I stayed up too late watching election coverage, per usual. I’m a nerd and it’s like my Super Bowl.

And so I was watching when Paul LePage said: “If heating oil is not as important as abortion, if you prefer abortion over heating oil and feeding your families, then I’m telling you I should have never gotten into politics.”

Regardless of whether or not you think he should have never gotten into politics, I think this displays a fundamental misunderstanding of the problems. Obviously, abortion is a multifaceted issue; it’s a social and/or religious issue, and it’s a medical issue, but it is also most definitely an economic issue. In fact, abortion is one of the most financially onerous medical procedures out there.

If you have an emergency surgery and hospital stay while uninsured (or even if you’re insured, because health insurance companies are pretty good at weaseling out of paying up), you might end up with a huge bill to pay. Generally, though, you can make a payment plan and what you owe will be clear and predictable.

But if you get pregnant, aren’t allowed to have an abortion, and give birth? If there’s one thing I think all parents can agree on, it’s that babies are unpredictable. And kids are expensive. They’re at least 18 years worth of expenses. Sometimes more. Sometimes a lot more. (I lived with my mom until I was 29, OK?)

It’s not abortion or heating oil. It’s abortion and heating oil. The ability to plan the timing and size of our families is one of the driving forces behind the last 50 years of women’s economic and social gains.

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And I understand the economic hardship over heating oil. Right now, my home is heated by a kerosene-fired furnace, and while there is fluctuation in the market (in case you hadn’t noticed), kerosene is consistently more expensive than heating oil. At the time of this writing, the statewide average price per gallon for heating oil is $5.57. Kerosene is $6.66, which seems like a bad omen. My tank also probably needs to be replaced in the next few years.

My family has had a lot of financially tight winters, winters where we’ve closed off rooms and worn layers of wool and used space heaters because we couldn’t afford a tank refill but we had enough money to make the minimum payment to CMP to keep the electricity on. I’ve been there. It’s scary. I don’t think Paul LePage had any good plans to address the problem, and I definitely don’t think we need to put ourselves in a deal with the devil where we sacrifice bodily autonomy for cheaper oil. As a state, we’re smarter than that.

On a personal level, I am intensely relieved that access to abortion will be protected here in Maine for at least a few more years. I have a family history of pregnancy complications. Bad ones. And if I get pregnant, I’m going to be over 30, which in itself is a risk factor for complications.

And because I now only have one kidney, any pregnancy I have will automatically be considered high risk. Due to my kidney donation, I now have a 10% chance of developing preeclampsia, or dangerously high blood pressure during pregnancy. It often doesn’t manifest until after the 20th week. There is no cure other than not being pregnant anymore. Sometimes it can be managed until delivery. Sometimes it can’t, and in those cases, abortion is sometimes the only option. Untreated, preeclampsia can be fatal to both the mother and the fetus. It can lead to organ damage, including kidney failure. And the whole point of me donating a kidney was to make the transplant list shorter, not longer. If my one remaining kidney fails from preeclampsia due to conservative abortion laws, that’s going to kind of defeat the whole purpose of my donation.

I have economic anxiety. Heck, I’d say I have economic fear. But I’m also terrified of dying from a stroke in an emergency room while the hospital lawyers are trying to figure out if they can offer me an abortion without being arrested.

I’ve lived here my whole life, which means I’ve met a lot of Mainers. Like, tons. And no matter what their political beliefs (if any!), when the chips are down, Mainers give a crap about each other. We do. I’ve broken down on the side of the road in a car covered in liberal bumper stickers and watched as guys with conservative bumper stickers pulled over to check on me and make sure I was OK. That’s how we roll.

Maybe I’m just a starry-eyed liberal, but I do think we can make Maine a state where everyone can have an abortion and a full tank of heating oil. (Or a full shed of wood, depending on your heating system.) It won’t be easy. It will involve a lot of hard work and boring meetings. But as Phil Collins once wisely sang: “Put your faith in what you most believe in.” Well, I believe in Maine. We’re the way life should be.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:
[email protected]
Twitter: @mainemillennial


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