Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The Relationship: Pregnancy, Abortion, Faith, Violence

I attended my first pro-life rally when I was 10 or 11 years old. With my mother on a back breaking smelly bus, we traveled through the night to D.C., arrived, marched with our church group, and boarded the bus to drive home. I barely slept.

The pro-life march was my first trip the our nation's capital and the magnificent sites were shadowed by the thousands of pro-life marchers I walked with. Huddled under a tent from the dripping rain, I listened to stories of guilt-ridden women who'd had abortions and realized their mistake.

I held a sign of some sort. I don't remember what it said, but I'm sure it was something along the lines of "Love them both. Choose life." As I held my mother's hand, I smiled at a group of women in business suits who I thought looked like congresswomen. They smiled at me and gave me a thumbs up sign, my heart soared.

I was ten when I walked down the pro-life avenue and clung close to my mother as pro-choice advocates stood with their signs on the outskirts of the march. As I passed a group of pro-choice ralliers, one said to me and my group of walkers, "You all make me sick. I want to spit on you." I buried my face into my mothers stomach, afraid of what might happen.

My mother whispered into my ear, "You pray."

I thought she meant for my safety so I threw a prayer skyward that sounded something like, "Please God, I don't want to be attacked. I don't want to be spit on. I just want to walk."

* * * * *

I was 25 when I moved in with Katie*. She worked at the local Planned Parenthood and though we went to the same undergraduate university, I'd never met her before. We got along swimmingly. I worked at a university's women's center, she at Planned Parenthood and we mostly talked women's issues, feminism, and the differences that lay between us.

One night, over a tiny wooden table with crowded plates of rice and chicken, Katie asked me, "So, where do stand on abortion? Does your faith steer you pro-life or the women's center steer you pro-choice?"

I slowly swallowed my food, hating that question, and deliberately delayed because I wanted my heart beat to slow before I answered. A shot of adrenaline always pulsed through me when I spoke of issues of reproductive health, abortion, life, and faith.

"I don't think you'll like what I have to say. No one does. I don't identify pro-life and I don't identify pro-choice. I don't think either 'side' has the vision for what women in this world need."

I moved my eyes from her face, knowing the line of questions that were coming.

"But do you believe in a women's right to an abortion?" Katie wasn't eating anymore.

"I believe in women. I believe that all this crap and dialogue is bullshit. I believe we haven't been given the funding, education, and means to even think beyond having a baby or having it terminated. We don't even envision the kind of LIFE women should be given and so we aren't given the options we deserve, the resources we need, or even the chance to consider what else is possible with our lives. So when you ask whether a women has a right to an abortion, all I think of are ALL the things, all the basic things that women don't have that lead to make her choose between 'life' and 'choice.' It's not that simple."

Katie resumed munching on her rice and chicken, "Well, yeah. I mean, women don't have access to the education and resources they need in general, but that's a whole other conversation."

I looked up, "Is it?"

* * * * *
A few months have passed since that discussion and I come home to find Katie watching Desperate Housewives. I made a snide comment about trashy evening programs that do little for our brains and notice she is not throwing back any signature sarcasm. I ask her what's wrong.

Katie tells me a long story. She tells me a long story on the slashed tires she's endured. The man who photographs her car license plates. The daily protesters outside her office. The security measures when she walks into work everyday.

I listen to this woman, my friend, who tells me what it's like working at a Planned Parenthood in Cincinnati, Ohio. I think about the mild harassment endured when I tell people I work at women's center - a non-medical facility - where it is always assumed I provide information and possibly even assist abortion procedures.

It is then I realize that there are several battles going on, but one war. There are different battles of those who fight the front lines of gender equality, those of us who try to raise consciousness and educate about the damning effects of essentializing the characteristics and roles of women and men and ignore anyone else who doesn't fit our expections. And then there are those on the front lines of reproductive rights who go live an almost double life. Katie tells me how she has two resumes she sends out, one that is open about Planned Parenthood and another that softens the position and her role in its function. Katie tells me endless stories of dinner parties gone awry because of political debates, family gathers that bleed awkwardness because of her work, and the silent assumptions of acquaintances when she shares the nature of her occupation.

* * * *
Today in the news there is much talk about the murder of Dr. Tiller and even our normally calm Mr. Obama President expressed his "shock and outrage" about what has been called a"reprehensible act of domestic terror."

According to the Op-Ed in the New York Times, this is the fourth killing since 1993 of a physician who provides abortion procedures. Not to minimize this heinous and unthinkable crime, but let's look at the global picture of abortion via reproductive rights. Four murders in 16 years averages to one every four years.

