the psychic wreckage of that troubled time in her life. She gives money religiously to Planned Parenthood; other than that, there is something to be said for leaving the past behind. You think of your own unspoken past, and her story fills you with a peculiar admiration. At the age of 18, still a child, she stood up and faced the dreadful consequences of unmarried pregnancy, while youa grown woman and college graduate, gainfully employed were desperate to avoid them. In the modern light of the new millenium, that desperation seems overwrought now During the last two decades, the censure and terror attached to unwed motherhood has almost vanished; this seems good. If Jodie Foster can pull it off, why not everyone else? But as the social stigma faded, more teenage girls decided to keep babies that they were ill-prepared to care for. Harrassment of abortion clinics became widespread, and their services less available. Today 87 percent of all counties in the United States have no known abortion provider.You remember the way it was in 1971, paying hundreds of dollars and traveling thousands of miles for a doctor who could help you. Is that good, too? You wonder about the mysterious selectivity by which public mores are recalibrated. Take, for instance, all those men who shirked their patriotic duty and avoided military service during the Vietnam War. Their number is legionthey are most of the men you know. In earlier generations, no one ever forgot who the shirkers were; your father could name them to his dying day. The men of your generation carry no such stigma. Are any of them ashamed of those college deferments and rigged 1-Y classifications? Do theyexcept for certain politiciansrecoil from their own history, as we do? So many women, so many secrets. If a story is never told, what happens in the silence that follows? Does it lose its power over us? Or gain too much, like a hand clapped across the mouth? Notice the first-person accounts of experiences like your own, and how many women stillstill!cannot bear to sign their names. Does collective silence stay the hand that throws the stoneor does it lay up the store of rocks? Who speaks for the numberless sisters sub rosa? Who presumes to judge? What say you? Bravery, after all, was never your forte in this matter. It was fear and dread that drove you on that clandestine journey to the city, dragging a baroque burden of shame along with your red suitcase. That experience was hard enough. What if you had been forced to run a gantlet of righteous accusers and screamers and the occasional murderous rifleman? Would you have risked the hidden bomb, the summary judgment of well-placed explosive devices? But of course you know the answer. Your leg quivers in the trap. For a second you can almost taste that bile in your throat again. That’s the way it was. You’re finally telling it here, and now Brenda Bell grew up in Texas. She now lives, writes, and teaches in the Seattle area. George Michaels was the courageous legislator who changed his vote in April 1970 and broke the tie in the New York State Assembly, allowing passage of the bill decriminalizing abortion. A Democrat serving his fifth term in a conservative, largely Catholic upstate district, he was nearly run out of town. His law partner dismantled their firm; the Democrats refused to renominate him. Michaels ran anyway and lost and never held public office again.
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