Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Supply and Demand (Interesting Pro-Choice essay)

A friend ran across this on Craigslist and thought it was pretty well written, so she shared it. I enjoyed it as well, although some of it is a little harsh. Still, many good points.

The original post

"So I was walking through campus the other day and there were some kids holding posters in support of Roe V. Wade. 'Bravo,' I thought, as I walked by. Then out of the corner of my ear I heard mockery of the activists in the form of “I’m bored, hey! We should go get abortions this afternoon! That would be fun!” which came from one male pro-life student to another.

Now, I know, I’m preaching to the choir here, but the abortion debate is quite a bit more complex than “baby-killing” versus “choice.” If it were that simple, I don’t believe that the battle over the issue would have been dragged on for this long. And, so, I’m curious as to why the argument, on both sides, has been driven to simplicity.

In case there are a few dip-shits out there reading this, I’m going to go through this comprehensively so as to, perhaps, enhance the debate within the minds of a few.

First and foremost: not a single person on Earth desires an abortion. In this case desire is not interchangeable with demand. Women do not want abortions the way they may want a new car, a warm home, or in the case of my girlfriend: a new pair of shoes.

Goods, services, and subsequent industries begin with demand; supply is purely reactionary. In the case of abortion, the legality of the practice is completely arbitrary. Meaning: demand is unaffected by the government’s administration over the industry sector.

If we create a typical profile of a woman that chooses to undergo the procedure, we paint the picture of someone that is 1) young, 2) lower to mid-middle class, 3) uneducated, 4) a minority and 5) living under social constraints that render un-wed motherhood completely unacceptable. This may be a generalization, but for the purposes of this experiment, we’re going to the peak of the bell curve.

When you think about this, it makes sense. In the animal kingdom, the only reasons a mother abandons her young are 1) the creature is too weak or disabled to keep up and 2) there’s not enough food/resources for the mother to survive and sustain her child.

How then, can the demand for Abortions be addressed and quelled? Also, how do the policies of pro-life proponents address these problems?

Lets just shoot down the list. We’ll use a median-voting pro-life individual to identify the problems with thinking about this problem too simplistically. That individual is: a republican, because lets face it, if you’re die-hard pro-life, you’re a fucking republican.

Since youth isn’t a variable that’s easy to change (and also not a very good reason to get an abortion) we’ll exclude it from the argument.

1) The person is poor. They cannot afford to sustain themselves and a child without adversely affecting the quality of their already shitty lives. The pro-choice left seeks to offer the lower class tax breaks and transfer payments from the upper class. The left increases funding to social welfare programs and public assistance. Republicans burden the poor with taxes while passing tax cuts to the wealthy. Welfare programs are eliminated.

2) The person is uneducated. They aren’t aware of birth-control options that are at their disposal. They are unskilled laborers and therefore have little to no potential to “make-it.” The left seeks to educate high-school students over birth control, offer birth control to teens, and make plan-B available without a prescription. The left supports education by increasing funding to schools. Republicans tend toward the opposite. Children are, with a degree of futility, taught to “wait until marriage” and are fed mis-information that claims birth control can lead to infertility. Public education programs are cut, creating more working class individuals while manufacturing jobs are exported to exploitable regions of the world.

3) The birth is unsupported by friends and family. Meaning the abortion seeker is afraid of alienating themselves from their friends and family, school and workplace, and their entire community. Leftists offer support centers and their families tend to be much more accepting. Right wing nuts threaten the woman with the wrath of god, disown her, or send her to a hospital where the child and mother are nurtured in a concealed and unfit environment.

4) The individual is a minority. Not a lot you can do about this one. However, I wish to point out that pro-life billboards preach that adoption is a viable alternative and that millions of loving couples are waiting to adopt. Here is the problem with the millions of couples that are waiting to adopt: they’re fucking racists. Millions of couples are waiting to adopt white babies while the baby market is flooded with brown ones. Recently, its been brought to the public’s attention that those children are being adopted by foreigners from Canada and Europe. Legislation is being introduced, by republicans, that will prevent those unwanted babies from leaving to other countries, where they are wanted, because they were “born in America and should stay in America.”

Pro-life republicans, while they claim to oppose abortion, create the very environment in which demand for the practice thrives. Pro-choice democrats seek to create an environment in which no one needs an abortion in the first place, while ensuring the practice is safe, sanitary, and performed by a licensed medical practitioner as we, as a society, are still in a transitional period. By eliminating the demand for abortion, practitioners will lose the ability to practice. The supply will cease to exist and the clinic will close. Which seems much more civil than blowing it up or shooting some doctors.

