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The rights of the born

February 10, 2006|Anne Lamott | ANNE LAMOTT is a novelist and essayist. Her most recent book is "Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith" (Riverhead, 2005).

It was not until the reception that I finally realized part of the problem -- no one had told me that the crowd was made up largely of Catholics.

I had flown in at dawn on a red-eye, and, in my exhaustion, had somehow missed this one tiny bit of information. I was mortified: I had to eat my body weight in chocolate just to calm myself.

But then I asked myself: Would I, should I, have given a calmer answer? Wouldn't it have been more useful and harder to dismiss me if I had sounded more reasonable, less -- what is the word -- spewy?

Maybe I could have presented my position in a less strident, divisive manner. But the questioner's use of the words "murder" and "babies" had put me on the defensive. Plus I am so confused about why we are still having to argue with patriarchal sentimentality about teeny weenie so-called babies -- some microscopic, some no bigger than the sea monkeys we used to send away for -- when real, live, already born women, many of them desperately poor, get such short shrift from the current administration.

Most women like me would much rather use our time and energy fighting to make the world safe and just and fair for the children we do have, and do love -- and for the children of New Orleans and the children of Darfur. I am old and tired and menopausal and would mostly like to be left alone: I have had my abortions, and I have had a child.

But as a Christian and a feminist, the most important message I can carry and fight for is the sacredness of each human life, and reproductive rights for all women is a crucial part of that: It is a moral necessity that we not be forced to bring children into the world for whom we cannot be responsible and adoring and present. We must not inflict life on children who will be resented; we must not inflict unwanted children on society.

During the reception, an old woman came up to me, and said, "If you hadn't spoken out, I would have spit," and then she raised her fist in the power salute. We huddled together for awhile, and ate M&Ms to give us strength. It was a kind of communion, for those of us who still believe that civil rights and equality and even common sense will somehow be sovereign, some day.

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