Friday, November 18, 2005

Big Picture Check: On Reproductive Choices - ALL of Them

As is her usual, Shanikka has written a superb diary on elements of the "choice wars" that regularly get lost in the abortion din. A piece of the intro for context:

MediaGirl has written a comprehensive diary on the case of Gabriela Flores that is on today's recommended list at DailyKOS, as well it should be. In the comments, Moiv mentioned the case of Regina McKnight in passing. Someone else expressed surprise, saying that they did not know about the McKnight case. The rest of the discussion was more of the same old same old argument about Republicans, women hatred, pro-lifers, politics in the name of God, Casey's pro-life stance, and how the country is in the hands of a cult ever since the ascension of George W. Bush.
I admit that my reaction to all this was anger. Angry at the expressed suprise. Angry at the fact that we're still saying all the same things and spouting the same party lines, all focused on abortion. And angry that the only thing that even generates this much rage in progressives where women's reproductive rights are concerned is abortion.

When in fact Ms. Flores' abortion dilemma would likely not exist at all had we just gotten 1/2 as mad, 1/2 as determined, and 1/2 as dogmatic about Regina McKnight and another woman named Cornelia Whitner.

Her entry is long, but well worth the time. In it, she raises some highly valid points about the various manifestations of "choice", and includes case histories that some of you may be unaware of (as I was). As with so many good posts, it's hard to quote without losing something in the process, so get the rest, study up, spread the word.


Geo_Chick said...

I think the Gabriela Flores case is a huge tragedy, and very wrong. But I have to say that I think discouraging women who are drug addicts from carrying a pregnancy to term is not such a bad thing.

I have seen the effects of drugs on children. There seems to be this false impression that drug addicted babies grow up to be ok. Somehow the 'babies' get all the attention, and the children and teens they grow up to be aren't discussed. Those are some messed up kids. You think you know ADHD?!? Well check out a crack baby, now 10...he can't read, he can't even sit still, he has SERIOUS anger control issues...and these are just some of the problems that one kid I worked with faced. That is after a life where eating paper cause mama forgot to get food for him again was par for the course. Where mama kept spitting out babies cause each one got taken away, but she needed that welfare check.

Yes, I believe in the right to an abortion. But not everyone should be reproducing. Unfortunately we have a system whereby these pregnancies are sort of encouraged because a woman alone gets no real support, but once she is pregnant she gets a lot more. But not nearly enough for what some people need. Welfare is a sort of trap for some.

In my own personal life I know one situation where a son was adopted, then the mom had another baby. That one died, so she had another. That one was taken in by the mom of the first child. At age 2 she had never eaten solid food (at the time children were allowed in bars an AZ and they served milk), was physically and sexually abused, and then abandoned. The courts gave her back to her mom 3 times over 8 years. All mom had to do was show up sober and pass 1 drug test to get her back?!? Meanwhile, the way welfare worked... since she might be getting her back at any time she needed the rent subsidy to keep a home ready just in case. So mom kept showing up to most of the court dates. She had to miss 3 in a row to loose the money. It finally did happen that she missed 3. The child, then 10, was put up for adoption and is now doing much better. Mom was found a few months later, on drugs and pregnant again. She had another boy and started the process all over again. After several years he was removed permanently, but he was so messed up that last I heard no one would adopt him and he was in a group foster home. She had a stillborn, and then another baby girl before I quit asking. BTW, she is white, and from a middle class family. Her siblings are are successful.

Some people should not reproduce. That one woman has put several messed up kids into our world. In at least the last boys case, he will be on government support probably all of his life.

There is a lot of blame to pass around here. A system that encourages pregnancy to get a rent subsidy. The drug wars, dealers, bad crowd that got her addicted. A lack of good rehab facilities for the poor (though I doubt it would have helped her, her siblings tried to get her into something and she refused). She had family support, but it wasn't enough. Drugs won.

I am sorry this is not more well written, but this family was really close to my family. This story, the people, it is a really personal issue for me. So yes, I support abortion rights, but I am really not sure everyone should have the right to reproduce. If jailing a drug addict is what it takes to get her off drugs, to keep her from having another drug baby and ruining more lives, then maybe that is what we need to do. I just wish they got treatment while in jail. But I am not foolish enough to believe that will happen. That would make sense, and somehow I think common sense is too often missing in our world.

