I have inauguration day blues this morning.
I thought about wearing a black armband today, but instead I am consoling myself with a cup of real coffee. With two lumps of sugar, because I'm wild and crazy like that.
It is only partially about GWB, and my dread of what our country will look like in four years' time. It is more about our current political system, under which I do not foresee feeling happy about anybody's inauguration as president anytime soon.
I am mostly a Democrat. During the campaign I took an online quiz, one of those "Who is your candidate?" deals, and Dennis Kucinich came up as my best option -- I think the computer said his views and mine were 97% compatible. But I am also pro-life, a position that accounts for far more than 3% of my thinking.
In my view, being pro-life is entirely consistent with being a Democrat. It's about looking out for the little guy, speaking up for those who don't have a voice. It's about doing what's just even when it's costly. And so when I read last month that the Democratic Party is reviewing its position on abortion in hopes of reaching more voters, I got up from the breakfast table to do a happy dance in my kitchen.
Predictably, the responses to the party's reassessment of its position were swift and strident. One of the most vexing things about the abortion debate in this country is the way it polarizes us. You say, "Women's bodies, women's choices" -- you must be Gloria Feldt. I say, "Respect life" -- I must be Nellie Gray.
But I am not Nellie Gray. And Gloria Feldt and I have some important common ground. I expect, for instance, that we both deplore the idea of women choosing abortion because of external pressure from an employer, or from a boyfriend, or from family members. I expect we could agree that it is disgraceful for any woman anywhere to feel compelled to have an abortion when she does not want to. Perhaps we could agree on the irony that legal abortion, which was imagined as a means of protecting women's freedom and autonomy, can also be a tool men use to restrict women's choices. Too often, I think, "you can have an abortion" becomes "you should have an abortion."
And I am certain we would agree that no woman should ever abort a baby because she cannot afford basic health care. We might say together, "Hey, GWB, have you priced maternity care lately? Have you looked for health insurance with maternity coverage in the past few years?" In the summer of 2001 I was trying to find a way to have another baby while we had health insurance that covered only catastrophes, and I quickly discovered that paying out of pocket for uncomplicated obstetric care would cost about $10K in my city. I could buy an insurance policy to cover obstetric care, but it required me to wait ten months before benefits were available, resulting in a total charge only slightly lower than paying out of pocket -- if we conceived right away. If it took longer than a few months, insurance for a routine pregnancy became more expensive than paying the bills on our own. We just barely qualified for a state program that became our backup in case something went wrong, and found a family practitioner with flexible payment arrangements and more reasonable fees to do our home birth. The result was my beautiful Joe. But if my husband had earned another $100 per month we would have been past the ceiling for the state prenatal care program. I assure you we would not have found a $10K bill any more manageable with that extra $100 in the bank each month.
Can anyone explain to me how it can possibly be a pro-life action to try to cut federal funding for Medicaid, so that even more families are left in the cold as health care costs climb? I have to wonder if GWB has ever walked the floor at 1 am with a screaming baby, praying that the Tylenol eases the pain in his ear enough that he can wait until morning to see the doctor. Has he ever faced the need to take a child to the ER knowing there just is not the money in the bank to pay the bill? I suspect that he has not.
It makes me tired just thinking about it, tired and queasy and angry -- this idea that tax cuts for the wealthy are more important than access to care for expectant mothers and their children. And it is only one of many ways in which GWB makes me tired and queasy and angry. The war. The disregard for the environment. The kowtowing to corporate interests. The prospect of a Democratic candidate who shared my views on responsibility to the poor and stewardship of the earth and looking out for pregnant women and their babies -- well, that's a campaign I'd throw my whole self into (and given that I am now in the 28th week of this pregnancy, my whole self is a not inconsiderable entity).
The funny thing is, I know so many Catholics (and other Christians) who feel the same way. Some of them hold their noses and vote Republican. Some of them hold their noses and vote Democrat. In the last election I could not bring myself to vote for Bush and could not bring myself to vote for Kerry, so I voted for a third-party candidate. All of us would love to see more pro-life Democrats. Why is it that Republican candidates who support abortion rights are fairly mainstream while pro-life Democrats are rarae aves indeed?
I am thinking about some of the women whose blogs I read, about Elena and Arwen, who blogged about backing Bush, and about Moxie and Summer, who were so disappointed when Kerry lost. I am thinking there is fodder in this post to offend just about anyone. Those of you on the right may take me to task for my scorn toward Bush, and you'd be right -- it is a failure of charity to acknowledge that the sound of his voice makes me twitch. Those of you on the left may wonder how any thinking woman can oppose abortion rights, and you'd be justified in saying that the pro-life position doesn't appear very compassionate to some women in tough places, or very practical either.
But practical is not the highest goal. I have committed myself to the service of One for whom pragmatism seemed pretty far down the priority list (witness "Love your enemies," perhaps the most impractical pronouncement ever uttered by a rational being). And when I look at the world with the "eyes of [a] heart" dedicated to a good and purposeful God, I can only say that I believe the creation of life is no accident. As naive and quixotic as it may sound, I must also say that I reject the idea of necessary evil.
I am troubled when I think of those women in tough places, because I have been pregnant six times now and I know it can be brutal. I know, too, that I don't even know from brutal, because each of my pregnancies has been a planned, welcome event in a happy marriage to a man who wants to provide for us. But I am also troubled, gravely troubled, in thinking about the times this nation has attempted to strip human personhood from those with human faces and human hearts. From African-Americans, from the mentally ill, from the handicapped -- the results are a litany of shame. What will our great-grandchildren say, a hundred years from now, about the 1973 decision to deny the personhood of the unborn? As much as I ache for pregnant women facing hard choices, I cannot accept the thinking that undergirds abortion on demand.
I have so many unanswered questions about being a Christian citizen of a secular nation. How far should I, as a woman who holds minority views on sexual morality, seek to have the laws of my country reflect my personal position? What is the place of natural law in national law-making? Should lawmakers aim at making a better world, or only at keeping the world from getting any worse?
But this is not a day for nuanced answers. It is a day for bluster and bloviating, for victory speeches and still more polarization.
For me it is a day for a second cup of coffee. And it is a day to pray for wisdom about how to be one nation -- one kinder, gentler nation -- in which some of us are blue and others red. In which some of us are kind of red and also, in more ways than one, kind of blue.