Hold My Eggnog
by Kim Pierce
Kim Pierce is a non fiction story teller who writes humor into the darkest corners of life. Working with homeless people, attempts at queer love and not-so-queer love, a fundamentalist mother, a polygamist father, and mental illness are frequent themes in her work. Kim is one of the writers and co-creators for Steep Town, an upcoming web series about San Francisco. Kim is working on a compilation of personal essays.
The hardest part of any argument is admitting when we’re wrong. For complex political issues, it rarely happens. Many of us build our lives on our assumptions. If our core beliefs are questioned, our entire lives might fall apart. We cling for mental survival, despite the consequences. While waiting for the bus to arrive and take me to my first day of kindergarten, my older brother informed me that Santa Claus was not real -- that Saint Nick was our single mother. Christmas has never been the same.
My mother believes God punishes all sinners. My rural midwestern uncles believe in their right to bear arms. Considering my upbringing, I’m not sure how I became pro-choice. It wasn’t something I had to think hard about. I don’t remember one woman’s predicament changing my mind. I believe that whatever is happening for any woman’s uterus is her business, not mine. I stand with every woman’s right to choose, including my own mother, who chooses to be pro-life.
I do not believe that God created humankind, but that humankind created god. My mother’s belief that a fetus is a tiny human being in need of protection is a core belief shared among pro-lifers that will most likely never bend. Fighting her or anyone on this might do nothing outside of exhaust me. It’s true that a fetus can grow into a healthy child and eventually a well-adapted and compassionate adult. Pregnancy is complicated, and I don’t believe, like my mother, that all life is a precious gift from God.
I could be wrong. I could be lost and end up in an eternal furnace under the commands of a goat-faced devil with a three-pronged dick along with every other nonbeliever and all the unbaptised dead -- including the aborted unborn. My big sins, which seem to be more damning than those of my older brother and male cousins, are queer sex and supporting the murder of god’s children -- fetuses. Also, I just don’t believe in punishment by god or in god at all. I’m plenty good at punishing myself on my own, thanks to my fundamentalist upbringing. I struggle to understand what is tangible and tactile in a world where science constantly evolves and try my best to stay open. This is not how I was raised.
Frequently I find myself struggling to decide if it’s worth it to take up the fight on Facebook against my sweet aunt who runs a daycare out of her home, or my cousin who is a cop. They believe that godlessness is the cause for increased gun violence. Wikipedia will tell you that many of the mass shooters were affiliated with some leg of Christianity. Some even considered their crimes acts committed in god’s name. Thoughts, prayers, and church may comfort some, but will not protect us from gun violence while we are still of flesh. My mother and I have not spoken since my Grandmother’s funeral over a year ago when I was pointed at during the sermon. Pastor Hefty had to be sure everyone knew that my Grandma’s dying wish was for the lost -- me, exactly -- to find Jesus.
If I ever go home for the holidays again, I would like to step down from my role as the angry feminist trying to enlighten familial opinions on abortion and guns. If only I could be sustained by the joy derived from looking at a lit up evergreen in the middle of the carpeted living room, or licking the powdered sugar off my fingers after downing six of my aunt’s nut horn cookies. If only I could use my holiday sugar high to call representatives and just let it go. But I can’t, and this is partly why I won’t be heading home for the holidays. When my pro-life cousins start to use abortion statistics as an excuse against gun control, I know that I’d pour more brandy into my eggnog, and fight them to the teeth. They have heard that one million abortions occur in the U.S. each year, but that only 10,000 gun deaths do. According to them, an aborted fetus is no different than one of the victims from a mass shooting. We’ve discussed this online.
They won’t admit that an aborted fetus will, most likely, impact only the woman it came from, and possibly the man who was partly responsible for putting it there. I would tell my cousins to go tell Nicole Hockley, whose 6 year old son, Dylan, died in the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook elementary that her grief equates the grief of a lost fetus. I’d also tell them to tell anyone who’s ever lost a loved one to gun violence that their loss is equivalent to losing a fetus. Co-workers, friends, parents, grandparents, children, grand-children, cousins, uncles, aunts, neighbors, employees, tenants, and the woman who depended on the patronage of the dead to make her living are all affected by the death of the victim. The ripple of this grief cannot be compared to something the size of a blueberry growing within the walls of a woman’s uterus.
Neither can the cost of gun violence be compared to the cost of abortion. A month after the second deadliest recorded US mass shooting in Las Vegas, (the most deadly being the massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890), Americans were hit with another mass tragedy. 26 faithful members of a Sutherland Springs Texas congregation were catapulted to their Lord, hymnals and bibles in hand, during what should have been a peaceful Sunday morning church service.
