My name is Jen Graham, and I was born to two loving parents twenty three years ago, on July 2nd, 1990. I have a little brother, who I love dearly, who was born four years later. I am, despite the overwhelming existential dread in which I appear to be drowning, incredibly grateful that my amorphous sprit was able to take this shape, to grow, to learn, to travel, and expand in unbelievable ways. I can’t imagine what my life would be like if my brother’s amorphous spirit hadn’t had the same opportunities, hadn’t taken shape, hadn’t held my hand, given me hell, and grown into an amazing young man. In my vision of my future, there is a pregnancy. There is another vague, amorphous spirit coming into my life, one I will treasure, one I will teach, nurture, and eventually send out into the world to explore and grow.
I preface the rest of my words with this statement so that you can know me. I want you to know that I am a functioning, independent, thoughtful human being, and I want you to know how much I value the gift of life. I want you to know that I was born and raised a Catholic, that I am a practicing Catholic, that I believe in one God, the giver of life and blah blah blah, that I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. I am not currently on birth control (disclaimer: not for religious reasons), and when I am frightened by the potentiality of my womb, it is because I do not think I could ever, personally, abort a pregnancy. I want you to know all of this, because I want you to keep this in mind when I tell you that your decision not to veto the lines in the new Ohio budget dealing with abortion, planned parenthood, and rape crisis makes me ill. Just days after Texas State Senator Wendy Davis’s filibuster gave me goosebumps and made me cheer with happy, misty eyes for the future human race, your voice came to me over the radio waves, thick and dripping with pleasure. Governor Kasich, you were asked whether or not you would use your veto power to correct an obviously erroneous addition to our state budget, and you responded with a sick, smarmy satisfaction, “Remember, I’m pro-life.”
(In case you are not from Ohio, or haven’t been following the news coverage on our new budget, these are some [but unfortunately not even close to all] of the horrifying items our esteemed Governor refused to eliminate:
- an abortion provider must check for a heartbeat with an abdominal ultrasound, a procedure that I just read could cost a woman without insurance upwards of $1,000, and inform women of the fetus’s “probable anatomical and physiological characteristics” during its development
- non-denominational Planned Parenthood was put last on the list for funding (which will lead to the closing of many centers). Funding will be re-routed to “pregnancy crisis centers,” which are overwhelmingly right-wing religious centers that counsel against abortion and which do not always provide correct information
- rape crisis centers that counsel victims on abortion options might lose funding, again leading to closures
- abortion clinics can no longer transfer patients to public hospitals, which means agreements with private [religious] hospitals or, almost more terrifying, an inability to get patients with complications the care they need
- a redefinition of conception as the moment of fertilization, potentially effecting contraception methods such as birth control pills, IUDs, and things like Plan B emergency contraception)
Now, please forgive a shallow and inexperienced young woman (as all young women are known to be, especially on these topics) for deigning to comment on an issue so far beyond my sphere of experience, but what on earth does my choice to conceive, abort, or carry to term have to do with the two-year state budget? Or, sir, were you trying to be clever and avoid a second triumphant Wendy Davis happening in our great state? Because, here is what it looks like to me: it looks like you hate me. In an America where it could cost more than most yearly college tuitions ($50,000) simply to give birth, in an America that still thinks it is appropriate to shame the victims of rape, in an America that prefers to look for scapegoats to blame rather than working constructively to solve its problems, in an America and an Ohio that I nevertheless love, it looks to me like you are immature, irresponsible, and came to class without doing the reading.
To be fair to you, I don’t expect you to be able to get beyond your business suit and your Governor’s Mansion and really understand what it’s like to carry a child to term. The female reproductive system is amazing and beautiful, but I will concede that it is mind-boggling. In fact, I don’t expect most men to posses this particular mental capacity, unless they’ve had their abdomen electrocuted for hours on end. The difference is that I don’t expect other, greater men to try. Yes, it’s true! I expected you to pretend you possessed that empathy. Isn’t that what your male peers have been doing for the past decade or so with increasing surety–pretending that men could possibly know what it’s like to have another human growing inside of you and the looming responsibility of raising this tiny, dependent creature for at least 18 years? So, that eventually legislation dealing with this issue would rise in our state government was (unfortunately) kind of inevitable.
What I honestly didn’t expect is that you could possibly be so frivolous with our state’s finances, and so sneaky, yet so obvious about it. Was this one of those Sauron-forged-in-secret-a-master-ring moments? Do you think women are stupid? Or did you want us to know so that you could rub it in our faces as you cackled and destroyed Middle Earth? (In case you missed this part of the trilogy, you burn some villages and make some hell, but the free people of Middle Earth win in the end.) Oh, and aren’t you guys supposed to be the conservative ones? Aren’t we liberals supposed to be the ones wasting our state’s money? So why would you choose to saddle our state with more financial burdens in the form of health and childcare?
