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Thursday, November 4, 2010


By: Colleen Wilson

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While doing research about abortion, I must explain that abortion is always mentioned as just another means of birth control and therefore is always grouped with all other forms of birth control and intertwined with the sexual practices between the female and the male.

In the so-called primitive days when women and men were about the same size and strength and the female was as mobile and independent as the male, except when she was close to giving birth, there must have been great mystery for both sexes, as the male of the species could plainly see that the female had three added things going for her that he did not have.

First of all, at a certain age of a female would have menstrual period, and from that time on she could have children. This of course the male could not do, but there is evidence that he sure tried to imitate the menstrual process by a nasty operation called a subincision which was performed on the adolescent boy. A stone was placed inside an incision and allowed to grow closed, but on certain occasions this was irritated until it would bleed. An imitation of the female process that is still practiced in New Guinea.

Now of course if this operation was too painful or did not show the desired results, then no one was going to get by with it, so the menstrual cycle was made into something that was to be dreaded, and women during their cycles were considered unclean. All sorts of taboos were placed on the women, and any man that came near her. The cultural status of women was lowered on the basis of her biological performance.

Now the natural protection against unwanted pregnancy was, and still is, before and during the menstrual cycle and this is also the time of greatest sexual desires. When the taboos were put on our foremothers (the menstrual taboos are the oldest known taboos in the human family), the tide had turned for them as they lost not only their natural birth control, but also their time of greatest sexual desire.

The second link in the natural chain, that somehow became changed and made unnatural can best be stated by Mark Twain when he wrote in the 1890's: "The law of God, as quite plainly expressed in women's construction, is this: there shall be no limit put upon her interaction with the other sex sexually, at any time in her life. The law of God, as quite plainly expressed in man's construction, is this: During his entire life he shall be under inflexible limits and restrictions sexually. Man is competent from the age of 16 henceforward for 35 years, while his own grandmother is still as good as new. By the women's make she is out of service three days in the month and during part of her pregnancy. These are times of discomfort, often of suffering. For fair and just compensation she has the high privilege of unlimited activity the other days of her life. What becomes of this high privilege? Does she live in free enjoyment of it? NO. Nowhere in the whole world. She is robbed of it everywhere. Who does this? MAN. Man's statutes. Now you have a sample of man's "reasoning powers" as he calls them. He observed certain facts. That his procreative competency is limited to an average of 5000 times, while hers is a 150,000 times. Yet instead of fairly and honorably leaving the making of the laws to the person who has an overwhelming interest at stake in it, this immeasurable hog, who has nothing at stake worth considering makes the laws himself, and puts all these facts together and arrives at the astonishing conclusions: That the creator intended that women be restricted to one man. Or even more ridiculous, that the man should have a harem. This is just one of many such Biblical statutes that has been imported into the law books of the nations, where it continues its violations"

In order for some men to prevent the female from using the sexual desires that she was born with, many truly sadistic methods were invented, one being another nasty operation called infibulation. During this operation performed on young girls entering puberty, the clitoris and both labia were cure away and the vulva areas sewn almost closed. Only to be opened in adulthood to enable the husband to impregnate her and then sewn closed again. Open for childbirth and sewn up again. Here the jealousy and/or desire for power of the male went so far as to limit completely the female's desires and also her capacity for pregnancy and childbirth unless that male said differently. This operation is still being performed in parts of Egypt.

The third thing our foremothers had going for them that was also made into a burden was pregnancy and childbirth. Child-bearing in the ancient days and also today in the food-gathering cultures of South Africa and Australia was much easier, as a woman could have a baby and within an hour catch up with the rest of her tribe and behave as before, except for the added activites of nursing. But this has also been made into a handicapping situation and in the more complex societies the more complicated the process of birth has become, until only a few years ago it was common for an American woman to stay 10 days to 3 weeks in confinement after childbirth. Pregnancy is considered a precarious condition, and childbirth is surrounded with myths and mysteries and dangers that cause so many women to approach this period with great fear and anxiety.

