By Carol Frenier
This past week the majority of women representatives in the Vermont Legislature voted “yes” on H.57 prohibiting restrictions on abortion by public entities. They wanted to ensure that the protection of Roe v. Wade would not be lost should the Supreme Court overturn this landmark decision. When asked why they went so far beyond Roe, which only protects abortion in the first trimester, many of them replied with a question: “Why do you want to restrict a woman from having control over her own body?”
As a woman coming of age in the 1960s, when women’s rights emerged as a life-shaping issue, I understood the question. I have had to work out an uneasy peace within myself on the abortion issue. While I knew I wouldn’t abort a fetus, I also felt that I did not have the right to stand in the way of other women making a different decision under different circumstances.
Why, then, was I so distraught about what happened last week? Because it finally dawned on me that an important piece is missing from this debate and from our consciousness. Even as we fear others controlling our bodies, we never question our own quite absolute power over the body of the small persons we grow inside us. And this bill will chisel that absolute power into granite.
As women we have been criticizing men for at least the past 50 years about the abuse of their power. We have argued long and hard that positive use of power requires restraint. George Washington, for example, is revered by many precisely because he walked away from the power he could have grabbed to become the first American monarch.
In my view, we women are in a power crisis right now over abortion. We are so focused on ourselves as victims that we are blind to the fact that, in this situation, we are the oppressors. Is a third trimester fetus really not a human being? Have we convinced ourselves of that, like the Southern planters in the pre-Civil War era had to convince themselves that African-Americans were not fully human?
We have been arguing for decades that women are not too weak to take our rightful places in business and in politics, even in combat. So let us woman-up and think through how civilization should demand we treat those unborn children we carry. Will we continue our policy of deadly oppression toward those we claim to own? This may well be the hardest moral issue of our time, and we need to be fully engaged in resolving it, not excusing ourselves from its moral weight.
Carol Frenier is a business owner living in Chelsea, Vermont. She is chair of the Orange County Republican Committee.