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Itís January, a month with days designated to celebrate dead guysó presidents and MLKóand new beginnings. But we do not have an official day to celebrate one of the most important moments in history:  January 22, 1973 when the Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion.

I could go on for a long time about abortion. And Iíll tell you up front that Iím about to repeat some stuff Iíve already written before. But it bears repeating. For all sorts of reasons.

One of these reasons is that Brackenridge Hospital, Austinís allegedly "public" city hospital, has been taken over by Seton, which happens to be a Catholic organization. Which means that they wonít perform certain procedures there like tubal ligations. Or if youíre raped and want a morning after pill to avoid pregnancy, they wonít give it to you in the ER. You can take the exterior elevator to the separate, fifth floor "womenís hospital," sure, and seek services there (why donít they just go ahead and mark that elevator with something akin to the "Coloreds Only" signs from not so long ago?).  But things have changed now that the hospital is being run in the name of Christ. Get an abortion there? Ha. Iím guessing you canít even find a tampon dispenser there anymore, given the hymenal threat those suckers pose.

Another reason what Iím about to say bears repeating is that the current political regime running this country into the ground is so fucked up and twisted and rights-stripping and conservative sicko right wing "Christian"* that itís only a matter of time before they outlaw abortions altogether. Theyíre already brainwashing stupid teenage girls into condemning abortions for any reason, a nice trend I read about in the New York Times recently (Iíd love to talk to some of these future eighteen-year-olds, after their first blackout date rape experience at the hands of some "Christian"* frat daddy at a "Christian"* frat house kegger leaves them knocked up).

And yet another, more immediate reason, is that on January 20th, if you tune into PBS you can see a kickass documentary called "Life Matters" by Kyle Boyd. Boyd examines the life of his father, Curtis, who grew up in East Texas (thatís spelled with a silent triple K). Curtis was the apple of his familyís and the townís collective eye, an uber-responsible kid who began preaching as a teenager. He went on to medical school and returned to Athens, TX to open his practice.

Along comes the social revolution in the Ď60s and Curtis, a lifelong student of philosophy, grows his flat top long, starts (gasp) inviting black folk over to parties, and decides to start performing safe if not legal abortions. What is perhaps most mind-blowing about this decision is that he came to it after being approached by a group of level headed clergy of various denominations who considered abortion to be a lesser of two evils (the greater evil being women bleeding to death or dying of post back alley abortion infections).

I put an asterisk up above which typically guides the reader to the bottom of the page. But since weíre talking clergy here, let me explain the asterisk now. When I star the word "Christian" Ė which I also purposefully put in quotesóI am not, of course, referring to people who truly follow the teachings of Christ, who asked us all to be compassionate and forgiving. Iím talking about the bible thumping lunatics who try to control others by suggesting any actions undertaken that are not approved of by these "Christians" merits the action taker a ticket to hell, abortion being somewhere very close to the top of the list.

As for the group of clergy who formed an abortion underground railroad of sorts, I will applaud you just as soon as Iím done using my hands to pry my jaw off the floor.

Anyway, so Kyle Boyd interviews his dad at length. And he interviews all sorts of people in Curtisís life. And he shows Curtis performing an abortion, which I thought was very courageous of him (Kyle, the filmmaker) since if he wanted to make an entirely sympathetic portrait he could probably have skipped the nuts and bolts examination of how the surgery is done. (Which is not to say I think the procedure resembles any murderous satanic ritual, but then, itís certainly not, say, a moving portrait of young lovers running toward each other through a field of daisies.)

Hereís where I start repeating myself. This month is another anniversary for me. Seven years ago almost to the day, my pregnancy test came back positive. I was devastated. The idiot I was married to at the time danced a jig. Not because he wanted to procreate. Because he thought, at that point, that heíd fully captured meóif we had a child, weíd be linked for life. He thought Iíd never have an abortion. To tell you the truth, Iíd always thought the same thing, though I was pro-choice for as long as I knew what abortion was.

But then I examined my situation more closelyóthe terror of being married to a physically and psychologically abusive sociopath, the understanding from experience of what it was already like raising the child of another addict on my own. Well, letís say I was doing the math and it was all coming up negative, this being an instance where double negatives do not a positive make. I imagined my life if I had a second child. I imagined this man, whom I knew I needed to divorce, dragging me through custody battles the rest of my life using his familyís wealth.

I made an appointment. I borrowed the money. I had an abortion. It saved my life on a thousand different levels. And I always thought the universe validated that choice in a curious way. Iíd been raised my whole life by a pro-life nutcase, a father who spent his only free day of the week protesting abortion rather than giving any attention to the nine children he had because our religion forbid birth control. He could not have drilled it harder into my head that abortion was murder. I didnít think so the day I went for mine, but then childhood residuals can be ugly things and there are always whisperings of future fallout, nervous breakdowns for girls who realize too late their sins.

I really didnít think Iíd fall apart at a future date. But I was stunned and, dare I say it, something like amused when a post-abortion checkup revealed a large, malignant ovarian tumor that was not there (or at least not seen) during my months-prior annual checkup, If for some reason I had backed out of the abortion, or later decided to regret it, well, hold on now, here was a medical cause to terminate, a reason that, if we arenít careful, will soon enough be taken away, too: this pregnancy was a threat to my life.

I often say giving birth was the worst day of my life, though it netted me the fantastic gift of my son. And I often think, with irony, that despite the myriad uncomfortable surrounding circumstances, the day I had an abortion was, hands down, the best day of my life. So let me repeat a few more things: My body, my choice. Help keep abortion safe and legal. Keep your laws off my body. Against abortion: Donít Have One.
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About the author:
Spike Gillespie is the author of All the Wrong Men and One Perfect Boy: A Memoir, the dotnovel thebelljar.net, and a collection of essays entitled, Surrender (but don't give yourself away): Old Cars, Found Hope and Other Cheap Tricks. Gillespie is a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist and her work has appeared in, among other places, The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, National Geographic Traveler, GQ, Playboy and Elle, and online at Salon, Nerve, Oxygen, Underwire and AustinMama. She is a reformed circus poodle, a retired stripper (Crazy Lady, 1978-81) and mother to three spawn-of-satan mutts and one freakin' hilarious and very tall boy ("But remember, son, I'll always be wider than you...").  She is currently working on a novel about how utterly fucked up love can be (How novel indeed...). 

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