This morning I was called to, and sprung from, jury duty at the Supreme Court in Brooklyn. It was brief but awful, even in the new “kinder, gentler” era of jury duty; we were packed into a fluourescent-lit room and forced to watch a well-crafted video about the jury system narrated by Ed Bradley and Diane Sawyer. (Diane’s hair looked fabulous, however.) I realized, sitting there without breakfast and spiralling into a hypoglycemic torpor, how deeply cynical I am about the jury process. And not just because of O.J.; years ago, Spouse gave his all in a sequestered jury that was similarly torpedoed by “jury nullification” (one guy who swore he could believe testimony from cops, then blatantly announced in the jury room that he wouldn’t believe the cop’s testimony, letting a probable killer walk free.)
As I frisked in joyous reprieve in the Greenmarket outside the court building, I was struck by the powerful irony that yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling had just jammed one shaky brick back into my sagging belief in the justice system. The highest court in the land says no to skull-collapsing! Those who claim that the ban on what the New York Times calls, with sneering delicacy, a “controversial procedure” (that would be, um, skull collapsing and brain extraction), is being used cynically by the pro-lifers as a “wedge” towards a total ban may be right. But those who claim that the “procedure” is being used cynically to reframe the debate in terms of “fetal rights, not women’s rights” are definitely right. I confess: We just love making New York Times reporters pick out the words on their keyboards: collapse the skull and extract the brain. After all those years of sniffing about the “products of conception,” it’s music to a fetus’s ears. Skull, skull, skull! Brain, brain, brain! Yeah, we got those! Call us “blobs” now, will ya? That’s some crunchy blob, folks!
I should know, being an ex-fetus myself—one who survived my obstetrician’s considerate suggestion that I be flushed out of my mother’s womb before she even got the results of her pregnancy test (and before my skull was even remotely calcified). Thanks, doc. This Upper East Side ob/gyn (whom my mother proudly related was “an obstetrician to the Rockefellers”) knew she was a devout Roman Catholic; at almost 44, she was also a high-risk “elderly primagravida” (first pregnancy, in the tenderly gynocentric language of obstetrics). He offered her “hormones to bring her period on.” (Pace Justice Ginsberg, it would seem that “this way of thinking, that women are flighty creatures who must be protected by men,” is not unique to anti-abortion males.) “But I knew damn well what he was offering,” said my mother, “and I knew damn well I was pregnant.”
And that, dear readers, is how your StableMistress survived the early winter of 1957 in utero and went on to become the jury-duty-shirking creature who blogs before you now. Don’t mistake my mother for some saintly Irish Catholic heroine; she was appalled by the prospect of pregnancy, and particularly by the risk of a child with Down’s Syndrome. (If I’d slipped a chromosome, it could’ve gotten ugly.) But she said no to Dr. Rockefeller-Family-Guy, and had, as Doonesbury put it, “a woman! A baby woman!”
My own daughter, by the way, says that this picture proves I had a big head even as a child. Amazing what an intact skull can turn into, given a few more trimesters.
For a link to a well-researched and convincingly argued article from Salon in favor of legalizing intact dilation and extraction, go here. Or, to savor some journalistic sang-froid, you can just enjoy this highlight of the reporter’s description of the Controversial Procedure: “The fetus was perfectly limp, its tiny feet and hands flaccid as they immediately darkened from oxygen depletion. In the three intact D&X procedures I witnessed, not once did I see even a glimmer of response from the fetuses -- the anesthesia having passed through the placenta into their bloodstreams.”