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Headed for the Burka?

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Message Gail Blesi
I'm afraid to write this. How silly. After all, I live in a free country, where the right to speak one's mind has been fought for by generations of brave people protecting our Bill of Rights. Isn't it ironic that I'm afraid to write this in a land where the flag is proudly waved on front porches and plastered on bumpers of cars everywhere? Yet, it is true. I'm afraid to speak my mind and say: Abortion must be available, safe, and legal for all women!

I'm not typically a fearful person. I'm a clinical psychologist who generally speaks her mind. Yet, I will not step up and publicly speak on this issue. It is not the general discomfort with the subject itself that deters me, nor is it the knowledge that many will reject my call at the outset. I believe that most who disagree with my position do so because of a respect for the sanctity for life. I share in this respect. Indeed, it is what motivates me to write this article.

So, why my reluctance to attach my name to this article? It is the irrational and violent anti-abortionists who keep me anonymous. You know, the ones who say they are "pro life" but preach fanaticism and violence, especially the ones who have guns and threaten to use them on anyone who dares to provoke thought on the subject of abortion. This radicalized group has caused me to write only anonymously nowadays. My current anonymity is due to the fact that I am a mother and as such, I have a primary duty to stay alive so that I can care for my children. Those brave souls who do take a stand for reproductive freedom risk becoming targets of our American-grown, right wing terrorism. I am not willing to take that chance.

Anyway, my life has been filled with the tasks of responsible parenthood. I have been blessed with the freedom to plan and raise my precious family. We have reaped the joys inherent to the liberties won by past generations, as well as those I've seen won during my own lifetime: The right to live in a wonderfully diverse community, the right to a desegregated education, the right to pursue happiness while keeping the government out of our bedrooms and out of our doctor's office.

I am old enough to remember when this quality of life was not possible. I grew up when neighborhoods were vehemently segregated and people of color had trouble voting. I came of age when abortions were illegal and women died as a result of back alley or self-induced abortions. I'm grateful for the many patriots of my generation. I regret that our current president was not among them and that Bush Inc. is so clearly antithetical to such patriotism.

And now what is happening to my beloved Country? It seems that those who were once so committed to work for all that is most important in life have fallen asleep at the wheel. Are we distracted by the tasks of building retirement portfolios, shopping for shoes or watching our flat screens? Meanwhile, on every front, a bully is at the wheel, driving us dangerously close to a drain, beyond which are darkness, destruction, and perhaps the extinction of our species. And hold on, this image is not dramatic enough to capture the reality of our predicament. My question to the reader is: Will we wake up in time to change the kind of country-and the kind of world-we are about to leave our kids?

Clearly, more is required of all of us in order to promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity. Since mental health and reproductive research is something I know about, I feel compelled to set the record straight in this area: Access to safe and legal abortion is necessary for the mental health of women. It is best for the mental health of families and thus, good for the society at large.

Conversely, poor outcomes arise from unwanted childbearing. Having worked with children in the foster care system, I will spare readers the details of what these "poor outcomes" can entail. Suffice it to say that my dear mother was right when she said, "I believe there are things worse than never being born."

Having children of my own, I know firsthand the efforts required for decent parenting. Given this, I am at a loss to understand why anyone would force this most challenging of jobs on anyone, knowing they are least likely to succeed. This is sadistic folly and a recipe for social disaster that will result in the degradation of life.

Let me state that I don't consider myself "pro-abortion." I don't identify myself as "pro-electroconvulsive therapy" or "pro-root canal" either. Each of these procedures is unfortunate and very unappealing; but they remain essential treatment options within a medical arsenal that--when necessary-can greatly improve our quality of life. Besides, good preventive medical treatment will minimize the need for each of these measures.

So in this most technologically advanced and richest of nations, we are working to eliminate the need for abortions, right? By now we should all know the answer: Not since Bush became president. Even though scientific study after study has clearly indicated that the best way to prevent abortions is to provide medically accurate sex education coupled with accessible family planning and contraception, these programs have been axed. Curiously, the Bush administration has consistently cut funding for our most effective programs and given our tax dollars to various sham "abstinence-only" programs. While these programs may look great on paper, they have been shown to be harmful to our kids.

We know better than to stand by and allow this to continue, don't we? Reliable data has substantiated the importance of the right to education and family planning for overall mental health. Our government's refusal to learn from this data may be the work of ignorance, religious fanaticism, or a cruel economic agenda. But We the People must not fail in our responsibility to make accurate information and comprehensive birth control readily available. The social and financial costs of neglecting this responsibility to our children will be huge; but the emotional burden of such a tragedy would be immeasurable.

The scientific evidence is clear: When women are denied abortions, children are more likely to suffer. Based on extensive studies in the area, the American Psychological Association has recommended that "access to legal abortion for unwanted pregnancy is vital to safeguard both the physical and mental health of women." The tools women need in order to make fundamental decisions about their own childbearing include accurate sex education and access to comprehensive birth control.

These essential tools have been stolen piece by piece over the past six years, as science has been replaced with campaigns of propaganda and misinformation. It is time to wake up from complacency and denounce censorship, ignorance and fear. It is time to fight for a country worthy of passing on to our kids. So, anonymous though I may be, I am counting on you, dear readers-mothers, fathers, and all people of good will and reason-at the very least, take this information with you to the voting booth. We must oust everyone associated with a government whose agenda has been to enshroud us, American style.
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As a psychologist who has been working with individuals and families for over 25 years, she has had extensive training in her field as clinician, researcher and author who now provides mental health consultative services to organizations.
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Headed for the Burka?

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