Every minute of every day, a woman dies from pregnancy-related complications. Approximately 530,000 women and girls die worldwide from such complications every year, including as many as 70,000 women and girls who die from botched abortions, according to Population Action International.
* * * *

But those women dying is not a crime because most of them occur in "developing" countries. All the women who die from botched abortions do not have reactions from our President because...simply because it's women who are dead from botched abortions.

The President from D.C. says it's time to find common ground. I disagree.

It's not time to find common ground, it's time to admit there is no common ground and, still, cease fire.

It's not time to try and say pro-lifers understand pro-choicers or vice versa because the decades of divisive rhetoric has split this country into a segregation deeper than red and blue states.

There's no time to find common ground when so many women are dying from lack of education, resources, and freedom. I believe the access to healthcare, education, and information trumps the rallies and cries for choice. True freedom is full access to the knowledge of health, consequence, givings and sacrifice of our actions. Why are we so damn staunch in our fight for abortion and so up in arms when a physician is murdered? Albeit, it's a tragedy, but LOOK AT WHAT WOMEN IN THIS WORLD ARE ENDURING.

But as so many have reiterated to me, when I speak of vision and freedom in regard to reproductive health and "choice," it becomes "a whole other conversation."

As long as it remains a whole other conversation, it will never be our reality.


  1. This is so right.

  2. For all intents and purposes, I've got a pre-med education. I'm highly educated on human anatomy, physiology, and biochemistry, and if I were pregnant at this very moment, it would most likely be an ectopic pregnancy and early at that. I could terminate it with my knowledge of biochemistry and pharmaceuticals (and for many communities, they have old remedies for abortifacients to fall back on).

    However, if I was deceived by spotting into believing that I had a period or two or three, I wouldn't be able to self abort with chemicals alone. I would *need* someone else - a midwife or nurse or doctor - to do it for me.

    Also, if you look at the timeline of domestic terrorism against abortion clinics and providers, it becomes clear that there were none during Bush II's presidency. I also think it's clear why. Terrorists resort to escalating violence when they feel desperate and need to lash out.

  3. Aaminah7:46 PM

    (TOTALLY OT: Whit, i am horrified to admit that i never knew you were a woman, nor that you live just across the way from me... sigh... i've been adoring you from afar for a long time, and now i don't have to feel so icky about it anymore, LOL)

    ON TOPIC: Lisa, i shared this on my Google Reader this way:

    "'I don't identify pro-life and I don't identify pro-choice. I don't think either *side* has the vision for what women in this world need.'

    i have never found the right words to express this sentiment... these are those words."

    Thank you for writing this. It is a difficult topic to talk about, and that's why i avoid the subject like the plague, even though it is something that i care and feel very deeply about. i never feel like i have any right to speak for fear of hurting the feelings of people i care very much about, because i think there is a lot more 'grey area' in this conversation than most care to admit to.

  4. You have articulated my feelings on the subject almost exactly. Brava! It's what bothers me about the whole "debate"---women's lives don't begin or end with abortion. It should not be a separate conversation.

  5. So when you ask whether a women has a right to an abortion, all I think of are ALL the things, all the basic things that women don't have that lead to make her choose between 'life' and 'choice.' It's not that simple.


    The terminology "pro-choice" bothers me a lot anyway, and the tendency for pro-choice people to refer to pro-life as "anti-choice". I remember pointing out to some people who organised a demonstration against some pro-life people that there would be mostly older women going into that meeting, and that they had a million different possible excellent reasons to have fundamental problems with abortions, bad pre-NHS gynaecology being one of them, and that their age alone should mean that when they talk about this stuff, we listen. But that "gives comfort to anti-choicers", apparently, and the demonstration ended up being a bunch of mostly young men and quite a few young women screaming "keep your rosaries out of my ovaries!" and "pro-life, that's a lie, you don't care if women die!" at older women whose rosaries, if they had any, weren't anywhere near any of our ovaries to start with.

    And besides, what kind of a capitalist clusterfuck of a movement do we have if we base it entirely around the notion of "choice"?

    The next person to tell me "feminism is all about individuality and women choosing what they want to do" better hope I'm not holding a blunt instrument at the time.

    I find your scepticism towards the notion of "dialogue" and "common ground" very refreshing, by the way, particularly with reference to the above.

  6. OT, (sorry!) Aaminah, I'll be back around the way this weekend, taking my youngest sister to festival of the arts.

  7. Love, love, love.

    I wish I had something more articulate to say, but this is beautiful.

