The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

The Cost Of Forgetting Life Before Roe

Still Available Without A PrescriptionThe abortion rights debate looks different for people old enough to remember the days of back alley abortions.

Case in point: the other day my my father brought up American politics, since he’s knows it’s my job to follow it (and since we don’t much agree on Canadian politics.) He’s a conservative guy, votes for the Conservative party routinely, likes to call himself “the last Victorian” though he really isn’t. Still, he’s no liberal and he’s pushing 80.

I filled him in on Sarah Palin, in particular, and mentioned she was against all abortion except if the mother’s life is at risk.

His voice turned incredulous and he said, “Don’t people remember what it was like when abortion was illegal? Women with coathangers up their….” His voice trailed off.

After a few moments he continued again, now angry. “How can these people be so stupid? Don’t they know what it was like? All the women who died?”

All I could really say was this: “People don’t learn from other people’s mistakes. Only their own. The generation that remembers what it was like, your generation, is mostly gone. The younger folks, they don’t remember, they don’t know. They don’t understand how bad it was, how many women died, how horrible it was. They weren’t there, and for some reason they won’t listen to those few who were. Those who remember. Those who know.”

The thing that saddens me the most about humanity, that worries me the most, is this shocking inability to understand anything unless they’ve experienced it themself. Wisdom is learning from other people’s mistakes.

It seems like every good thing that was done by older generations is being undone, step by step, by fools who weren’t there, don’t remember, and can’t learn. They stripped the protections meant to stop mass bank failures and a new depression and they keep trying to make sure that women will die in droves by getting rid of the right to safe, legal abortion.

So no, Dad, they don’t remember. If people like Palin and McCain have their way, the horrors you remember from your youth will start happening again. The battles your generation fought, the victories you handed to us, your children and grandchildren, we will squander and have to earn yet again.

And if we do fail to hold onto what you gave us, a lot of women will die because of our stupidity.

(Originally posted Sept. 15th, 2008.  It seems worth re-posting today.)


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  1. Republican politicans are mass murderers of unborn babies!


    Between 2003 – 2006, the Republicans had complete control of the White House, The Supreme Court, the House of Representatives and the Senate. Yet they did nothing to reverse Roe v. Wade or to pass an antiabortion law.

    Why? Because they cynically want to keep abortion as a wedge issue to attract more conservative voters (very unsuccessfully)to the polls.

    The Democrats want women to have control over their own bodies and to prevent needless deaths from botched DIY abortions. Of course, there is nothing wrong with that. Their reasons are in fact commendable.

    But the Republicans have no good relevant reasons for covertly supporting abortion through inaction within the federal government.

    That is why the Republicans and not the Democrats truly are the mass murderers of unborn babies. Well technically speaking, fetuses, embryos and zygotes.

    When abortion is outlawed, only outlaws will have coat hangers. Rich pregnant women will take unexpected vacations to Mexico. Poor women will journey to the metaphorical back ally, and possibly take unexpected trips to the emergency room, or worse, to the morgue.

  2. ron and debbie webber

    Ian, who was it that said, “those that fail to remember the past are condemned to repeat it”?

  3. adrena

    That coat hanger image couldn’t be more powerful. It says it all.

  4. I’d maintain that they don’t give a damn, not that they don’t get it. You can explain what anencephaly is until you’re blue in the face, tell them about pregnant women killed by abusive partners or teens kicked out of their parents’ homes, tell them about families that are on the knife edge of making and can’t have another child without jeopardizing their ability to feed and clothe existing children.

    They. Do. Not. Care.

    As a former fundamentalist Christian, I feel comfortable with that analysis. Because the arguments I heard at church, the ones I devoutly believed until my late teens, never had anything to do with women’s well being. Except spiritual, in exactly the way that many priests of the Inquisition likely devoutly believed that it was spiritually better for someone to be burned to death than to live in sin.

    The woman’s health, happiness, etc., were completely irrelevant to one overriding belief: abortion is a sin.

    It’s a sin, therefore you are contravening the will of God and condemning yourself. It’s the will of God if your baby is sick, or you’re sick, or if your life is a living Hell, and our job as human beings is to suck it up and try to be blameworthy so that God will make it up to us after we’re dead. It’s an absolute wrong, a premeditated murder, for which there can be no excuse. And anyone who would have an abortion is a murderer, so f* them.

    That’s how I thought, that’s how the people I knew thought, that’s how the people who wrote our literature and visiting ministers seemed to think, and that was that.

    They don’t care about women dying or incurring terrible consequences from a pregnancy or abortion and they only ever say otherwise because they know how bad it sounds. And they do know it sounds bad.

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