My goodness, I should post on Sundays more often! 20 comments on my Amy Richards bit immediately below, and some 400 visitors in the past 15 hours.
I found the Amy Richards abortion story by accident, just browsing the NY Times online. Apparently, at the same time that I was blogging about it, arch-conservative Michelle Malkin was weighing in on the subject. (XRLQ links to her; she's not exactly a regular read.) Other folks are blogging about it too.
I really do appreciate the many thoughtful comments below my post (and how nice to see that the Angry Clam is back on the beat!) This one from blackcoffeeblues was particularly accurate:
And, perhaps, those of us who are watching Rudy and Sam and are sympathizing with the difficulties that this loving family are going through, are more sensitive to the cold, harsh reality of another persons life decision and more quick to be critical and judgemental than usual.
For the record, folks, I write my posts very quickly. I give 'em the once over for spelling and grammar and punctuation, and then put them up. I write impulsively. Yesterday's post was not intended as a thoughtful essay on abortion politics; it was the product of an emotional, visceral reaction on my part. Make no mistake, if the story is true (and we have every reason to believe that it is), I still think that what Amy Richards did was morally reprehensible. But having had some time to reflect, and to read the thoughtful comments everyone left, I am prepared to offer some more temperate words.
I went back and read Amy's piece in the Times again. And this time, I focused on the first two sentences:
I grew up in a working-class family in Pennsylvania not knowing my father. I have never missed not having him.
For some reason, that's what is stopping me short this morning. The emphatic "never" in the second sentence defies everything we know about child and adolescent psychology and human nature itself! Amy never once wished she had had a father? Help me out here, folks... does anyone believe her? I don't know Amy Richards but I wonder if the callousness of her decision is in some way linked to her own complete obtuseness about her own childhood.
I think everything that comes in the rest of her shocking, stomach-churning essay has to be read in the context of those opening lines. I do believe that abortion and male irresponsibility are inseparable. Amy's experience of childhood poverty was tied to the absence of a father who could provide for her family. For her and for many women, what it means to be poor is to have a child without an adult man in the home. (She admits as much in her third line: what I probably would have gained was economic security and with that societal security.)
Many of my female students who were raised by single moms were told one thing over and over and over again: Never rely on a man. Many of the mothers of my students got pregnant while still in their teens (I have a number of students whose mothers are younger than I am). I suspect that Amy's mom gave her that same stern message, and she clearly took it to heart. I wish we knew whether the boyfriend in the story (Peter) offered to marry her. (Oh, I could blog a lot about the Peters of the world. I'll deal with him in an upcoming post. But if I saw three beating hearts on a sonagram, you'd have to take me away in handcuffs. Perhaps this is just grandiosity, but I'd like to think that I would have fought far harder for those kids. I suspect the Amys of the world pick the Peters carefully. He is a compliant fellow indeed.) But it's not at all clear that Amy would have accepted his offer and kept all three of her babies even if he had! One child was the most she could have and still be able to maintain her precious autonomy; three children would leave her utterly dependent upon a man. And I suspect that to Amy, nothing could be more self-destructive and foolish than to rely upon a man. Abortion thus becomes a key tool in her fight for dignity and self-preservation. In her first paragraph, she writes of her fear of poverty: What would it take for me to just slip? An unplanned multiple pregnancy makes that fear tangible; but to stick with her metaphor, as for so many women, it is abortion that helps Amy regain her footing. Access to abortion gives women the opportunity to retain complete agency in their lives; for a woman raised as Amy was, that agency is precious enough to be worth stopping two beating hearts.
In the calmer world of this Monday morning, I am still angry at Amy Richards. But I am also angry at a legacy of male betrayal, irresponsibility, and abandonment. I've been saying for years that the struggle for abortion rights is rooted in (among other things) a profound disappointment in men. That disappointment and distrust becomes multi-generational. I believe in working to end abortion by a variety of means, including legal restrictions. But as a man, I know that increasing male accountability is a critical component of the struggle to end abortion. And surely, greater male responsibility is something we can all agree on.