  8. Lauren12:43 AM

    This is really beautifully written, and I totally agree. I have always found it disheartening that "pro-choice" is always translated as "pro-abortion" when in my mind it also includes safe birth practices, adoption, education about sex, sexuality, relationships, education about all the options regarding pregnancy and childbirth, and on and on and on. The discussion as a whole should certainly include education generally, choices about where/how/when women work and go to school and have families, about so many things. I feel like the life vs. choice debate is a blatant attempt at "divide and conquer" and women (and everyone else) can never get anywhere with that mind set. Any pregnant woman, regardless of her political/religious/moral leanings, has many choices to make and (generally) not enough education to make them.

  9. "It's not time to find common ground, it's time to admit there is no common ground and, still, cease fire."

    Precisely. Thanks for the words. :-)

  10. Anonymous2:52 AM

    I,too, am a little tired of the calls to understand the other side when the other side has gleefully slut-shamed me for having an abortion and not regretting it one whit. When the other side harasses women who go into clinics for abortions, birth control, and routine medical care, I'm not particularly interested in engaging with them. When the other side villifies me as a flighty child-murdering whore because I'm not tormented over my choice to abort, well, I'm in no mood to reach common ground with them. When I'm likened to a Nazi for having an abortion, well. . .I'd say there is no common ground to be found.

    I know it's inconceivable to some, but I do not want to be pregnant and I have no interest in being a mother.

    Also--yes, there were four doctors killed in the US since 1993--and more attacked in the US, and attacked in Canada and Australia. Clinic staff and volunteers have been killed or injured in attacks against clinics and/or doctors. As well as arson, bombings, vandalism, stalking, trespassing, and kidnapping.

    I'm not saying this to discount anything in your post and I hope it doesn't come off that way. But I think people are up in arms about this latest terrorist killing because these murders and assaults are pooh-poohed as aberrations and the people who fuel the fire and give aid and succor to the killers are afforded credibility and all sorts of sympathy in the mainstream media for their discomfort with women's sexuality, with abortion and birth control.


  11. NicoleGW10:50 AM

    Awesome, awesome post. Thank you!

  12. Anonymous11:11 AM

    I think we are "staunch in our fight for abortion" and birth control because they both symbolically and actually represent "freedom" to women. If you can't control your fertility, you can't control anything else in your life. Expending political capital on reproductive rights rather than say, comprehensive social welfare, also has a sort of brutal effeciency and realism to it -- we're probably not going to get social welfare, so we might as well be sure to preserve women's autonomy as much as possible so we can make the best of bad circumstances.

  13. If you can't control your fertility, you can't control anything else in your life.

    You know, I've heard this my entire life and it is so meaningless to me. What if you can control your fertility? Does that give you any more job security? Does it give you access to healthcare? Does it keep a roof over your head and the utilities on? No?

    Well then, why don't we just admit that as long as the conversation stays narrow rather than broad, we still don't control very damn much in terms of our ability to survive. I'm just as vulnerable without being able to control my fertility as I am now. Shit, in several more years, I'll enter menopause---and I still won't have any more ability to control my life just because I won't have any more pregnancies to worry about.

  14. You've probably already seen the link to feministe; I've been responding to comments over there. I'm still parsing my reaction to the post, but I wanted to say in the meantime that I'm glad you put it up. This conversation--I mean, here and over there--has been very interesting. So thanks.

  15. Anonymous2:58 PM

    I think that even if you narrow things down to Western nations, you can't really have a discussion about abortion without discussing the financial constraints that keep women from being able to choose to cary to term.

    I know a couple who have two children and had an abortion when she accidentally became pregnant again, simply because they couldn't afford a third child. They would have loved to have had another child, if they could have supported it.

    Limiting accurate discussion of contraception and access to it (financial access in terms of cost and physical access) is a factor too. It boggles me that the same folks who are so adamant about stopping abortion keep promoting policies that give women fewer options to prevent it. That is, until I look at the whole picture and realize that it's not really about saving the unborn, it's about controlling women's sexuality.

    If we were to give women the option to, for example, stay home with a new baby for a year, paid at a decent living wage, we'd probably have fewer abortions, but we'd also allow women to have sex and not suffer for it. If we subsidized free contraception for anyone who wanted it, we'd have fewer abortions but also possibly encourage women to have more un-wed sex. If our adoption system weren't so messed up and emotionally damaging to surrendering parents, we'd probably have fewer abortions, but we'd also end up with complex relationships rather than a strict nuclear family two-parent model.

    Frankly, if the right wing isn't willing to sacrifice their ideology so that women have fewer abortions, why should I be?

