I was going to write something nice today. I wanted to write a tribute to America for the Fourth of July, just as I did for Canada on its big day earlier this week. But I’m too angry.
People ask me all the time whether I plan on becoming an American citizen. My answer has always been “when I feel that I can take the oath, and mean it.”
This is the Oath of Citizenship, which everyone must recite before being officially naturalized (bolding mine):
I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the armed forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.
I cannot, at this time, assert that I have no mental reservations about bearing true faith and allegiance to the United States and its constitution and laws.
State after state after state after state1 is enacting laws that restrict access to abortion, “to protect women’s health.” The aim of these laws is to close clinics, cut funding, and add hoops for doctors and their patients to jump through, making abortion all but impossible for women in those states.
At the same time, these politicians work to restrict access to contraception and remove sex education from schools. And without paid maternity leave, without adequate protections against being fired for their pregnancy, without affordable childcare, how are these women, pregnant when they don’t want to be, supposed to cope?
What of the 20% of American women who are uninsured? Or those who have insurance with no maternity coverage? Do the legislators outlawing abortion want to see these women bankrupt from the emergency C-section delivery of a baby they already knew they couldn’t afford, in the most expensive health-care system in the world?
How can I love a country that is comfortable treating its women this way?
I’m mad. I’m so very very angry. I take all of this intensely personally, because I am a woman. I don’t want an abortion. I can’t imagine ever wanting one. But that should be my decision. It’s always a difficult decision to make, bringing with it lifelong emotional baggage, and most people aren’t happy about resorting to abortion. But sometimes it’s the only way out of a bad situation. And taking that option away and trapping someone in that bad situation, without offering any alternative help, is inhumane.
To make it all the more insulting, the overwhelming majority of these decisions regarding women’s bodies and reproductive rights are being made by men.
Why are the anti-choice bills passing? Why does everyone keep electing people whose values and opinions are stuck in the 1950s? Why aren’t we managing to keep a grip on the rights already afforded to us in a Supreme Court decision made FORTY years ago? Why aren’t we fighting for paid parental leave, adequate and accessible health insurance, and more flexibility towards pregnant women and parents in our workplaces? Why are American women putting up with this bullshit? Why aren’t more people angry?
I don’t know what to do with all of my frustration. Not all of this legislation affects me personally, of course. I live in a different state with a different political climate. But I feel that I have a responsibility to stand in solidarity with all the women who are affected. I don’t get to vote in this country unless and until I become a citizen, but I can put my money where my mouth is. I can donate to organizations that fight to keep choices open for women.
Whatever small sound my voice makes in this world, I add it to the chorus of strong and wonderful women who will not be controlled.