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Another Mother For…

By Eva Rae Henry

I absolutely support a woman’s right to control her reproductive life and her own body. But as a woman and a mother, coupling the word abortion with the word rights causes a whirlwind of dissonance in my brain.
As a woman and a mother, I keep bumping up against the “culture war” playing out around abortion rights. Let’s take the language surrounding it for instance; even the phrase “abortion rights” – coupling the word abortion with the word rights just causes a whirlwind of dissonance in my brain. On a typical day during the past election, I’d be called by any number of candidates or polls. One day I was called and asked to push either “1” for “yes” or “2” for “no” if I supported the “right to life.” At that point I screamed into the phone: your language sucks! When at last a real person phoned me with the same type of question, I respectfully said: “your question poses a false dichotomy. I am right to life. I adore life and cultivate it in all respects – but I absolutely support a woman’s right to control her reproductive life and her own body.” (How I love to throw a cog into the wheels of cultural warfare, the drive to divide us rather than unite us.)

At the start of the school year, I was waiting to meet a friend before an evening meeting at my son’s school (we were making a babysitting exchange, sticking together while our husbands were traveling for work). The first thing I noticed when I pulled into the parking lot was the bumper sticker on a Ford Lincoln SUV that read “Another Woman Against Abortion.” I then watched as the car’s owner corralled her three kids— it took her over ten minutes of patient effort to get everyone buckled into the cavernous vehicle, which had nearly as much interior space as a studio-sized apartment in some parts of the world.

I was struck hard by what played out in front of me. It stands to reason that the other mother I observed through the windshield of my more modest SUV believed in her bumper sticker— why else would she plant it there? What, I found myself wondering, gave her the authority to take for granted the capacity of another woman to nurture a child? Clearly, what she was doing in rounding everyone up was a skillful act, an effort guided by patience and concern— and providence. There she was, with ready transportation, a home, I assumed, and food soon to be on the table. Her mothering was much less constrained by her circumstances than might be the case for mothers with fewer resources at their disposal. Why would a woman, any woman, set herself against another? Why not just declare: “I think that women were meant to suffer and sacrifice for the well being of others. Women have to bring forth life; that’s what they were designed— by God, of course— to do.” Another pithy phrase might read something like “Another Mother Against Legal, Safe Abortion,” or the obverse— “One Woman For Criminalizing Abortion And Risking The Lives Of Mothers Through Back-Alley Or Self-Inflicted Abortions.” I once saw a book with photos of abortion-gone-wrong crime scenes. Not a pretty sight; these do-it-yourself jobs with coat hangers or vacuum cleaners are not reasonable alternatives to legal, safe abortion. How can you erase the desperation that drives such a thing?

I sat there and thought: well, when you see a suffering mother, there is usually a suffering child not too far behind. One may not be “for abortion,” but what about the other things initiated in the wake of childbirth? Is one “for” that, too? As mothers, we need to look not just at the reality and potential of “life, for the fetus” or when we believe “life” begins, we also need to examine the concept of motherhood our culture hands us, and the ultimate consequences for mothers of being the conveyor belt of “life” on this planet. Why not have a bumper sticker that says “Another Mother Against a Life of Inequity?”

I’ve wrestled with the language of the abortion debate
all my female life

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