Albion Monitor /Commentary

Sign of the Times

by Sara Peyton

I'd get more worked up if they hung a picture of Bill Gates in their bedroom

Ill-conceived, but not yet aborted. That's pretty much sums of the rapid pace of events regarding the Communications Decency Act. Indecent describes the law -- partially stayed by a federal judge this week -- which includes a prohibition against dispensing information about obtaining abortions.

For the record: A woman's right to obtain information about abortion and terminate an unwanted pregnancy has been constitutionally guaranteed since 1973.

There's a lot to dislike about the Communications Decency Act, whose backers claim will keep pornographic materials away from innocent children. As a parent, I know there are highly offensive photos lurking about web sites that I'd prefer my teenage sons never view. I wish they never hear a racial slur either or see a starving child. I hope that they never live in a censorious society.

I do worry about the hypnotic effects of cyber communication. But do I fear my children might fall prey to sexual predators? No. I'm much more concerned about them zoning out, forgetting their homework, losing interest in reality, and becoming glued to a EMF-emitting screen rather than involved in their evolving lives. Addiction to the Internet is just one of the many potentially dangerous temptations they face. I'd get more worked up if they hung a picture of Bill Gates in their bedroom. What about drinking, drug taking, driving too fast, and talking back to cops?

Back then, most abortionists weren't the brave men and women of conscience we might see in a made-for-TV movie

But my blood boils when I see anyone denying information to children about sex. During a time when unprotected sex can cost children their lives because of AIDS or medical complications stemming from an illegal abortion, and when unwanted pregnancies still ruin lives, there's never too much information about sex available to kids.

I know because I lived through the era before abortion was legal.

So what were the years like before 1973 for a teenage girl faced with an unwanted pregnancy? Those years loom like yesterday.

In the late '60's you might find a young pregnant girl standing in front of a bar like the Pink Elephant in Monte Rio -- except the bar wasn't as nice, and the parking lot darker and more violent, and the small river town was actually a rotting city like Newark, New Jersey.

She was standing in front of this bar not for one hour or two, but three or four hours until it was near midnight. She was about to give up or spit on the next greasy biker who threatened to wiggle his fingers down her pants as he rolled his beer belly into the dark saloon.

This girl, because of her age and the year she was born, had been given the opportunity to become a felon, and possibly deathly ill, as punishment for following her teenage heart into an embrace with a similarly-aged boy.

And when the abortionist finally walked into the flickering barroom light, he looked like a poor substitute for Danny De Vito, though not as clean, not as smart, and certainly not as funny. And when she handed him the money up-front -- a wad of small bills containing $500 -- it was more cash than the young girl had ever seen in her life.

Back then, most abortionists weren't the brave men and women of conscience we might see in a made-for-TV movie, although there were some. Instead, an often slimy class of medical practitioners, many with revoked licenses and who drank too much and dropped too many pills, performed illegal abortions, pocketing the easy cash from young pregnant women.

In those days if our teenage girl was pierced with a dirty needle, there was no fear of AIDS, only fear of death from infection or complications. After the procedure was over, she was awakened from a stupor induced by an unknown drug and folded back into the car for the long ride home in the predawn hours. Still later, she required medical attention for a minor complication but was denied treatment at most medical clinics and emergency rooms. The only doctor who would see her was in Boston, a doctor on Beacon Hill who made his living selling birth control pills, also illegal at the time.

I know, because I was that girl. And so were millions of others. And outlawing talk of sex, whether it's about abortion or sexual acts that could lead to unwanted pregnancies or potentially-fatal sexually-transmitted diseases like AIDS if unprotected, is indecent and dangerous to children and women and men, everywhere.

Albion Monitor February 18, 1996 (

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