Since the beginning of Autographed Letter Signed, I have devoted Sunday to reflections on my past. As you can tell, I am haunted by memories of my mother and childhood and spend considerable time writing about events that occurred during some of our darkest times. Even so, the primary commitment of this blog remains loyal to political matters. Autographed Letter Signed is a living political archive of sorts. It is not my life diary. I would not subject you to that. However, I often find that one’s political beliefs are connected to their past. Of course there are times when this is not the case. Take “Ann” for instance, a woman I met through an Illinois GOP group for women. Ann was raised in an uber- liberal household. Her parents were Volkswagen van driving hippies who grew weed in their basement. Like myself, Ann lived in Manhattan during the September 11th tragedy. 9/11 changed Ann’s political beliefs forever. She had lost a dear friend and found herself becoming increasingly disenchanted with leftist ideologies. She did not vote in 2004 and voted for McCain/Palin in 2008.
In contrast, the birth of my inner Republican was more gradual. It was always there incubating and kicking the shit out of me. My mother would say something liberal and there it was sticking a foot from the inside of my belly and into my mouth. Nothing I did would get rid of the thing. No matter how many trips to Whole Foods I made for soy milk and organic chard, despite my joining that student chapter of Amnesty International , there was no aborting my conservative thoughts. Strengthening with my age it finally got the best of me in 2008. It was unceremonious and mostly self-congratulatory. At first I could not verbalize the new Afrocity to anyone except my PUMA pals. By Obama’s inauguration I was somewhat emboldened. I expressed my conservative views more openly. My circle of liberal acquaintances began to decrease. It was disconcerting but a relief to my pocketbook as they often wanted to eat out all the time. As with any new edition, the birth changed me and there were adjustments and compromises to be made.
I will always and forever remain an advocate of pro-choice. Comedian Dennis Miller who is a conservative spoke on the issue of abortion and made a brilliant quote that sums up my feelings perfectly:
“And by the way, my belief is that if men were the ones getting pregnant, abortions would be easier to get than food poisoning in Moscow.”- Dennis Miller
No one has the right to tell me what to do with my body. Period. I do find the pro-life vs. pro-choice debate rather fascinating. Last week, Gallop released poll results on the number of Americans who are pro-life vs. pro-choice:
51% identify as ‘pro-life’ in U.S.
It’s the first time the Gallup Poll finds ‘pro-choice’ outweighed — at 42% — and a near-reversal of last year’s figures.
By Robin Abcarian
May 16, 2009
At a time when President Obama is trying to convince opponents in the abortion battle that they can find middle ground — in rhetoric, if not reality — a new Gallup Poll shows that more Americans describe themselves as “pro-life” than “pro-choice.”
For the first time since it began asking the question in 1995, Gallup reported Friday, a majority of adults questioned for its annual survey on values and beliefs — 51% — said that when it comes to abortion, they consider themselves “pro-life”; 42% consider themselves “pro-choice.” (The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.)
This represents a significant shift, Gallup noted. As recently as last year, 50% of respondents called themselves “pro-choice” and 44% identified themselves as “pro-life.”
Moderate and conservative Republicans accounted for the change; Democrats’ attitudes toward abortion remained constant. “It is possible,” Gallup said in its analysis, that the president “has pushed the public’s understanding of what it means to be ‘pro-choice’ slightly to the left, politically.”
Regarding abortion restrictions, the largest proportion of Americans supports legal abortion only in certain circumstances — as has been true since 1975 — according to Gallup. This year the figure is 53%.
During my conversations with Obama supporters, I was warned that a vote for Sarah Palin was a vote to eradicate Roe V. Wade from our lives. I did not believe them and voted for McCain anyway. Call me naive but I think that Roe V. Wade is here to stay. My pro-choice stance was one of the few remaining threads that kept me tied to the Democrats. In 2008, tired of voting with my uterus and melanin count, I finally cut the cord, took off my gown and checked out. No wheelchair needed, I ran out of Donkey Memorial Hospital and jumped into a taxicab butt naked.
