Dear Madame Governor of Alabama, would you fancy me with an imaginary ride? I ask this as you happen to be a very creative person who seems to have pushed her imagination to believe that life is ideal and world is utopian.
Imagine that you are 15. Your exams are approaching and because logic and Science have never been your strong suit, you decide to go to your friend’s place for group studies and to brush up some concepts. It’s 7:30 in the evening and you decide to walk back home which is just two blocks from where you live. The winters are here and the roads are deserted. The air is thick with cold. You have almost crossed the first block that a screeching car halts next to you and before you can make heads and tails of what’s of happening, you are nabbed by three masked men. These masked men drive you to some deserted place where you are held captive in a dark room. It is in this room you are raped by these men for days, months and years- no one could say for sure. These men assaulted you both physically and sexually. You were their ash tray and their punching bag. You were also their bed. When the police discovered you a few weeks later, you were in a catatonic state. The medical examinations later revealed that you were pregnant and you didn’t know who the father was. Honestly, you don’t even want to find out because it doesn’t matter who it was, as they were all goons.
Don’t you think you should have had the right to choose the father of your child Madame Governor?
Do you think it is appropriate to force a pregnancy?
Maybe you think it is alright but it turns out to be so devastating for a lot of rape victims who would rather kill themselves than bear their culprit’s child.
Imagine that you are now 20 years old, Madame Governor. The trauma of gang rape that haunted you has somewhat faded. At least you no longer wake up screaming in the middle of the night anymore. You no longer jump with fear when someone gives you a friendly pat on the back. You are less jaded. It’s getting better. You are now studying law at one of the best colleges in the country. After college hours you have signed up for a part time job at a local food joint in order to meet your student loans. Somewhere amongst this topsy-turviness of life, you were fortunate enough to find love. He cares for you. It’s as if “God” is compensating you for all the suffering he bestowed upon you when you were a child. When you are with him, it’s so poetic that all the suffering appears to make sense. After all, you earn this kind of joy.
This morning you are going through your planner to see the class line up and suddenly it hits you that you have missed your period. A few tests later you know that you have been impregnated by the love of your life.
A brief but bitter confrontation later, you realized that your love however is not interested in raising this baby because he has somewhere/anywhere else to be and he’s definitely not interested in marrying you (not that it matters).
As a child, you always knew that when you grow up, you want to be a lawmaker by joining mainstream politics in the greatest country on the face of earth and your parents believed in you because you always passed top of your class. They silently thought that you can even go on to become The President of United States. They exhausted all their money and their savings on your college fees.
But, when you told your parents about this latest “accident”, they seemed devastated. Your parents are outraged by your recklessness. As religious as they are living in the conservative state of Alabama, they are so not interested in this gift of God. You were not such a good investment after all and a child out of wedlock means that your prospective political career is doomed even before it’s begun.
You don’t have time or money or whole hearted support from your family or partner. What you do have is your student loan, part time jobs and a vague sense of ambition to be someone when you grow up.
Worst part is that you don’t even love this baby because you didn’t plan for it and everyday the baby reminds you of your treacherous boyfriend. While your parents question their lack of judgment, you question yours.
But do you think it is fair to keep the baby because some Governor passed a bill banning not to keep it? Do you think you are ready for parenting or are you looking at foster care or God forbid, garbage bins? After all, there are also mothers who abandon their children.
Dear Madame Governor of Alabama, you are 34 now and happily married. Life as is, ran it’s course and you were able to get over your college heart break. In fact, you are over 12 weeks pregnant now. Happily living with the man of your dreams. You and your husband cannot be more excited to welcome your third child. However, over last couple of days you haven’t been feeling so great. You wonder if it’s the morning sickness gone bad. You anyway decide to see your obstetrician tomorrow. Now you are at the doctor’s office, and the doctor doesn’t look very happy navigating the ultrasound screen. Even you can see that your baby is not moving. The doctor is quiet.
