About 40 years ago I was opposed to abortion, of any kind or reason. I had a maid, as all military officer families had, who worked for me once a week for $2.00 per day. I raised her pay to $10.00 per day and my husband was called into the commanding general's office and instructed to return Rosa to $2.00 per day. It seems the word got around really fast. I refused. She earned her money and the USA military supported slave wages.

She was a lovely person, kind, caring, compassionate, loyal, honest, dependable, reliable, all the things one would want in an employee. We lived in El Paso, Texas and she lived across the US/Mexican border in Juarez. She took a buss from her home to the border, changed buses and came to my home, a total of over an hour of traveling, coming and going. She never missed a day, was always on time, my children and home were safe in her hands. I had three children at that time all 4 years old. She spoke no English, I spoke no Spanish; we were great at sign language. 

One day she came to me and asked me for birth control pills. I got them for her without knowing her story. It was only later I discovered the truth. She had given birth to 10 children, four died of dysentery. As was the custom, she carried a 5 gallon bucket with her on the way to the bus 6 days a week (she worked for other families as well), and dropped the bucket off at a 50 gallon drum the Mexican government kept filled with water from trucks to supply water for her community. On her way home from work, she stopped at the 50 gallon drum and filled her 5 gallon bucket and carried it to her home ... after a full day of hard physical labor in our homes. Her family drank it, used it for cooking, hand washed all their clothes in it.

Wild birds, lizards, snakes, donkeys and all kinds of wild beasts drank from that 50 gallon barrel leaving behind bacteria to foment into a deadly soup that killed the very young, the elderly and infirm and made many of them sick.

She was getting older and didn't want to have any more children. She went to her priest and asked for birth control and he taught her about the rhythm method, which did not work and she had more pregnancies that miscarried. She asked her priest if she could withhold sex because her husband wouldn't wait for the "safe" time for sexual intercourse. The priest told her she had responsibility to allow her husband sex on demand as her wifely duty. As a final option, she came to me for birth control pills.

She lived in a dirt floor shed with a tin roof, wattle and daub walls, in which a woven lattice of cactus canes called wattle is daubed with a sticky material made of mud and donkey dung. Her only stove was a metal pipe from floor through the ceiling, with a hole near ground level where they used creosote bush for firewood. She had no cooking surface. 

She put the pills on a shelf and her husband found them, threw them in the open sewage draining ditch that ran in front of her home. He gave her a beating and raped her. She conceived and killed that baby by a self induced abortion using a dirty stick. 

Rosa had no options. She could not deny her husband sex, she could not use any effective birth control, it didn't matter whether she was healthy enough or not to bear and raise another child and she had no way out of her Roman Catholic upbringing. Without options, she was not able to have control over her own body. She not only lost her babies, she lost her right to be part of her religious community and was called a sinner by her husband and priest and a "slut" by her 14 year old son. 

From that day on, I am for a woman's right to make decisions about her own body without interference from husband, family, religious community or government. If loved ones did not care enough for her to see the terrible burden she carried for being a woman, then she had the right to act in her own self-interest. Indeed, she had the responsibility to do so. She had other children to raise, and she was getting old, tired, and needed an easier life than circumstances allowed her.

If you stand in opposition to abortion I am in your face supporting a woman's right to control her own body. I am not in favor of abortion and I would not have one. Perhaps if I were in Rosa's shoes, I would choose that option. However, I have no right to impose my values on another, nor will I accept other's values for my own.   

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That was a very interesting story and I feel for the poor catholic womans predicament. I agree entirely with you and support a womans right to control her own body, and life. Is it one rule for the liberated and another for the poor, superstitious peasant countries like Mexico ?

Of course there's a difference, Napoleon.  Stephen Fry pointed this out in his participation in the Intelligence Squared debate on "Is the Catholic Church a force for good in the world?"  Start listening at about 6:59 of the video.  If HE were asked to join the church, there would be no talk of "the superstition and nonsense," but to join as though he would join a social club.  That same superstition, however, would fall like a ton of bricks on the shoulders of the poor, who would be allowed to develop no resistance to it.

The RC church feeds off of poverty and ignorance.  Period, end of discussion.

Joan that is such a sad story. I am pro choice. It is important to keep abortion legal. Rosa had such a hard life. You are right that we can't impose our values on others. But we can educate others and hope that they cast off superstition.

Thank you for reposting this, Joan.

To me, this is an unblinking reflection on the RC church's attitude.  They do not care about human rights or well being so much as they care about conformance to their dogma.  I began to suspect that 40+ years ago when Humanae Vitae was released, and as the church's attitude toward effective and freely available birth control has become more evident, so has their attitude toward women.

