She’s Going Places
A full page advertisement in our daily newspaper by a major Japanese car manufacturer features a young girl in the passenger seat. This girl, the ad predicts, will grow five inches, letter in volleyball, major in economics, marry a man with freckles, have a career she loves, have two girls “ she loves way, way more,” and smile more than frown.
A girl who is going places and who this automaker would like to help get there safely. Presumably because the car in which she is now belted securely in the back seat and someday may drive is well made and equipped to sustain any fender bender or even more serious collision that comes her way.It is a clever marketing piece, aimed at the fiercely protective current generation of Leaning In mothers (and fathers as well) who want the best for their daughters in a world where there’s fluoride in the water and better equipped vehicles than just a few years ago.
When my daughter was around the age of that girl in the ad, I was living a split life– like so many women: spending my days working for Planned Parenthood in the area of community, media and government relations; and at night & on the weekends in another role as a wife and mother of three, one of them just a baby. Working also part-time as a freelance writer covering the arts and reflecting on themes of family and parenting, I wrote many columns, many inches of copy in those years about the advantages of cooperative nursery schools and the relative merits of cloth vs. paper-and-plastic diapers.
It was 1987, the first year of an anti-choice full-on assault by a group that called itself Operation Rescue, founded by a former used car salesman, who dropped out to sell his brand of venomous rhetoric. I was never really off work, expected to be ready at any moment to get a call or a page letting me know that protestors had shown up at one of our clinics on a day when abortions were being performed. If so, I had to be there to handle the press and help out with the efforts to shield the women seeking our medical services from the invective about baby murderers, to try to keep them from harm as the growing ranks of demonstrators began storming the entrances, pushing their way into waiting rooms and beyond.
The two sides of my life could seem so separate from each other: my very ordinary Saturday and Sunday family life and then the ugliness and even danger of those workday invasion scenes. The job I had that made the reproductive “wars” very real, the right to abortion and contraception so conditional, could seem almost completely disconnected from our daily domestic life.
A life of pediatricians and playgrounds and pony rides.
So I do understand that another and another generation of mothers and other caregivers can feel inclined to check out of the ongoing movement for reproductive justice even as they are genuinely grateful for and committed to the notions of personal choice in sexuality, and loved and wanted children.
My daughter is now the mother of a long awaited, planned and much anticipated 11 month old baby girl. A baby with a premium car seat, baby lock doors, and cautious parents while driving.
This daughter of mine recalls spending some time with me as I managed one invasion crisis or another, some sense of my years with Planned Parenthood as more than abstract, as more than just what her mother did to pay the rent and buy groceries. She was unfortunately exposed, as was her older brother, to jeers and taunts and trespass.
What she may or may not know is what has been happening in that charged arena in those years since I moved on to other advocacy work on behalf of women and girls, and then professional ministry. She may not know, just as I was not fully aware, is that just last year (2013) alone, 18 states passed new laws restricting abortion, while another 14 threatened to do so. That the reproductive rights and access to essential medical care action is mostly being played out at the local level, and most of it is not good.
I sometimes, not often enough perhaps, remind myself, as should we all, that the Roe v Wade court decision holding that abortion shall be legal and safe (and hopefully increasingly rare) in this country, issued the year before my female child was born, is increasingly ineffectual in the face of these chip-away laws that make it harder every day to exercise that right at all.
That my daughter’s daughter — my precious granddaughter — needs us more than ever to work to insure that her life and her choices be held safe in this way as well.