Cantankerous Bitch said...

I'm entirely sympathetic to these tales, and agree that the way some women use kids as a meal ticket is about as abhorrent as it gets.
However, here's the thing --

Who gets to decide who should and shouldn't "be allowed" to reproduce, and why? It's the proverbial "who's watching the watchers" question. I don't know about you, but I literally cannot conceive of any elected or legislative body that I would ever trust to make wholesale judgements like that.

It's one thing to discourage the meal-ticket-baby thing, it's another thing altogether to criminalize women that for that and other "poor choices during pregnancy". Smoking is a great example. There's overwhelming evidence that shows pregnant women shouldn't smoke, right? Ok, great. So we create laws that punish pregnant women who do. Except.... it's entirely possible to smoke, like, one cigarette a day, for example, and not cause any harm at all to the baby (just ask the generations of kids whose moms DID smoke). Do we throw the one-a-day women in jail too? This is the problem with trying to legislate Thou Shalt Nots, especially as it pertains to reproductive choices. In an attempt to dissuade bad behavior, or go after the real contemptible minority, we risk unfairly treating the majority and pretty much shitting all over their right to self-determination in the process.

As for who gets to decide -- I don't want someone like Dobson deciding who's a suitable candidate for parenthood, anymore than I want to leave that decision to David Duke. And in this political climate, it's the Dobsons of the world that carry political capital and are as likely as not to end up in a legislative position. The slippery slope from "protecting children" to "social control" is much shorter than we think, IMO.

The scenarios you describe sound like funding and resource problems with social services, to say nothing of the completely absent "rehabilitation" element of our criminal justic system -- things which absolutely need to be addressed, but not with proscriptions on who can and cannot have kids and under what circumstances they'll be deemed "worthy". It would be attacking the problem from the wrong side of the issue.

Incidentally, did you follow this link re: "crack babies"? Interesting stuff.

Geo_Chick said...

Interesting stuff about the crack babies. I personally don't like the term because it seems to imply that only babies suffer, and not give anything to the later problems of the children and adults that were born to drug addicted parents. There should be some term, similiar to FAS (fetal alcohol syndrome).

If we are going on to cigarettes, then what about daddies smoking by pregnant mommies, or families that smoke in the house with the kids there? All are known to cause problems. I would hope that parents could be educated to smoke away from babies, and women could get down to that 1 cig a day (or quit) during pregnancy. But the health issues from smoking don't cause nearly the health issues over life that some of the other drugs cause. Yes, cancer, and emphazema, and asthma are serious. But life can still be lived to a large degree. Cancer usually comes much later. You still have your mental capacities and ability to coordinate your body. Some FAS kids or babies born drug addicted are almost vegitables, never even speak. Those are extreme cases, and there is a range of effects. Some grow up to be mostly fine. But the dangers of damage are much greater. Also, women on drugs are more likely not to get any pre-natal care. Which just compounds the issues.

Yes, mother's are people with rights. But the babies will be people and should have some rights too. I know this is the line that leads back to no abortion, which I am is not what I want either. It is such a tricky balance, and as of yet I don't know how to maintain it.

And I am not sure who should decide about reproductive rights, or how it should be decided. I just know that some people really shouldn't reproduce. I think fixing the system would do a whole lot to fix the problem. Unfortunately I have few concrete suggestions.

I too fear who would make those decisions, and how they would be made. I shudder at the slippery slope and the prospect of, for example, the hearing impared not being allowed to have children. Or the poor, or the HS drop out. Just because of someone's bias. But someone who knows they will not be able to quit drugs, knows their child will be born with problems, but lacks the capacity to stop themselves from having babies, well something needs to be done there. I just don't know what.

Cantankerous Bitch said...

Sorry, GC -- I didn't get back to this right away, and now I'm a little pressed for time. Follow the original story link and read through the discussion. The concerns you raise are addressed there more comprehensively.