Monday, March 19, 2007

Comment on abortion2

"...what is it that really drives a woman,specifically, to an abortion? is it because she wants her life a certain way or needs it a certain way? that she wants the 'easier'/faster/ route out?"

This comment is saying that a woman who chooses abortion does so for reasons of cowardice. A woman who chooses abortion does so for reasons of formidable courage. More, I find it to be a choice that shows very clearly the high value you place on yourself.

It is contrary to the rules of society for a woman to value herself. Especially to the exclusion of all else, but after all if you don't value yourself, who will? Your children won't. I don't put my Mum first. She has put me first in her life for many years; but now, though she is very significant, she comes fourth or fifth down the list of important people in my life. New life is not kind to the life that went before it. It is immensely selfish.

I am reminded of a tale I read (unfortunately I cannot ascribe it, I can't recall who wrote it. My apologies for the plagiarism) of a gamekeeper or hunter. He found a mother bear who'd been caught in a trap for a few days. He remembered the terrified expression in her eyes. She was still alive. Her starving, frantic cubs had eaten half her side away.

I can imagine this very clearly. I can even tell you which bit they started with - her nipples. Babies will take what they need from you, no matter what. They're not here to care about your feelings, they're here to grow. A woman who's had trouble breastfeeding could tell you all about it - the baby will come to the breast for its milk no matter how sore you are, even if he or she comes away from a feed dripping blood like Dracula. Motherhood is too serious an undertaking to thrust on someone because of an accident. Responsible long term parenting is about taking care of yourself, first. I would compare the courage of a woman who has an abortion, to someone caught in a trap who chews off her leg to get away. All you can do is give lots of respect to that choice, and thank God it wasn't you.

What does it mean, to put yourself first? In Further Along the Road Less Travelled, Dr Scott Peck recounts an investigation the army conducted while he worked for them. They gathered together about 30 highly successful people, to study them and find out what qualities they shared. They chose people who were all round success stories - strong family lives, successful careers, rewarding jobs, popular with colleagues, active social lives. The exercise Dr Peck recounted was their reaction this question: Please List the 10 most important things in your life, in order of importance. There were hundreds of different answers to all but No. 1. The most important thing in all their lives was "Myself."

Not, "My relationship With God." Not, "My Family." Yet far from being selfish monsters, these people who had clearly sorted out what to value highest were thereby able to give a full measure of value to everything else in their lives, each factor in its place. Spirituality, love, health, finances, joy ...

Many women seem to have a gap where this item about loving themselves belongs. I have never yet met a woman who hasn't had an abortion who is able to really understand, to empathise about the choice to have one. Even women whom you'd think have had cause to really consider and study the mentality behind it. Abortion counsellors who let slip that they think it's intrinsically wrong. The actress who played Vera Drake, in that poignant film, involuntarily judging that strong, kind woman in an interview. There is always a veneer of the judgemental, especially among those who are more actively religious and therefore duty bound, you'd think, to be more humble and less uncharitable. One notes a tendency to skip the practice of that supremely difficult biblical sentence - "Judge not that Ye Not Be Judged." Empathy is hampered by the idea that It Could Never Happen to Me - Abortion Is Something That Is Only Done By Rackety, Lazy Women Who Deserve to be Punished Anyway.

This is the easy, knee jerk reaction, because of course evolutionally speaking it's terrible for the survival of the species to terminate a life that's jumped enough hurdles to begin at all. What is interesting is that it's women who have trouble understanding it (unless they've actually experienced it, an unnecessarily painful prerequisite to understanding any human behaviour). This reveals something quite poignant about female psychology. Now that I've really thought about it, I've realised that the people whom I've met who are the most easily able to understand the choice to abort, without blinking, are men. It seems obvious to a thinking man that it's a sane, sensible, obviously necessary thing to do to put yourself first. The thinking woman comes up against a significant block on that point.

Women! Learn to value yourselves! You are the most important thing in your life.

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Stacey Wanjiru Update

This is Faith, Stacey's baby. You can read Stacey's story on my post of Friday, Dec 15 2006.

Last Wednesday, March 7th 2007, Faith died. She eventually died of severe pneumonia, which developed after her otitis media got worse. The day before she died Stacey sent a desperate text to Cathy, who forwarded it to me, but we were not able to act in time to get her prescription, and she died on oxygen at Coptic Hospital the next day.

This is Stacey's email of the 17th Feb, about the illness:

Happy New (!) year,

Hope you are all well. I am also well and I thank God for the gift of life and friends.

Thank you for your contribution of $440.00. Thanks for making my life and that of my baby comfortable. I know it takes love and the grace of God to sacrifice for others. It is touching because I may never be able to pay you back and so my prayer is that God bless you.

I would like to apologize for the long silence. I was kept busy by some challenges. Faith was taken ill and admitted in two hospitals for fourteen days and then I lost my documents.

My baby was taken ill on and admitted to Ruiru Private Hospital 23rd January 2007. I thought it was malaria. After four days, she had no improvement and she was transferred emergency to the bigger Coptic Hospital in Nairobi. They treated her then it was noticed she had a tremor in the legs and twitching in the hand. They discovered the fontanelle had closed and referred my baby to a neurosurgeon. After the brain CT scan the doctor said Faith should be taken for a follow-up clinic twice a month until she reaches her second birthday to decide if she needs an operation of the head. Please refer to the scan and discharge summary attached.

Though Dr. Musau is one of the best of Kenya’s few neurosurgeons, I am anxious about my baby and wonder if there is newer technology out there that could help to determine and intervene sooner.