The availability of reliable hormonal birth control was a massive paradigm shift in humankind.  At that point, control of conception became CONVENIENT and conception itself became OPTIONAL.  As a result, sex became an activity which could be casual and recreational or a further enhancement of a couple's loving bond or purposefully aimed at the creation of a new living being.  I suspect Vatican City was completely unprepared for this development, and as sex was one of the primary mechanisms of control of the masses, they had to come up with some justification for taking this freedom away from them.  From that came Humanae Vitae.  Granted, I haven't read it, but its intention is clear: to continue to make a woman a slave to one biological function in the name of the "purity" of the love between husband and wife.

Forty-four years later, I can't help but notice that this encyclical is honored more in the breach than the observance, at least in the US.  An April 2011 study written by Rachel K. Jones and Joerg Dreweke estimates that 98% of "sexually experienced [American] Catholic women" actively use birth control, in direct defiance of Paul VI. There is some controversy about that study, but even if the number is high by 10%, that is a considerable figure.  Worthy of note: these are American women, who also assert their rights by means of a Constitution and an attendant feminist movement which supports their defiance.  Rosa had no such support, coming from the Mexican catholic-dominated culture, and the evidence of that is painfully spelled out in your piece.

What this points out to me is the cultural and religion relegation of over half the world's population to second-class status.  We see this struggle regularly, though in various forms, through the experiences and words of those like Ayaan Hirsi Ali or Malala Yousafzai, who want to conduct their lives on a level playing field, much as atheists wish to, but cannot because of the tyranny of the [mostly male] majority.

I think the first human right must be Self-Determination, the right of the individual to think and do and act as one sees fit, so long as it harms no one else.  The catholic church and too many cultures stand in the way of that right.  It is time to call them on it.

It's a day I also, I've been against abortion rarely today I am against.

Rosa did nothing to deserve such terrible treatment, slavery in her own home.  As a human being she deserved autonomy for her body, respect for her humanity, some dignity and love.  She deserved a better home, a husband who supported her choice, and medical care.  

Without the right to birth control, abortion, and her own choices about sex, she was a slave.  How inhumane and wrong.

The catholic church is an inhumane and dishonest organization.  The bible does not condemn abortion, Jesus did not condemn abortion, Paul did not condemn abortion.  The bible has a lot to say about other things, but the condemnation of abortion is a modern invention by priests and then clerics.  THey are all lying, and they are all using the issue to control followers and create more followers.  Shame on them.

Thank you for this!

As more of us realize an individual has rights of self-determination, and as more of us also realize the power of community, cooperation, compromise, and negation, we have a higher probability of healthier and more productive evolution of the human spirit. Power over women's bodies is but a metaphor for how patriarchy perceives themselves as entitled to control of all things on earth, including water, soils, air, flora, fauna and elements of the Earth.

Cosmology gives one an opportunity to see oneself as part of a magnificent universe. Humans are not the end product of human evolution, but are participants in all that exists. 

I use the idea of Indra's Net or the circulatory systems or an image of the cosmos as visuals of all that exists: 

Indra's Net represents a metaphor a person makes that produces a ripple effect that reverberates throughout the universe. To touch one strand of the web sets off a cascade effect of compassionate and constructive interventions, or hurtful and harmful ones. 

No problem in husband and wife relations should ever become a matter of right or law. Problems start arising when human beings forget the valuable virtue of moderation. When any matter becomes an issue of law or rights, it means that one of the two sides or both of them do not practice moderation.

In our country, India, many people do not want a female child due to traditional circumstances and influences.  India therefore bans abortion. This in my opinion is justified. It is also true that most of the fetuses killed in abortion are conceived as a result of unrestrained desire for sex. Killing a baby for sexual pleasure may be acceeptable for some god but not for me. A ban on abortion is fully justified in such a case.

On the other hand, a woman of Indian origin in Ireland lost her life recently because she was denied a permission for abortion. The issue therefore is not a matter either of a right or of a ban but there should always be a way to treat a problem as a human problem. A law or a right should always be tempered with humanism.  


Another thing that concerns me about wealthy conservatives including most of our legislators, is that they pander to the Tea Party but do as they please themselves.  You can bet your bottom dollar if their 15 year old daughter or granddaughter became pregnant, she would be flown to a country where she could get an abortion.  They have already let it slip they care nothing for people like Rosa.

Lillie, this has always been the case.  Before Roe v. Wade, those with means went out of country, frequently to Scandinavian destinations, where abortions were available and antiseptic.  Those without means did what they could, including the proverbial "back-alley" abortions which frequently could cost the mother her life.

The one great virtue of Roe v. Wade is that It Leveled The Playing Field in terms of the availability of abortion to those who wanted, with much less regard to their means.  Those who think that overturning Roe will stop abortions are ignorant of what was going on before its passage.  It is an inevitable law of commerce: wherever there's a demand, someone will attempt to meet that demand.


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