People are, in general, pretty fucking stupid. They are, however, programmed to survive. If a woman becomes pregnant, and that pregnancy threatens her economic, social, or political survival, she will resolve her problem by all means at her disposal. The legality of abortion is therefore not the issue and all of you conveniently Christian conservatives that lack the devotion to help the sick and poor should shut your fucking mouths."

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Quiet Please!

Wanna see something cool?
Wanna see something cool?
Wanna see something cool?

Auntie come watch this!
Auntie come watch this!
Auntie come watch this!

Wanna see something cool?

I love my niece, I adore her. If something were to happen to my brother and parents, I would take her in a second. But OH MY GOD she does not stop talking. And she's a show-off -- just like I was at her age, I hear -- and requires constant attention. She's, basically, a 6-year-old.

A and I spent the weekend with my niece. She joined us at the flower shop and behaved better than Uncle A as we finalized the flower decisions. Later, we took her to her best friend's birthday party. This was taxing. The girls were constantly demanding we watch them do this trick and that, although "this" and "that" were pretty much the same thing. We humored them, we laughed, we congratulated them on their gymnastics skills. It was actually quite cute at first, but it got old. Fast.

Then there were the boys. Oh dear god the boys. One, whom my mom dubbed "tough guy", kept challenging kids to do dangerous stunts on the slide and merry-go-round. The other was "the sand thrower", and he just threw sand at everything. People, dogs, and he coated the slide with it. Where were their parents? In all cases Dad was huddled by the barbeque, Mom was talking exasperatedly with the other moms and shooting annoyed glances at them while saying "stop that" in a nonthreatening voice. There were, of course, no consequences for NOT stopping that.

After we tore her, sobbing, from the birthday party, we went out to the camp site. We blew up the air mattress and she began practicing her gymnastics on it. It was adorable, at first, of course. Auntie, watch me do a flip/summersault/running summersault, which were all, again, pretty much the same thing. A showed her how to do a headstand and she practiced this for awhile. But the moment we stopped paying attention, it was "wanna see something cool?" And, of course we want to see something cool, so she'd do another summersault and say "wasn't that cool!"

After dinner, she let up and we had a really fun game of Yahtzee, which she is frighteningly good at. I think it was because we were actively involved in a game she was playing that she was so, well, not annoying. Now THAT was quality time spent with her. The night ended well, but the next morning it all started up again. "Wanna see something cool?" After I tear down the tent, C. "Watch me do this!" I can't right now, I'm trying to clean up. "Wanna see something cool?"

I just have no patience for her after awhile, and while I love this child more than any other, I was so glad to have grownup time after we left. I can't help but feel like having children is a life-sentence of limited grownup time. Sure, the kids are cute, but after the novelty wears off it just gets irritating. I can't have a dog for the same reason, and sometimes I get so frustrated with my cat's constant cries for attention that I hide under the covers or go so far as to lock him out of the room. How do people DO this??

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

When the baby's born

We dined at my fiancé's grandmother's house last night, and she presented him with a lovely, thoughtful gift: his grandfather's wedding band. It's sort of cheesy in an old-man's band kind of way, but it was a wonderful gesture and she doesn't expect him to wear it as his wedding band, since we purchased ours already.

Then, she looked at me and said "when the baby comes, if it's a girl, she can have my rings," as if I were already pregnant.

She's going to be the hardest one of the bunch, and when I'm with her i just melt. Not in the way that we'd have kids just to please her, or to avoid disappointing her, but in the way that I don't want to tel her we're not having children. Because his only aunt & uncle tried for years with no luck, I don't want to lie and say we ARE trying... y'know, in two years after A finishes school. I don't want to mock the pain they went through as she suffered miscarriages and stillbirths before deciding to stop and remain childfree.

How do you break someone's heart like that, though? How do I look at this poor 80-year-old woman, who's so excited for "when the baby comes", and tell her she will have no great-grandchildren. None. How do I tell her that? It's only in these moments that I feel selfish. Scratch that, it's not the selfishness -- it's that I feel like a bad person.

Yes, this is a selfish decision we're making, but we believe it's no more selfish than having children and expecting to carry on with the same lifestyle we currently have. The weekend trips here or there, the late nights spent gaming or just hanging out with friends, the quiet time alone together. But being selfish does not make us bad people.