An hour later, you learn that your fetus has a neural tube disorder. It is the rarest of the rare disease called Anencephaly, that cannot be cured. There are chances that the baby will be a still born or will not make it more than few days of mortality. By now, you are hysterically sobbing and your husband leaves everything at office to join you at the clinic. The doctor explains to you that although the baby has a disease and his survival chances are less than 0.5 percent, your case doesn’t qualify for termination of pregnancy by law. He explains to you your options, which aren’t that many. You decide to wait for your ultrasound reports for one more week before you make up your mind. The whole week you spend praying and thinking what went wrong. You did everything by the books then WHAT WENT WRONG. The following week at the doctor’s office your biggest fears are confirmed. The baby will not live whatsoever.
You remember that the doctor hinted that one of the options is going to those shady, underground, overpriced clinics that sometimes don’t even sterilize their equipment. You know you are putting your health at a bigger risk but you just cannot go through this pregnancy knowing that there is no other way this will end. There are no surprises here. A fetus with Anencephaly does not survive. Now, are you supposed to carry a baby just so that you can donate his tiny organs 6 months later? You and your husband agree that you don’t want your baby to only know suffering.
After much contemplation, you did make that doctor’s visit in the squalid clinic, the beds of which are bloodstained from other women’s bodies and the ceiling is dampened, on the verge of leaking. Just because a governor decided to think she’s a messenger of God didn’t alter you from making your life decisions and you have never been guilty about it. You have been sad, oh so sad. You still say a little prayer for your baby every night before you go to bed. You pray for it to be happy in heaven. But have you been guilty? Never.
Dear Governor of Alabama, all this is getting too serious. You know the gang rape scenario, not being ready to be a single mother scenario and the terminally-ill fetus scenario is a bit too much maybe. But I wonder if you would accept the gift of God if your husband knocks up one of your house maids while you are caught up rallying your life out and it falls upon you, for whatever turn of events- to raise the love child? I am pretty sure Madame that you’d pray really hard that the baby, it’s mother and even your husband would collectively drop dead. Wouldn’t you now?
Dear Governor of Alabama, when you signed this abhorrent bill banning abortions, you stated that “every life is precious and a gift of God”. This is exactly the kind of statement one doesn’t expect from the lawmakers of first world countries as they are expected to be more in sync with the changing times.
Having made a statement as conservative as “protecting a gift of God”, you have out rightly disrespected the fact that some people may choose to be agnostic. Disrespected democracy. Disrespected the fact that first and foremost, you are supposed to protect your citizens and right now not only your citizens but the whole world is appalled by this imperceptive move. Also how different are you from other radical extremists?
If you think that you could masquerade a political move as a human life protection law then I am sorry for your delusions because nobody is buying this, for you have not even spared the rape victims. It hurts to explain to a woman, who is more than twice my age, that a seed cannot be separated from the fruit.
A fetus doesn’t start breathing till it is 24 weeks old. And although life is so much more than the act of breathing, it should only be a mother’s decision if she is ready to bring in a life to this planet- without any stigma, without any questions being asked at least during the first trimester.
As a citizen of a developing country, I can tell you that people in my country, India, look up to the United States of America as dreamland, floating in the clouds. Grass is green. Sky is blue. Air is clean and liberal. It is a matter of immense pride when someone in a family even travels to the United States, let alone securing an admission at a university or getting a job. It is seen not only as a land of opportunities but also a place where you can just be you. Where it is okay to choose whatever profession you like, where you could wear whatever you like, where you can be out till late because it’s safe to be out, you can marry whoever you like or not marry at all. A dream country which is a lot less conservative than the East. A rescue from the conservativeness that shackles the spirit. But today, it is as if the United States is going 200 years back in time. And today, I can vouch many women share my sentiment, when I say I am relieved to have not been born in the state of Alabama, USA.
I hope the Supreme court of the United States of America ends this madness that Madame Governor, Kay Ivey has started.
Proofreading Credits – My good friend Sri (@Sri_sallan) .