This election season, listen carefully and think long and hard before casting your vote. And if you're one of those people inclined to vote based on a single, self-centered interest like the price of gas or tax cuts, err on the side of innocence and remember little girls (and boys) like the one you're about to meet.
Author and former actress Meg Tilly shares a letter from Dr. Astrid Heppenstall Heger on her blog:
"Maria had driven to Tijuana with her mom, sister and little brother to buy a special dress for her aunt's wedding. This was the most beautiful dress she had ever owned—no the most beautiful thing she had ever seen—and she hung it on a nail pounded into the wall of a garage in Bell Gardens that they called home. Every Sunday she tried on the dress, anxious for the time to pass when she could wear it to be in the wedding. But this past Sunday the dress had become too small, her mother could not fasten the small white buttons. Her mother rushed her to the emergency room fearing the worst—cancer.
I was summoned to the Emergency room to evaluate Maria. She was sitting in the corner of the windowless exam room with tears running down her face. Her mother had fled the room leaving her to fend for herself. A tiny 10 year old, she looked much younger than her age, and now dressed in a too-big dress handed down to her and wearing black Mary-Jane shoes and bright white socks she looked translucent—a shadow of the girl that might have been.
At age 10 she had just been told that she was pregnant. Pregnant by her father who had been raping her for over two years. We spoke and I comforted her. On examination, we found her to be 16 weeks pregnant, and because she was so small her womb was now pushing down her vagina making intercourse impossible so her father had been raping her anally. Her sister when asked about whether the little brother had been sexually abused, said 'No, he still laughs.'
So last night when the Republicans welcomed with thundering applause a woman who believes that all abortions must be outlawed, my heart stopped in my chest at the very idea that we as a Nation would ever consider taking away the rights of women and children—my patients—raped, abused and violated in the most horrific ways. How careless we are with the lives and souls of those who are less fortunate.
I am moved to tears at the thought of the precipice that we are approaching. I could spend hours on poverty, loss of the medical class, no health care, etc. But sitting there that day in that stark, cold clinic room with a little girl whose only hope for survival was an abortion, I was glad to have that option. Of course I would love to see a time come when everyone knew to practice abstinence, or even birth control, or a time when rape and incest were words we did not understand and women had the right to say no and have someone hear her, but apparently none of these words—abstinence, birth control, rape or incest—has penetrated the isolated, cold world of Governor Palin.
Tell me where to go to be heard. I cannot believe that women across this country—who understand what violence against women and children really means—will not stand up to be counted."
Astrid Heppenstall Heger, M.D.
Violence Intervention Program
1721 Griffin Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90031