Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Human Wolves

Here’s a spooky tale for you…

Carved on a headstone located in the elder part of Konowa Memorial Cemetery is the cryptic epitaph, “Murdered by human wolves.” The stone belongs to one Katherine Cross, who died Oct 10th, 1917 at the age of 18. According to the Seminole County News, her death was caused by a “criminal operation” performed by a Dr. A.H. Yates. Many have assumed, due to the circumstances surrounding her death, that this criminal operation was an abortion and the human wolves were Yates and his assistant. Thus she and her headstone have become an obscure bit of Oklahoma history and folklore.

A few Oklahoma anti-choice blogs, whom shall remain nameless, have marked the anniversary of her death with posts. Some claim her as a martyr for their “graveyard of choice”, others simply use her as a cautionary tale against abortion in general. However, they completely miss the fact that had Cross legally had access to proper medical care, or had Yates had access to the proper tools and procedures, Cross need not have died at all. Hell, if the 18th century attitude towards the female body and sexuality had been more than bupkiss and outright lies, had there not been a stigma against contraception, sex, and pregnancy out of wedlock, she might have had a fighting chance of not getting pregnant at all.

92 years and four days into the future, women in Oklahoma have the choice to terminate pregnancy in a safe and clean environment that Katherine did not have. We (theoretically) have access to the education that Katherine did not. However, every day is a constant struggle to keep hold of that choice. HB1595 is the latest in a long line of scare and shame tactics used to chip away at choice and drive young women in need of help away from those that can safely provide it. Abortion providers, referrers, and supporters have to keep constant vigilance. Everyday we face snide phone calls, harassment, even the possibility of bodily harm for providing women with all of the options. Our clinics look like bunkers and we keep a constant lookout for strange powders, people, and foreign objects. A little over four months ago, in our neighbor to the north, Kansas, Dr. Tiller was gunned down by the anti-choice activist Scott Roeder.

When I think of Katherine Cross today, I can’t help but wonder about exactly who the human wolves are now.

To see the headstone:

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