Crossroads of Choice

itzpapalotl

In the Codice Borgia there’s an image of a matron energy called Itzpapalotl, the obsidian butterfly, with her face torn off exposing her flesh. She is not evidence of savage sacrifice as it is easy for the western academics to point out. She’s more of a zombie with eagle talons for fingers and jaguar wrists. The symbolism suggests she exists in both worlds -spirit and flesh. She is a fierce care taker for unborn babies and stillborn infants in a place called Tamoanchan within the spirit world. She nurtures the spirit babies on a tree with thousands of nipples on its trunks and branches that feeds the unborn ancestors and prepares them for their flight to be born once more. Itzpapalotl is regarded as a mental energy we all have within to let go of ideas, visions, memories and thoughts that no longer serve us and transmute that energy into something that may give life once more. This is the creation story of of the uncreated. These are ancient stories of miscarriage, abortion and loss. This narrative relates to hope that normalizes loss and gives way to the loss opening a road to something new.

The question of abortion has been debated in terms of ethics or legalities creating discussions based on ideological and moral arguments of the state’s power over this situation. It is unethical and unequal on the part of the state to take a religious or ideological stance on the issue. The legal actions taken by a state to restrict or ban abortions is inherently rooted in sexual discrimination because it enacts laws that will be enforced specifically for pregnant women. (McDonagh). The state can only have policies that ensure the patient’s safety and confidentiality. While I entertain the legalities, it is critical for me to bring the discussion back to the essence of choice and what that means for the mother, the unborn and the community.

The dialectical forces on the issue of abortion are labeled as Pro-Choice and Pro-Life presents another issue. The popular discourse define “pro-choice” advocates as concerned with the rights of women and reproductive freedom. To be clear, “Pro does not mean pro-abortion, it means pro-choice. Many women who would not to choose to terminate a pregnancy of their own argue that every woman should have the right to choose when under the circumstances she will bear a child.” (Bishop, 39) In addition, a pro-choice stance does not solely speak to the issue of abortion but also to the range of choices women have in regard to their reproductive freedom. Caitlin Borgmann summarizes the stance of the pro-choice movement in “Abortion is Ethical” by stating, “We stand not only for the right to choose, but also for comprehensive sexuality education, effective contraceptive options, quality prenatal care and childbirth assistance, and trustworthy and affordable child care.” Feminists largely propelled the pro-choice movement in the early 1970s because of the importance of a woman’s autonomy to her own body. On the other hand, people who consider themselves “pro-life” are focused primarily on the rights of the fetus and the moral implications of abortion. They feel the state should intervene into the issue of abortion by banning abortion or creating restrictions such as costs, or counseling intended to influence women’s choice in keeping a child. Some states have passed restrictions for under-age girls such as parental consent laws and/or having the court grant permission. (Borgmann) The pro-life movement is associated with the political right and religious organizations. Nadean Bishop, a feminist writer describes the position of the pro-life movement:

Those opposed are more concerned with the ‘right to life’ than the ‘right to choose.’ They argue that life exists from conception and that ‘abortion forfeits the very basic right to life from which all other rights proceed.’ [1] Because this argument makes an as-yet- proved assumption about when life begins, it is basically a religious argument and is highly identified with religious forces. (Bishop, 40)

The polarization of pro-life and pro-choice does not capture my stance and no doubt the spectrum under which other people fall under. The argument of when life begins is the pro-life sound bite. And what if you believe life begins prior to conception when two people energetically and perhaps unconsciously are open to bringing life through their act of love? Um yes I believe this and yes I believe in a women’s right to  choose. Spirit world has its own law and its own protocols, which truly we can only speculate about. It is in this world that our choices are muddled with questions of support, economics, and simply considering the greater good. Feelings are transient that can have long standing impacts and we in the real world constantly are puzzled and given the task of resolving this. Getting grounded into making these choices and the material conditions that impact these choices is ultimately where the discussion should largely remain. That’s where the state role comes in.