The more women forced into unplanned pregnancies they couldn’t even hope to pay for, the more everyone else has to pay to foot the bill. Even if you do not support abortion for whatever reason, organizations like Planned Parenthood and rape crisis centers provide women and families with the information they need to live and–yes–engage in coitus heathfully and responsibly. They don’t force-feed patrons abortions. The contraception information and services provided by these organizations, not only ensures less unplanned pregnancies and (thus) less potential abortions and costly medical procedures, it also increases the chances that this new life will be born into a family whose love is ripe and whose finances are ready. This can save billions BILLIONS of dollars a year! So, tell me, Mr. Pro-Life, are you afraid of women killing babies, or are you just afraid of women?
(Since you seem so unable to understand and trust the vexing female mind, I’ll clear up a few things and say I can’t think of any sane woman who wakes up on a usual Monday morning, eats her cereal, and contemplates her next exciting abortion.)
Again, I lament that the most tragic aspect of studying women of the early American Republic is the realization that so little has changed. In 1797, Charles Brockden Brown wrote a little novella in which an educated woman shows an ignorant male school teacher the light. In 2013, over two centuries later, I despair that her words still resonate and ring true:
Even the government of our own country, which is said to be the freest in the world, passes over women as if they were not. We are excluded from all political rights without the least ceremony. Law-makers thought as little of comprehending us in their code of liberty as if we were pigs, or sheep. That females are exceptions to their general maxims, perhaps never occurred to them, if it did, the idea was quietly discarded without leaving behind in it the slightest consciousness of inconsistency or injustice…If they generously admit me into the class of existences, but affirm that I exist for no purpose but the convenience of the more dignified sex, that I cannot be entrusted with the government of myself: that to foresee, to deliberate and decide belongs to others, while all my duties resolve themselves into this precept, ‘listen and obey;’ it is not for me to smile at their tyranny, or receive as my gospel, a code built upon such atrocious maxims. No, I am not a Federalist.
Later in 1883, Lucy Stone expressed a similar view in an essay, urging Oberlin College, her alma mater, to support a woman’s right to vote. She wrote:
As I sat here, I looked up to your torn and tattered flag. It marks the battle-fields where your soldiers carried it for freedom. But I remember that other flags with their stars and bars ar floating on our hilltops everywhere, and taxed without representation ad governed without their consent. When the war was ended and the Government asked in its reconstruction…’What shall be done with the rebels?’ and with one voice the people said, ‘Let them have amnesty and universal suffrage.’ And they got it. And then it was asked, ‘What shall we do with Jefferson Davis–the man who had been the greatest traitor to his country?’ And the nation, looking over all its borders to find the worst punishment it could inflict upon him, did not put him in prison for life, did not set him to hard labor, did not load him with chains that should clank in human hears, but took away his right to vote. It made him the political peer of every woman in the land. When the women who had in camp and on the field nursed the soldiers, who hand turned night into day to raise supplies for the Sanitary Commission and to help the brave boys in blue–when these women went to Washington and asked, ‘In the reconstruction of the Government, what will you do with us?’ the Government left us all the peers of Jefferson Davis.
Why is it so difficult for you men take women seriously? Do we not have minds? Can we not process ideas? Do we not feel? Do we not bleed? We are no strangers from a distant galaxy. We are your flesh, and we are your blood. The women of Ohio are your daughters, and you have a responsibility to us to listen and respect us. As the highest public servant in our state government, you have a responsibility to be upfront and honest with us, to scold rather than gloat when your party sneaks unnecessary, hurtful items into a necessary budget proposal. I love Ohio. I was born here; I was raised here; and, until very recently, I had planned to live out the majority of my life in this great state. But you, John Kasich, by showing me that my vote counts almost as little to you as it would have in the nineteenth century, by dismissing my own agency and seizing undue control of my body–a gift my God gave me–you have proven to me that there’s a new boogeyman in town.
I don’t have to watch out for monsters under my bed or vampires in bushes. A full moon isn’t when the werewolves hunt. You have proven to me that a bright, sunny day at the end of June is when the real monsters gather, and they’re not furry or disfigured. They’re men–they’re fathers, brothers, husbands, and sons–they’re wearing business suits, they’re crowded around a big mahogany table, and they’re smiling.