Ecofeminism, Subsistence Living & Nature Awareness

January 22, 2010

Trust Women, Every Day, Everywhere!

Filed under: Ecofeminism,Patriarchy,Paula Mariedaughter — Paula Mariedaughter @ 4:10 am

Fall, 1950
Marie said to her long-time doctor, “As you know I have had four pregnancies in six years. I have three healthy children, and I have my hands full! I’d like a tubal ligation to insure that I don’t get pregnant again. I do not want any more children.”

Dr. Boughton replied, “Now Marie, you’re young. (She was thirty.) You’ll change your mind—I can’t do that.”

This is a reconstructed conversation relayed to me by my youngest sister Lea who heard the secret from our father long after Mother’s death in 1979. According to our father, Mother had some kind of “breakdown” after this third child’s birth. She went away for a week or so, leaving him with the children. Marie stayed with women friends and (he says) played bridge with them for that week. We don’t know if her request for a tubal ligation happened before or after this “breakdown”. In telling Lea about this episode in Marie’s life, our father was not sympathetic.

My mother, Marie Virginia Donovan Neilson, was a strong woman who had overcome a number of obstacles in her life. But seeking control of her fertility was out of her reach in 1950. The shame of this situation is not my mother’s shame! She was a victim of the shameful attitudes of the patriarchal medical institutions we live with. Today, 60 years later, we are in mortal danger of returning to the days of enforced motherhood and unsafe, illegal abortions! I am writing about family planning today because 37 years ago on this date the US Supreme Court upheld a woman’s right to choose a safe legal abortion within the first months of her pregnancy in the case Roe vs. Wade. The assault on this decision has been ongoing and quite successful!


A favorite family photo of Mother, Paula (far left) and my sisters relaxing in our camper and photographed by Dad about 1959. Our brother Karl is not pictured here.

Women and girls live in intensely woman-hating societies in most parts of our planet! Facing this fact is not easy for any of us.

Our strengths are called weaknesses. Our unique ability to nurture new life within our own bodies has long been treated as a shameful condition by patriarchal societies. Pregnant women are at higher risk of physical abuse from their male partners who often beat and kick them in their growing bellies. Choosing when and how to bring forth new life is the most personal decision anyone can make. The decision to have a baby is different for a woman than it is for a man. The frank reality that motherhood and fatherhood are not equal decisions is obvious and usually ignored! Women risk their lives to bring forth new life, men do not. Men cannot give birth. Men do not risk their lives to bring a child into their lives. Nor do they bond with the unborn baby in the same manner that a woman who carries the growing child within her own skin can do.

Pregnancy is a potentially dangerous undertaking. In fact, an abortion in the first three months of the pregnancy is much less dangerous to a woman’s health than a full-term pregnancy. Every woman makes a series of choices in her life that may or may not lead to her becoming pregnant. Many times she is forced to have sex against her will. Once pregnant, we must decide what is right for us, and for the fetus beginning to grow inside of us.

In the fall of 1973, I believed I might be pregnant. I remember walking home from the doctor’s appointment, kicking leaves as I walked, and not knowing the answer to that question. For days I considered my options. I thought about the possibilities of raising a child at that point in my life. I decided I was not ready to risk my life, or to bring another child into the world–I would have an abortion. Then I discovered I was not pregnant.

Trusting women to do the right thing is not a principal of patriarchy! Patriarchy is about domination of mind, body and spirit. Dr. George Tiller was an abortion provider. When Dr. Tiller wore the words “Trust Women” on his chest, he became a traitor to the idea of male domination of women. George Tiller’s actions to allow women to choose when, and if, they wanted to become mothers, put him at grave risk. He knew the risks to himself and his family. His commitment to women who had few choices to legally terminate their pregnancies grew from all he heard from women and girls. Dr. Tiller was murdered on a Sunday, while serving in his church in May, 2009 because of his commitment to women!

Assassinations such as Dr Tiller’s accomplish multiple purposes including eliminating an individual, as well as intimidating the rest of us. Assassinations also make clear the political agenda hiding behind the slogans of the love for the unborn. Abortion is a legal right in most western countries, but the assault on reproductive rights here in the US has been effective:
Conservatives, energized by the success of their antiabortion drive, are ratching up their offensive [against birth control]. They’re doing it in their churches and in their faith-based organizations and with the help of numerous point people in Congress. Those on the right claim they’re honoring women by preserving the sanctity of motherhood, but their real beef is the freedom birth control affords women to enjoy a healthy, safe, sex life while avoiding unwanted pregnancies. That speaks for the forty-two million–or seven out of ten–American women in their childbearing years who are sexually active (and heterosexual, I add) and don’t want to get pregnant.

This warning is from Barbara J. Berg’s new book, Sexism in America: Alive, Well, and Ruining our Future. Many women depend on effective birth control and assume that will protect them from considering an abortion. (It can’t happen to me, thinking.) However, many birth control methods are being redefined as abortions! Berg informs us that so-called Right of Conscience Regulation created by the recent Bush administratination broadens “the definiton of abortion to include many kinds of birth control, especially oral and emergency contraception, and allows health care providers to withhold available medical information if it conflicts with their moral or religious beliefs.”(p. 154)

What does “sanctity of motherhood” mean? Mary Daly, one of the most influential thinkers in the women’s liberation movement, warned us to be aware of patriarchy’s reversals of reality. For me, “sacred motherhood” or “the sanctity of motherhood” begins with respect for a woman’s capability to make informed choices about her life and to make the right choice about bringing new life to our crowded planet. Every child born into a wealthy nation consumes eleven times the resources of a child born in a developing country. All our personal choices affect the planet. We have come to understand the resources of our bountiful planet are not infinite. We are embarking on a new world where we must trust women–every day and in every way!


  1. Hello Paula,
    I googled you and found your blog. It is interesting reading about what you have been up to. You have an amazing place and garden. You’re an intriguing person.
    Best Regards,
    Shelley (Tork) Raker

    Comment by Shelley Raker — January 22, 2010 @ 1:06 pm

  2. I say the whole lot of patriarchal freedom deniers can leave this planet anytime they feel the need. Certainly they feel obligated by their inane urge to control every aspect of life, especially that of women.

    Well, like I said before, fuel up that rocket gentlemen and climb aboard!

    Thank you for sharing your powerful thoughts on this important matter.


    Comment by markprime — January 22, 2010 @ 2:32 pm

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