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The Power of a Word

23 Mar

Ok Let me start with a bit of an apology. I started this little corner of the weboverse as a place for me to vent and share my experiences with others. It was never meant as a virtual soap box. In fact, I tend to shy away from bringing politics into this space for the simple reason that I live in Israel, and I’ve had my fair share of experiences in which I was hated, and even verbally abused, strictly because of where I’m from. So in short – I tend to keep politics out of here because this is not what our community is all about (BTW – welcome ICLWers! For more about me – feel free to click here,  here, or on the “about” page above).

But today I’m going to step a bit outside of my usual ranting to voice an opinion. First, for those of you who don’t know me, a little background:

Though I was born and currently live in Israel, I spent about half my life in the United States. 8 years as a child, and another 7 as an adult. The result of this is that a) I think and write primarily in English (exhibit a: this blog) b) Nobody guesses that I’m not American upon talking to me or reading this blog, until I point it out to them, or in real life, they hear my name. c) As a lover of politics in general, I am especially a lover and follower of American politics. In those terms, I consider myself a staunch Democrat. Even a stereotypical one. I get my news from the Daily Show and Rachel Maddow.

Now that I’m done with all this prefacing it’s time I get down to it.

During one of my undergraduate women’s studies classes, which talked about women and Judaism, my professor (who I to this day consider a role model and a mentor), brought in an expert on the Hebrew language, to speak to us about its built-in gender bias.

I won’t go into the talk in detail, but during it – apart from pointing out certain linguistic inequalities, this expert also pointed out how in Hebrew, some words are casual, whereas their English counterparts are incredibly “charged”.  As an example, this expert used the word “fetus”.

In Hebrew, “fetus” (or Ubar)  is a word used rather casually. This is how pregnant women refer to their babies before they know whether it’s a girl or a boy. This is a word doctors use often. In English, at least in the United States, “fetus” is a charged, almost taboo word.

I think this is because abortion in Israel is not a controversial topic (let’s face it, we’ve got enough controversy without it). It’s legal, it’s done. It’s not debated. Israel is a country with universal healthcare, and legal abortion. Here, if you want to get an abortion, and have it funded through government healthcare, you have to sit in front of a committee comprised of three people, 2 of them doctors, and one of them has to be a woman. Statistically, these committees authorize over 98% of the requests.

If you don’t want to go through a committee, you can opt to fund the abortion in a private clinic. No muss, no fuss.

The result of all of this is that apart from the religious right, there isn’t much of an anti-abortion movement in Israel. This is, I believe, because Israel was founded based at least partially on socialist values that go hand-in-hand with individual rights. Each time someone has tried to pass anti-abortion legislation in Israel, this legislation has not even gone up for a vote, because it is looked at as infringing upon a woman’s individual rights.

There was a TINY bit of controversy (again – from the religious right) when the morning-after pill was introduced here. But it passed quickly, and now it’s openly sold in pharmacies, and several cute commercials with smiling girls wearing pink tank tops were aired on prime time TV.

So yes  – here, fetus is not a dirty word.

In terms of American politics, I’ve always considered myself Pro-choice (being a staunch Democrat, it kind of comes with the territory). However, I also knew that when it came to my own body, I probably would not have an abortion.

Of course, now that I’ve had two miscarriages my opinion about my own body has become even more solidified, and yes, I admit, I would look sideways today at a woman – say in her mid 20’s and with relative financial stability – having an abortion. But this is just because of my own experience and issues. At the end of the day, it’s her body, her life, and her choice.

The results of the 2010 elections in the US shocked me. Mind you, I have some issues with what Obama has done as president, but I still could not fathom, after so many years living in the damage that a Republican administration had done to the country, why anybody in their right minds would vote Republican.

It’s not that I don’t understand (and sometimes even agree with) Republican policies. But what Republicans promise on the campaign trail (more jobs, less taxes, fiscal responsibility and the like), is worlds apart from what they do once they are in office. I could write for hours about the ludicrous union-stripping that’s been going on in Wisconsin for example. But in all truth, considering my own experiences over the past year, I am far more upset with the sheer weight of anti-abortion legislation that is happening all over the United States.

Because I’ve always been pro-life when it comes to my own body, I never openly advocated for a woman’s right to choose. I would give pro-choice picketers the thumbs up sign happily, but you would never find me holding up a sign, because I always found myself a bit detached from the topic.

Now that I myself have become a “repeat aborter”, I find myself wanting to get on a plane and march on washington.

Some people may think it’s ironic that a person like myself – who has a newly-found appreciation for the preciousness of pregnancy – would all of the sudden feel this way.

