I live in the capitol city of the State of Texas, Austin. I went for a walk on my lunch break the other day. I walked up Congress Street to the Capitol Building. Texas’s Capitol Building is the largest of all state capitols and is second only in size to the National Capitol. Even though it’s slightly smaller in square footage, it is 15 feet taller than the Washington Capitol. So on International Women’s Day, I walked up Congress to our behemoth state capitol to bask in the female reproductive rights demonstration. As I stood watching from the other side of 11th Street, cars would drive by and honk. And the protestors would cheer. And I would cheer. I felt overwhelmed with emotion, and at the time I thought it was a First Amendment right-to-protest pride washing over me. But then today I read of the Democrat-proposed laws limiting men’s access to Viagra, and as I pondered that, I realized the emotions I’m feeling go much deeper.
In case you hadn’t heard, a Democratic Senator, Nina Turner, introduced a bill that would limit men’s access to Viagra (and other erectile dysfunction drugs) to make a statement about the dozens of anti-abortion bills that have passed around the country over the past year. Turner’s bill requires men asking for a Viagra prescription to be tested for heart problems and receive counseling about the possible side effects from Viagra (such as a six-hour hard-on). The bill also requires providing men with information about “pursuing celibacy as a viable lifestyle choice.”
And then there’s Senator Janet Howell’s proposed amendment to her state’s ultrasound bill. The bill would have required women to first undergo a vaginal ultrasound before they can have an abortion. Luckily for the women of Virginia, that bill failed. (A similar bill passed in Texas, however, and the Fifth Circuit recently found it enforceable.) The proposed Virginia amendment, which also failed, would have required all men wanting a bottle of the little blue pill first to undergo a rectal exam. (Stock in latex gloves went up twenty points that day.) While the forced vaginal ultrasound didn’t pass, Virginia women seeking abortions still have to undergo an external ultrasound.
Another proposed amendment (to a bill requiring pre-abortion ultrasounds) I quite enjoyed reading about, sponsored by an Illinois state representative, would require men who want their Viagra to watch a film about the drug’s potential side effects. The film lasts an excruciating six hours. (Okay, I made that part up.)
Another bill, and I think this one is my favorite, would permit vasectomies only if the man’s life depends upon the procedure. The Missouri bill stated: “In determining whether a vasectomy is necessary, no regard shall be made to the desire of a man to father children, his economic situation, his age, the number of children he is currently responsible for, or any danger to his wife or partner in the event a child is conceived.”
It was funny for about thirty seconds. I then pondered the quoted language: no regard shall be made to the desire to have children, economic situation, or danger to the health of the woman if a child is conceived.
When I was seventeen, I got pregnant having unprotected sex with my then boyfriend. I didn’t want to be pregnant. I had envisioned a future that didn’t include a baby; at least not then, if ever. I had plans for college. And I certainly wasn’t going to marry my boyfriend. So I went to Planned Parenthood, got the abortion, and that was that. I didn’t have to tell my parents. I didn’t have to be tortured with an ultrasound. I just showed up, listened to the medical risks, and went ahead with the procedure.
I remember my boyfriend dropping me off. I remember lying on the table with my feet in the stirrups. I remember the butterfly mobile on the ceiling. I remember my boyfriend picking me up afterward and taking me out for pizza. I remember playing Pac-Man at the pizza parlor. I remember feeling sick and wanting to go home. I remember the school calling my parents because I didn’t show up that day, and I remember getting into an argument with the principal for calling my parents and sticking his nose into my business. I remember handing the principal my doctor’s note, turning, and walking out of his office. It was none of their fucking business what I did that day, so long as I had a doctor’s note.
While I may have been just seventeen, I knew what was best for me. For my life. Would I have gone to law school had I had the baby? No. Would I have even finished undergraduate school? No. Would I have had a baby with a man who turned out to be a raging alcoholic? Yes. And I would have been a single mother, with no future. I knew what was best for me, I weighed my options, and I made my decision. Was it an easy decision? Yes. I know most people would like to hear it was a difficult decision, but it wasn’t. Do I wish I didn’t have to make it? Yes. (I got on the pill and was never faced with that decision again.) Would having to view an ultrasound before I could have the abortion have stopped me? No. It would have made me feel even more heartbroken and bereaved, but I wouldn’t have changed my mind. That was my choice. And if I had known then what I know now, I still would have made that choice.