Where I get judgmental

Interesting piece in the NYT magazine about what happens to women who come in too late to get abortions.  The story of the first woman profiled really just bugged me:

The pregnancy had crept up on S. She was a strong believer in birth control — in high school she was selected to help teach sex education. But having been celibate for months and strapped for cash, she stopped taking the pill. Then an ex-boyfriend came around. For months after, she had only a little spotting, but because her periods are typically light, she didn’t think much of it at first. Then she started to worry. “I used to press on my stomach really hard thinking maybe it would make my period come,” she said…

In the exam room, a technician asked her to lie down. She did an ultrasound, sliding the instrument across S.’s stomach: “Oh . . . it shows here that you are a little further along.” She repeated the exam. S., she estimated, was nearly 20 weeks pregnant, too far along for this Planned Parenthood clinic. S. felt numb: “I was thinking, If it is too late here, it is probably too late other places. . . . And I was like, Oh, my God, now what?”

A 24 year old (i.e., not a teenager) who actually has been a sex educator?!  Did she not know what might happen when she had unprotected sex with that ex boyfriend?  Did she think about getting him a condom?  Or just making sure he pulled out?  (far more effective than people give it credit for). And then pressing on her stomach to make her period come?  Please, talk about denial!

Alright then, heck, she’s more than half-way through her pregnancy and convinced she is really not ready to be a parent, what about adoption?

S., who had never seriously considered adoption, was overwhelmed when Baby S., a healthy girl, was born in May 2012.

Oh, well, she had never seriously considered it.  Geez, if you put it that way.

Anyway, interesting story and interesting look at the bigger picture.  But I have a hard time having much sympathy for ad adult who acts so amazingly irresponsibly (and that doesn’t mean I’m letting the father off the hook).

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

3 Responses to Where I get judgmental

  1. Doxy says:

    (and that doesn’t mean I’m letting the father off the hook).

    And yet….you did. *smh*

    I read the article right before you posted on it. Did you notice that the young woman was working FIVE part-time jobs to keep a roof over her head? That she hadn’t had a decent meal in weeks? That her parents were losing their home to foreclosure?

    Really, Steve….have you ever lived that close to the bone? Have you ever been really hungry or faced the possibility/reality of being homeless?

    I know you haven’t had menstrual periods–so if you can’t even imagine how stress and malnutrition could affect your periods–and everything else in your life–I suggest you might want to talk to women who can enlighten you.

    Women do not get pregnant in a vacuum. There is another person involved. There are social determinants of health and choice that expand or constrict their options.

    So we can talk all we want to about “responsibility,” but context matters. As a social scientist, you know this–so why the blanket condemnation of a young woman living on the edge? You can’t get by with a throw-away line at the end about how you aren’t letting the father off the hook, when you say NOTHING about his responsibility for this situation. And when you do nothing to address the stressors that might cause S.–or any other person in those circumstances–to make suboptimal choices.

    To borrow your words, “that doesn’t mean I’m letting her off the hook.” It simply means that I recognize most people do the best they can with the information and resources they have at the time. It’s just that some of us have a lot more information and resources–which seems to make it all too easy to accuse others of being irresponsible when we haven’t walked a mile in their shoes.

    • Steve Greene says:

      Nope, never been close. Is her life *way* harder than mine? Absolutely. But that still does not justify her unprotected sex when she was in such a position to know better and subsequent obvious denial of the fact that she might be pregnant. I don’t care if she was living in her car and working 10 part-time jobs– I’m going to judge that.

      As for the father, he wasn’t actually in the story. And he wasn’t pregnant. Life’s not fair– women deal massively disproportionately with the consequences of irresponsible sexual behavior. That may not be fair, but it’s reality. We really don’t know much of anything about the ex-boyfriend’s role in this. Should have have never had unprotected sex with her under these circumstances? Absolutely. But, fair or not, she’s the one who was pregnant and compounded her poor choices, not him.

      Again, not walked a mile in her shoes, but what really struck out to me was that no matter how hard her life circumstances, she was not a naive teenager, but an actual adult who most definitely should have known better. I remain judgmental.

      • Doxy says:

        I don’t care if she was living in her car and working 10 part-time jobs– I’m going to judge that.

        That’s really…disappointing.

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