Gratitude Today: Independence

The very notion that our country’s birthday is called “Independence Day” has always had a hollow ring to it in my mind. Independence from what? Initially, I guess it was British rule, which took a seven-year war to determine (and then it wasn’t really decided until the War of 1812, which ended in a tie, but sent the Brits home for good).

Over our history, we have seen anything but independence for well over half of our population: enslavement of black Americans, women who could not vote or own property, Chinese Americans who could not own property, segregation, government control of women’s personal decisions, laws against marrying certain people, employment laws that made workers indentured servants, and a lot more.

We are resting on the precipice of a Supreme Court choice by a man who lusts after dictatorship that could almost immediately eliminate a court ruling in 1972 that gave women at least some control over their bodies: Roe v. Wade, making abortion legal.

In about 1969, I was a fringe part of a young woman’s illegal abortion and I’ll never forget it, at least partly because she nearly died from the procedure, which was performed by a physician in a clinic. Physicians performed the vast majority of illegal abortions, I’ve read.

The woman in question was 19 and this was her fifth abortion. It was her method of birth control and until that point, there had been no physical problem. She was impregnated by an acquaintance of mine who was in the military and saw her on weekends. He didn’t have the money to pay for the procedure, nor could he get leave to be there. I raised the money and arranged a ride to Charlotte (N.C.) where she knew a doctor who did abortions all but openly in his clinic in a poor section of town.

He was casual–even cavalier–about the abortion, instructing me to sit in the waiting room and have a drink (from his liquor cabinet) “while I go clean some chitterlings.” I was–and remain–astonished at that description. On the way home, the young woman began bleeding and by the time we reached Asheville, we knew the first stop would have to be the emergency room.

We were told the young woman would likely have died if we had taken her home.

That abortion at the time was about as good as you could expect, since it was illegal. No coat hangers, no back rooms, no toothless old ladies.

I don’t like abortion and never have. I don’t think that makes me different from any of you, regardless of your stance on its legality. I do, however, support the right of individual women to make their own decisions about their bodies. If the Supreme Court removes that right–as I suspect it will–abortion will not stop, it will simply slow down and become considerably more dangerous and far more costly to society in every sense.

Thousands, maybe millions, of children will be born into homes where they are not wanted, where a single parent or an abusive dysfunctional family can’t raise them properly, where the state will ultimately wind up either raising them or putting them in prison.

Independence Day? Independence from what, exactly?

I am grateful for the idea. The delivery needs some work.


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