Today (or the 22nd, anyway) is the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. People have been writing all sorts of interesting things, and unfortunately I haven’t had the time to read them all, but I just wanted to put out some links and a couple observations.
1. I think abortion needs to be couched in terms of overall reproductive health. That means comprehensive sex ed, that means good access to the full range of contraceptive options, and that means good access to health care in general. It means good health care and support for pregnant women.
2. While it appears that a majority of Americans oppose overturning Roe v. Wade, anti-abortion activists have steadily chipped away at access. In a related frightening trend, feticide laws have been used to prosecute women for things that aren’t even crimes, like experiencing a miscarriage, attempting suicide, or driving within the legal alcohol limit. (I wrote about pregnant women being denied their Constitutional rights earlier.) Women’s reproductive choices, and women’s pregnancies, have come under intense and unwarranted (literally) scrutiny, and none of it contributes to better health or more prosperous families.
Okay, some links:
From Shaker Anatinola at Shakesville:
This is how it was for me: I was seventeen in 1952 when I was raped and got pregnant. Fortunately, I was in New York City, and a relative found a doctor who would perform a safe albeit illegal abortion. I took a long subway ride with the cash held tightly in my bag under my coat and walked up to the door of the address I had been given. I was met, interviewed, and sworn to secrecy—I could never tell anyone about this or divulge the doctor’s name or address. I was then told there would be no anesthetic so I was to leave and go down to the corner bar and drink two shots of whisky and return…
Although personally naïve and penniless, I had family resources and a comparatively vast amount of privilege. For anyone who did not live as a woman through those years, for all the women who still have access to safe and legal abortions (or assume that they have it, and may continue to believe so until they need it and bump up against a lack of providers or slew of restrictions), it is nearly impossible to understand how important Roe is to women’s lives. How liberating it is to have reproductive choice. How many lives it saves. How many children don’t lose their mothers to forced childbirth or botched abortion. How many young women don’t lose their goals and dreams because of an unplanned pregnancy…
Women and men who were born post-Roe have also never known abortion to be illegal or birth control to be unavailable, by federal law. It is easy, post-Roe to be unaware of how fundamentally our society depends on these rights, and what it will do to all of us to lose this progress. It is hard to imagine those rights disappearing, even as they are being surely eroded every day.
Growing up I was never given any real information about my body. The only thing I was taught was to fear my body and to fear what it was capable of doing. I was told the most nefarious thing that my body could do was bear a child. I was also taught implicitly that my “virtue” as woman had the unprecedented power to sully the surname of my family. Growing up, I thought it was just a Haitian thing, that only Haitians don’t discuss sex with their kids. As I grew older and formed friendships with other Black women of varying cultures, I quickly understood that guilt and shame of the female form was a diet that many of us were forced to metabolize.
Whenever we speak of reproductive rights we tend to do so as if these rights are equally distributed to all women regardless of race, class, gender presentation, or socioeconomic standing. Yet, we know that these various societal variables change the way in which women get access or if they can at all. The fact is women of color have to had to piggyback off the reproductive rights of white women because we were never part of the original plan. A choice for women is a great thing to advocate for, but we must never forget to remove choice off the shelf of privilege and put in a place that can be easily accessible to all women.
Libby Anne’s roundup of her own posts and other posts at Love, Joy, Feminism:
The spring of my sophomore year of college I was president of my university’s Students for Life chapter. The fall of my junior year of college I cut my ties with the pro-life movement. Five years later I have lost the last shred of faith I had in that movement. This is my story.
I was raised in the sort of evangelical family where abortion is the number one political issue. I grew up believing that abortion was murder, and when I stopped identifying as pro-life I initially still believed that. Why, then, did I stop identifying as pro-life? Quite simply, I learned that increasing contraceptive use, not banning abortion, was the key to decreasing the number of abortions. Given that the pro-life movement focuses on banning abortion and is generally opposed advocating greater contraceptive use, I knew that I no longer fit. I also knew that my biggest allies in decreasing the number of abortions were those who supported increased birth control use – in other words, pro-choice progressives. And so I stopped calling myself pro-life.
And some statistics from Mother Jones. These are just a drop in the bucket, but I wanted to get something out, at least.
Update: another one from Taja Lindley at Feministe. Lindley is a full-spectrum doula, which means that she helps women “across the spectrum of pregnancy, from abortion to birth, which can include stillbirth inductions and people who are considering adoption.”
In today’s binary political system, however, abortion has become oversimplified. Although fraught with social, economic, cultural, and political meaning, abortion has been reduced to a singular and isolated issue in the political arena. And yet, just below the surface of political silencing, those of us whose experiences with abortion do not fit neatly into didactic sound-bites and talking points for pundits and policymakers in their public debates about our bodies, the waters of human experience still run deep…
Some patients hold their breath—sometimes because the decision to have an abortion is made reluctantly. Their circumstances can feel coercive: a lost job, limited income, negotiating rent and bills with potential expenses of a baby, or having parents who refuse to support their young daughter’s pregnancy because it sets a “bad example” for their other children. Others hold their breath waiting for a change in their heart or mind that may never come, deciding finally, despite the discomfort, that an abortion is what they want to do, or what they feel they should do.
Want, desire, and “choice” become murky concepts in a tangled web of social and economic inequality…
[W]omen talk their way out of (or into) their internalization of public shaming and blaming, as if a certain kind of woman gets an abortion and other women do not. This circular thinking is another byproduct of the oversimplified binary of mainstream abortion politics, represented in policy and the media. But what gets lost in the respectability politics of abortion is how common an abortion procedure is: nearly 1 in 3 women have one in their lifetime.
Update again: A proposal in the Virginia legislature would remove Medicaid coverage for abortions for low-income women who are carrying fetuses with a low likelihood of survival. And so the chipping continues.