Watching his grandmother, seeing how desperately she wants A to have a child, that's when I feel sick to my stomach with guilt because I know I can't give her what she wants. I can see the whole family growing to resent A's selfish wife who won't have kids. He won't get blamed, it'll all be on me, I just know it. I don't know how to prepare myself for that.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Talk Talk About It

I think I'm starting to understand why parents talk so much about their children. The fact is, I'm surprised how much my fiancé and I talk about being childfree with our likeminded friends. It's an issue that's constantly on our minds. It comes up when we're talking about the wedding, about vacations, about our friends, about our families. We talk about children, I dare say, every bit as much as an average parent — NOT the obsessive types whose lives revolve around their kids to the point where they define themselves as ONLY a parent and not a person, but just a regular parent. This seems to be true of all my childfree friends. We talk about it all the time.

There was a time where I wondered if the fact that I'm so interested in identifying myself as childfree, so obsessed with the idea of NOT having children, was masking the fact that I really do want kids. This period bothered me considerably. "Why am I so obsessed wiith this label, this lifestyle?" I'd ask myself. It was a time of great self-doubt.

I would be lying if I said I never wondered what it would be like to have kids with my fiancé. Of course I have. I've wondered what they'd look like, whose personality traits they'd pick up, all of that stuff. But it's never been in the way that a lot of my parent friends have thought about it. Sure, I've thought long and hard on whether I'd regret this decision in the future, wondered what it would mean if we did change our minds in ten, fifteen years. Would I be letting this "movement", this label I'm attaching to myself, down? I would be one of those breeders who changed their mind, who was never actually childfree in the first place as some sites argue.

I honestly think anyone who claims they've never EVER considered kids is kidding themselves. We all arrived at this decision through consideration. I know that while I'm not terribly fond of the babies of strangers and I remain unmoved when "A Baby Story" comes on TV, I still look at my niece and wonder what it would be like to have a kid just like her. My maternal instinct is remarkably weak, though, I've noticed through the years as my niece grows up and my friends start having babies. I don't oogle over teeny tiny shoes and socks, or have the need to see and hold every baby that crosses my path. My instinct is still to flee. I honestly was never able to see a day when someone would call me "Mom". It's just not me.

The thing is, when I latch onto stories of kids, I'm of course moved and touched by the sweet or funny stories. But the ones that stick with me, unlike my parent friends and the parents-to-be, are the negatives. I love hearing the fun stories, but I can't get past the complaints of "I want my life back" or "when you have kids, you won't have time for that" or "I miss my husband", etc. These stories are much more powerful to me, and when I imagine myself in such a position I feel paralyzed. It makes me sick.

But because children are such a huge part of the lives of the people with whom I surround myself, being childfree is justifiably a huge part of mine. Every time I defend my position I feel a little better. I still feel sick when I consider coming out to my future in-laws and know that it's going to be incredibly difficult, but I'm strong in my resolve. Luckily I have the support of a wonderful, like-minded man, many like-minded friends and a handful of respectful disagree-ers to help me through.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

On Traveling

"I need a vacation from my vacations," said an exhausted Megan walking into my office yesterday morning. It was her first day back from her weeklong family vacation with 6-year-old Lilly and 3-year-old Griffen. This week was spent as their vacations are often spent — visiting family who lives out of state. Grammy can't fly, so every summer she and her husband take the 10-hour roadtrip (which is "pure hell", in her own words) to Grammy's "museum" of the house. Grammy believes that "you don't move things, you teach your kids not to touch them." This is unwise. In the three days they spent at Grammy's house, Griffen managed to break an antique vase, a candle-holder and a glass. Grammy was on edge the whole vacation. Lilly, on the other hand, suffered from incredible boredom. Grammy's house isn't exactly built for children, Megan explained. And, because of the not-moving-stuff rule, their activities were limited to a small portion of the house, unless they wanted to go elsewhere. This would have been the best solution, but Grammy wanted to kids to stay there. "You've come all this way, and now you don't want to see me!" she'd squeal. So they stayed. And were bored. Then they left, another day-long drive in pure hell. "I just want a grown-up vacation," she whines. They'll surely return next year.


"We never go anywhere!" My officemate constantly complains that she and her husband haven't had a vacation since she became pregnant with 1-year-old Michael. Whenever talk of my upcoming honeymoon arises, or whenever someone drops by our office to talk about their recent trip, she sighs. "I need a vacation."

So far this year, a full week of her vacation time has been spent covering for sick or vacationing babysitters — she and her husband hire an in-home sitter for their son. Now, as my company ramps up for our busiest season (when taking more than one day off at a time is virtually impossible), she's planning her vacation. Here's the problem.

The whole reason she wants to take a vacation is to be closer to her husband. She wants a vacation from being Mommy. And, yet, she's terrified of leaving little Michael with her mother for more than a night at a time. So they keep scheduling their long weekends and cancelling them because she doesn't want to leave Michael.

