Lumber Jill: Would you like an order of fries with that Big Mac-hiavellian political/patriarchal edifice stripping you or your rights?

By Jen Jackson Quintano
Reader Columnist

Senate President Chuck Winder, ostensibly the senior-most adult in the Idaho Legislature’s Romper Room, recently commented that, if it weren’t for abortion, there would be no workforce labor shortage. 

Let that sink in.

Women, apparently, are shirking the responsibility of churning out a capitalistic proletariat. I can see the propaganda posters now: Uncle Sam wants YOU to LABOR for the sake of LABOR! Or Rosie the Riveter might be pictured doing kegels rather than a bicep flex, accompanied by We can do it! Baby factories strengthen factories!

Winder — a Republican of Boise — specifically mentions the service sector’s shortage of workers, and it makes me wonder: Should I have carried my abusive ex-husband’s child so that said child could be serving Winder a Big Mac today?

How could I have been so selfish? I have robbed the U.S. economy at large. And Winder, specifically. With my abortion, I absconded with my freedom, my health, my sanity, my future. And we, as a nation, suffer for it.

Jen Jackson Quintano. Courtesy photo.

In our business, yes, I’ve noticed the labor shortage. Yes, I’ve despaired at how hard it can be to find qualified, engaged people willing to show up day after day, let alone year after year. Our business is a Jenga tower, teetering on the diminished base of a depleted labor pool, one ravaged by workforce housing shortages, an exorbitant cost of living ($16 craft cocktails?!) and Tinder offerings as shallow as the local splash pad in July. A lack of help is the greatest threat to our business’s continued survival.

However, I do not lay that burden at the feet — or the uteri — of desperate women. Rather, I think about how Winder and his colleagues (among other things) refused to accept $38 million in federal grant money to help expand child care availability, because they did not want to “make it more convenient for women to come out of the home.” 

Child care challenges cost our economy $525 million each year, with parents caring for children rather than working.

What about the female half of the workforce, Sen. Winder? Or is their work only to birth and bring up the babies who will fill the jobs?

And what about those babies? Why are we considering quantity of life over quality? I think of the child I might have had 18 years ago. Who would he be? Would Sen. Winder celebrate him as an employable answered prayer? I play out this scenario often.

I was young and in a brand-new relationship with a much older man when I got pregnant. That relationship went on to become a torturous marriage wherein my movements were tracked, my connections to others surveilled and severed, and my essence assailed as untrustworthy, unevolved, unlovable. I lived in a state of fight or flight, alert to when my husband’s mood might unexpectedly shift, when I might be the target of his pain. My heart perpetually ached and raced. 

I still have dreams about him in which my heart returns to its steeplechase antics, and I wake up queasy. It’s been more than 15 years since I left him.

What might it have been like for a child in such an environment? Whom might that pregnancy have become?

Studies show that high cortisol levels during pregnancy lead to premature birth and a higher incidence of cognitive, behavioral and emotional problems in the child. Risks for depression, psychosis and heart disease increase. Such stress is a precursor to postpartum depression in the mother. My child would likely have come into the world disadvantaged, his development warped by my fear. He would have matured in a household with a depressed mother and an unpredictable father. Who would he be today, at age 18? What would his demons look like? How might he cope with them?

In this way, I believe my abortion was a mercy. Both for me and for the child who never was.

If Sen. Winder wants to talk about my bodily offerings in economic terms, I would assert that my abortion was also a gift to the economy. While I was in a relationship with my ex-husband, I was allowed to work little. I had no money. My existence was subsidized. 

However, with my freedom, I was allowed to partner anew, to build a business, to employ people in my community, to pump money back into the local economy. I was able to birth and raise a happy, well adjusted child who will likely contribute to the workforce in positive ways. My daughter is a shining light, a stark contrast to the dark shadow of what might have been.

But the thing is, you can’t look at a living being only in economic terms. Women and children are not baby factories or factory workers. I refuse to be reduced. We should all refuse.

My ex reduced me, and that was integral to the abuse.

Republicans in the Idaho Legislature believe a woman’s sole purpose is to birth children or die trying. A woman’s only good is as a mother, and her rights should be restricted to support that. The Legislature is currently considering a bill that would lead to the ascendance of a fertilized egg’s rights over the fully formed person carrying it. As Nampa Republican Sen. Todd Lakey said last year, a woman’s health “weighs less, yes, than the life of the [unborn] child.”

In this way, we are living The Handmaid’s Tale.

I know such allusions are getting old. We’ve been making them for years. But the thing is, they are only becoming more apt. The similarity is of greater urgency even as we assimilate to that urgency.

That is also key to abuse: its normalization.

My ex-husband told me that every couple fights. Raised voices and pain are natural.

This is just the way things are. Get used to it.

But let’s remember: This diminishment of bodily autonomy is not how it was for our matriarchs. There is no modern-day precedent for such regression. This is entirely not normal.

I will not be a victim to Idaho’s reductive views. 

I am so much more than the potential contents of my womb.

I am a multifaceted and worthy individual. And I am a fighter.


Will you join me?

Jen Jackson Quintano writes and runs an arborist business with her husband in Sandpoint. Find their website at See more of Quintano’s writing at

While we have you ...

... if you appreciate that access to the news, opinion, humor, entertainment and cultural reporting in the Sandpoint Reader is freely available in our print newspaper as well as here on our website, we have a favor to ask. The Reader is locally owned and free of the large corporate, big-money influence that affects so much of the media today. We're supported entirely by our valued advertisers and readers. We're committed to continued free access to our paper and our website here with NO PAYWALL - period. But of course, it does cost money to produce the Reader. If you're a reader who appreciates the value of an independent, local news source, we hope you'll consider a voluntary contribution. You can help support the Reader for as little as $1.

You can contribute at either Paypal or Patreon.

Contribute at Patreon Contribute at Paypal

You may also like...

Close [x]

Want to support independent local journalism?

The Sandpoint Reader is our town's local, independent weekly newspaper. "Independent" means that the Reader is locally owned, in a partnership between Publisher Ben Olson and Keokee Co. Publishing, the media company owned by Chris Bessler that also publishes Sandpoint Magazine and Sandpoint Online. Sandpoint Reader LLC is a completely independent business unit; no big newspaper group or corporate conglomerate or billionaire owner dictates our editorial policy. And we want the news, opinion and lifestyle stories we report to be freely available to all interested readers - so unlike many other newspapers and media websites, we have NO PAYWALL on our website. The Reader relies wholly on the support of our valued advertisers, as well as readers who voluntarily contribute. Want to ensure that local, independent journalism survives in our town? You can help support the Reader for as little as $1.