During the stay at the hospital I asked the doctor to do a HIV test for my baby. And despite the intense emotions at the time – she is positive –I have accepted her and her status and I still believe there is hope for her.

Sadly, it was while at the hospital that my documents were stolen.

The hospital bill came to Ksh. 75,739.00
Ruiru Private Hospital 7,050
Coptic Hospital 61,189
Brain CT scan 5,500
Dr. Musau Review Clinic 2,000.( for last Tuesday)

I managed to pay part of the bill and I have a debt of Ksh. 25,000.00. I need to raise Ksh.2,000.00 per visit for the twice-a-month review clinic bill, and cost of medication and further tests.

Yesterday, I took her to hospital after I saw pus oozing from her left ear and the doctor treated her. They said it was otitis media. I do not know if it has anything to do with her other conditions.

It seems to be a tough year for my baby but my faith is unshaken.

Please remember me and Faith in your prayers.

May God Bless you.


My sister, may all the stars bless her, came up with the money to pay for the funeral, which was especially expensive as a municipal plot had to be paid for, Stacey's husband refusing to let the baby be buried at home. My friends and I were trying to rustle up a list of 20 people we could ask for £10 each, but it was just such a pressurised situation, and I was in class all day. Stacey is still in debt, abandoned by her husband after the rape, and HIV positive. Any help via would be much appreciated. Stacey's ikobo id is KS168658KE.

I am awed by her love for this baby. Also it's a very beautiful baby! And she looks so healthy, you'd never think she was on the brink of death.

Stacey's text of the 6th made me feel very uncomfortable. "Am stuck with a very sick child with a complicated condition, a prescription and appointments I have no idea how to meet. Please advise me what to do." Why was I holding my phone with one hand, trying to cook and look after my toddler with the other, and providing moral support from the UK to a Kenyan woman I had never met, or at that point even spoken to on the phone? Why was I doing that, why was she so alone, when there was a perfectly healthy and capable man in the same country, who signed on a dotted line that he would stand by her For Better Or Worse???? Or does the marriage contract say nothing of the kind, it's just in the ceremony and thus 'in the spirit of the thing'? Have generations of women been diddled by the church and state? But I'm pretty sure the spirit of a contract can be defended at law.

As marriage is a legal contract, it should be enforceable by law. I called her the evening Faith died, it was nearly 1am in Ruiru and she was just getting home, from Coptic Hospital which is on Ngong Rd. She was all alone! Her baby had just died! She made her way alone by public transport late at night across Nairobi - a hideously dangerous proceeding - and went back to be alone in the house which she had left with her baby that very day. The baby died in her arms. Who was there to take her into theirs when the body was taken away?

If the law is worth anything it should apply to everyone, and it should be possible to sue her husband for breach of contract. You can't just stop standing by the terms of a contract because you don't feel like it. You can't turn round and say, "Hey, I know I signed an agreement with you, but I don't feel like paying you any more rent for this house, so you can go whistle!"

I am told that you can't expect fairness in a patriarchal society. But I thought patriarchy meant the men taking responsibility. My school friends and I are the ones taking the responsibility here.

I end with my sister's comment on this idea, "Interesting thought. An obligation for men to provide support rather than a trap within which women have to put up with abuse."

I'm sure many women walking up the aisle thought that's just what they were getting - we don't abandon ill husbands. We don't expect them to abandon us.

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Comment on abortion

"... personally, i dont believe that abortion is a need for any woman."

I finally have time, between looking after my toddler and my relationship, resuming my studies, being 24 weeks pregnant and keeping my paid employment, to give this comment the attention it deserves.

Wow! Not a need! Hearken to the thoughtless, dulcet tones of the fortunate girl who's never needed one!! I can tell you that no need on earth is so desperately felt, so panic inducing or so fiercely resented as the need for an abortion. Resented, because however involved your boyfriend is, it's fundamentally a function of loneliness, an occasion where you alone, the female, must make up your mind and face the music. Like contraception, abortion is one of those things which honestly would never exist if it weren't an urgent, powerful need.

I agree that in an ideal world it would not be a need - a world where human females were only fertile for a foreseeable couple of months a year and only ever after attaining financial independence. But since we're constantly fertile for nearly forty years .. to callously suggest that abortion is not a need is willful blindness.

What, after all, is the woman suggesting? That she is the only moral being in the universe? That the thousands of women who leave their front doors to look for an abortion every day, do so with a casual shrug and a smile and with their mind on their evenings' entertainment? A little reflection would discover that nobody would ever have one if they didn't need it! Does the phrase,"Hmm, I fancy an abortion today. I don't need it, but I'd like one!" exist in the language? No, the phrase is, "I need an abortion."

Nor is it only a need for the woman. The clearest way to understand this is to consider an illustration. I have met women having abortions who already have children. Their knowledge of exactly what they are doing is grimly real. Leaving aside for the moment the mother's needs (please note that one's mind is only able to do this because the mother, at this stage, is always female. Were the pregnant person male, the thought of suggesting their life was less significant than the foetuses' would be offensive) - leaving aside the mother's needs, in a case where the woman already has children she is obviously catering, with her agony, for the needs of the baby who's already around, the unborn for whom there is no place, and her family as a whole.

I reiterate, organised religion should devise a suitable ceremony to reflect one's grief, to provide an arena for both the grief and the courage, the absolute, unwavering assumption of sole responsibility, to be expressed and recognised.