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Sunday, August 7, 2022

Against the scandalous rollback of free choice

free choice
Photo: Jiroko Nakamura

There is a photograph from Getty Images that makes my heart and stomach turn: in a recent demonstration - following the leak of the U.S. Supreme Court's draft bill to overturn a decree that allows the free choice of legal and safe abortion, in force since 1973 and known as Roe v. Wade - young girls hold wire hooks, the kind used to hang clothes, while on their bodies or on their T-shirts you can read: "Not your body", or "My body, my choice".

The image of the wire hook is a powerful one. Throughout history, many women around the world have tried to abort with a similar instrument, causing serious infections that in many cases have turned into fatal septicemia. 

This is exactly what I think of when I see the Getty Images image - which, by the way, has no credit to the photographer - and then it comes back to my mind. The event Tusquets, 2000, an autofiction novel by French writer Annie Ernaux (Lillebonne, 1940), in which she narrates her experience of having an abortion in 1963, when it was illegal in France, and she was a 23-year-old student.

Ernaux's novel is extremely harsh precisely because at no point does she pity herself for that young woman who, as the days went by and no doctor wanted to help her, brought knitting needles from her parents' house, where she visited every week, and lying on the bed of the student residence where she lived in Rouen, she inserted one of them into her vagina to try to find her cervix and get rid of that fetus that was forming inside her and for which she felt no attachment.

However, the pain caused by just bringing the needle close to perhaps one of the walls of the uterus was so profound that she decided to discard this method. 

I will not do spoiler of how Annie finally managed to have an abortion in that conservative France of almost sixty years ago, I will only write that she almost lost her life. As many women, all over the world, have lost it over the years. 

What I can write without fear of spoiling them The event, is that in one of the final paragraphs Ernaux reflects on the fact that having that abortion convinced her, years later, that she did want to be a mother. And she is. 

As for me, I am the mother of a 17-year-old girl, who is my whole world. I also miscarried a second baby that I knew I would not be able to care for in the way she deserved. I was not in an emotional or financial situation that would allow me to do so. My daughter knows this; she also knows it was not an easy decision. Her hermanx would be about 10 or 11 today, and yes, sometimes it still hurts to think about what our lives would be like with her or him. But most of the time I am convinced that I made the best decision.

A woman should have free choice, that is to say, she can decide to have children, have an abortion after having one, two or more, or never be a mother, and nothing happens. Beyond the fact that the State has no reason to intervene in our bodies -as it does not intervene in those of men-, there is the very important issue of who is responsible for the care tasks most of the time, and there is no doubt that the answer is: women.

In countries like Mexico, where I was born and where I live, the State not only does not provide employment opportunities with a salary sufficient to support more than one child, but also does not offer social security to those of us who work in the informal sector. freelance. Many women, in much more vulnerable situations than mine - I am aware of my privilege; in spite of everything I have a roof over my head, food on my table, education - or that of Annie Ernaux almost six decades ago, do not have the slightest opportunity to take care of more than one child, neither economically nor affectively. Sometimes not even one.

The typically patriarchal response to what I have just argued is "then take your precautions, but don't kill an innocent person". Or worse, "then don't spread your legs". Things that would never constitute arguments in the event that men could become pregnant and were forced to make a decision that, as I have said, is neither easy nor pleasant.

At The route of your evasionoriginally published in 1949, the Costa Rican writer Yolanda Oreamuno, who emigrated to Mexico, narrates an episode of obstetric violence in which a woman is forced to give birth "embracing her pain", without the slightest gesture of empathy from the midwife, until she bleeds to death. I am sure that if any of the male justices of the U.S. Supreme Court had to live through such an experience in their own body, they would think twice before planning to legally punish women who choose to have an abortion.

I read a news story that in the draft that was leaked to the media, Judge Samuel Alito wrote that Roe v. Wade was "a glaring error that must be overturned". I wonder what he would think if it was his life that was at stake, not that of millions of women. Ah, this patriarchal attitude of males with power to believe that they can and should have interference in women's bodies!

I read, this time with hope, another news story reporting that California State Governor Gavin Newsom tweeted that he would take legal action to protect Californian women's right to abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned, as the Supreme Court intends.

Newsom has shown sensitivity to the issue before. The article by Pamela Cruz, published here in Peninsula 360 Press Eliminates California deductible and coinsurance in abortion coverages on March 23, reports that the governor signed SB 245, the Abortion Accessibility Act, to "ensure equitable and affordable access to abortion services," and also noted that "As states across the country attempt to take us backwards by restricting fundamental reproductive rights, California continues to protect and promote reproductive freedom for all." 

As the Green Tide grows in Latin America, the United States should not retreat in the defense of women's rights. California can be a great example.

If you want to read more texts by Irma Gallo visit: Irma's notebook

You may be interested in: Lawmakers seek constitutional amendment to guarantee abortion rights in California

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