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A woman’s rights protected by Constitution

other voices
Paul August

A recent Other Voices column in The Union (Nov. 8) described a day full of anti-abortion activities at a local Christian school. This contrasts with my experiences while teaching in the Bay Area.

After teaching six years in a Catholic high school, I became the project director of a public high school program. I thought I could handle anything. A teacher brought me Sara, a student who missed three days of school. She appeared uncharacteristically sullen.

I questioned her. “Why did you miss school?”

Tears welled up in her eyes. These were unlike the usual school girl’s tearful catharsis. These tears were being held back, walled up and suppressed. They surrounded her eyes, as if in deep despair. Something was profoundly wrong here.

Abortion is a woman’s decis ion — no government, no church.

“Sara, would you feel better talking with a woman teacher or the school nurse?”

“No,” she said. “I want to talk to you.”

I couldn’t help her unless I knew what was wrong.

Then she blurted out, “I’ve been raped.”

This stunned me. Teen problems in the Catholic school were nothing compared to this. At age 18, she was too old for Child Protective Services. She knew the rapist.

“Have you called the police?” I asked.

“No. I don’t want to call them.”

This was my first contact with a rape victim. I knew my limits. I needed professional help.

“Sara. You need to talk to a female.”

She agreed. I connected her with the school nurse. Police were called. Sara got the help she needed. I lost contact with her.

Some misogynists don’t believe a raped woman can get pregnant. The politician who talked of a “legitimate rape” actually spoke of the fertilized egg as being “the victim.” The victim here is the young woman.

More than one Republican echoed the words of losing GOP candidate Richard Mourdock, “Even when life begins in … rape … it is something that God intended to happen.” Despicable.

At the previous Catholic school, a pregnant teen was a major problem. The queen of the senior ball got in the back seat with her boyfriend. They didn’t think she could get pregnant the first time.

I took her to Sister G. who called in the principal/priest, Father E. There was no attempt to badger this child with Catholic anti-abortion doctrine. Both the nun and the priest wisely deferred to the parents. After a short absence, the prom queen was able to continue on to college to live the life she planned.

But later, the high school athlete was not as fortunate. As an all-star basketball player, he led the league in scoring and won a college scholarship. He also got his girlfriend pregnant. The Catholic parents made a harsh decision. They forced the kids to marry. The all star lost his scholarship, went to work in the cannery and spent his evenings getting drunk in the neighborhood bar. He always sat near a trophy case full of his fame.

Back in the public schools, Barbara was a pleasant girl, doing well in school, when she suddenly disappeared. The student grapevine said she was going to have a baby. Then I ran into her in summer school. She explained.

“I got pregnant. Then they found I had cancer of the cervix. They couldn’t operate on the cancer until after I had the baby.”

She was willing to risk her life to have her baby first. This was her choice. She had her baby, survived her cancer operation and earned enough credits to graduate.

But some diseases complicate birth. A beautiful young Latina found that her baby was going to die. At the time (over 30 years ago), she learned that she unknowingly infected her baby. She told her friend, “If my baby’s going to die, so will I.”

She got a gun and killed herself.

No one takes pregnancy and birth lightly. Almost 90 percent of Americans support abortion in the event of incest, rape or to prevent the death of the mother.

It’s not about the unborn. None of these girls were concerned with how a zygote evolves into an embryo and becomes a fetus. We didn’t discuss when human life begins. No theory here.

Abortion is a woman’s decision — no government, no church. A woman’s God-given rights are protected by our Constitution, which protects her “pursuit of happiness.”

To those who want to make laws against women’s rights, I say: What goes on inside a woman’s body is none of your business.

Paul August lives in North San Juan and is a former high school teacher.


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