The state’s role in everyone’s life is one that has power to regulate over the quality of life of its residents by providing socio-economic policies and programs. Meaning for women, that the choices to terminate or continue a pregnancy are made under material conditions that the state has power in. In this sense, the state’s role in the issue of women’s choice should be providing economic and social resources that may influence the choice of providing a nurturing and healthy environment for a child to be raised as well as proper medical resources for women who choose to terminate their pregnancy. Borgmann quotes a study that has determined ‘Pro- life states are less likely than pro-choice states to provide adequate care to poor and needy children. Their concern for the weak and vulnerable appears to stop at birth.’ (Borgmann, 5) It must not however, ban or restrict the choice of women not only because it is discriminatory but also will place the woman and child’s health and safety in jeopardy. In the words of Nadean Bishop, a feminist writer, “Society should never penalize [a woman] by forcing her to bear an unwanted child or to take the risk of an illegal abortion, which can usually be had only under medically unsafe conditions.” (39)

Debating over the legalities or ethics of abortion undermine the true issues at hand. That is, examining the conditions under which women choose to terminate a pregnancy and what resources could be offered to women so that they may make a decision of parenthood based on their reproductive freedom as opposed to economics or legalities. Say for example, a twenty- year-old woman is a student at a community college, on financial aid and living and depending on her parents, finds out she is pregnant and is not in a healthy nor supportive relationship. The woman is then presented with a very limited amount of possibilities based on her economic and social conditions. If she can afford an 800-dollar two-day surgical procedure to terminate the pregnancy or if she can afford the pre-natal care and entire change of lifestyle -meaning school, housing, marrying a potentially abusive partner and of course raising a child. For many women, an 800- dollar procedure is far from reach economically and they consequently become mothers before they are ready. The state must offer resources to women of low income because they “face what can be prohibitive costs in seeking abortions. Very few have private health insurance, and government- supported plans rarely pay for abortions.” (Borgmann) Fortunately, the county of Los Angeles offers Medi-Cal, a low-income health plan that is free to pregnant women who qualify. This program is a subsidized health plan, however, many people do not know that pregnant women who qualify for Medi-Cal, may also obtain a temporary Medi-Cal to pay for a Medical or Surgical Abortion primarily because it is up to the physician to offer it as resource.

Simply paying the cost of the procedure is an obstacle and low-income women not only need resources to pay for the procedure but also need resources to cope with the choice after the procedure. The idea that a woman can have a medical or surgical procedure to terminate a pregnancy and be fine with it and not need some sort of therapy or support system after the procedure is a myth. Many of the women I have met who have had such a procedure attempted to be fine with it but still needed to mourn the living being inside them as well as reflect on the choices made prior to choosing an abortion. It is a life changing experience for the many women I have known. In fact, one woman, let’s call her Susie, had an abortion in Cuba while on vacation and part of her procedure was mandatory counseling. The Cuban government must have an understanding of the silence that women have to endure after a pregnancy often missing work or school and attempting to function normally when clearly suppressing an emotional process is harmful.

Patricia Justine Tumang shared her abortion story in an essay titled “Nasaam ka anak ko? A Queer Filipina-American Feminist’s Tale of Abortion and Self-Recovery.” She describes a story that resonates with the many stories of women in my life who were not ready to bring life into this world. She was eight weeks pregnant and decided to have a medical abortion:055

RU-486 appealed to me then because it had an efficiency rate of 99 percent and was non-surgical. […] It was the same price as a surgical abortion and was advertised as ‘less traumatic.’ […] If I would have known how traumatic my experience with the pill would be, I would have opted for a surgical method. Not that it would have been less disturbing, but anything would have been better than the three weeks of horrendous bleeding and cramping I endured. (378)
Medical Abortions are a very lonely and traumatic experience for many women because it is a procedure away from the doctor’s office without any medical guidance. Women tend to pass a small embryo the size of a quarter along with heavy bleeding, diarrhea and nausea.

For Patricia Justine Tumang the healing process was a difficult one, “Almost a year after the abortion, the pain still visited me from time to time. For so long I tried to deny that I had undergone a shocking experience, and I entered into a period of self- punishment. I pretended to be recovered, but the pain pushed itself outward. Regret and guilt caused severe anxiety attacks that left me breathless, convulsing and faint.” (380) She found solace in women’s writings such as Alice Walker’s In Search of our Mother’s Gardens. She found that women of color in particular would need a different set of resources, “Since, my own abortion, I have realized that women of color need access to post-abortion therapy that is affordable and sensitive to different cultures and sexualities.” (380)

The problem with the way the nation discusses the issue of women’s choice is that it is seldom described in detail what the choice is if a woman opts not to have an abortion. That choice for many women is not filled with debates about what’s ethical but rather how the woman and her child are going to live and who is going to be support her in her choice. The reality is although the Right wants the state to intervene in a woman’s choice; the state does very little in terms of its economic and social policies/ programs to make the choice of having a baby realistic on a purely economic level. To force women to have children void of choice is irresponsible of the state regardless of the women’s choices that led to pregnancy.

