The free bird leaps on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wings
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

'Birdcage' by Catrin Welz-Stein

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’, by Maya Angelou

My left eye keeps watering. For the past two weeks, my one eye weeps.

I have taken to carrying around my great-grandmother’s thin-as-paper cotton hankies, dabbing at my eye like a prissy old school marm.

“How are you?” friends and acquaintances ask gently, and I dab and laugh and say, “Oh, no worries, I’m fine. I just have weepy eye. I don’t know why.”

Obviously I should see a doctor. But I don’t. I feel like the last seventeen years of my life have been spent at doctors and hospitals and in waiting rooms and pharmacies, and I don’t want to go there anymore, unless it is urgent. My eye that drip, drip, drips, like rain drops down the windowpane of my mind, is not painful, it’s not getting worse…it’s just irritating, and hard to hide. And in some ways it feels symbolic.

Because every time I dab at my weepy eye, I think in my head, “Weepy? Aye!”. Because I’m shedding real tears over news like the Susan G. Komen defunding of Planned Parenthood last week. Because even though they back-tracked, and reversed their decision, our country no longer intellectually discusses contraception, or even conception. Now we argue over shades of deception.  We’re living in the most technically advanced society in the world, supposedly, yet women’s health and reproductive rights are currently being debated and ‘voted’ on by mostly wealthy, mostly white, mostly male people. And even charitable organizations whose PR states that they are out trying to work around these archaic road blocks seem to be crashing into them, or erecting more road blocks with our money! To think that any ‘charitable donation’ to the Susan G. Komen Foundation earmarked to help all women could be funneled through these few women towards supporting that type of primitive legislation – well, I weep. My left eye weeps. Weepy? Aye!

In the United States, nearly half of all pregnancies are unintended. And nearly all American women have, or at some point will, use birth control. That is including people whose church publicly tells them not to use birth control. Because no woman wants twenty children, besides that Duggar lady, and she is only bankrolled by a television station because she’s white. Imagine if she were black, or latino, or chinese! People in this day and age are afraid to even utter the word abortion. I am not afraid. I believe that every woman is entitled to family ‘planning’, whatever that consists of.  No woman wants to be raped, or saddled with children they cannot adequately feed or clothe or supervise. No woman bounds out of bed in the morning and thinks, “Hooray! I get to have an abortion today. Fun!” Birth control and abortion are facts of free will, and I think they should be as available, funded, and approved of as Viagra and condoms are for men.

For any woman, an abortion is a last-ditch effort to solve a problem in the least harmful way possible. Some people will recoil at that statement, and say, “But children are not a problem.” And to you, I ask, “How many live offspring do you currently bankroll and take with you to the grocery store on a daily basis?” Children are a problem if you don’t have the money to treat them like an accessory. Children are a huge, heavy burden for anyone who actually has to raise them.

Other people argue that in no circumstance is abortion morally justified. Their mantra is:  “All life is sacred.” I think this is a fine mantra, if you walk the walk, and not just talk the talk. If you believe that all life truly is sacred, do you then believe in defunding the military entirely? Surely killing anyone in the name of ‘war’, i.e. current opinions having to do with money, land, and resources – certainly that is not in keeping with ALL life is sacred. Do you believe in universal health care for everyone, so that every life – once born – is valued and cherished? Do you grumble about spending your own tax dollars on supporting this theory that all life is sacred when it comes to educating each and every person? Do you feel fervently that all life should be ensured safe and nourishing food, regardless of income level, or color of skin, or religious preference? Because believing in those things is what ‘all life is sacred’ intellectually translates into. If you do not believe in abortion or birth control, do you then monetarily support any and all mothers who have no income or job skills or education or – say it with me now – birth control  – even as they keep bearing child after child that they cannot successfully raise?

All women deserve birth control. Denying them this is taking away their free will, the ‘choice’ from their life path. And this is the same thing as taking a bird and setting it inside a cage.

 All women deserve the choice of abortion. It is a far less evil than bearing a child that no one will deem ‘sacred’ after they are here, growing up unwanted and uncared for. If you personally don’t believe in abortion, fine. But don’t take that basic freedom away from others who have walked a completely different path in this world than you. Most women, believe it or not, will resoundingly choose birth control over abortions. In fact, the abortion rate gets lower when women have access to birth control.  Funny how that works! 

Meanwhile, our national conversation on contraception continues to focus on deception. People on television without any children clinging to their legs and protruding from their uteri dangle women’s basic healthcare in front of us as if it’s a choice we can take or leave, like chocolate cake. And when we do choose it, on our terms, and not the rich, white, powerful terms currently in vogue, we are ‘sinful’ indeed. And at this I weep. And now I sing.

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