“From One Who Is Not Asleep”

Dr. Jacquelyn Shah

All humans, male and female, have the right to do with their bodies what they will … as long as they don’t interfere with the safety and well-being of another post-birth human.

Yes, men in power, and their attendant women, can legislate against bodily rights and punish people for their choices, but the rights remain, inalienable. And just as men have the right to copulate and impregnate, so do women have the right to forbid copulation they don’t want and end pregnancies they don’t want. Period. But men will often overcome; hence, rape, incest, and law-making.

My stance on these inalienable rights has a history dating back to 1966, when as a young, unmarried working woman, I shared an apartment with two female roommates. We, with other friends, all partied, drank too much at times, dated casually or passionately. Then one of my roommates, who was having sex with the divorced guy downstairs but pretended she wasn’t, was impregnated. She had a backstreet, illegal abortion––badly executed––and almost died. Upon her survival, she was told she’d never be able to have children.

I didn’t forget this incident, which deeply affected me. Fast forward to 1975 when I was married, mother to one daughter and giving birth to my second––the final child in my family since two was all I wanted, as a proponent of ZPG: Zero Population Growth. A prominent political movement since the 1960’s, ZPG espouses a condition of demographic balance: the number of people in a specified population should neither grow nor decline. This is an objective thought to be in the interest of long-term optimal standards and conditions of living for the whole world. (Sounds pretty “pro-life” to me!) After all, the earth and its resources are finite; population control is imperative.

Although Roe v. Wade had ruled in 1973 that the U.S. Constitution conferred the right to abortion, I didn’t trust that such an option would remain legal and available. I wasn’t interested, either, in having my husband get a vasectomy; I wanted my own permanent protection from any possible impregnation. I ordered, then, from my woman gynecologist, a tubal ligation––no more pills, condoms, gels, creams, foam, or worry about legal and safe abortion remaining an option. Nothing but freedom and peace of mind for me, and the good quality of life that comes with it. My body was no longer reproductively serviceable; it belonged solely in service to me.

Fast, fast forward to 2022––how prescient I was! Here we are, once again in a country where WOMEN ARE CONTROLLED, in the most major way, BY LAWS CREATED AND ENACTED LARGELY BY MEN. And there seems to be more f’ing than ever––consensual and non-consensual. So women face the prospect of backstreet abortions yet again.

In the face of retrograde guys who might outlaw contraception, there are, of course, alternatives like crocodile dung and beaver testicle tea, though keeping such pets to assure sufficient supplies is probably illegal as well. Half a squeezed lemon, though, would be an easy thing to come by, to be employed as a diaphragm. Such are the ancient, inferior safeguards that might have to be resurrected by desperate, unintentionally pregnant women.

From the Library of Congress: “The American republic was founded on a set of beliefs that were tested during the Revolutionary War. Among them was the idea that all people are created equal, whether European, Native American, or African American, and that these people have fundamental rights, such as liberty, free speech, freedom of religion, due process of law, and freedom of assembly.” Of course, it’s an irrefutable truth that the USA has not lived out these high-minded principles, regarding equality; we have had ongoing racism, misogyny, christian hegemony, and a multitude of other atrocious positions and behaviors; the high-minded is always compromised by the underhanded.

Men who own the resources, have the power, and get into government positions––along with women who manage to do the same––will do whatever they decide they WANT to do. Their actions and laws will be based on whatever “reasoning” they conjure up. And many men/women who espouse the christian religion will adopt a holier-than-thou demeanor and claim to be pro-life, even if they are pro-gun, pro-war, and (though mostly denied) anti-woman. I’m appalled by the prevailing hypocrisy evident in the rhetoric and behavior of those lawmakers and civilians posing as pro-life, when they are anything but. They are fundamentally pro-death.

Not impressed with U.S. government, christianity, or the current values that always privilege wealth over health, safety, and individual liberty, I am pleased to be far, far past the child-bearing age and have great compassion for the younger women who must endure, resist, and creatively manage jeopardizing situations, now as ever.

Unlike the smug christians who wear crosses––which symbolize, for them, one who died for their “sins” but represents murder to me––I wear a peace symbol and my Phi Beta Kappa key (standing for intelligent accomplishment). My favorite bumper sticker is George Carlin’s declaration: “Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.” Indeed.

Though I’m not a fan of American humor in general––too often at the expense of people––and I engage in no hero worship, I rather like some of Carlin’s humor. Regarded as one of the most important and influential stand-up comedians of all time, he’s also quoted as having said, “That’s why they call it the American Dream, because you have to be asleep to believe it.”