But to me, it makes total sense. As a part of this community, I’ve read the stories here of women who have had to go through heartbreaking late-term abortions because they had no choice. I’ve followed bloggers who rely on planned parenthood for their birth control because they can’t afford to have it any other way. I’ve seen the true implications of the silent victims of anti-abortion legislation. It’s the women of this community – who sometimes feel like they have no control over their own bodies – who need laws in place to at least retain their right to choose what to do when it comes to their bodies.

There are Republicans in Washington currently trying to de-fund planned parenthood.

There is one nutcase Republican lawmaker in Georgia who is trying to make MISCARRIAGE a crime.

There is a bill in Indiana that is trying to force doctors to warn women that abortion could possibly cause breast cancer.

Keiko Zoll, an IF blogger who I read regularly, speaks and advocates about this far more eloquently than I do. So I strongly recommend you hop on over to her blog every once in  a while to see what she has to say.

But I feel the need to speak out about this because seriously – and there’s no other way to put this: This is getting frakking ridiculous.

We in the ALI community should be doing everything we can to stop this kind of legislation from happening. If I had the money, I’d hop on a plane and march on washington tomorrow. But I don’t, and I seriously fear for my friends living in the United States. I sincerely am afraid of the consequences of these laws on their lives.

And I find it maddening that in a world with such harsh words as “death”, “terrorism”, “tsunami”, “infertility”, “poverty”, and “hunger”, the word “fetus” is getting all of the attention, and for all the wrong reasons.

Those are just my two cents. Thanks for reading.

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9 Responses to “The Power of a Word”

  1. jjiraffe March 23, 2011 at 18:10 #

    Here from ICLW…how have I not read your blog before? You’re a really great writer and I love your take on things. This is an interesting point. I just wrote a blog post about how talking about miscarriages is a taboo subject here, and some people commented about how this seems to be the case in other areas too like India.

    Why are so many words related to female reproduction taboo?

    • mommyodyssey March 24, 2011 at 01:00 #

      First – thanks so much and welcome!
      and second – the one thing that continues to stick with me after my women’s studies minor is precisely the fact that so much of our experience is considered taboo or “unclean”. We are more than 50% of the world’s population. It’s ridiculous and surreal.

  2. bodegabliss March 23, 2011 at 18:14 #

    We seriously share a brain. Stay tuned for a related post on my blog that was already in the works for tomorrow or Friday. 😉

    I couldn’t agree with you more. Despite being pro-life for myself, I have always, ALWAYS believed a woman should have the choice. No question. I even dabbled with socialism while in Rhode Island and have protested locally in Providence for pro-choice rights, with signs, chants and everything. (The days with socialism didn’t last for me as I just couldn’t hang with the protesters. I’m more a protest-with-my-words kind of gal, and it was just to “in your face” for me and my introverted ways. But man I could get behind their energy. They’re trying to make a difference in how our country is. It was infectious.) And now that I’ve gone through what I have, I agree completely that I’m that much more passionate about it. This stuff is scaring me, and if I can find a way to fight it, I will.

    • mommyodyssey March 24, 2011 at 01:01 #

      The fact that we share a brain is not surprising in the slightest. Can’t wait to read your post on friday. 🙂

  3. me0me March 23, 2011 at 19:17 #

    Mo, though we usually share a brain on all things US politics, I appreciate the angle given here today and will be on the lookout for any petitions having to do with planned parenthood. Your blog has been really thought provoking for me and keeps on being that way; I can’t wait for a chance to tell you about a whole inner conversation I had regarding masculine competitiveness and feminine competitiveness after your post following Elphie’s BFP and a few personal realizations.

    • Marie March 23, 2011 at 20:39 #

      I want that inner conversation posted somewhere. Guest post?

      And Mo, while I agree with you completely politically, I TOTALLY appreciate you skipping the march-on-Washington in favor of saving your plane-ticket-to-America money for my wedding 😉

      • mommyodyssey March 24, 2011 at 01:05 #

        oh!! yes!!! I’m totally gonna make him do a guest post – as one of my best friends and the person who I think understands me the best out of anyone – it would be kewl.
        I can see it now: “Guest post: the best friend’s perspective – musings of a happily married, gay man” or something.
        And yes Marie – of course your wedding is way more important!

        • Elphaba March 24, 2011 at 02:55 #

          Yes! I want the guest post too!

          And I can’t even comment on the miscarriage as a crime bullshit. It just makes me so spitting mad.

  4. missohkay March 24, 2011 at 03:17 #

    Really interesting to hear about Israel’s abortion options. We Americans seem to take pride in not knowing or caring what any other country does, so I’ve never heard anything about the abortion debate (or lack thereof) in other countries. But politically, this post could have been written by me, word for word! I totally support a woman’s right to choose even while I cringe at the thought of someone just terminating the very thing I desperately want.

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