North Western Winds

Contemplating it all from the great Pacific Northwest

New York, New York

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New York Magazine features two informative stories about abortion. The first is a history of the procedure in that state and the second is a look at a program for hosting out of staters who come to the city for late term procedures.

In the second story, about those who provide a ‘haven’ for those seeking late term abortion, we read the following:

Most Haven hosts are white, Jewish, well schooled, and political. Some are empty-nesters with beds to spare and memories of the sixties and seventies women’s movement; many are young idealists with matchbox apartments and roommates who don’t mind an extra body crashing in the living room. Meanwhile, most of the women helped by Haven are black and Latina, with GEDs or less, low literacy skills, and not much civic moxie.

The two sides often baffle each other. Guests have been known to giggle at the gay-oriented titles on a host’s bookshelves, complain about the the uncool quality of her CDs, and demand to take cabs rather than the subway because, they think, that is what New Yorkers do. Some exhibit a shocking obliviousness to the situation they’re in: On the night between the first and second stages of her abortion, one patient told her host that she wanted to go out dancing until 2 a.m. “Plus, they all arrive with huge suitcases,” says Haven member Judith Levine. “Before we went back to the clinic, one woman took an hour to do her hair and makeup. She even had a curling iron.”

Of course, the Haven members have their own preconceptions and idiosyncrasies. New hosts often fear that their houseguests will steal from them. (In the history of Haven, there has never been a reported theft.) And some Havenites insist that their guests eat “healthy” food – fresh fish, for instance, or vegetarian – even if they ask for Big Macs and Ding Dongs. Levine worries that she won’t know how to talk to her guests. “I think my nervousness is about the class difference,” she says. Katha Pollitt, the poet and Nation columnist, buys People magazine when she knows she’s about to be called up for Haven duty. “But then I worry: Maybe that’s patronizing. Maybe they’d rather read The Nicomachean Ethics.”

Sometimes, bridging the divide is just impossible: One patient walked into a volunteer’s home, looked around, said she was going out for a smoke, and never came back.

The worst story is really no story at all. The first woman Levine ever hosted was here having a late-term abortion because she had simply “put off” dealing with her pregnancy until it was almost too late. The delay certainly didn’t seem to be for financial reasons: “She had a late-model pickup truck that was better than my car,” remembers Levine, “and I wondered, Why am I the one paying for dinner?”

Levine rolled out the red carpet anyway. “I had to tell myself, ‘Every abortion is the choice of the woman having the abortion. This is about somebody else’s body. It’s not President Bush’s body, but it’s not mine, either,’ ” she says. “Being pro-choice is a morality that takes you morally out of the picture.”

The author of the article is a Haven member but she’s not at all convincing in making the case that what she and the others are doing is noble. He description of the guests seems to blow up the choicers cry that these decisions are always carefully considered. In fact that assumption seems to be just so much projection. These New Yorkers can’t imagine the poor choices that have led to this situation and when they do begin to see it, they “remove themselves from the picture.” How do they square this with the common left complaint that “the personal is the political?” Don’t ask. There are two more unspoken assumptions and that is that adoption is not an option, and no child could ever overcome a problematic home life. It’s not exactly a culture of hope they’re offering.

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Written by Curt

December 7, 2005 at 10:24 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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