Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Just Another Reason Our Daughter's Middle Name Is "Anne"


Many years ago, more than I care to admit, I discovered the writings of Anne Lamott online, courtesy of a friend's tip. This was before Plan B, before Traveling Mercies, before Lamott was all the rage both in religious and secular circles, and long before spiritual conservatives had claimed authors like Annie and Donald Miller as their own. I loved her piss-and-vinegar writing style, her take-it-or-leave it approach to politics and spirituality...and to seemingly everything else she wrote about. At that early point in my political and spiritual awakening, I especially adored that she identified both as a person of faith and as a Democrat. (This does not seem so outlandish to me now. But at the time....)

Several years later, I heard Lamott speak at the Festival of Faith and writing at Calvin College. During that visit, she used expressly evangelical language that sent a shiver down my spine. (The dew was already off the lily, as they say, when it came to my feelings about Christian publishing.) I worried: was she being absorbed by conservative Christian culture? Would the authenticity with which she wrote be compromised? I cringed when, during her talk, she referenced her devotion to the Women of Faith (for the non-initiated: a group of mature women speakers and authors working the Christian speaking circuit, evoking memories of The Golden Girls, but without the nods to sex).

I need not have worried. When the topic of abortion was breached at a recent politics and spirituality conference in Washington, D.C., Lamott proved again (as she has many times before) that she is nobody's "Yes Woman." I personally would saw off my right arm, and happily, if that would (for some absurd reason) make it possible for the pregnancies at issue to end in the births of children with a chance at living good lives—AND whose mothers share the same. But I also know that most people are just doing the best they can, that life is hard, damn hard, and that women are going to get abortions—whether they're legal or not.

Of course, I have my own ideas about how we might significantly reduce the U.S. abortion rate—wild thinking that has something to do with providing adequate social services to those women who want to continue their pregnancies but cannot see a way to make life work if they do. Currently, much of the U.S.'s disposable income is wrapped up in bombing villages in Iraq. But what if those funds could be funneled instead into (stay with me here) food and shelter and clothing and education and medical care for women and children who need it...? More crazy talk. Still, the mere idea boggles the mind.

I hope to God my daughter never feels that she needs an abortion. But I cannot bear the idea of her or her friends, or mine (or any woman, young or old) getting one in today's incarnation of a back alley if she believes, for any reason, that she cannot continue her pregnancy.

After the Washington conference, Lamott wrote in the L.A. Times about her reaction to the suggestion by a member of the audience that she and others the panel should "reconcile [their] progressive stances on peace and justice with the 'murder of a million babies every year in America.'"

Lamott writes:

"I said [in response to this suggestion] that this [abortion] is the most intimate decision a woman makes, and she makes it all alone, in her deepest heart of hearts, sometimes with the man by whom she is pregnant, with her dearest friends or with her doctor — but without the personal opinion of say, Tom DeLay or Karl Rove...I said I could not believe that men committed to equality and civil rights were still challenging the basic rights of women. I thought about all the photo-ops at which President Bush had signed legislation limiting abortion rights, surrounded by 10 or so white, self-righteous married men, who have forced God knows how many girlfriends into doing God knows what."

Amen, sister. She's still my hero. And she and Annie Dillard remain the best reasons we gave our daughter her middle name.

Rock on, Annie.

For more on Anne Lamott's spiritually incorrect outburst, check out this story.

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