Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Keeping Women Barefoot and Pregnant

By Kelly Jean Cogswell

807 words

So abortion's under attack, big deal. What does that have to do with a big dyke like me? I'm not withdrawing from a sperm bank, so an inconvenient fetus would have to mean rape, maybe Zeus himself coming down as a big swan and putting it to me. You figure the odds. Hell. Why don't straight chicks get out there and take care of themselves?

The women's movement never exactly embraced lesbians, even though once I grew tits back home in Kentucky, guys started to play grabass in the hallways at school. I was followed in the streets, whistled at, and cornered at parties like them.

With any display of emotion I'm still dismissed as PMS or temperamental or female. My IQ shrinks a dozen points along with pants pockets in women's departments. Still, sleep with other girls and "women" would just as soon consider you a third sex. If only.

Despite those women, despite a million to one chance of pregnancy, this Supreme Court ruling concerns me. Restrict abortion, a woman's fundamental right to control what goes on under her own skin, and she's lost everything.

I remember my grandmother telling me about my grandfather's father's three wives. When the first one popped a bunch of kids, and died, he married another to take care of the brats and get him more. The second died, too, and after the third, the neighbors, I think, put a stop to him.

She told me the story with horror, confessing that after something went wrong with her fourth delivery and they did a hysterectomy, she practically fell on her knees to thank God.

This was a religious woman, a Southern Baptist, who went on to whisper that she even supported abortion. "Men don't know what it's like," she said. Your body out of control, the danger, the responsibility after.

I didn't know myself, but I knew what it was like to walk through the halls at high school, unwelcome hands on my body, eyes on me if I walked down the street, endless comments. I didn't own myself. I didn't for years, until I got to New York and saw how even the most mild-mannered, pin-curled secretary would kick your ass if you took her seat on the subway.

That changed my life, seeing other ways to be a woman, though it helped even more when I met other dykes.

Men haven't learned much since my grandmother's day. In the ruling last week, the men of the Supreme Court asserted women have neither the right, nor the brains to choose what the abortion anti-choice activists have called "partial birth" in an effective advertising gambit.

Justice Kennedy actually wrote that banning the procedure was good because it would protect us females from a procedure we might not really understand and would almost certainly regret after.

What, after all, is more sacred than that little spark of unrealized life?

The traditional feminist response is -- the life of the mother and the quality of life of the rest of the family. They have more fodder than ever for the argument.

A couple of days after the ruling, the New York Times reported that infant mortality is going up in the American South, skyrocketing to almost double the national average among the poor black families of Mississippi.

Some doctors blame the national problems of obesity. Others, Bush's Medicaid and Welfare cuts, poverty, and race. Infant deaths among African Americans in Mississippi rose from 14.2 per thousand in 2004 to 17 per thousand births in 2005, while those among whites rose from 6.1 to 6.6 per thousand.

Oleta Fitzgerald, southern regional director for the Children's Defense Fund, told the Times, "When you see drops in the welfare rolls, when you see drops in Medicaid and children's insurance, you see a recipe for disaster. Somebody's not eating, somebody's not going to the doctor and unborn children suffer."

Bush certainly won't worry about it. The main thing is that babies get here on earth, if only for a few minutes. Lucky, lucky kids to be able to rot in the cold, hard ground instead of in the landfill as medical waste. Send a dove straight up to Jesus and hire a brass band for the funeral.

It's hard to believe this court ruling, this rise in infant mortality is happening at the same time as we get our first female speaker of the House, first woman as serious candidate for President.

I don't think our culture's changed so much as female politicians have figured out how to advance in a system which despises them as much as ever. More maybe. Like queers, the more visible they are, the bigger the backlash.

And if the rights of women are eroded, (which by the way includes dykes), there will be ripples in gay rights, all our bodies battlegrounds.

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