The male has denied the advantages that women have by treating them as disadvantages and investing them with mysterious or dangerous properties. By making women objects of fear and some one to be avoided as unclean, they lowered the status of women on the basis of their physical performance. These physical advantages were first demoted to the status of cultural disadvantages and from then on there has always been a belief in the cultural and biological disadvantage of women.

By the time this had all taken place our foremothers were probably convinced that they were somehow lesser persons that their fathers, brothers, and mates. As the great robbery had been pretty well completed, these women of our past had nothing more going for them than extra unwanted pregnancies. But they had another thing going for them and that was their minds. They could think and because this could not be seen, it was harder for the male to try to take away. They were able to think and, like all human beings, they knew what was best for themselves. All the senses were working to let the mind know and make the judgment of decision. A woman knows better than any other person if she should or should not have a child. No matter what the reason against it, each woman knows when she should not have a child. And that's all that our foremothers really had going going for them back in the beginning of time and for thousands of years up until 100 short years ago. These marvelous women of the past practiced that one prerogative that they had left, birth control before the act and miscarriage or abortion after the act.

The Christian dogma came into conflict with Roman customs just when abortions were allowed. (Now this is where we start hearing the word ALLOWED.) What they (men) were going to allow women to do or not to do with their bodies. Even though there was a conflict the old abortion customs remained in effect until 313 A.D. In 314 A.D. St. Basil condemned all abortions, but the majority of theologians followed Aristotle's view that the so called soul developed in three stages -- the vegetable soul at conception, then a higher animal and soul and at last a rational soul.

The church, in accordance with that theory, generally punished abortion only if performed after the soul had become rational or 'animated'. This point also had been drawn from Aristotle and was set down at 40 days after conception for a male fetus and 80 days for a female. No one ever explained how fetal sex was to be determined or how a woman knew exactly which day she had conceived on. Did you notice again that the female came in second? Being that the female was such a subhuman person it only stood to reason that it would take 40 days longer for her to acquire that soul.

Over 5000 years ago in ancient China, women fired quicksilver all day in oil and then swallowed the potion. Or they swallowed 14 live tadpoles three days after menstruation. When these things did not work, then they had a recorded abortive technique that did work. Egyptian women in 1500 B.C. made a plug of crocodile dung mixed with a kind of paste, or prepared a tampon from lint soaked in juice, fermented from locust tips, or mixed honey with a natural sodium compound for a douche. These were used first as a contraceptive and then as an abortion solution.

The Greeks and ancient Romans made abortion the basis of a well-ordered population policy. An extensive literature on abortion techniques, ranging from the insertion of papyrus and dry sponges to the use of laurel and peppers was recorded. William Leaky, the historian stated, "The practice of abortion was one to which few people in antiquity attached any feelings of condemnation, and described it as 'almost universal'." Plato advised abortion for every woman after 40. Aristotle advised all forms of population control.

Now I don't want anybody to get the idea that our foremothers really owned their own bodies. Although the cultures usually cared less, in most of these societies the mate or husband had absolute control over the family. And if he said it was OK, then the woman could have the abortion. But if she did so without his divine approval, then he could have her severely punished or banished from the family. He also had the power to order an abortion performed on her against her will.

By the 6th century, Byzantine women were so desperate that they tied a tube that held cat liver to the left foot, in hopes that this would ward off pregnancy. In the 16th century, an Italian devised a linen sheath for use by the male. In the Middle Ages potions were prepared from the leaves of young willow trees, mixed with iron rust and potter's clay, the bark of a white poplar tree, and the kidney of a mule. A European folk remedy that was even used in this century was to place roasted walnuts inside the clothing. A woman placed the number of walnuts for the number of years she wished to remain barren. Our own grandmothers nursed each child for several years hoping this would keep them from becoming pregnant again. Each and all of these remedies were followed up by desperate hopes for miscarriage and finally abortion by any means.

