In 1944, during WWII, when I was conceived around the time of the D-Day invasion, both my parents worked in defense industries near or in Chicago. Both were engineers, and I believe (not for sure in my father’s case) they were both liaison engineers for the Army Air Corps in aircraft factories. They had been married since mid-or-late 1930s, and my mother had had four previous pregnancies, all ending in late miscarriages/stillbirths–all male. When she learned she was pregnant again, after the second missed period (pregnancy diagnosis then depended on the “rabbit test”) that would’ve been in August ’44, probably. She came home elated–another chance, maybe this time she’d carry to term–to tell my father.
He had news for her. Before she could tell him about the pregnancy, he told her he wanted an immediate divorce because he’d gotten another woman pregnant and wanted to marry *her*, so her child would be legitimate. He was not happy to find out my mother was pregnant, and very unhappy to find out she wouldn’t divorce him because it would make the contents of my mother’s uterus a bastard–that’s how the law went. Well, then, he said, she should get an abortion. Abortions were illegal, though not as illegal as some states want them to be now. They were also more dangerous than abortions have been since ’73. He wanted her to risk an illegal abortion of a child conceived in marriage, that she wanted, and divorce him, so that he could marry this other woman and legitimize her child.
When she refused, and when she insisted on a conference with a priest who was horrified at his demands, he took my mother off to meet with his mother. His mother thought anything he wanted was fine and dandy, and her reaction to my mother’s refusal to have an abortion OR grant my father a divorce, was to…try to push my mother downstairs and cause her to have a miscarriage…or even perhaps die. My mother described the struggle at the head of the stairs to me only when I was mostly grown up and didn’t want me to talk about it. As often happens, she, the victim, felt shamed by it. She didn’t want to hurt her mother-in-law, but she also didn’t want to be thrown down the stairs. Not too long after that she decided it was not safe for her or her pregnancy to stay with my father (no kidding!!) and drove from Chicago to South Texas where she was from–right down on the border–in wartime. No interstate highways then..a long, long, LONG way, and crossing multiple state borders.
When I read about the states (including Texas) that want to stop pregnant women from leaving the state they’re in because they “might” go somewhere and have an abortion, I think about that. I am alive today because she had the courage to leave…and the *ability* to travel across state lines despite being pregnant. I think about my father, and my paternal grandmother, both being willing for me to die–through miscarriage or an illegal abortion–for my father’s convenience. My father was Catholic. That didn’t affect his behavior in this situation.
When I read about a woman found dead at the bottom of a staircase, I think of my mother, who fought to avoid ending up there…or with another failed pregnancy.
In today’s extreme right-wing-woman-hating climate, my mother probably would be arrested for that first late-term miscarriage/stillbirth. If not for the first, for next. Women having spontaneous pregnancy loss have *already* been arrested and jailed on grounds that they were trying to abort. A woman who’d had a fall down a staircase was assumed to have wanted an abortion. Laws that forbid medical care for failed pregnancies that menace a woman’s life (rotting remains of pregnancy causing massive infection, ectopic pregnancies that rupture, and several other emergencies) or for pregnancies that simply directly cause maternal death directly, will kill women and also eliminate any chance of bearing a live child later.
Women were, and still are, typically blamed if a spontaneous or intentional abortion interrupts a pregnancy. News flash: often it’s the person who impregnates the mother who wants her to have an abortion. Or his mother. My life experience has let me know a number of women (no trans persons, just women) from ages 14 up who have had abortions, several of them paid for by mothers of the boy/man who made them pregnant. Some by the man himself. I have also known women who were injured or killed by those who impregnated them. So-called “honor” killings of pregnant teens by the fathers, brothers, uncles, grandfathers to conceal their own crimes. Murders by married men to hide their affairs (and sexual assaults of minors). Murders by boyfriends, by rapists. Pregnant women are at extra risk of being murdered during pregnancy. Murder isn’t always by gun or poison–they may, like my mother, find themselves being pushed toward the stairs. Some fall; some die. Some successfully fight back. Now those numbers will rise again. More women will die. From medical neglect, from the malice of those who do not want their pregnancy to succeed, and from the malice of those who believe in forced pregnancy. Some pregnant women will be blamed when they are murder victims.
I’ve been asked how I’d feel about it if my mother had aborted me. I wouldn’t exist, so I’d have no thoughts or feelings, and thus could not “mind” or feel “sad” or whatever. I decided early on that abortion should be legal, that no uterus-carrier should be obliged to bear a child she did not want. And that no pregnant woman who *wanted* that pregnancy to succeed should be forced to have an abortion. No forced pregnancies, no forced abortions. That no uterus-carrier was just a “vessel” existing primarily to provide “a domestic supply of infants for adoption,” as if the women were cows and mares, and the infants were calves and colts to be sold for someone’s profit. Considering the profits in baby-supply these days, infant-trafficking is certainly making some people rich. The thought expressed in that draft decision by SCOTUS, that killing Roe v. Wade would “increase the domestic supply of infants for adoption” is commodifying babies: making them a commodity people can expect to be made available for them…for them to purchase and use.
How I feel about my father and my paternal grandmother wanting me to die or be born a bastard is…a bit complicated and has changed over time. By the time I knew anything about that, I was alive, and thriving, with very little contact with my father and none with that grandmother. I was initially appalled at the insults to my mother, rather than the danger to me. I had my own reasons not to trust or like my father; I resented being forced to see him when he’d show up without warning, interrupting my life. I think they were wrong, both he and his mother, and things he did often hurt me, but it wasn’t life-threatening. I was never able to feel for him what either he or I wanted me to feel, but I finally got over feeling guilty about that. If you aren’t *being* a father, then you can’t have a father/child relationship the way an in-residence father can. The hours just aren’t there.