Despite the illusion patriarchy wants us to internalize, women are powerful for so many reasons including their life giving power and the choice of when they birth, how they birth and if they birth at all. The fact that the politicians and advocates on either side have to argue semantics and statistics removes the essence of what matters in this crossroads of choice. The woman and the spirit of the unborn have a decision to make. I am a spiritual person, but contrary to what my Christian counterparts argue, I believe that no embryo or fetus wants to be birthed without the consent of the mother. In my logic, a spirit of an unborn baby in the mother’s womb desires its mother’s love. In fact, many studies show that the mother’s emotional state and the mother’s emotional support during pregnancy has a direct impact on the health and birth of the baby. Truthfully all legalities and ethics aside, unplanned or unwanted pregnancies present a sacrifice for the woman who had made a covenant with the universe unraveling her path. To choose walk a different path to give birth and sacrifice a covenant with the universe (such as answering a call to practice law or compete as a gymnast) or conversely choosing not to birth and sacrificing a covenant made in the spirit world when that energetic union had been made (when consent was willful of course).

In ancient times to the present, women hold wisdom of herbs and counsel. Using pure imagination, I can see that women made choices then and that choosing to birth or to abort was counseled by wiser women to honor the greater good. For some of us that had kinship with wise women, we are/were fortunate to know what teas would bring your menstruation when you were late and what teas to take after when that didn’t work. Deep in that knowing is a powerful string that ties us to a knowledge of women’s power -that power that is debated over, banned and regulated depending on what land you live in. In the greater scheme of creation, abortion debates and the shame that may come along with it, distracts from the real valuable moments of holding space for women to make the best choice and to do so with support so she may mourn, redirect her path and rejoice in life’s blessings.

papalotl sanctuary

Works Cited
Bishop, Nadean. “Abortion: The Controversial Choice.” Women: a Feminist
Perspective. 3rd ed. Ed. Joe Freeman. Palo Alto: Mayfield Publishing Co., 1984. 39-53.
Borgmann, Caitlin. “Abortion Is Ethical.” Perspectives on Sexuality and
Reproductive Health, January/February 2003. Opposing Viewpoints: Problems of Death. David A. Becker. Detroit: GreenhavenPress, 2006. From Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Caitlin Borgmann, “Beyond the Apocalypse and Apology: A Moral Defense of Abortion,” Gale. Los Angeles City College Library. 13 Mar. 2008.

Brownback, Sam. “Abortion Is Not Ethical.” Opposing Viewpoints: Problems
of Death. David A. Becker. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2006. From Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Sam Brownback, “Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation Revisited,” Human Life Review, Summer 2004. Copyright Human Life Foundation, Incorporated 2004. Gale. Los Angeles City College Library. 13 Mar. 2008. .
De Vos, Karen. “What do women want?” North American Reference Encyclopedia
of Women’s Liberation. Vol. 1. 1972 McDonagh, Eileen. “The Next Step after Roe: Using fundamental rights, equal
protection Analysis to nullify restrictive state-level abortion legislation” Emory Law Journal 2007, 56- . Academic. Lexis-Nexis. Los Angeles City College Lib. 31 March 2008.
Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003. Public Law 108-105. 5 Nov. 2003. S.
3
Schwenkler, John E., JD. “Abortion Law in the United States: An Overview.”
At Issue: The Ethics of Abortion. Ed. Jennifer A. Hurley. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2001. Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Gale. Los Angeles City College Library. 1 Apr. 2008. . Reprinted from “Overview,” found on the Abortion Law Homepage at
Tumong, Patricia Justine. “Nasaam ka anak ko? A Queer Filipina-American
Feminist’s Tale of Abortion and Self-Recovery” Colonize This! Young Women of Color on Today’s Feminism. Eds. Daisy Hernandez and Bushra Rehman. Emeryville: Seal Press, 2002. 370-81.

[1] [Author’s Citation:] National Commission on the Observance of international Women’s Year, “To form a more perfect union”: Justice for American Women. (Washingtpn, D.C. Government Printing Office, 1976), 280.

Author: TeoTlacuila

Sara Martin is a mother, artist, writer and jewelry artisan. In Sara's mothering journey, she began the process of cultivating and liberating herself to become a positive healing force for her community by providing support for their creative projects. Sara is currently developing content on sacred womynhood, the power of autonomous self-healing through art, writing and working with medicine allies such as crystals, animal totems, dreams and herbs.

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