When I had partly recovered from being a liberal, my conversations about being pro-choice focused on privacy and liberty more so than “when does life begin? ” questions.
In high school, our history teacher held a debate between a pro-life advocate and a representative from Planned Parenthood. I was about 16 at the time and even then I thought the Planned Parenthood woman’s argument that life does not begin at conception was bogus. I believe that life begins at conception. That still does not make me a pro-life advocate. As the debate between the two women went on, my African American classmates became rather vocal in favor of pro-life. I was not surprised since two of them were in class and pregnant. My eyes rolled over at them, I was anti-sex and a virgin I would remain until 27 years of age. By now the projection screen at the front of the classroom was showing the pro-life film Silent Scream. Before the debate we were asked by a show of hands, how many of us were for abortion and how many against. Out of 32 students, about 15 were pro-choice. When we were asked the same question after the debate, only 3 students raised their hand in favor of being pro-choice. I was one of them and the other two were Caucasian women (one of whom later had two abortions).
After history class, gym was next. We were in the swimming block which meant either changing into our swimsuits or feigning our periods. I would have my period for the 3rd time that month and sat on the side of the pool watching the others complete their laps. Suddenly, the smell of chlorine was over taken by the stench of vomit. “Glynn” a pregnant student had lost her lunch on the aqua tiled pool side. It was a school rule that pregnant students were a matter that we could not openly discuss. But everyday there Glynn was with her stomach getting ever so larger and now here she was in a moo moo bathing suit spewing the free lunch program for all to see. Viewed one way, it was an unfortunate and embarrassing incident for Glynn. Yet I could not help but feel holier than thou because I would never be in that situation. Knocked up by the school clown, an uncertain future, too big to attend prom…Like my mother. Like my grandmother. My aunt.
My thoughts turned to my own birth. It was unplanned. I was a bastard (still am). My mother almost got an abortion with both my brother and I. An abortion would have been illegal at the time and one of the coat hanger/baking soda sort. But for some reason she made the choice to keep us. All four of us. Later I would find out that my mother was raped at 19. This was 4 years after my brother was born. She was raped by an older man she was dating. One evening, her attempts to break up with him went unheard. He punched her in the face, knocking out her and two teeth. She came to with him on top of her. Encountering her subsequent missed periods and rising belly brought on a denial that was deeply severe. So severe that she nearly gave birth on the porch steps. The child of rape was named William. My mother described him as ” a bad baby” . He had red hair which was unusual for an African American baby but considering his paternity not so unusual.
There was no airbrushing, no overwhelming feeling of motherly love. She hated William and even let him burn his arm on a hot iron. “I just let him” she told me looking at the hardwood floor. That was her explanation for the lack of protective intervention. Some women come to love their children born of rape or incest. My mother would not be one of them. At the age of two, William was sent to live with the man that raped my mother. I would never know “Boochie” which was the pet name my older brother had given him. Yes, my older brother remembers his younger brother quite well. He spilled the beans to me about “Boochie” when I was a teenager. I was insulted that mother had kept me in the dark about this child but she said she had a right to her privacy and I could still see the pain in her eyes as she tried to explain what happened to him.
“I never loved him like my other children.” she said. “He was so bad like his father.”
We never spoke about “Boochie” again. My brother never forgave her for giving way his baby brother. After she died, he thought of finding William. I said let it pass. Her wish should be respected.
I remain pro-choice but I have softened some with regards to my views of teenage pregnancy and its results. My 20th high school reunion was last year. I did not attend but my classmates were kind enough to send me some photos. In one of the photos was “Glynn” and her son. The son she was pregnant with while we were in school. The son who made her throw up at the pool. He was now in his 20’s, beautiful and accomplished. My teen aged disdain was converted into a mature smile. Without ever going there, I internalized Glynn’s love as I watched her beam with her accidental, unplanned, inconvenient bundle of joy.
Autographed Letter Signed,