It is Tuesday afternoon and I am driving, still slightly out of breath from my sprint to the parking structure, and I am watching the clock as I sit in traffic and mentally calculating how long it will take me to get to daycare and if I’m going to make it on time, and my phone is pinging with emails that I didn’t get to before I left work, and I’m remembering that I need cupcakes for my son’s birthday the next day, and I am listening to someone on the radio talk about the debate over whether I should even have the right to decide to be a parent and I want to fucking scream.
On a purely physical level, this decision, whenever it comes down, does not impact me. I live in California, for one thing. More importantly, I had a tubal ligation during my last c-section and I will never have to think about being pregnant again and let me tell you, I didn’t realize how much the possibility of pregnancy impacted my life until I could stop thinking about it for the first time since puberty.
And yet it feels deeply personal, one more chisel chipping away, one more reminder that my body is up for debate, that it is not entirely mine. As women it feels like we are taught to care for our bodies but we never fully own them. We are expected to maintain them and present them in a specific way, to guard them from threats both real and imaginary. We are told that virginity is somehow sacred, that our bodies are easily violated and rendered less valuable. We are vessels. I don’t believe any of this anymore and yet it’s still a constant process to escape it.
Fundamentally, I believe that people have a right to their own bodies, even if they make choices that we are deeply uncomfortable with. You don’t get to control anyone else’s body, which probably feels pretty hard to accept for some people who are used to getting to control just about everything.
I believe that everyone has a right to abortion, that they don’t need to justify it, that they don’t need a sad story to earn it. I also believe that there are a lot of sad stories, and many of them stem from the fact that women’s bodies are valued as commodities, are not seen as their own.
If you have the time and energy and love children, maybe channel that into agitating for subsidized childcare or universal healthcare or raising the minimum wage or more money for schools or better sex education, literally anything that actually might benefit children. I am very privileged person and a lot of the time being a parent in this country still feels like drowning. Our daycare bill for two kids under five is the equivalent of 87% of my take home salary every month and it’s not because our daycare providers are overpaid. And yet I couldn’t quit my job even if I wanted to because our healthcare is tied to it. Our daycare is open from 8am – 5pm and my commute is 45 minutes each way (not unusual for LA) which means that it is physically impossible for me to get in a full 8 hour workday and still manage drop off and pick up on my own. Again, I’m privileged. I have a partner and we can split our days so that one of us does drop off and one of us does pick up. We both have the ability to shift our days around to some extent for doctor’s appointments, etc. But being a parent is relentless and there is basically no support and you absolutely cannot mandate that someone take this on.
To be clear, even if the government was paying all my childcare expenses and providing me with housing and a stipend, I still wouldn’t think that they had the right to force me to bear a child against my will. But it would at least make more sense logically. If their goal is to convince people to carry pregnancies to term, maybe they should try making it just a little bit more appealing. If their goal is to remind women that they don’t give a fuck about us, congrats! You are succeeding. But also, we were already well aware, thanks.