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Abortion: Sacred Sanity and a Long Journey

By       Message Kari Ann Owen     Permalink
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When I became pregnant accidentally in 1989, I was
told that the medication I had to take for a chronic and lifelong
illness was contraindicated for pregnancy. The state in which I was
living paid for a therapeutic abortion and then a tubal ligation, which I
had because I would never be able to have a safe and uncompromised
pregnancy.

Both were necessary for the following reasons:

  
 The man with whom I had sex was not only irresponsible about birth
control but did not have enough weighing in his favor to be a lifetime
partner. In fact, after that last act of intercourse, he disappeared, 
appearing one more time and never again.

  
 My birthfamily had a history of sudden and frequently fatal heart
attacks, with and without pre-determining factors like smoking and
obesity. This history of myocardial infarction and angina goes back many
generations. My sister and I had been at one end of the telephone at
ages sixteen and ten respectively when slender Uncle Mac died at the
other end of the telephone wire. He was in his fifties, as was my
equally slender and tenderly optimistic Cousin Frances when she also was
struck down permanently by myocardial infarctions. I resolved to deny
even the possibility of this traumatizing terror infecting yet one more
generation.

  
 The birthfamily with whom I spent the first fifteen years of my life
contains three people who were sexually abusive to me while I was a
minor. I am the fourth. Violent behavior and emotional abuse are
identifiable in two of four grandparents, both parents and my only
sibling, an older sister. It was time also to end this history.

  
 I could not financially support a child, abled or disabled, and had I
elected to go through with the pregnancy, not only would the fetus, had
it survived the nine months, been physically compromised but would have
been born into poverty, resentment of the poverty and the possible
presence of an irresponsible father whose own father had been an
alcoholic. It would also have been a welfare case, and I did not and do
not believe in foisting my avoidable mistakes onto society.

These are overwhelming reasons for both my abortion and tubal ligation.

I have never been entirely satisfied with them.
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For
I feel guilty about "taking a life", even if the "life" was hardly a
developed human being, photographically resembling a red amoeba covering
half a dinner plate. Yet, I have always in some sense believed I killed
someone, because the fetus was a human being in potentia, a living
being however small.

Should  I feel guilty? No. A tiny group of cells is not a fully developed human being.

But
all my life I have regarded myself as monstrous and criminal, not for
having performed any criminal act or had any criminal tendencies, but
simply for having existed as a rejected being. I was neither wanted nor
loved in my family, and my presence itself seemed a drain and a literal
lightning rod for a hate I can, even at age fifty five, barely begin to
grasp. This hate, sometimes physical, always verbal and emotional,
sometimes sexual is something I used to blame on myself until I
recognized the root of my own irrational shame: I believed that my
so-called obesity was an incitement to incest, that when my father
forced his way into the bathroom when I was seven to look at me naked
against my will, it was my fault because fat girls were supposed "early
developers", and so of course I was generically sluttish, Jezebelian,
evil (as in Eve? Is that what I learned in Jewish Sunday school, where
we should have been taught a positive faith?). Perhaps I believed at the
same time that if it were my fault, my fat's fault, then I could
control my father's sexual sadism by becoming thin, which was supposed
to be within my power. (It never was, and my obesity became morbid and
ended with a gastric bypass operation in 2000, and not until then.)

Believing
I could control anyone's behavior, especially a powerful and violent
parent, makes about as much sense as my Catholic friend's mother
implying I was not a virgin because horseback riding may have broken my
hymen.

No
one ever told me as a child that my so-called obesity was hardly as
extreme as the way I was treated by family and peers and some "adults".
There was slenderness and there was social death, nothing else. No one
told me or my parents or teachers or camp counselors or "peers" that fat
storage was how my body reacted to an infantile bout with celiac
disease and resulting nutritional deprivation, which often results in
caloric conservatism. In other words, my body permanently panicked and
made every calorie count, possibly several times over.
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I
recognize this now, although I still feel in some part of my mind
guilty and stupid and sluttish for having been fat at all, and once
pregnant. Pregnancy outside marriage was supposed to be my fault, any
girl's or woman's fault, making me, any female stupid and sexually
aggressive at the same time. Like fatness, unmarried and unintended
pregnancy meant the greatest of all American sins: revealed lack of
self-control over pleasure-giving impulses, particularly in females, who
were expected to give eternally, never wanting anything but to serve
someone else's emotional, sexual, financial prosperity. And to always
maintain a controlled exterior, so the truth of our sexual and emotional
realities would never threaten anyone by asserting our equality as
living persons in all spheres of life.

At
age fifty-five, I am capable of recognizing that no one is born to
serve and no one is born a "slut". And just what is a slut? An adult
woman who has a need to be touched in deep places, not only emotionally
but physically, and refuses to wait for a satisfaction which may never
come, in a society where divorce and domestic violence seem more likely
than lasting love? An adult who refuses to wait for a fantasy to
materialize can map a responsible and ethical route, I hope, although I
doubt that genuinely responsible intimacy can occur outside a
spiritually affirmed commitment.

Whatever
my or anyone's doubts or opinions, adults can and must have the right
to decide what private and consensual behavior is right, or wrong. But a
child cannot with full awareness consent to sex. Therefore no child
should be judged sexually, either as slut or sexual reject. No person
should.

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www.kariananowen.com
I am a produced playwright,published essayist and doctoral level scholar in religion and literature, living in the San Francisco Bay Area. I am also the widow of Silas S. Warner, creator of the original "Castle Wolfenstein".

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