The Bad Old Days

I had a heck of a time coming up with a title for this post, and because that is usually the first thing the muses drop on me, it’s been a rough start but it came in its’ own time.  And now it’s time.

I’m lucky, I have had the protection of Roe v. Wade for my entire reproductive life as have my daughters, at least up until now.  My older sisters didn’t and my granddaughter might not, so it is for them I write this.

Growing up we lived in a fairly small house and since there were 4 girls and 1 boy, guess who got to share a room?  My poor older sisters are much older than I and had to put up with toddlers on up in “their” room.   One good thing about this was I got to listen to their whispers after the lights went out.  Some things I didn’t understand until later on in my teenage years, but I heard them as a pre-teen and they sounded a bit scary because my sisters sounded scared and they weren’t scared of much of anything. Or so I thought.

We all worked from a young age, but the money went to the household for the most part. As we grew, we were expected to also buy necessary things for ourselves out of whatever pay we earned, so spending money was a hot issue.  I often heard, in the night whispers, that Sherry, Gina, Shelly, Katie, Audrey etc. needed X amount of money to “get to Mexico” or to “solve her problem”.  I had no idea why my sisters would pay for someone else to go someplace they’d never been or to solve someone else’s problem, whatever it might be. The muted chatter about gas mileage, whose car was able to make it that far and who to trust with the “real reason” they were “going camping” or “sleeping over” or whatever ruse they were going to use sounded like planning a spy caper.  I was captivated by the incredibly sophisticated planning that went on and listened closely as I thought it was some very grown up thing I was in on…it was.

What I was in on was the planning and actions of desperate young women who’d found themselves pregnant in a time when that alone would get you expelled from high school in my Southwestern state.  The actions taken to “solve that problem” held even higher penalties if you were caught. Arrest, jail, public humiliation, sterilization (accidental or intentional) and death.  And women died.  I can bear witness to that.  Sepsis from trying it on your own, sepsis from the “doctoro”, ruptured cervix and uterus, uncontrollable bleeding along with other causes of death that no young woman should suffer.  And there was another COD that those that had no money, friends with cars, friends of any kind, that along with the system that told them how horrible and evil they were for having sex let alone getting pregnant out of wedlock pushed them towards, COD Suicide.  And now, it’s about to happen again.

Donald Trump, in his rush to sign anything put in front of him, signed what is known as the “Mexico City gag rule”.  This rule, first promulgated by Regan, makes it illegal for US taxes to go to ANY non-governmental institution here or overseas that even speaks or has literature about abortion in its’ clinic.  But this time, it’s not just those clinics that have family planning or contraception services that are bound by the rule.  It’s any clinic that does anything having to do with maternal health, HIV/AIDS, and zika.  Why? Because clinics usually do family planning/maternal health as only a part of their mission.  Imagine being in Brazil, a nominally Catholic country, when the zika virus hit.  Where were they telling women to go?  The family planning/maternal health clinics.  Same goes for HIV/AIDS testing in countries around the world. Go to the clinic, which, if you have one in your area, does everything, including abortions if not precluded by law or religion. And now, you can’t. And the defunding of Planned Parenthood in that order will make the same thing true here in the United States.  An estimated 20,000 women, maybe more will die each year if we are forced back into the bad old days.  Women die today due to the rules and regulations in this country that have made getting an abortion that is LEGAL nearly impossible.  Mandatory ultrasounds, waiting periods, permission slips or court judgements combined with lack of funds and transportation to the few clinics available kill women every year.  And that is just for the medical abortions done with pills or injections. Clinics that offer surgical abortions are scarcer and more heavily regulated than in the past.  The St. Louis Planned Parenthood Clinic does surgical abortions along with all the other health issues PP addresses for both women and men. S The whole point is to make it just next to impossible to get a safe, legal abortion.

As an example: The St. Louis Planned Parenthood Clinic does surgical abortions along with all the other health issues PP addresses for both women and men. It is the ONLY surgical clinic for 100’s of miles in any direction.  So, you somehow gather bus fare ($89.00 per person) arrive in St. Louis after 8 hours and find a convenient hotel room for the mandatory stay over.  The hotels close to the clinic run anywhere from $100.00 to $159.00 per night.  You get up in the morning and go to your initial appointment.  You have to wade through the people praying and protesting, but there are sometimes volunteers to help you across the parking lot.  You go in, have your initial work up and, if you are really lucky, the mandatory ultrasound on that day.  Then you go back to your hotel. The next day, return to the clinic for “counseling” about either the tablets or pre-op for surgical abortion. Back to hotel.  Back to the clinic and you get the pills and go back to your hotel.  You return to the clinic and, if all is progressing as normal, they may release you to go home.  If not, back to the hotel again.  Another visit next day and you’re discharged and take the bus ride home.  Let’s look at that for a second: $89.00 bus ticket, at least 4 and usually more, but we’ll use 4-night hotel at $100.00 per night and we’re already at $489.00 without food, transport to the clinic, friend to hold your hand, child care, etc.  Oh, and I forgot, even with sliding fees, it’s $429.00 for the pills!  So we’re at $1000.00 minimum!  No one I know has that much money saved, let alone can just spend it on anything they want. Yes, credit cards are an option, but think about explaining that to your parents or partner if they are anti-choice. It is a fact, that the whole point of all these rules and regulations surrounding our bodies, is to make it just next to impossible to get a safe, legal abortion.

Many women and not a few men think that women have equal rights under the law.  We don’t!  All we’ve been protected by, in all areas of our lives, are rules and regulations that can be overturned, recinded or revoked.  The only thing that will ever protect us and make us full citizens under the law is the Equal Rights Amendment.  Yes, those 14 words that can solve so many womens issues around lack of parity.  And the good news is, it’s not dead yet.  There was never a deadline imposed on the States to ratify it, so if we can get 3 more state Legislatures to ratify it, we can take it back to Congress. With 34 Republican governors, it will be harder than it was in the bad old days, but it’s not impossible.  Look at what just blossomed in D.C. last Saturday.  A march of women like the world has never seen.  If you are one who marched for women’s health issues, join the fight for Planned Parenthood and the ERA.  It’s time to make sure the bad old days never threaten our lives again.