An Email to My Friend About a Pregnant Woman’s Suicide AttemptPosted: May 22, 2012
So, here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to talk about what I believe to be the premise of the case being discussed (someone attempting suicide when she was pregnant?) and throw out some thoughts. THEN I’m going to read the Jezebel piece and probably have some more thoughts. 🙂 That way, I won’t be unduly influenced by whatever the Jezebel piece says. Ok? Ok.
The thing is, I’m influenced already, I guess. I’m a mother, I’m a woman, I’ve spent enough years living in our society wringing my hands and fighting for things it seems should be doled out generously but aren’t. I love my children–their warm, rich, soft bodies and dancing eyes and the newness of everything to them. They open me up, they make me better. But they hold me back, too; with their unending, ceaseless, greedy need of me. Did you ever see “The Dark Crystal”? Some (many) days I feel like that gelfling, having my ‘essence’ sucked from me until my skull caves in. But I love them, I love them still. I love them in the way that only first-world suburbanites with warm homes and imported cars and canvas tote bags from Whole Foods can…a love thick with entitlement (They will live, it says, they will grow to be adults and I will get to love them for the rest of my life). I hope that desperately, and the thought of anyone not feeling that way about their children fills me with despair. But.
The thing is, we live in this society that can’t decide what it wants, what its priorities should be. “Pro-lifers” usually believe in the death penalty, and certainly don’t want to provide a support system to care for the fetus whose life is so darn important to them. We have this mess, this utter mess where pregnancy itself can (and often does) contribute to despair. If you’re lucky, you have enough resources to provide for a child. If you’re even luckier, you will be able to take a meager 12 weeks’ “maternity leave” and then go back to work so you can spend the next 18 years feeling overwhelmed, stretched too thin, and like you aren’t doing a terribly good job at either being a parent or a worker bee. If you’re unlucky, you need to rush back even earlier, or leave your infant with someone less-than-desirable whose care you can afford.
That’s lucky in this country, that’s fortunate. Scraping by and feeling torn in half. We demand that people parent their children correctly, but don’t demand that corporations care for the employees that give more hours to them each week than their children ever received. What if it wasn’t like that? I’d love to see the PPD/PP-psychosis/infanticide/etc. numbers for more socialist countries like Sweden or France where parents are guaranteed long leaves, quality sponsored childcare, and ample time home with their families.
So there’s that. Then there’s the whole pro-choice thing. Sigh. I will always fight tooth and nail to be sure EVERYONE has access to abortion, even though on some level many abortions as individual procedures make me slightly uncomfortable. I guess that’s a normal reaction. Truth? All of my friends who have had abortions–they’ve been in that much-maligned “sort of using it for birth control” category. There was no condom breaking, no unsolicited contact. They just took their chances, or thought he’d react differently to the news, or whatnot. They still got to have abortions, and I support that. I just…think we’d be better off educating people better and changing society so people weren’t in that situation to begin with. Seriously…what the fuck is wrong with us as a country that people feel ashamed to buy birth control?! Or think that something as freaking serious and life-altering as parenting is something you can just toy with and hope works out?!
Here is what else I think. I think that our society is deeply, deeply fucked up on many (MANY!) levels. I think that it sickens me that someone can unthinkingly act while she is pregnant with what is or could be a viable, living human being at that point. I wish it were something I felt like we could prosecute. But. But. It’s not like that. I would love to write laws that protected pregnant women AND the fetuses they are pregnant with when they become viable. But it’s not like that…people twist that shit. Women who cannot survive the pregnancy can be made to attempt to do so…women who don’t know they’re pregnant and drink/smoke/whatever (*waves hand*) can/could be prosecuted…etc. So…I think it is difficult for me to support prosecuting a pregnant woman, as much as it pains me to think of the baby-to-be who deserved better.
I think…the answer in cases like this is that there is no easy answer. Mostly, I think that people bark up the wrong trees…instead of focusing on how to punish or not, how to write laws to protect the right people, I wish we could all take our energy and start building the kind of society where people didn’t slip so easily through the cracks.