Mark Ruffalo’s mother and me

Mark Ruffalo at the 2007 Toronto International...
Mark Ruffalo at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I never met Mark Ruffalo‘s mother. But I am a new, big fan of her son.

Mark’s mom and I are of the same generation. We each experienced an unintended, unwanted pregnancy which we were forced to end illegally — because there was no safe, legal abortion in the U.S. before 1973. I don’t know the details of Mark’s mom’s abortion but I can tell you about mine. The result of a workplace rape, my 8 or 9-week pregnancy was ended by a back-alley abortionist in a dreary house on a dreary February day in Atlanta, GA. I told no one, not my closest friends or family members, no one. Until three years ago when the realization that those grim days are returning prompted me to speak out, and to begin work on a book. Perilous Times: An inside look at abortion before – and after – Roe v Wade was published in June. Three years ago I could not have imagined how perilous these times would have become.

And now, Mark Ruffalo is also concerned about a return to the days of illegal abortions that his mother and I survived — though countless other women did not. His statement was read at a rally outside of Mississippi’s lone abortion clinic, Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which is threatened by new laws that would force it to close.

Here’s what Mark had to say:

“I am a man. I could say this has nothing to do with me. Except I have two daughters and I have a mother who was forced to illegally have an abortion in her state where abortion was illegal when she was a very young woman. It cost $600 cash. It was a traumatizing thing for her. It was shameful and sleazy and demeaning. When I heard the story I was aghast by the lowliness of a society that would make a woman do that. I could not understand its lack of humanity; today is no different.

“What happened to my mother was a relic of an America that was not free nor equal nor very kind. My mother’s illegal abortion marked a time in America that we have worked long and hard to leave behind. It was a time when women were seen as second rate citizens who were not smart enough, nor responsible enough, nor capable enough to make decisions about their lives. It was a time that deserved to be left behind, and leave it behind we did, or so it seemed. We made abortion and a woman’s ability to be her own master a right. That right was codified into law. That law was the law of the land for decades.

“My own mother fought to make herself more than a possession; she lived her life as a mother who chose when she would have children, and a wife who could earn a living if she so chose. I want my daughters to enjoy that same choice. I don’t want to turn back the hands of time to when women shuttled across state lines in the thick of night to resolve an unwanted pregnancy, in a cheap hotel room just south of the state line. Where a transaction of $600 cash becomes the worth of a young woman’s life.

“So that is why I am lending my voice to you and your movement today. Because I actually trust the women I know. I trust them with their choices, I trust them with their bodies and I trust them with their children. I trust that they are decent enough and wise enough and worthy enough to carry the right of Abortion and not be forced to criminally exercise that Right at the risk of death or jail time.

“There was no mistake in us making abortion legal and available on demand. That was what we call progress. Just like it was no mistake that we abolished institutional racism in this country around the same time. The easy thing to do is lay low, but then are we who we say we are? Do we actually stand for anything, if what we do stand for is under attack and we say nothing? There is nothing to be ashamed of here except to allow a radical and recessive group of people to bully and intimidate our mothers and sisters and daughters for exercising their right of choice. Or use terrorism and fanaticism to block their legal rights or take the lives of their caregivers. Or design legislation that would chip away at those rights disguised as reinforcing a woman’s health.

“I invite you to find your voice and let it be known that you stand for abortion rights and the dignity of a woman to be the master of her own life and body. I invite you to search your soul and ask yourself if you actually stand for what you say you stand for. Thank you for being here today and thank you for standing up for the women in my life.”

I imagine Mark Ruffalo’s mom is extremely proud of her son. I am proud to be his newest fan.

Surprise! Contraception reduces abortion rates

Much is being made of a recently completed study by Washington University in St. Louis that showed use of contraceptives reduces abortion rates. Well, duh. All those teenagers who didn’t get pregnant subsequently didn’t need abortions. Nor did they need to wreck their lives bringing unwanted children into the world, and there might have been an instance or two wherein some young person avoided contracting HIV, though these issues were not studied in the study.

Could someone point this out to all those folks who want to ban contraceptives? You know, inhabitants of that parallel universe wherein no one ever has sex except to procreate?

The two-year Contraceptive Choice Project enlisted more than 9,000 women in St. Louis, many of them poor and/or uninsured, and offered them a range of free contraceptives. The results? As reported in the New York Times, there were 6.3 births per 1,000 teenagers in the study, compared with the national average of 34 births per 1,000. There were 4.4 to 7.5 abortions per 1,000 women in the study, compared with 13.4 to 17 per 1,000 women in the St. Louis area. The national rate is close to 20 per 1,000 women.

There seems to be a triple-disconnect loose in the land: Sex happens, even when the participants aren’t thinking about making babies. Unwanted pregnancies happen, especially when people can’t get contraceptives. Abortion happens when women — and teenage girls — get caught in human biology.

Why would it not make sense to quit shouting obscenities, making judgments and trying to force one group’s belief on everyone, and focus instead on these realities? Who knows, fewer tragedies of messed up lives and unwanted children could result.