In response to recent events further restricting a woman’s right to her own health care decisions (especially in light of the recent, impassioned speeches about an individual’s freedom of choice concerning vaccinations and masks), I am sharing a letter to the editor that I wrote 27 years ago to the Post Bulletin in Rochester, Minnesota. In 2014 I sent it to the News Miner in Fairbanks, Alaska. And today I repeat it, as it is still relevant. The original letter is posted here:
“Republicans in this country have me baffled. Claiming to be intent on saving potential lives, they don’t seem concerned with that life once it arrives. They spend their time, energy and money in ways that take us backward instead of forward. As long as this world is an imperfect place, there will be abortion. Therefore, I would like to suggest resources are used to work toward a healthier world for those already here.
- Teach parents to nurture and provide unconditional love.
- Work against physical, mental, sexual abuse of children (all people).
- Encourage parents/educators to teach children respect for themselves and others.
- Protest the violences and unrealistic depiction of sex in media.
- Increase access to family planning information/supplies.
- Work toward economic equality.
- Promote understanding/respect/equity/justice for all people.
- Support Planned Parenthood. Through education, information, contraception and counseling they are working toward the same goal.”
This is not the exact letter I would write today but it reminds me again how much money, time and effort has been wasted throughout the past 27 years. We all want the same thing: healthy, joyous children living in a loving and safe world. We need to work together. Limiting access to contraception and reproductive health care is the path backward.
If Republicans truly wanted to make a difference they would focus on the male gender and the part they play in this scenario. Men are more than half of this issue. We need to talk to men about responsibility, nurturing, anger management, kindness. Educate men and boys in what real love and caring looks like. Focus on the part they play in sexual abuse, date rape, family violence. Teach sons about their responsibility before and after a pregnancy occurs and when a child is born.
My mother was gang raped at 14 after her shift at work. Her job was standing up the pins at a bowling alley after they were toppled. Men and boys started providing her with beer while she worked, to the management’s blind eye. Her brother, coming to pick her up as it was after dark, found her. She was in a coma for days. At 16 (she was poor and needed to work) she was coerced into sex with her 40-something, married boss ... you know, the guy that wrote her paychecks and was old enough to be her father. When she became pregnant he paid her mom to get her a backstreet abortion. It was terrifying for her and left a scar that never healed.
I used to perform with the “Touch Continuum” in Rochester, Minnesota. It was a group that went into schools to talk to kids about Good and Bad Touch. There was not one performance that one or more women (mothers would attend to support their children) did not come up to me at the end and talk about their experience of being sexually abused as a child.
While I was living in Fairbanks, Alaska, a young girl was found dead in her own home. She was a sixth or seventh grader. A man her father had welcomed into their home had murdered her during the act of rape. The man’s lawyer called it “consensual sex.”
Don’t speak to me about women/girls as the center of this issue. It is clear through my lifetime of hearing stories of abuse that they are often subjects of coercion, violence, rape, grooming and more. Let’s put the focus where it should be and actually make a difference.
If Republicans are willing to put men/boys at the center of this discussion then maybe we can believe they really want to make a positive difference. I look forward to it.
And a big thanks to the commissioners and sheriff for supporting personal freedom, as I assume that is also meant for women’s personal health care choices — otherwise it would be mighty hypocritical.