How Dare They!

A guest post by Sarah Rickman

As a lifelong supporter of Choice and the belief that every woman has the right to be in control of her own body, mind and spirit, I am dismayed at the latest Supreme Court decision on partial birth abortions. Worse, I am appalled by the ongoing assault on what I consider a woman’s inalienable right.

From the time I found out where babies came from and how they were made, I became a staunch believer in the childbearer’s right to make any necessary decision about her child’s birth. This was made clear to me as a young teen reading a novel in which a young woman was raped and forced to bear the child that was the result. Even in my adolescent naïveté, I perceived the gross inequity at work here. How dare they! This young woman had to endure the mindless brutality of the act and then was forced to carry for nine months and then deliver in the pain of childbirth that which she had not asked for in the first place. This, I knew, was inherently wrong.

When the Roe vs. Wade decision was handed down in January 1973, I rejoiced in the wisdom of the Supreme Court and thought, in error it turns out, that all of America’s women would rejoice with me. A young mother myself, already I had been applauding the efforts put forth by our local congresswoman on behalf of a woman’s right to choose.

As the 1970s became the 1980s and a strident segment of the population railed and rallied against a woman’s right to choose — a woman’s right to end an unwanted pregnancy — I watched in utter disbelief. Now it is 2007, I am a grandmother, and I am witnessing the potential dismantling of Roe.

All this time, my belief in the right of a woman to choose has never wavered.

This is not really about pregnancy. It’s not about health or when “life begins.” It’s not about religion. The issue is about power and control — the shameful holding of power and control over someone else’s mind and body! Men, because they cannot conceive and bear children, have no understanding of what that can possibly mean to a pregnant woman.

Ideally, the hope is that all children will be wanted children. But what of the teenager who didn’t think she could get pregnant the “first time.” Is she to be punished the rest of her life for one mistake? Can’t we let her grow up? The college girl who needs time to realize that sex and love are two different things. Shouldn’t she be given time to mature before she becomes a mother — responsible for another human being? Or the rape victim — faultless, in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or consider the case of a friend of mine — a co-worker — in my younger days. Already the mother of four — her husband out of a job and trying to go to school— my friend was now the family wage earner. She found herself pregnant again. Desperate, she opted for an abortion.

I believe that we should teach birth control and family planning and safe, responsible sex — and yes, abstinence — to our young so that the need for abortion arises only on rare occasions. I served six years on the board of my local Planned Parenthood organization trying to promote exactly that. But we must keep the option of abortion open for those, like my friend, like the rape victim, like the hapless pregnant teenagers, who need that choice!

Instead of wrapping this issue in sentimentality, religious doctrine, and anger at each other, we must bring this down to the barest of essentials, which is a woman’s right to determine her own destiny — a right that men take for granted.

The issue is the right to control our own identity, our essence, our very self — and the right to MAKE THE CHOICE.

–Sarah Byrn Rickman is the author of THE ORIGINALS: The Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron of World War II — the story of the first 28 WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) — and of FLIGHT FROM FEAR, an award-winning novel based of the story of the WASP, the women who flew for the U.S. Army in World War II. Sarah, a former reporter/ columnist for The Detroit News and managing editor of the Centerville-Bellbrook Times (suburban Dayton, Ohio), earned her B.A. in English from Vanderbilt University and an M.A. in Creative Writing from Antioch University McGregor.

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