Sunday Morning ~ Still Jumping
Tsokonombwe adatha mtunda n’kulumpha. ~ The grasshopper covered a long distance jump by jump.
~ Chewa proverb
October 3, 2021
My feet were cold Friday and I couldn’t think straight. I puttered around the kitchen feeling anxious. I usually wait to turn on the heat, sometimes until November, but another month of discomfort wasn’t appealing. My furnace hasn’t been working and I’d been waiting for the plumber since July. My cold feet were distracting. I needed to put together some words, about 750 of them actually, for the rally on Saturday. The thoughts circulating my brain were not coming together in any meaningful way. I blamed my feet. I put on heavier socks and sat down at my laptop to find statistics and review pending legislation. I tried to glean some words from those documents, but it wasn’t working. My scribbled notes looked like debris on the page. They weren’t forming anything useful. Frustrated, I decided to walk off some nervous energy and went to the woods, a place that usually calms me and clears my head. It helped a little but there were no epiphanies. I got home near dusk to find the plumber here! Bless him, he got the furnace going and I went to bed that night less anxious but with a speech still unwritten. I got up early to warm floors, made tea, and reflected. I thought about how nice my feet felt and how much calmer I was, struck by the difference it made in my ability to make decisions, make a meal, organize my thoughts. I thought of those living in poverty with a lifetime of stress: cold feet, empty bellies, insecure boundaries. My feet reminded me of how they must work so much harder just to get through a day.
I was one of six speakers and we hadn’t coordinated our messages. I decided to nix the stats and legislative information, figuring there was a good chance that would be covered. I decided on three points I wanted to make and would ad lib, knowing I don’t read well from a script. I found a notecard and jotted: health care as a basic human right, access to that care, what we can do. I thought of telling stories of the young women who came to us when the women’s center first opened. I could tell about their despair, their fear, their lack of resources. I could describe the big tag sale we had each year to raise money to help women without resources. The $2,000 was a ridiculous drop in the bucket, but symbolic of the community commitment to provide quality care to women regardless of their ability to pay. I thought of telling how many of those women came back to us years later and thanked us. Some were successful career women and told us their lives could have taken a very different direction without our help. It was so rewarding to see them. We’d glow the rest of the day and it always gave us a booster shot, helping keep our heads up. I didn’t tell these stories yesterday, though. It felt like preaching to the choir. Everyone at the rally knew what a valuable resource a women’s health center is.
I began with how lucky I was to move to this island in 1992 when a powerful group of women were advocating for and creating a health center for women. It was a time when there was competition between community hospitals and it made good business sense. Women are most often the health care consumers for families and our local hospital wanted to attract them. There was a steering committee addressing issues affecting women in all walks of life, puberty through menopause and beyond. It was an exciting time to see a community identify a need and step by step make it happen. Over time, women from miles away were coming to us, some driving over two hours for care. Many were very poor and had trouble with transportation. But they came anyway because they wanted the kind of care we were offering. Some had no other option as the services they sought were unavailable anywhere closer to them. This all seemed insane to me. If our community could do this, why couldn’t others? Or at the very least, why couldn’t we travel to a health center near them a couple of days a month? “Impossible”, I was told. But it was not impossible; we could have done it with creative partnering. But the system and reimbursement had changed, we had a governor intent on punishing the poor, and people living in rural areas suffered.
Many in my generation of women experienced sexism and misogyny rampant within the healthcare system. Many struggled to find contraception never mind compassionate abortion care. We wondered how different our lives would have been if we’d had a women’s center when we were teenagers. Imagine going to a clinic where there is no judgement, where you can express your needs and fears, concerns and anxieties, and get reliable information and care. Imagine how differently we might have seen the world and our place in it. Imagine feeling worthy of care and respect. That’s what we wanted young women to grow up believing about themselves. That they are worth it. That they should not tolerate poor care or judgement. They should be able to get care when they need it and not worry about how to pay for it.
Health care is a basic human right and abortion is part of health care. Period. It’s no one’s business but your own if you are seeking care for a mole removal, pap smear, botox, or an abortion. The hypocrisy surrounding this is breathtaking.
I related a story about a friend of mine who is tired of the fight. She worked hard as a doctor for decades and provided the best care she could. She risked her life but stood her ground. She said she’s exhausted. I told her to rest. She did her part. She can be supportive, donate, vote, but let others carry on other aspects of this struggle. We need to hold each other up. I used the childbirth analogy again: I don’t want to hear that it hurts. Don’t waste your energy telling me something I already know. Save your strength for getting through this. It is what it is. We have to deal with the situation as it is and not waste our energy moaning that we already fought this battle. We look ahead and do what we can with what is in front of us. For some, that will be financial help, for others getting out the vote, and for some it may be just being kind to someone who needs some support and love. We are all capable of that. That may be just enough to make a woman feel she deserves better.
Abortion restriction is not about being pro-life. It is about power, control and money. Abortion is one aspect of health care. Restricting access to this aspect of health care is a human rights violation. We need to describe it as such. It is a HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATION and we will not tolerate this. As Ghandi said, “You can not control a population that refuses to be controlled.” and we refuse to be controlled.
This is the gist of what I said yesterday. I appreciate that people came out. I appreciate the kind words passed to each other and me. We’re going to be ok.
Love to all,