  16. If women in my state didn't have to walk a gauntlet to get into the clinic, if my politicians would stop trying to legislate barriers for women who want to terminate their pregnancy, if women who decided to get an abortion could do so in safety and privacy,
    then I would like to spend my time advocating for comprehensive health care for everyone, and sexual responsibility for everyone.

  17. This is an interesting conversation and I think the holistic approach does work on the teaching, broad policy and strategy level.

    But I think on the brass tacks level of what the law should look like, we are forced to separate out issues, and that's where Katie's comment about "separate conversation" rings true to me. The way the law is structured, one does have to pick a side when it comes to choice, or else implementation will inevitably hurt those with less privilege and resources.

    In terms of opening up the larger dialogue, that is important. But to the extent that it blurs the message, I don't know if that's productive.

  18. It's just one beautiful post after another from you! This must have been hard to write, so thank you for struggling with this. I'm a strong believer in bodily autonomy, but have have always felt that the pro-choice stand does not quite address the struggles of women who I feel very accountable to. Still much to think about, but you've opened a lot of avenues. Salamat.

  19. I think that this is the power of the reproductive justice framework. RJ is more than outmoded notions of "choice" -- because what's choice when you have no money, no resources, no transportation, no understanding of your own body or fertility or community? RJ is about being a parent or not being a parent; it's about raising a family, if you want one, under the circumstances you want. It's about the right to be a mother just as much as it is about the right not to. And it takes in account the systems of oppression that (sometimes invisibly) shape our options -- systems like racism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, capitalism, environmental know. The kyriarchy.

  20. Hmmm... perhaps because I'm coming from a different viewpoint, but I've never seen abortion as a whole other conversation from a more holistic view of caring for women's rights. Abortion is part of the conversation. Perhaps, again, it's the company I keep, but to speak about the freedom to abortion is also to include in discussions of access to a lot of other things besides the operation.

    I've had conversations with friends who identify as 'pro-life' in good faith, and they, too, will also consider the larger context, which is really about choices. So I do think there is common ground. It just so happens that that's not happening at policy level, which is most likely to affect our holistic vision.

    Personally, I see a difference between "pro-life" and "anti-choice". Coming from a third-world country where abortion is hush-hush, to see women openly discuss an issue which directly impacts their survival is a breath of fresh air.

  21. Anonymous6:24 PM

    This is an interesting post, and brings up a lot of really important issues that all need to be addressed, on the world stage. However, there is a reality that will not allow for a ceasefire on this topic. I grew up in a very Catholic family, and most of them are ardent pro-lifers. To them, abortion is the pre-eminent, #1 issue in the world today. Eradicating abortion is more important to them than universal healthcare, poverty, illiteracy, global warming, and certainly the oppression of women in other parts of the world. They DO NOT understand what you are saying, and will not concern themselves with any other issues until this one is solved to their liking. And as long as they continue to be a threat to women's access and availability to proper healthcare, the pro-choicers are going to defend it. I, also, am not a fan of the rhetoric that is being used. But as long as the debate is argued on irrational (religious) grounds, there is no way to elevate the rhetoric.

  22. Anonymous6:24 PM

    I also have to quibble with one point: I think it's unfair to say we have to cease fire when the so-called "pro-lifers" are the ones who are, quite literally, doing the shooting, the bombing, the threatening, and the stalking.


  23. I identify as "pro-life but in favor of legal abortion"--which I think IS the pro-life position. But lots of people think I shouldn't say that. (I was just informed I was a "prick" on FEMINISTE for attempting to argue that "pro-life" is a bullshit term in the first place, since as you say, the so-called "pro life" people do not care about actual LIFE in the first place, but about controlling women.)

    Still, this is the language that makes sense to me and other women of faith, and that is what I will say. I don't let either side define me. As you have said so well, I often wanna ask the people who demand we use the label pro-choice: Where is this "choice" you speak of? Poverty does not allow for "choices" and I think it's crap rhetoric to pretend that state exists for all women, when in reality it only applies to a few.

    Pax Vobiscum, love. :)

  24. For me this eloquent, thoughtful post spoke not to dismissal of anyone's murder or minimizing of what it means for women to have control over their own bodies, but to everything else that never gets headlines, never gets marches, never gets every blogger in the known universe writing posts about it.

    It is hard for me, personally, as someone who is primarily for and about other women, to note the volume around one man's death - however good he may have been, and I believe he was good, and did good, and I hate that he was killed - without it reminding me of the silence around so many women's.

