Where did you have your abortion? Have you ever stood outside an abortion clinic? If you have to think about that, then you have not. If you had, you might remember: the giant cross erected across the street, the pictures of maimed fetuses on the placards, and the volunteers in their vests, escorting women through the gauntlet of protesters. You would remember the hovering fist of judgment, and you would recall that electric spark as pious indignation meets the fear/sadness/resolve across the picket lines.
Abortions, until recently, have been marginalized to small dedicated clinics rather than integrated into hospitals and family practices. These clinics are easy targets, and they are lonely outposts for women’s rights. The physical isolation is emblematic of woman’s continued marginalization within what claims to be an egalitarian society. I suppose it is a step beyond the back-alley abortion but the move, though not quite lateral, is more on the diagonal than straight up. Arguably, if Planned Parenthood and its ilk hadn’t stepped forward to offer abortions, who would have? So, yes, those doctors, nurses, and the clinics that house them are a saving grace, the foot-soldiers offering asylum to those in need. But these are unduly embattled spaces, fortified to the hilt, always fending off the tide of religious ire. Read more →
There is something voyeuristic about watching prison documentaries. Or is it just me? I found myself unwittingly glued to the TV the other night during a special on female inmates. I felt a little sleazy, peering in at this sexually segregated space. But the curiosity was overwhelming. I suppose that we look to see how inmates will try to mimic social norms, searching for clues as to how our paradigms can be perverted and caricatured. Regardless, the show got me wondering about prisons, and women in prisons in particular. As I started to scratch the surface, I found that the questions multiplied like fractals. What makes the female experience unique? Male and female prisons are built virtually the same, so what marks a difference in the male and female experience? Since I’m charged with considering these matters from a Jewish perspective, what light does this tradition shed on the penal system? Read more →
Birth is a process, sometimes mystical, sometimes medical, always bloody, painful, intense. There is a course of action, a template for birth that all women follow to one extent or another. How far they diverge from the norm in one direction or another will determine how painful and difficult the birth is, and whether or not mother and baby emerge healthy, alive. I remember discussing birth with my mother-in-law, a Ukrainian Jew, who birthed two children before the advent of the epidural. I was worried that a pregnant relative hadn’t taken any birthing classes. She laughed and said, “Oh don’t worry, the baby will teach her.” Read more →