Earlier this fall I was surprised to find that one of my readers was referred by the Sarah Palin Information blog. But then I discovered that this link of her conservative voice to my own (progressive one) was a simple slip of the Net–joining two voices on health care–albeit opposing ones.
This time, however, it is me who is initiating the link,
and here’s why…
I just found out, on the family grapevine, that my grandmother had two illegal abortions in the late 1940s (after giving birth to four children.)
My uncle (a fundamentalist pastor), was her fifth child (following the abortions) and it was he who shared this information with me on Facebook after a flurry of posts in which I attempted to solicit an understanding of the infuriating connection between healthcare reform and abortion.
This shocking news about my grandmother, followed my reading of: Sarah Palin: Abortion Is So Bogus.
According to Salon,”The former Alaska governor gave a speech to Wisconsin Right to Life this past Friday, where she relied on words like “bogus” and “awesome” to make points about healthcare reform and abortion.”
Said the ex-governor, “It is so bogus that society is sending a message right now and has been for probably the last 40 years that a woman isn’t strong enough or smart enough to be able to pursue an education, a career and her rights and still let her baby live.”
It must have been 60 years ago that my grandmother had her illegal abortions (which she and many other entitled women referred to as their “miscarriages.”)
The first time she found herself pregnant was at the age 19, after which she dropped out of college to become a mother to my father (and a wife to my grandfather,) giving birth to three more children before she choosing abortion as a means of birth control.
My grandmother never returned to her education or embarked on a career, although she had always dreamed of serving at the United Nations as a translator. All those hours spent working with me on my French at her kitchen table now make even more sense.
I wish I had known about her abortions. It would have softened the harsh solitude of my own choice, 40 years later. Discovering this link now, opens a million doors in my understanding of women, and I feel a renewed connection to those who have come before me, and to the challenge of our choices-–or lack of them.
My own mother was sent to live in a home for unwed mothers when she became pregnant with my older sister who she gave up for adoption. The following year she met my father and became pregnant with me, resulting in a sudden marriage.
Raised Catholic, my mother gave birth to 9 children and never chose abortion, though she accepted my choice with understanding, and often said, “If you ever get pregnant, don’t make a second mistake. You don’t have to get married.”
Both she and my grandmother became alcoholics who never fully claimed their education, their careers or their rights despite their shared and differing choices.
My uncle (who is a fundamentalist preacher) explains to me on Facebook that he was my grandmother’s 7th pregnancy–the one she didn’t tell my physician grandfather about until the second trimester– when he wouldn’t have allowed her to have another abortion.
This implies that perhaps she hadn’t wanted any of the abortions. But whether she did or not, I have compassion for the choices she faced.
I tell my uncle that I’m happy he wasn’t aborted, that I love all babies–and I do. I love the ones who have come into my life and the ones who haven’t– including the grievous loss of two early pregnancies in my thirties before I became a mother of two wonderful sons.
This contradiction of love doesn’t take away my understanding of a women’s desire to choose when she brings another child into the world. And it isn’t always as simple as a decision about education, or career or even rights, as Sarah Palin exclaims.
Whether Christian, Jew or Muslim, Pro-Life or Choice, Conservative or Progressive, a mother of many or of none, the choices that we face as women are unique to us. And when we sit across from each other at the kitchen table, our separations fall away, and what remains is what is also unique to women–compassion, understanding and acceptance.
In this spirit of understanding, I have compassion for how it is that Sarah Palin chooses her career over caring for her children full time, how she leaves her tiny baby in another’s arms while she runs a state, or a national campaign, or embarks on “rogue” book tour–While I, on the other hand have given up everything to be at home in these vital years when my children need me most–particularly my teenage son, who will soon be making decisions about his own sexuality, as Sarah Palin’s daughter did.
What I don’t understand is how Sarah Palin, the politician, works to protect unborn children, while preventing legislation that would support them once they are born.
What I can’t accept is that she and others take this so-called “moral” stance for the sanctity of life without wanting to provide for it and without taking responsibility for many of the harsh choices that many women face.
Framing the provision of health care reform around the issue of abortion is the most immoral act of all.