IT WAS a nose bleed. It came, as they sometimes do, in the middle of the night, and it woke me from a sound sleep. I realized why I was up - a minute or two before I realized that my face was wet, and the bed under it wet, and something had happened . I was scared.
I jumped out of bed and I turned on the light and I looked into the mirror and I gasped. I didn't ever get nosebleeds and I didn't know what it was and I was still a teen-ager, maybe 19, and I was living alone in a furnished room. There was a sink in the room, but no toilet and no bathtub or shower. That was all upstairs and every time I went up there a persistent homosexual named Michael would hang around outside the door of the bathroom saying, "Hi, it's me, Michael," I was young and I was scared.
Anyway, I was standing before the mirror and there was no phone in the room and no one to call anyway - no family doctor or anyone like that, and no money to call anyone else. So I ran down the block to a neighbor and he took a look at me and he laughed. He told me I had a nose bleed and he told me to wash my face. I went home a bit later feeling like a fool.
I think of that night whenever people talk about the poor, because I think now and I thought then that the worst part of that evening was not the bleeding but being out of money and all alone and having no one to turn to. That's the way I envision poverty and that's way my heart sinks whenever I see old men in the lobbies of cheap hotels.
The night comes back to me now because I have been giving some thought to abortion and whether tax money should finance it for poor people. I have been giving it some thought because I see no demons in this debate and although I am not anti-abortion I can understand how some people see it as murder and want to stop it.
I can understand, too, why these people would now want their tax money to go for abortion - how that must be morally repugnant to them. I know people who didn't pay their taxes over the Vietnam War because it was morally repugnant to them. It is sort of the same thing.
And I can understand in a way how the Supreme Court could decide that how a state spends its money is its own business - a political matter, not a legal matter, although I must confess I am confused a bit about this because the court already said that abortion is a constutional right.
But the thing about the debate is that everyone has taken sides and talked about morality as if the subject had nothing to do with people - as if people were not going to get accidentally pregnant and as if some of them were not going to be poor. They have conducted the debate from their own point of view and they have decided it is a worse thing for someone who was poor to have an abortion than to raise a child that is not wanted.
The thing that borthers me the most about this is that all of this imposes one standard of morality on those who can afford an abortion and a different standard on those who cannot.
It forgets that the poor can panic, just like the rich, and that some of them will attempt to abort themselves and others will go to back alley abortionists and someone will take food money for an abortion. Some women, of course, will have babies they do not want to raise. All of these things will happen.
But the worst thing about all this is that some of the these women will be alone again. They will no longer have government to turn to and government has always been the last recourse of the poor. They will be alone and they will be scared.
There are some things you don't have to be a woman to know.