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Words of Caution for Elena Kagan, There's a Far Touchier Reproductive Issue Than Abortion

For some reason the idea of not having children remains one of the most taboo subjects, especially for women.

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It's easy for those of us raised in the age of Hillary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice, Sandra Day O'Connor, and yes Roe v. Wade, to think, "Thank goodness times have changed."

But have they really? Because if they have, then why has every major profile of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice addressed the fact that they do not have children, as if it represents some boat they missed on the world tour known as life? Not to mention the veiled (and not so veiled) references about their sexuality that permeate cyberspace. As though no children = gay by default.

But more importantly if times really have changed then why do so many women still feel compelled to have children they are not financially or emotionally ready to care for? Or, dare I say it, in some instances that they simply do not want?

Now before some of you write this post off as an "anti-life" diatribe, please believe me it's not. In fact I think part of the problem with the entire debate in this country over reproductive choice is that it has gotten bogged down in divisive spats over issues like abortion and abstinence-only education, when the real debate goes much deeper than that.

If we started telling little girls early on that it's okay if they don't want to play house, or hold a baby during playtime and that while some will grow up to be mommies, some will grow up to do other things, then the entire conversation around reproductive choice would change--for the better. A girl has to be taught early on that she has real options in her life as a woman, thereby giving her an incentive to make responsible choices when she's younger. If she believes that fundamentally, no matter what, she is destined to become a single mother, and to struggle financially the remainder of her life, because that's what everyone around her does and expects of her, then the conversation about reproductive choice has essentially ended with her before it's ever had a chance to really begin; long before she hears the words sexual education or abstinence.

Even with the invention that was supposed to change everything--the pill--the media narrative focusing on women has followed a pretty predictable trajectory the last couple of decades: young women use the pill so they can be sexually promiscuous while holding down their dream job in their twenties, until they find the man of their dreams in their thirties, and then ditch the pill for parenthood--that is if they haven't already missed the biological boat, so to speak, in which case their bodies may let them down, forcing them to turn to fertility treatments and when it's all said and done, then they will have to decide whether to work or stay home with their children--and how many to have, and thus cement their legacy as a good mommy or bad mommy. There's only one thing missing from that narrative: Those of us who choose to write our own.

The female characters that stray from the traditional narrative by going on record as saying, "I don't want to be a mother"--not "I can't get pregnant" or "I never met the right guy but "I simply don't wish to be one"--are caricatured in a way that's usually not very pretty. Case in point: "Sex and the City's" promiscuous, aging, emotionally distant and alone, Samantha Jones.

But there are plenty of women out there who are not emotionally vacant, or promiscuous, and have little in common with Ms. Jones, other than the shared desire not to become a mother. Some of them, may be called selfish by family members or friends, just like my mom was all those years ago, but they simply recognize that the most selfish thing a person can do is bring another life into this world that you are not capable of caring for in the way that life deserves. The latest figures denote that it costs more than $200,000, minimum to raise a child in America, without including the emotional investment that child also deserves. And yet I am sure we all know plenty of people who ridicule welfare moms or Octomom, but who frankly, aren't all that much more qualified to raise children themselves. (Financially speaking, I certainly put myself in that category.)