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1917 Suffrage Protest

If the Suffragettes who picketed the White House in 1917 (see link below) seeking women’s right to vote knew that—nearly 100 years later—government would talk of legislating childbirth, they’d (no doubt) roll over in their graves.

The protestors, who were then arrested, thrown in jail and tortured as the prize for demanding a woman’s right to be counted in the polls, would have dropped their pickets at the very notion that the right to bear children could be administered by the state.

Considering that a liberty beyond childbearing and homemaking was a Holy Grail for which they fought and were vilified, state controlled motherhood would seem something of an oxymoron.

What, if anything, would be a woman’s most fundamental right, if not to bear babies?  To deny it seems contrary to natural law.

Besides, wasn’t motherhood simply another tool to keep us preoccupied with the microcosm of dirty diapers, milky breasts and squealling babies, and away from the macrocosm of macho man’s politics? If so, then why prevent it?

The state (and the public) it seems, never tire of legislating women’s activities, even when it boils down to biological function. And even if they couldn’t kill liberty at the ballot box, there’s always another way.

Add modern fertility medicine, extended female life expectancy, and a woman’s freedom to be educated and have a career and, well—it seems what couldn’t be achieved once in the jail house will now be attempted in the womb.

As the age of motherhood has steadily risen in the last 20 years, so has the media and public controversy surrounding it.

At the turn of the millennium, celebrities such as Susan Sarandon (http://www NULL.achildafter40 NULL.com/famous_moms NULL.html) and Geena Davis, and political elites including Cherie Blair (wife of then-UK Prime Minister) having babies in their 40s triggered the onset of an ongoing media bonanza, starring ‘the world’s oldest mother’.

Trailing behind was a growing public and political scrutiny, inherent with an unfounded right to judge. Ergo, when our personal lives enter the public domain (with our permission or without it), there usually follows an assumption that everyone has a say in them.

As it stands, in the UK, the state will not provide IVF to women over 40 and in many countries, including the US, private clinics do not offer it to women over 50.

Amidst a shower of criticism, when Maria del Carmen Bousada de Lara gave birth at 66 in 2006 after lying to a California IVF clinic about her age, she was accused of being “selfish, unnatural and wrong” and “her children innocent victims”.

When Bousada then had the effrontery to die 2 and a half years later, her critics dined on her grave, in a feeding frenzy where only the self righteous gained admittance.

As recently as January 2010 in the UK, as 59 year old teacher Susan Tollefsen became the oldest woman there to be offered IVF, politicians joined the hue and cry demanding that a woman’s legal age for ART come under government control.

It was feared the decision “would lead to a flood of older women seeking treatment” and in the press it was characterized as “a defiance of nature”, “an abuse of medical skill” and a “deeply worrying development”.

Amidst the maelstrom, however, something crucial was lost.

And that something was the basis on which the decision of the panel of doctors at the London Women’s Clinic, in Harley St. was made: Tollefen’s individual case.

She had already had successful IVF treatment in the past, she was fit and healthy.

In fact, there’s plenty of research to support the physical, medical and psychological case for later life motherhood—on a case-by-case basis.

A 2002 study published in JAMA (http://jama NULL.ama-assn NULL.org/cgi/content/full/288/18/2320) concludes: “there does not appear to be any definitive medical reason for excluding [healthy women in their 50s] from attempting pregnancy on the basis of age alone.”

A 2007 California study (http://www NULL.fertstert NULL.org/article/S0015-0282%2806%2904566-3/abstract) suggested that women having children after the age of 50 can cope with the stress of parenting just as effectively as younger mothers.

In 2009, an Australian study (http://www NULL.physorg NULL.com/news166287473 NULL.html) found that first-time older mothers cope surprisingly well with the physical demands of pregnancy compared to younger mums, but are more anxious about the well being of their unborn baby.

As I now sit in my rocking chair, writing this on a laptop, at 49 with two young kids, still trying to figure out how to get to the gym in between cooking, shopping and busing laundry up and down the stairs all day, I know one thing for certain: I’m not fit for another pregnancy.

But then, I’ve had my two over-40 births. I’m now dealing with the pressures of motherhood.

It doesn’t mean another woman my age who is fit, healthy with a life expectancy of at least another 30 years shouldn’t be given a shot at the title.

Once the state claims the right to climb inside a woman’s womb to bar entry to a fertilized egg, based on a single arbitrary number (her age), plucked at random out of the social conscience, we’ve crossed the line.

Even the suffragettes of 1917 would have the perspicacity to realize that women may have won a battle, but the war is all but lost.

http://www.suite101.com/content/woodrow-wilson-and-the-19th-amendment-a192861

One Response to The Right To Bear Offspring

  1. Ellen Besso (http://www NULL.ellenbesso NULL.com/midlifemaze) says:

    Great post Angel. You covered so many important points about the control of women’s bodies. How much has changed?

    And it’s so true “when our personal lives enter the public domain… there usually follows an assumption that everyone has a say in them.” A woman at my local networking group said it so well recently when she said “I was the best mother in the world before I had my kids”.

    Ellen Besso
    MidLife Coach, Author & Elder Care Expert

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