Childless Thoughts About U.S. Elections and Thanksgiving

Dark-haired little girl surrounded by her grandfathers, both in white shirts and ties. Table full of holiday food.

Last night, I stayed up late watching TV coverage of the mid-term election. As I type this in the morning, we are still awaiting results in many races, still waiting to find out whether Republicans or Democrats will rule.

Reproductive rights is one of the big issues this year, especially after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the decision that protected the right to abortion. Many states have since enacted anti-abortion laws that either prohibit terminating a pregnancy or make it nearly impossible. If the uber-conservative Republican Party dominates the government, more states will follow.

What does this have to do with childlessness? Well, more oops pregnancies would be carried to term, babies that might not otherwise have been born. We hear threats that if the Republicans rule, they will go after contraception next. What if you didn’t have easy access to the pill or other contraceptive of your choice? How would that affect the choice to have children with a spouse who doesn’t really want to?

At 8 a.m. on the Oregon coast, frost covers the lawns. It’s 33 degrees out, darned cold for this area, and my neighbors across the street have already turned on their Christmas lights. Too soon? It is for me, but Thanksgiving is only two weeks away. Normally I spend the holiday with my brother’s family, but he and his wife are going to Hawaii this year. Bravo for them, but I don’t want to spend Thanksgiving alone.

The other day at church, I got to thinking about the circle of life. Traditionally, when the old die, young people are born to take their seats at the Thanksgiving table, so the numbers remain about the same. I have fond memories of sitting at my parents’ dining room table surrounded by grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, and cousins (see photo). As the years passed, the grandparents died and my brother and I moved up a generation as young newlyweds. While I remained childless, my brother had two children. Now he has three grandchildren who climb into his lap and play with his white beard. Our parents and the aunts and uncles are gone, but his table in California is still full. At my house, 700 miles away in Oregon, it’s just me. I’m hoping to get together with friends from church, but it’s not the same.

If I look more closely at the old photos, I see the cousin who never married or had children. I see the childless aunt and uncle who never talked about why they didn’t have kids. But they all had a place at the table. In every generation, there are some who do not have children. In my generation, that would be me. And you.

This post meanders a bit, but I wonder if it sparks any thoughts or comments from you. If you’re in the United States, how do you feel about this election and the way reproductive rights seem to be going? (Be nice. I know these issues engender strong feelings). How are you feeling about the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday? Do you have a place at the family table?

I look forward to hearing from you.

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Politics and childlessness: there is a connection

Election day is finally here in the U.S. Thank God. We’ll finally be done with all the advertising and phone calls from campaign people who pretend to be doing surveys when they really want you to commit to voting for their person or cause. Here in Oregon, it’s all pointless anyway, because we vote by mail. Many of us mailed in our ballots days or weeks ago.
So what does this have to do with being childless? Directly, nothing. Indirectly, maybe a lot. The presidential candidates, as well as many of the candidates for other federal, state, and local offices, have strong views on things like abortion and contraception. People talk about the “sanctity of life” or “the woman’s right to choose” or “a woman’s right to control her own body.” Abortion became legal in the U.S. with Roe v. Wade in 1973, yet the debate over whether it should be legal has never ended. A new president with strong anti-abortion views could change things by appointing Supreme Court justices who agree with him or by getting legislation passed that curtails our rights.
Birth control has been legal for a long time, although it took a while to trickle through all the states. When I first started taking the pill in 1972, it had only recently become legal in California. Now, although nobody is trying to make it illegal to use birth control, there is a lot of talk about the money part of it, whether insurance would cover it, whether religious institutions can refuse to provide it. There are also politicians who want to shut down Planned Parenthood, which provides not only abortions and contraception but vital health care for women.
The choices we have had since the’60s and ‘70s have made it possible for couples to consciously decide when or if they want to have children. Those choices have also made it possible for women to do other things with their lives besides being mothers. Being able to choose is a huge responsibility, a frightening one. What if we make the wrong choice? What if we want children and our partner doesn’t, or vice versa? Things were so black and white before. You got married and had children, if you could.
Now we have more choices. We can debate all day about whether abortion and birth control are sinful or immoral, wise or something we have a right to, but I think individuals should be able to decide these things for themselves, taking their own life situations, beliefs and religious views into consideration. I pray that doesn’t change with this election or any other.
By now, you have probably voted, but if you haven’t, go do it now. It matters.