    I don't think it's accurate to frame it, as some - god it's hard for me not to swear here, Sudy - *others* elsewhere have, as this post saying "well nobody should talk about access to abortion or Tiller's death because so many ladeez are dying!"

    I *do* think it's telling that, given how everybody and her brother is, in fact, talking about, rightly upset and up in arms about, one man's death, one woman - at an admittedly smaller blog, no less! - talking about some other fucking thing is dismissed, mischaracterized, insulted, and sniped at. Behind her fucking back no less.

    This is not aimed at commenters here, by the way. Nor is it an issue with people disagreeing with this post. It's an observation about how some people are acting, and what exactly in that behavior is supposed to signal to me or anyone else that love for women is behind it?

  25. Wonderful post, Lisa.

    It appeals to me as a sociologist (and a queer brown woman) because it shines light on the structural issues that I think are often elided in conversations about policy and choice. That is, while it's quite true (as Sheelzebub said) "If you can't control your fertility, you can't control anything else in your life," it's also true that you can't be said to have true choice (or freedom, or control of your life) if you don't have the basics - access to healthcare, education, financial stability, dignity. If you don't have the resources to raise children, then as immensely important access to birth control and abortion (and adoption) are, your choices are still limited in ways that I think are absolutely integral to the conversation about true reproductive justice.

  26. Kauri6:36 AM

    I've read your piece twice now and I still don't understand what you are trying to say. Do you support a woman's right to an abortion or not?

    You seem to think that activists who speak out on abortion are not interested in the bigger picture of women's place in society and women's rights. In my experience nothing could be further from the truth. I think you are avoiding the question at hand by demanding a wider conversation. A wider conversation that does in fact go on in women's groups, on feminist blogs, in private discussions and political actions all over the world.

    Even in a perfect world where all gender inequality is solved and everyone is free and equal from whatever tyrrany exists today, women will still have bodies capable of pregnancy and unwanted pregnancies will still occur. Those pregnancies will still be take place inside the boundaries of that woman's body so it will still be her responsibility, her life and her choice.

    Are you afraid to come out and say you support women's right to access to abortion? Or to say that you don't? Because if I was pregnant today and asked you that question, I'd want a clear and simple answer.

  27. Thanks to evereyone that has commented, I always appreciate your time and words, however they are expressed.

    I think it was in the early 90s or so when an HBO movie came out called, "If These Walls Could Talk," and starred Cher, Demi Moore, Cissy Spacek, and Anne Heche. It was a series of stories about abortion and what abortion has looked like through the decades in this one particular house.

    What I remember most, ironically, is the tagline on the front cover, "There is one question only a woman can answer."

    I've thought about that off and on for several years and how asking questions (plural) - the right questions - have grown more important for me, than answering the wrong questions, or the questions I deem incomplete and lead to nowhere.
    I am drawn to engage in thorough questions instead of the customary "feminist" questions that are often narrow in nature and limit the participation of marginalized women.

    I have no doubt that the questions I judge as more complete and address my perspective will not be the same for other women. I like Tanglad's wording about consciously addressing the struggles of the women I feel accountable toward.

    It is regretful, but not painful, to me when others engage in useless banter about my tone, faith, or intention. My focus on women, equality, and freedom comes from my own lived experiences which is influenced by women in "developing" countries, children in poverty, young girls beyond the border. I look for the questions that matter and impact them.

    It is to those women to whom I try to be accountable. It is these women for whom I imperfectly advocate and write. I do not avoid, dismiss, or ignore questions or issues coming from commenters or email messages, but I believe there are enough writers, bloggers, activists, and thinkers demanding answers for the "Do you believe in abortion - yes or no?" question.

    My point was that I see a deeper side - and injustice - trembling in reproductive health, and I engage in the questions which include the women I am accountable.

  28. The thing is--I think the issue is not so much "Do you believe in abortion?" as

    1. Do you believe abortion should be legal, and under what circumstances?

    2. What are your feelings on pregnancy, personhood of a fetus, etc, and what impact do they make on your position?

    I do think that those questions are too often unlinked to the wider picture--meaning of motherhood, ability to live a truly self-determined life, the repercussions of "choice" outside of the US--but...let's see, where am I going with this...any position should be clear in the specifics. Saying that we don't have the funding or education to "think beyond having a baby or having it terminated" doesn't help someone who needs an abortion *right now* and will not be able to have one if a certain piece of legislature gets passed, hence the common focus on legislation.

  29. Hmmm... perhaps because I'm coming from a different viewpoint, but I've never seen abortion as a whole other conversation from a more holistic view of caring for women's rights. