This article appeared in the Standard-Times of New Bedford, Massachusetts, on 8/24/04,
Page A10, Opinion; Copyright 2004 by Beth David

Restricting abortion hurts women

I'm so tired of writing about abortion, of repeating the same lessons for the sake of every new conservative voice that writes about it as though his life depended on it. As if his body could ever be affected by an unwanted pregnancy the way a woman's is.

But, here we go again.

The so-called middle ground is unacceptable to us feminist "extremists" for one very practical reason: every restriction on abortion makes some woman somewhere less equal to the man who made her pregnant.

As for his opinions on minors, Peter Friedman should pay attention to what he writes in last week's Conservative Corner (Aug. 19) -- it's better for a child to be a mother than to undergo one of the safest surgical procedures on the planet?

The reality is, if a teenager can talk to her parents, she will. If she can't (for whatever complex family issues that exist), then the law has no business forcing her to. You can't legislate good family relationships. She should be able to pick the adult she wants to confide in. And if they have to go out of state, they should be able to. Our pesky Constitution still guarantees the right to travel.

Most states, including Massachusetts, already have parental consent laws. This state forces a woman under the age of 18 to appear in front of a judge to get permission to have an abortion without at least one parent's consent. We force her to go through the same process that criminals go through so she can see the doctor of her choice, because she's pregnant. There is no medical condition that forces a boy to appear in front of a judge.

So the girl undergoes her third trauma. Because, I assure you, being pregnant for a teenager is a trauma. And the sex act that got her there is her first trauma, especially if she's the 12-year-old that Mr. Friedman writes about. Kids that age do not consent to sex. They are coerced. They are raped.

I know some people don't like to use the word "rape" unless a woman's face gets bashed in. But bashing in someone's face is a separate crime. Forced sex is rape.

No one should make a child do something that might get her face bashed in by her father.

Suppose her parents insist that she have an abortion? Suppose her parents force her to have a baby? Do you really think it's safe for a 12-year-old to give birth? Do you really think it's better for her to be a mother? Is forcing her to give birth and then give up the baby a compassionate way to treat her?

Conservatives by definition are supposed to want to end government intrusion into people's lives. Except for women's lives. On one of his first days in the White House, President Bush reinstated the Mexico City Policy preventing the whole worldwide network of family planning clinics that receive U.S. money from even mentioning abortion. So much for the First Amendment. That Global Gag Rule was invented by President Reagan. That's what conservative means in practical terms to women.

And please don't patronize us by saying you think abortion should be legal, but needs more restrictions. It's almost impossible for many women to get abortions now: young women, poor women, women in rural areas.

Maybe Congressman Barney Frank understands that. Maybe he understands that every one of those regulations makes some woman somewhere less equal to the man who made her pregnant.

Men can fly. Men can breathe under water. But the moment a woman gets pregnant, she's suddenly a slave to her biology?

If men got pregnant, this issue would be confined to the doctor's office where it belongs. And then maybe I could move on to other things.


Beth David is a freelance writer who lives in Fairhaven.


This story appeared on Page A10 of The Standard-Times on August 24, 2004.