sex, change after this? I don’t know what I will do the next time I’m in Hawaii. I’m seventy-five years old now and have nothing to lose – I might just pop in on Frank. He is one of the few men I know who I am sure has been party to an abortion. I would tell him that I never have regrets, and that I worry about the young women whose safety is now at risk. I would ask him whether, knowing how easy it is to slip into a crisis pregnancy, he has these same worries. Frank clearly thought abortion was a “women’s issue” in 1961. I’d ask him if, after fifty-eight years of reflection, he still thought so.
So happy that my website is back and I can post again. I have a few ideas backed up after being away from my own little publishing machine for a few weeks. Several years ago I submitted a long article to a top-flight magazine –start at the top and work your way downward. A publicist friend warned me, “Don’t send it to them. They’ll take the information and assign the article to someone better known than you are. I’ve seen it happen a dozen times.” Hubris overtook me, though. I was sure that the information uncovered in a year of research would be unfamiliar and useful. The subject was the history of abortion, and I wrote the article after a student in one of my classes wrote, “I wish we could go back to the days before Roe v. Wade when there were no abortions.” Being of an age to remember the days before Roe, I knew her assumption was wrong, but it was surprising how small a part of the general conversation dealt with the millennia, or even the decades, preceding Roe. I got a note acknowledging the submission and then heard nothing. Two months later a long article about abortion appeared in that magazine (the first such article I can remember) using swaths of my research and some of my analysis. It was written by a Harvard professor who had an agenda which differed from mine, but my research served her well. Railing against this practice would have been a futile waste of energy. A professional author has to know how to protect herself against this kind of plagiarism, which cannot be proven. There’s a minuscule chance that the Harvard professor never saw my submission, but the pattern of presentation, the nature of the analysis, and the sources perfectly matched it, and it had been sent only two months earlier, about the right amount of time for a busy professor to pull together an article, especially since she just had to rejigger it and add her own ideas. The principle motivation for writing it was to inform others on a subject which affects everyone, not only the one-third of American women who have had an abortion. Ignorance on this subject is skewing the debate. I was glad the information got out there, and I gained confidence. If I could write one article of interest to a major outlet, I could write another, and I learned a business lesson that I won’t soon forget. This is an unethical practice, but the business world is full of unethical practices. It is up to me to figure out a way to circumvent them. I am so grateful to have income from Social Security so I can fail without fear of poverty. Finances aside, it’s hard to swallow a lesson like this one, especially since I had been warned. But it’s never too late to learn a little humility. What should I do with my next good article?
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People have been murdered, harassed, and driven from their homes after death threats. The propaganda machine has gone into overdrive as false reports and apocalyptic myths are spread about a certain class of people, and the country has been threatened with paralysis, hijacked by a small group of bullies. People who often keep a certain aspect of their lives secret have been targeted for violence, intolerance, and bullying on a scale undreamed of in those anti-bullying high school classes. This sounds like Nazi Germany, Putin’s Russia, and any other vicious, violent, reign of terror, but it is America today, and the aspect of life at issue is the choice to have an abortion, a choice made by one out of three American women. Tens of thousands of women (more in the Bible Belt than elsewhere) in the U.S. choose not to have a child they are incapable of caring for either during pregnancy or after birth. Their reasons are as diverse as the women themselves. Well over ninety percent of the abortions occur before eight weeks, when the embryo is a “creature,” as St. Thomas Magnus, a Catholic saint, referred to it in his writings, no bigger than a jellybean. It would be reassuring if the women, presumably one-third of them, serving in legislatures, on judicial benches, as professors, as our doctors, ministers, parents, our grandparents, siblings, friends, and leaders would shout their abortions in support of Amelia Bonow, who has been terrified out of her home, bombarded with death threats, and whose life will be changed forever for owning up publicly to something that most people are forced to keep a secret. Secrets are devastating, destructive, and can warp a whole society. The picture would change if men, who are one-half of the abortion decision, begin to “shout” their abortions. In my case, I would have had the child if the father had married me, but he was in Europe and “having too much fun to come home.” As long as women (and a few male doctors and staff) are left carrying the full responsibility, the issues will remain skewed. If one-third of American women have had an abortion, one-third of American men have played a role too. The “anti/pro-life” argument is mutable, sometimes targeting men for the mass killings they (and now increasingly women as well) have perpetrated in war, or executing a fully grown human being through capital punishment, or even the self-directed choice of ending one’s life when illness overtakes it. Deaths that occur by decision flare, one by one, into the light every once in a while, but the terror, bullying, and twisting of the truth that is occurring now is easily as pernicious as shouting “Baby killer” at a soldier returning from Vietnam. Unless we want to turn our country over to a bullying clique, we must join in defending Amelia Borow and women like her before they put a large yellow star on her and on all of us. If not me, who; if not now, when? Where are you, Hillary?