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Commentary: Abortion/Triage

By Dawn McMullan, KERA 90.1 Commentator

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/kera/local-kera-486033.mp3

Commentary: Abortion/Triage

Dallas, TX –

I've said before that I would never write a column about abortion. But this isn't really about abortion. Or I don't want it to be.

Instead, it's about triage and how to rewind it.

In my 20s, it seemed abortion was all around me. Hardly a year went by that I didn't have a friend who had or considered one, that I didn't sit with a friend in the waiting room, drive her home afterward, or sit with her in her apartment just to be safe. During that time, I was a reporter in Florida. One abortion doctor was gunned down. Then another. I spent a day reporting inside a clinic; a friend spent a day outside reporting with the protestors. I completely saw both sides, yet couldn't completely agree with either.

Now in our 30s and 40s, my friends and I no longer really face the issue personally. We are married, many of us, with children of our own children too young to have to worry about these things yet. My friends who had abortions have either moved on relatively easily. Or they have not. Regardless, it doesn't come up too often unless a friend invites you to a "TEA" party, as one of mine did a few days ago.

This "TEA" party is an acronym for The Texas Equal Access fund is a local non-profit that helps fund abortions for women who can't afford them. They hold "TEA" parties to educate people about what they do, telling stories about the 15-year-old girl who was raped by her stepfather, the mother of two who had been left without financial support by her husband, the mother of four whose husband was laid off, putting the family in even deeper financial desperation.

Because the Hyde Amendment made it illegal for Medicaid to help pay for an abortion, more than 100 groups like TEA have been created by the private sector in the United States to help women pay for them. It seems our country is sitting in the middle of the issue certainly at legality but increasingly making it difficult and often impossible.

I sat with women I knew and didn't know at this "TEA" party. Being gray on the subject, it was easy to leave the gathering colored with a lot more black-and-white about what these women are doing. They were helping often-desperate women in a way that the powers that be simply refused to. But I soon returned to gray.

What they're doing is triage. And there most definitely is a place for triage. But what about what happens before we get there? It seems our country, our state, our schools are becoming more and more restrictive about the steps it takes to keep us from triage sex education being the most important yet they also want to block our path to critical options when it comes to that.

There is no mention of birth control in the new textbooks our public school students got this fall. So if we don't want to deal with teen pregnancy on the front end, for example, perhaps we'd rather deal with it once it happens? Well, no. We're only a month into the new state law that requires minors to obtain consent from a parent before having an abortion. No help in the beginning. No help in the end.

A lack of education doesn't help keep anyone out of triage. It doesn't stop the drunk driver. It doesn't prevent the gun from going off. It doesn't keep the 3-year-old from turning blue in the family pool. Once these points are reached, we have no choice but to rush to the emergency room. To triage.

Nobody likes triage. It's invasive It's desperate. It's someone backed up against a wall. It's why organizations like the TEA exist. It's also everything about abortion we hate. So why are there so many obstacles to stopping it before it gets to this point? Imagine the 15-year-old girl calling TEA. Now rewind to before her stepfather raped her. To before she didn't tell her mother. To before she got pregnant. If we focused on that, we wouldn't have to reach triage. Maybe then, this wouldn't have to be about abortion.

Dawn McMullan is a writer from Dallas.

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