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Steve's Choice

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“Listen to this,” Darcy said, a forkful of pancakes in one hand and her StarkPhone in the other:  “ ‘What if the aborted baby could have cured cancer???’  Oh my God!  What if the last egg I bled into a tampon could've cured cancer?”  A drop of syrup landed on her chin as she shoved the bite into her mouth.

“Not my problem -- I don’t menstruate.”

She pointed her next forkful at Natasha.  “Lucky you.  Seriously, how am I supposed to live with the guilt of not popping out a kid every time I’m fertile?  Hey, Clint!  Perfect timing -- help me out, will you?”

Clint grabbed a plateful of pancakes from the stack Thor was making and sat down.  “Nothing doing, jail-bait.”

“Fuck you, I’m twenty-one!”

“No means no, sourpuss.  And is that any way to talk at the breakfast table?  Let me get a damn cup of coffee down first.  Steve, what started this?”

Why hadn’t he asked Banner?  The doctor was spooning down his oatmeal without a qualm, while Steve felt like he was blushing to his ears.  “That filibuster in Texas  --  the governor’s calling another special session to override it.”

“Asshole.”

“Who?” Tony said as he and Pepper walked in -- he swung around to look over Darcy’s shoulder.  “Oh.  Him.  Pepper, how much---”

“Don’t start, we’ve been donating to red-state Democrats for years, and to Planned Parenthood since the day you lost your virginity.  Officially.  Money alone can’t fix this, there are some powerful political interests at work.”

Steve swallowed.  “I can’t say I disagree with their position, not entirely.  Fun is fun and all, but it used to be that a man took responsibility when he got a girl pregnant.  Now there’s sexual equality -- doesn’t that mean a woman should take responsibility too?”

“Nay, friend Steven!  Although fertility is a blessing mine to bestow, and my mother’s love for newborn babes is so great that many have prayed for her divine aid in birthing, we speak with one voice on this:  as it is the woman’s body that bears, thus bearing is the woman’s choice.  Nor is that choice made solely for the pleasure of coupling, but any time before or after as well.  Whomsoever says otherwise betrays his regard of her as nothing more than a beast to be bred at its master’s bidding.”

“And getting an abortion is taking responsibility -- nobody knows better than the woman if she’s ready to have a child.  For a man to take that decision away from her . . . ” Natasha had one hand on her belly, her eyes distant.

Darcy’s eyes were still fixed on her screen, scrolling it with her thumb.  “It’s just slut-shaming, the ‘consequences’ crap.  If any of ‘em really cared about the ‘innocent little babies’ they’d be helping out after they’re born, but are they?  Noooooooo, all their time and money goes into making sure women are punished for having sex!”

“It’s not just that,” Pepper said.  “Many of the women who rely on Planned Parenthood for healthcare have low incomes, and a disproportionate number of them are of racial minorities.  In other words, people more likely to vote Democrat.  It’s in the Republicans’ best interest if these women are kept too busy to think about politics because they’re raising children in poverty.”

“Or if they’re dead from trying to fix it themselves with a wire coat-hanger,” Bruce said quietly, his eyes as distant as Natasha’s, his breathing carefully even.  “That works too.”

Steve was a nurse’s son, a single mother who’d worked herself to death to keep him alive.  He knew her choice.  But he remembered the women who’d come to their apartment late at night, and the bloody towels his mother washed in the sink afterwards.  She’d said they had to keep secret the help she’d given them, and that he’d understand when he was older . . .

He was older now.  Now he understood what she’d done, the risks she’d taken, so that each of those women had a choice.

He stood up, clenched fist raised.  “Avengers, assemble!”

“But aren’t we all here---ow!  Damn it Pepper, those heels are sharp!”