After watching the Democratic National Convention last week, one of the most haunting moments for me was Vice President Al Gore’s grave reminder that as many as three Supreme Court Justices could be chosen by the next president.
I hate to sound like a single issue voter and as a Catholic who has never even considered having an abortion, I immediately feared for the fate of Roe v. Wade, the legal precedent that has made abortion legal and safe in this country.
You see, I come from a culture that is extremely controlling of women, including our sexuality. As an 18-year-old at my parents’ home, I was not allowed to even receive phone calls from boys. My parents did not want me to live in a college dorm room for fear I would shack up with guys and have no ring on my finger.
I remember my father’s reaction when he first learned that me and my husband — who is the only boyfriend I ever brought home, by the way — were living together without being married. He wagged his finger in my husband’s face and said, “If you were half as smart as people say you are, you would know that a woman needs to be pure until she is married!” He then stopped helping me pay for school and DH picked up the tab.
But contrast these outdated views with the freedom I have enjoyed as a woman in America. I will never forget my first trip to a Planned Parenthood, which is where I picked up my first birth control pills. Despite the largely male “pro-life” protesters yelling in my face and having to receive free healthcare enclosed in bullet proof glass windows and heavy security, it was such a relief to receive birth control free of judgement. No one at Planned Parenthood batted an eye at my being there. No one called me a puta — “slut” — or questioned my marital status. This is freedom, folks.
Throughout the years, I would turn to Planned Parenthood every time I had no health insurance. They have always been willing to give me free pap smears and $10 birth control pills, which is unheard of south of the border.
Sometimes I feel that my fellow American sisters (cough, Sarah Palin, cough) take these freedoms for granted. Perhaps they need to live in a Latin American country where machismo and judgmentalism reigns supreme and abortion is illegal even when the mother’s life is in danger. In my mother-in-law’s country of El Salvador, for example, not only do many women die in childbirth or following an illegal abortion, but it is not unheard of to read newspaper accounts of babies left abandoned in the countryside. The lucky ones are found and placed in an overcrowded orphanage.
Which leads me to why I will forever consider myself pro-choice, even if I never have an abortion and the issue doesn’t seem to affect me. It is the freedom I have enjoyed in this country. The freedom to walk around without the judgement of my neighbors. The freedom to be without my own government passing judgement on me. Yes, the freedom to walk into a Planned Parenthood. I know what the alternative is and I don’t like it.