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Women need access, not obstacles, to birth control

Citizen Staff Writer



Three stories about unplanned pregnancy and reproductive health care caught my attention this week.

The first came as an e-mail from the mother of Kaitie Noland, a senior at Desert Christian High School.

Noland, who is firmly against abortion rights and in favor of abstinence until marriage, has organized a baby fair for teen mothers. It starts at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at Trinity Presbyterian Church, 400 E. University Blvd.

“As a Christian I believe that Jesus had grace for me and that I can show that grace to others,” said Noland, 18. “And my heart is for teen moms.”

She said she had a friend who became a teen mom and it really opened her eyes to how much help teen moms need.

“I have admiration for her. It’s amazing how well she does with a child,” Noland said.

The fair will provide information on the proper use of a car seat, who to contact if your baby accidentally ingests a poison, drowning and fire safety, shaken baby syndrome, the developmental stages of children and health relationships.

Truth be told, I wasn’t going to write about Noland’s fair because I feel that any program for teen moms that doesn’t address how to prevent future pregnancies is woefully inadequate.

Also, I was more interested in a second story I’ve been following – the anti-abortion bill working its way through the Legislature. One of its key provisions would allow pharmacists to refuse to dispense emergency birth control on moral grounds.

I say, keep your morals off my uterus.

Then, on Wednesday afternoon, news broke of the arrest of a University of Arizona sophomore accused of attempting to murder a baby she had just birthed in a dormitory.

Sarah E. Tatum allegedly gave birth in a dorm shower, put the newborn in a plastic bag with her dirty clothes and tied the bag shut. Police called to the scene found the baby in the bag “gasping for breath.”

A hallmate, who described Tatum as nice and brilliant, told the Daily Wildcat that Tatum tried to conceal the pregnancy and denied it to anybody who asked.

The details are still emerging, but, so far, fit the pattern of other cases of this nature.

A young women gets pregnant and keeps it a secret, most likely for fear of disappointing her family. Paralyzed into inaction, she neither ends the pregnancy nor acknowledges it by seeking prenatal care.

She gives birth alone, which has to be a terrifying experience. And there she is, physically and emotionally exhausted, with a baby she hasn’t told anyone about and isn’t prepared to mother.

She imagines the shock, disappointment and anger of her family when she appears with a baby. It must seem, in the moment, that the only course of action left is a desperate one.

Let’s be clear. There’s no justification for abusing a baby. It’s a heinous crime.

But I can only imagine that Tatum must have been very confused and scared if she did what she’s alleged to have done.

And I think when the story is known in its entirety, it will only underscore the need for society to stop fighting about women’s choices and, instead, support women in making wise decisions about using birth control and dealing with unplanned pregnancies.

Frankly, I wish social conservatives would stop hindering women’s access to birth control and abortion. But I couldn’t disagree with Noland when she told me that lecturing young women who are already pregnant isn’t productive and we should instead help them get what they need to become good mothers.

If Tatum had the benefit of society’s unconditional support, perhaps she wouldn’t be facing charges for the attempted murder of her son.

If all women had society’s unconditional support for their choices, perhaps we wouldn’t keep hearing this same story.

Anne T. Denogean can be reached at 573-4582 and adenogean@tucsoncitizen.com. Address letters to P.O. Box 26767, Tucson, AZ 85726-6767.

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