If Paul Ryan Had His Way, I Would Have Been A Teen Mom To A Child Conceived Through Rape

Abortion is not to be taken lightly, Michelle says, but the GOP ticket stands so firmly against it because they don’t know what it’s like to have their rights taken away from them.

If Paul Ryan had his way, I would now have a child in high school. Assuming that child made it to high school, because I can hardly take care of myself in my 20s, and I cannot imagine that I would have been able to cope in my teens.

By the more moderate Romney rules, I could have reported the incident so that I could have medical attention. Set aside the trauma of legal proceedings for a moment, I would have had to tell my parents. My mother being from the strict schools of “she must have had it coming” and traditional Catholic “life is life, abortion is murder,” that would have been the ultimate way to make a bad situation worse. I would have no relationship at all with my family or a child. Given the options, I might have tried harder to kill myself.

Before addressing these “rape issues” though, Todd Akin would like me to prove that the incident was “legitimate,” and Sen. Chuck Winder recommends that a physician interrogate me to determine whether I am truthful. To his questions, I could answer that I was a virgin before, there were no “normal relations” to consider. I could point to a broken cheekbone, a fractured jaw, darkened patches where hands had claimed flesh, skin scalded and scrubbed raw to remove every trace of him. And still, these men would question the incident because I was in a relationship with him, motivation to utilize the “legal weapon” of accusation. The Grand Old Party would see us returned to a time when a woman’s word was not valid. 

Throughout this election campaign, women’s rights discussions have been focused on abortion. In many ways, it does not matter on which side of the issue we count ourselves. The question is: Do we believe that women have the right to self-determination? I don’t believe, personally, that abortion is to be taken lightly. I believe few women would take it lightly, but in life there are choices to be made. Mr Ryan has made it clear, as recently as the Vice-Presidential debate, that based on his own “Catholic faith, reason, and science,” he considers it appropriate to take away our hard-won right to make those choices for ourselves. He continued to emphasize that although his own views were even stronger, “the policy of a Romney administration will be to oppose abortion with the exceptions for rape, incest, and life of the mother,” while in Ohio, Mr. Romney stated, “I think I’ve said time and again that I’m a pro-life candidate and I’ll be a pro-life president. The action I’ll take immediately is to remove funding for Planned Parenthood.”

How can these men disregard the years that we have fought for the right to determine our own futures and that of our children, and the reality of the horrors that are known to occur when abortion is illegal?

This is my answer: They have never had their own precious rights violated in any way. Their bodies have never been the target of someone’s rage, and they have never had something inflicted on them for which society’s judgment is not reserved for the perpetrator. Also, they lack the essential sexual experience to comprehend what it means to have someone physically enter the body, without consent or otherwise.

They don’t know what it’s like to have something inside you, growing, when you do not want it there. They don’t recognize how difficult it could be for a woman to try to raise a child in a functional way as the child would deserve. They don’t understand the guilt and shame that can overwhelm a woman who realizes that she cannot continue, who must consider something extreme.

And it is apparent that they lack the empathy to try to appreciate what any of that means. They are so self-righteous, and so sure that they have a direct line to God that they think they are justified in legislating that every woman who finds herself in an awful scenario would have to play by their rules—when the last thing any traumatized individual needs is someone telling them how to feel and what to do.

I am in awe of any woman who can feel that “God has blessed her” with a baby after being raped. It shows amazing faith and resilience that I envy. But no man—or woman—can instruct someone to feel that way. It is insanity. As Nietzsche wrote, “Insanity in individuals is something rare, but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.”

Maybe they think this could never happen in their safe, white, middle class world. But I am white. I am educated. I attended one of the most prestigious girls’ schools in the country, and I was among the top students in the state. I excelled in all of my degrees. I am the quintessential product of that perfect, middle class world. So was he. I don’t mention these things to make my experience any more shocking, any more important, any more anything. I write them because none of it counts.

I think about my decision often. I think about it knowing now that I cannot have children. And I have imagined and mourned that would-be child. It was not the easy way out, not a quick fix for a mistake I would rather not acknowledge. It was a painful necessity right for me at that time. Right, I think, for a would-be child to whom I could not have given enough. Mr. Ryan looked at an ultrasound, and gave a cute nickname to a fetus that would grow into a healthy, wanted, and beloved child. If only that were the way for everyone else.

Growing up in a small town, Michelle was obsessed with story telling and running away. She published her first work at eleven, and went on to study literature and cultural studies while living in London, Sydney and New York. She is currently writing her thesis on the representation of sexual violence in literature.

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