Despite having been married four years, the two pink lines that heralded my first and only pregnancy 12 years ago were a big surprise. I was in a healthy marriage and a healthy body. I wasn't opposed to the idea of a baby, I just hadn't thought about it much. Sex was a recreational activity, right? But there I was, staring straight at the biological result of man plus woman.
I quickly learned that pregnancy makes you simultaneously obvious and invisible. "No permanents, no hair color," one woman told me. I said I'd never treated my hair in my life. She ignored me and prattled on. "You will be breast-feeding, won't you?" asked another with raised eyebrows as I stumbled over my response, reluctant to disclose that a breast reduction I'd had at age 19 had rendered my chest for-decorative-purposes-only. "You know breast is best, don't you?" she prodded. "For your baby?" Then while dining out with my husband in my seventh month, a deep craving rose for the tannic warmth of wine against the rich beef. But I was reluctant to order a Merlot for fear the waiter might sniff and say, "I'm sorry, but I'm morally opposed to serving anything alcoholic to a pregnant woman." I'd heard waiters espouse that position before. "The woman can do what she wants," said one to me in my pre-pregnant life, "but I will not be party to child abuse." I thought she was an ass, but the memory lingered on and intimidated me nonetheless.
Of course an expectant mother must accommodate her fetus, but to what extent? Although no one would have denied me the pleasure of dining out, the drive to the restaurant put my fetus at infinitely more risk then a glass of Merlot posed.
Then there is the emotional script that goes along with having a baby. You're supposed to be happy. People are very picky about moms; no one wants a bad mom. They want June Cleaver, Carol Brady and Clair Huxtable. I was a million miles away from that. I was mired in fear and trepidation over the coming event and a bit of resentment over feeling objectified by those who would recognize me solely because I was swollen with child.
Complete strangers would place their hand on my belly. "When are you due, honey?" they'd ask. "My name is Erin," I'd say, pushing their hands away. I was nonplussed by everyone's self-entitlement to my pregnancy and the difficult balance of fetus and mom. So I dreamed up an alter ego, a defiant motorcycle-riding mother-to-be with an outrageous sex drive as well as a tender vulnerability. I contrasted her against a hermit-like librarian. Then I introduced them to the world in my novel Harvey & Eck. And I felt a little better, because writing that book somehow gave me control over the confusing swirl of sexuality, independence and motherhood spinning in my head. It was my way of saying, "Hello? I'm here too." My daughter is now as tall as I am, but Sarah Palin's vice presidential nomination has catapulted the nine complex months of my pregnancy back to the forefront of my mind.
On the September 1 edition of To the Point, Warren Olney asked Connie Mackie, vice president of the ultra-conservative Family Research Council, about her group's opinion on Palin's nomination. Mackie said that "elated" was not a strong enough word. She described the Alaskan governor as being "as strong on the issue as we are," which is accurate according to every reliable source.
"No abortion for any purpose at all?" asked Olney
"Right," said Mackie.
"Any purpose at all?" repeated Olney. "Even saving the life of the mother?"
"Oh - saving - I'm sorry," said Mackie, stumbling. "Life of the mother."
She added it like a meaningless afterthought.
If a self-important waitress deciding which cravings a pregnant woman may indulge disgusted me, the way Mackie tossed out "life of the mother" like a scrap to a dog ignited a white-hot fury in me. "The mother" may have been brutally raped, may have complex health or mental issues, or may have become pregnant despite competent birth control. But under the ruse of protecting an innocent life, Mackie and those like her would turn a blind eye to her situation. To them women are vessels for pregnancy, void of name and rights. Their opinions about being imprisoned in the same body as her rapist's child is of no consequence. Might as well slap some duct tape over her mouth.
Talk about objectivity.
Even though I had every intention of bringing my baby to term, that might have changed had there been significant trouble with the fetus. I don't know. I didn't walk that path. But without options before me, how might I have reacted? The days of the bloody coat hanger were horrifying. They will return without question if the Palin/McCain camp can hustle enough justices into the Supreme Court and eventually abolish safe, legal abortions. Palin is said to be "pro-contraception," although I could not find one bit of collaborating information on this assertion except in an article about the 2006 Alaskan gubernatorial campaign that appeared in the August 6, 2006 Anchorage Daily News:
"Palin said last month that no woman should have to choose between her career, education and her child. She is pro-contraception and said she's a member of a pro-woman but anti-abortion group called Feminists for Life. 'I believe in the strength and the power of women, and the potential of every human life,' she said."
Meaningless and contradictory.
Details about her opinion on sex education are equally nonexistent. One source called her unsupportive of any "explicit" programs. Others say she supports abstinence-only education. So it seems she would remove or limit information about how to prevent pregnancy, but nonetheless feels wholly entitled to determine the fate of that pregnancy regardless of the mother's situation.
Absolute control over a person's life choices is tantamount to slavery, the obscenity of which escalates along with the vulnerability of the demographic. The poorest and least educated among us would suffer the most with a steel fist like Palin's around their reproductive rights.
The Palin/McCain duo will stand tall before the adoring right and extol the virtues of protecting innocent life. But they won't talk about the lost innocence of the 14-year-old mother carrying that child courtesy of an abusive uncle or father. I guarantee you they won't talk about how many unborn babies died in the wombs of innocent Iraqi women in a war Palin refers to as "a task that is from God."
It matters not whether their lofty talk is purely for political gain or they believe this draconian tripe is pushing their soul a few rungs up the heavenly ladder. It's about controlling women and their sexuality by instilling fear. It protects no one. Only a radical monster would condone it.
Enter Sarah Palin.