Despite lives lost, several Americans grip their semi-automatic weapons along with their constitutional “right to bear arms.” I’m referring to the hunters within my own bloodline, along with the next Devin Kelley, or Stephen Paddock. There are more white men with a history of violence and a burning rage packing heat among us. By the time you read this, the hammers of their weapons may already have been pulled back.
Bleeding women in this country are fighting for the right to our wombs following a ban on abortions after 20 weeks that passed in the House two days after Paddock injured 546 people, killed 58, and then killed himself.
No federal tax dollars have been spent on abortions since 1977, when the Hyde Amendment was passed five years after the Roe v. Wade. I repeat. Zero. The amendment prevents Medicaid dollars from paying for abortions except in the cases of rape, incest, or if the mother's health is endangered. Otherwise, IT IS ILLEGAL TO USE TAXPAYER FUNDING TOWARDS ABORTION. Terminating pregnancy is just three percent of the total services provided at Planned Parenthood. It can cost a hospital from $900- $3000 per surgical abortion. Abortion pills are far more affordable. According to the Guttmacher Institute, the average cost paid out of pocket for an abortion pill is $483 and the average cost out of pocket for a surgical abortion is $451. These costs are not covered by the hard earned dollars taken from the salary of my mother’s secretarial job, or my uncle’s family business of hauling gravel.
According to Health Affairs, Gunshot wounds cost Americans $2.8 billion n hospital bills alone per year. The total cost beyond hospital care is impossible to measure when you include victims of gun violence who have survived. 546 people were injured in Las Vegas on October 1, 2017. Hopefully all of those people have health insurance because many of them will spend the rest of their lives paying for physical and or mental therapy for trauma recovery. Due to sustained injuries, some will no longer be able to hold jobs and may become dependent on government assistance. There is nothing equivalent to this when considering abortion.
Somewhere in America, a woman tucks her freshly folded PRO GUN - PRO LIFE t-shirt into a dresser drawer for later, when she feels like she wants to make a statement among her friends who agree with its message.
When I was ten years old, I helped my mother pound thousands of little white crosses into neat rows on the front lawn of the First Lutheran church on Main Street. Each one represented an abortion that happened in our state that year. I believed what she believed. Those babies were murdered. I transferred my profound sadness and anger into the satisfaction of puncturing the earth with white wooden spears -- taking a few green blades of grass down the with each one.
A decade later, I worked with homeless injection drug using teenagers in the Haight Ashbury district. One of my tasks was to assist young girls through the process of terminating pregnancy -- or the alternative of signing up for Medicare. We would take the 33 bus to SF General from Haight and Cole where the drop-in center was until its eviction on Christmas day a few years ago. Afterwards, I’d use some of our funds to get them a cab ride to a hotel room in South San Francisco where they could recover from the operation without the stress of street life.
I’ve driven friends to Planned Parenthood and comforted them afterwards. I have seen women feel both haunted and empowered by this complicated decision.
I have never needed an abortion. Unless a pregnancy threatened my life or was the result of rape, I would most likely choose birth. Like my mother, I do love babies. I am a 38 year old white woman with the privileges of a career and community support.
If we want to reduce the number of abortions that occur in the US, we should talk about how to better support all women and especially women of color and low income women. All women need access to birth control. Abstinence is not birth control. Sex is life. The disproportionate access to education, healthcare, and financial support based on gender, race, and class is deeply embedded into our culture and this issue. For many women, abortion is a side effect to this unequal distribution of power. We need to destigmatize those who rely on government assistance. We need to stand with women who depend on W.I.C., Welfare, food stamps, and Medicare. We need to protect the services that assist the raising of children. Mothers need affordable childcare, job opportunities, strong public education, college opportunities for themselves and their children, and dependable healthcare despite any and all pre-existing conditions. I have heard my family members, on more than one occasion, complain that their tax dollars are going to these programs.
Let’s say these issues that might cause a woman to choose abortion are addressed and solved by the government - the government that has been voted in place to support the physical security of everyone in our nation above anything else -- and that the numbers of terminated pregnancies are significantly decreased. Then can we please talk about the body count connected to the weapons that live in glove compartments and gun racks across this country. I’m talking to you uncle so and so.
Fox News will light up your Lazy Boy recliner with the next mass shooting headline any day. Believing you deserve to own a semi-automatic firearm is like a 5 year old believing that Santa Claus is going to climb down your chimney in a few days. I don’t want you, or anyone to become a gun violence statistic, but I do want your life to fall to pieces a little bit.