For a short three-year period in 1588, Pope Sixtus V wiped out the 40-80 rules and declared excommunication for all abortion. This was a package deal, as he also made adultery a hanging offense in Rome. Anything connected with sexual practices was somehow considered a terrible sin, as he was out to cleanse the Renaissance church. The leading theologians of the period disputed his new rule and most Catholics seemed to ignore it. Three years later Pope Gregory XIV revoked the rule and returned to the 40 day practice. He said "that the hoped for effect had not occurred and had led to constant sacrilege." The Catholics affected had simply overlooked their excommunication status. The old 40 day rule lasted until 1869, 100 short years ago. This is when the NO abortion rule started in the church and within a few years every woman on the face of this earth discovered she had a Catholic uterus, as Catholic Church rules became for some strange reason state laws in many nations around the world, even in non-Catholic countries.

For the past 100 years the human race has been told that abortion is "against the laws of nature", but far from being natural law going back to the dawn of history or even back to early Christianity, the present state and church law is only 100 years old. In fact, abortion as just another form of birth control has been practiced from the beginning of time which makes it "natural law".

But in 1869 there was again a great robbery on our foremothers, this time for the last and only thing they had going for them. The right to own their own bodies. And this robbery was again a package deal, as contraception was beginning to be perfected and the birth control movement was on in France and Belgium. Within a few years after the slap at abortion, the Church waged war on contraceptives. There were two dominant attitudes concerning sex at that time. First, sex was completely evil. Second, intercourse was for the procreation of the race and only for that reason was it permitted. Not only was the female not supposed to enjoy the sex act (that's nothing new), but the male was told not to get excited about it, or he would be committing a sin also. Because it is physically impossible for the male to have sexual intercourse without being excited, it is amazing that we are all here. Or maybe our forefathers were not such religious beings after all.

In the United States the Puritans had inherited this dismal view of sex and no one seemed to have any regard for the person who had been keeping this race going. She was then finally demoted to nothing more than a baby-making machine. As the father of Puritanism, Martin Luther said, "If a woman grows weary and at last dies from child-bearing, it matters not. Let her only die from bearing, she's in there to do it." The type of victory won by this Puritan crusade in the U.S. is exemplified in the U.S. statute of 1873, which was aimed at abortion and contraception. In its title were the words, "Obscene Literature and Articles of Immoral Use".

Now these laws have not stopped women from their natural desire to control their own systems; it has just made it much harder. At the turn of this century it was not hard to abort oneself or have another woman do it but it was hard work to get birth control information. In the past 30 years contraception methods have improved and have been fairly well accepted but the failure factor is still great and abortions are still desired, used, and necessary.

Presently, the federal government is cutting federal funding for abortion. This virtually makes abortion unattainable for poor women. At the same time, there has been an increase in federal spending for sterilization procedures as well as liberalized laws regarding sterilization over the last few years. These sterilization practices have been especially devastating for Third World women in the U.S. --- 20% of all Black women of child bearing age have been sterilized, 24% of Indian women, 22% of Chicana women, and 35% of Puerto Rican women. At The Association for Voluntary Sterilization Conference which was sponsored by Planned Parenthood in Syracuse, New York on September 17 and 18, 1977, there was much discussion of a new sterilization procedure called "mini-lap". This 15 minute procedure involves an incision directly below the belly-button using only a local anesthetic. This new procedure, which can be performed in a doctor's office, is being used largely on Third World women. This is because, according to physicians, TW women are "stronger" and can withstand more pain that white women.

Forced sterilization, either through financial or psychological coercion, or by simply performing the procedure without a woman's informed consent, represents women's ultimate loss of control of our reproductive rights. Now more than ever we must unite with all of our sisters so that we have control of our bodies, our lives, our futures.

Lader, Lawrence, Abortion, 1965, Bobb Merrill.
Phelan and Maginnis, Abortion Handbook, 1969 Contact Books.
Twain, Mark, Letters form the Earth, 1938.
Terrible Choice, International Conference on Abortion, 1967, Washington, D.C.
Osterman and Arnold, The Pill and Its Impact, Newsbook National Observer, 1967

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