I appreciate the sacrifice she's making and how hard it must be to leave her child in the hands of anyone, even the child's own grandmother, but then she should stop whining about how she can never go anywhere. If you want a vacation from being Mommy, I say, then take the vacation. "But I feel like such a bad Mom, taking a vacation without my son," she whines. In that case, I throw up my hands.

If you give yourself this break, I tell her, you'll be a better mom for it, and you'll be able to get over this resentment that you feel for him, to get over the feeling that he's keeping you from what you want to do. It's healthy to leave him. So just do it. She cancelled another vacation today. I'm sure tomorrow the cycle will begin again.


We spent the weekend with my fiancé's family at their family reunion and were wonderfully reassured in our decision to remain childfree. We were surrounded by his nephews, and nieces, all laughing, playing, and causing mischief. There are so many children in our life, it felt good to see that we wouldn't be leaving a void by not having kids. His family will see it differently, but that's another story.

What we also did this weekend was watch the parents closely, and we noticed something. Not once, for the entire three day weekend at his aunt's gorgeous lake house, did one of these people STOP being a parent. They never played the role of husband, wife, lover. The couples didn't take the time to enjoy a quiet, romantic walk around the wooded lot together, they didn't take out a paddleboat or a waverunner together — they didn't appear to take any time to just enjoy the beautiful area, or to enjoy each other. In fact, the only time they spoke to each other seemed to be when reporting something or other that the children had gotten into.

Of course, children will be children. That's what they do. That's why it's so much better to watch from afar. I don't want that kind of grief when I'm on vacation. I don't want to spend my evening searching the great room for Uncle Frank's antique wooden checkers that one of the eight kids — no one will come forward, however, for fear of getting in some well-deserved trouble — hid somewhere. Nobody knows who did it, nobody knows where. I want to go on vacation to the lake house to spend time with the man I love, to enjoy some quiet time together, away from our hectic life in the city. And that's what we did. We relaxed, we took romantic walks, we rode together on the waverunner, and we felt sorry for the couples who couldn't seem to even carry on a conversation with one another unless it was about the kids.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

End of the line

In a little over two months I will be changing my name. In doing so, I will become the last new addition to my groom's family. My fiancé is an only child and already we've been pressured, poked and prodded to unveil the date when we'll begin the process of carrying on the family name. They're going to have to deal with this... whenever we decide to tell them.

There are a number of reasons why we have yet to declare our upcoming marriage a childfree one. The wedding tops that list. We'd rather this decision NOT be the focus on our wedding day.

For now, it's easy enough when confronted with the "when you two have kids" comments to just smile, giggle, and act uncomfortable. It usually makes people go away, or at least drop the subject. My family has pretty much accepted this reality, although they hope I'll somehow change my mind, bringing my groom along with me. His family, however, will be devastated.

I don't think that word is an overstatement.

My fiancé is the only child of an only child; my future father-in-law can't wait for us to have kids, and he can't wait to tell me so. He's the only grandson of a woman whose daughter (my fiancé's mother) is deceased and whose other child's wife is barren; she speaks of it constantly. My fiancé is under a lot of pressure to reproduce. We feel it at every family gathering, every other phone call, you name it. It's intimidating, frustrating and heartbreaking.

We'll be breaking their hearts when we announce our plans to remain childfree.

My fiancé has toyed with the idea of claiming that I'm barren, or that he's shooting blanks. But I don't want to be pushed into emotional discussions with his aunt, who had two stillborn babies and a miscarriage before deciding to call it quits, or his stepsister who is desperate to have a child but can't seem to conceive, about how hard it is wanting something so badly and being unable to have it. It's disrespectful of their suffering, and I won't do it. Nevermind that I don't want to lie, period. I don't want endless discussions about fertility treatments, etc. I can't pretend like that. But he REALLY doesn't want to go there with his family.

I simply don't know how to handle this. I want to get it out of the way, although I'm all for doing it AFTER the wedding, but I'm terrified. I don't want to alienate his family, I don't want to disappoint his father and grandmother. But the fact is, we don't want kids. We love the children in our lives and feel that we have plenty. We want our careers, we want to travel, we want freedom, and we don't want the responsibility of raising children.

Someday in the months to come, we'll be asked outright and forced to answer. I've already told him that if someone pushes and requires a response stronger than silence, it's time. Before or after the wedding, the news will come out. We'll deal with the tears, the pleading, the pressure... It's a day I equally anticipate and dread.