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Wednesday, October 28, 2015


by Mary Leonard

CLEVELAND — Opening a new front in the abortion wars, abortion opponents are pushing Ohio to make it illegal for a doctor to perform an abortion if a woman is terminating her pregnancy to avoid having a baby with Down syndrome. The legislature is expected to approve the measure this fall because lawmakers endorsed by the National Right to Life Committee, which supports the bill, make up more than two-thirds of both houses. Photo: Protesters outside Preterm, an abortion clinic in Cleveland. Credit Michael F. McElroy for The New York Times —NY Times, August 22, 2015

Yesterday in yoga class, a handsome man arrived
            with his child. He placed her mat in front of mine.
 She was small, 13, 18?  with brown hair pulled back

 in a pony tail.  It wasn't until she turned
            and I saw her eyes, I knew
 she was a Down Syndrome child. As we stretched

 to the right, to the left, she was 30 seconds
            behind but kept up, didn't seem distressed,
 soldiered on, even when she couldn't do what the teacher said.

 When we did pranayama, followed by sighs
            hers were late and loud. The teacher said,
"That was very good sigh," smiled.

 The rest of us did not pay attention to the girl
             but to our own struggles with the asanas.
I looked up to see the child bend in half,

 fold over from her hips all the way down
            to her toes while the rest of us  stretched
 forward a few inches, our hands clutching our mats.

I thought about the handsome man, the father, I assumed,
              saw his athletic moves and his face
lined with worry. Where was the mother?

 Did the parents have a choice when they heard
            the fetus was Down's syndrome?

When the girl touched her toes,
             when she tried to follow,
I thought this child is a gift.

 But what did I know
            about this life: hers, his, theirs.
  I could only hope  that no law demanded,

"This fetus is a person and must be born."

Maybe difficult to think abortion with a child in front of me
            but not  difficult when a law could deny choice, making parents
 feel ashamed and dictate what life is and could be for all.

Mary Leonard has published chapbooks at 2River, Pudding House, Antrim House Press and RedOchreLit. Her poetry has appeared in The Naugatuck Review, Hubbub, Cloudbank. She lives in an old school house over looking the Rondout Creek.  Away from her own personal blackboard, she teaches workshops for all ages through Bard College.