NAPW - conference call
As I said here, what the abortion debate (and really, the broader reproductive health debate) boils down to for me, is that by their very nature, any questions/decisions on this topic are highly complicated and highly personal. Therefore, any attempt to legislate generally applicable rules is bound to be unequal in some fashion. And a lot of feminists interpret this willingness to legislate on the topic an indication of lack of trust in a woman's ability to make difficult decisions. I hadn't realized just how true this is until I took part in a conference call last night with Lynn Paltrow (founder of NAPW), Nancy Goldstein (communications director), and bloggers Amanda (from Pandagon), birthyourway, Dr. B (from Bitch Ph.D.), Melissa (from a womb of her own), Sarahthedoula, and The Student (from Bellytales). One of the ladies (my apologies for not remembering which) told a very sad story about a woman who died as a result of a complication during pregnancy. When the hospital code team arrived they chose not to shock her because doing so would have killed the baby, who did end up surviving. During grand rounds the code team was chastised for their decision. In another heartbreaking story, Angela Carter, a 25 weeks pregnant cancer patient, decided (along with her family and her doctors) that her best course of action would be to try to stay alive as long as possible. A neonatologist insisted that the child be delivered via c-section (something everyone agreed would endanger Angela's life) in an attempt to save the child's life. A court ordered the c-section to be done; both Angela and her child died. As Lynn said on the MSNBC show 'Countdown with Kieth Olbermann', this is like a court ordering someone to donate bone marrow or a kidney. It's simply not done in any other set of circumstances. Both these stories are tragic in different ways, and the individuals involved doubtlessly have differing opinions about the action that was taken. Which got me to thinking about possible ways to make it clearer to doctors which actions and decisions parents want, and it seems like a living will would be a step in the right direction. Certainly, it's not the happiest topic to consider, but when you have kids you have to have all sorts of uncomfortable conversations about wills and guardians, and it seems a legal document that clearly lays out your (and your family's) decisions regarding your life and your child's life would be a step in the right direction. Except that currently 30 states have exceptions in their living will laws specifically for pregnant women - in other words, no matter what a pregnant woman's living will says, it is legal for a doctor to override her (and her family's) explicit decision. I can think of no better evidence that this really is a matter of believing that women, once pregnant, are entitled to fewer legal rights and are less capable of making decisions. As Lynn asked during the conference call, "Is there a point in pregnancy when you lose your civil rights?" I don't mean to make this sound like pregnancy pits women against babies. But there are, inevitably, complicated situations that arise where what is best for a baby/fetus and what is best for a woman are two different things. How can anyone claim to always know the right choice to make in those situations and to impose such a decision on the countless families for which such legislation must be applicable? Why must women lose some of their status as human beings in order to give human status to a baby? Why can't we admit that many of these situations are complicated and painful precisely because they are conflicts between two humans?
Other impressions from the call, in bullet points:
- how do you claim to value a culture of life without valuing the mother who gives that life? (Lynn)
- what's the difference between forcing a woman to cross state lines to get an abortion and forcing her to cross state lines to have a vaginal birth, or a midwife-assisted birth? (Lynn)
- difference between being pro-life and being pro-lives (Lynn)
- 30 states have laws making dilation and extraction illegal, and yet only 2 states have maternal information bills that require doctors to provide women with statistics about deliveries...how can people/politicians who support the former but not the latter claim to be concerned with women's health?
- 15%-20% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage or stillbirth, yet there is no support system for those women. why aren't there doulas for stillbirths, miscarriages, and abortions? why aren't support systems for all possible pregnancy outcomes incorporated into reproductive health systems and pregnancy planning
- "pregnancy is a possibility, not a promise"
- the process of being pregnant trains women that everyone knows better than they do and so they stop trusting themselves