Kay Ivey, Alabama’s Republican governor, this week signed some of the most restrictive abortion legislation this country has seen in decades into law. In response, thousands of women took up the #YouKnowMe hashtag torch on social media, sharing their abortion stories and urging others to do the same.
Readers whose beliefs place them on both sides of the issue have responded passionately to The Times’s opinion coverage of the Alabama law and similar legislation in other states.
A selection of comments from readers are below. They have been edited for length and clarity.
‘Cruelty is the only word for it’
I read with dread about the Alabama law’s prevention of abortion in the case of “nonviable” fetuses. Those of us from families whose members have given birth to children who fit this definition may be dismayed that, should the diagnosis have preceded the birth, we still would have been forced to endure the consequences of bringing the pregnancy to term under this new law. Cruelty is the only word for it. — Portola, Bethesda, Md.
I hope the governor of Alabama is listening to survivors of rape, incest, the death of a fetus. The physical and emotional changes that accompany pregnancy are almost unendurable once a doctor tells you, as mine told me, that the baby wouldn’t be born alive. Can you imagine being forced to go through pregnancy and delivery of a baby born to someone who survived a rape or became pregnant by incest? Does cruelty know no bounds? — Kathyb, Seattle
‘The deck is stacked against girls and women’
Imagine how different the abortion issue would be cast if a woman who became pregnant against her will could file for damages against the male participant in the pregnancy. Without the remedy of abortion, it is the woman who suffers physically, emotionally and economically. The man may have regrets, but he pays a comparatively low price for his participation. As is obvious, the deck is stacked against girls and women by all-male or majority-male legislatures. — Litote, Fullerton, Calif.
Has anyone considered the viability of counter-legislation? It’s far-fetched, but what if there were laws requiring mandatory DNA testing to determine paternal responsibility; paternal wage garnishing to financially support the mother and unborn child for the duration of the pregnancy; custody automatically transferring by law to the father if the mother declines custody after birth; in the case of rape or incest, taxpayer dollars are allocated to fund support of the mother and child, including all prenatal health care, mental heath care for the mother and safe housing where the mother will not be in danger of abuse. If men or conservative legislators were actually held accountable for the safety, financial security and futures of the unwanted children in whose interest they are supposedly passing anti-abortion laws, perhaps they might reconsider these draconian measures. — Elisabeth MTR, Connecticut
I just read a related piece on how the new laws in Alabama and Georgia are going to have an impact on men. This is new and it’s true: both those states also have strict paternity and child support laws. Now that their menfolk are going to be saddled with a child, let’s see how quickly this discussion turns around. — Myasara, Brooklyn
‘Don’t ask me to celebrate the right’ to abortion
There is nothing positive about the act of abortion. It is always because of some failure — to avoid pregnancy when contraception is available, of ethics or common decency if rape is involved, or of genetics or illness. No one should celebrate the event. I am O.K. if women are given the right to choose, and for God, if there is one, to punish. That’s above my pay grade. But don’t ask me to celebrate the right. We should unite to continue to drive the numbers down, both Democrats and Republicans — John Morton, Florida
I am not a fan of abortion. My wife and I had such a hard time getting pregnant that the thought of it is unconscionable to me. If a state were to write into its charter that they must fund public education and children’s health care at the national average, and if they were to also make it easier to adopt (including for LGBTQ couples), I would actually be O.K. with a ban on abortion, like what Alabama just did. — ZAW, Tex.
I don’t support abortion because it prematurely ends a human life without their consent. You might ask me, what about the autonomy of the woman and her rights over her body? I have a young child, and another one on the way. I get up in the middle of the night when he’s sick or can’t sleep. I can’t leave the house after he goes to bed. I spend a huge portion of my paycheck for his expenses that no longer can pay for things I would like. These are all restrictions on what I can do with myself. If I stop taking care of him, the state will intervene and punish me for neglecting my responsibilities. Being a responsible member of society means we can’t always do whatever we want with ourselves. Being pregnant is no different. — William, Huntsville, Ala.
‘They’ve never had to use wire hangers’
I’m a millennial. My fear is that the women of my generation won’t be spurred to action because the idea of having an illegal abortion is such a foreign concept that it doesn’t seem realistic. The problem, of course, is that unsafe, illegal abortions could very well become a reality now. — Robin, Atlanta
It may be worthwhile to consider that every female of childbearing age was born after Roe v. Wade became law. These women are not going to be willing to cede their autonomy to strangers. — Pat, Texas
I wonder if the Gen-Xers and Millennials really get what’s at stake. They’ve never had to use wire hangers. — Rachel Hoffman, Portland, Ore.
‘Pro-lifers like me aren’t supporting “Christian Shariah law.”’
My son’s wife had a miscarriage during her third month of pregnancy. Would the doctor who treated her during this sad event be charged as a criminal? I had a vasectomy after the birth of my second child. Will Alabama prosecute the doctor who performed the vasectomy because I could no longer get my wife pregnant? Can I be arrested and prosecuted too? Are condoms, I.U.D.s and birth control pills and patches soon to be outlawed?
It seems like the states that invoke the specter of “Shariah Law” are now promoting the specter of “biblical Christian Law,” a judicial approach just as restrictive. — Pete, Houston
Remarkably, I’m one of the few from a blue state who is yelling “Hooray!” in light of Alabama’s new abortion law. It’s disappointing to see society in America say that killing an unborn baby is moving forward in our world. Pro-life supporters like me aren’t supporting “Christian Shariah law.” We support the existence of human lives, not seeing a baby’s chance of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness being wiped away without knowing. — Andrew Zhang, Tenafly, N.J.
‘Americans are not divided over the right to privacy’
Roe v. Wade has never been properly explained or defended. People are all over the map about abortion. But Americans are not divided over the right to privacy. We are one of the most individualistic peoples on earth and the busybody neighbor, the busybody relative and the busybody government are all unpopular. SCOTUS did not “legalize” abortion. It vacated state-level abortion laws by saying that Americans have a right to privacy. The debate is this: Do you value your constitutional right to privacy? — Douglas Green, Vancouver, Wash.
Justice Roberts isn’t stupid. He won’t set up the Republican Party for failure in 2020 by allowing an outright overruling of Roe v. Wade before the election. He will continue supporting his majority’s policy of killing Roe in stages by allowing incremental restrictions to its terms until there is no Roe left to destroy. — Andrew Zuckerman, Port Washington, N.Y.
‘We’re not even having the same conversation’
I don’t even know how to talk to the other side about this. Being pro-choice, I believe the right to an abortion is about women’s freedom and rights. It’s about the right to control what happens to your own body. Pro-lifers believe that having an abortion is the moral equivalent of going into a maternity ward and stabbing babies. We’re not even having the same conversation. I don’t know how to bridge that gap. — Zoe, Alaska
Either a woman is fully human, an end in and of herself, or she is the means to another’s end. Disqualifying a woman from decisions regarding her own body and life reduces the woman to a means, a slave, a machine, a thing that produces babies for the benefit of others and not herself. Abortion is not the issue. The issue is whether a simple medical decision by a rational person is one that is trumped by one who is not. — Maxine and Max, Brooklyn
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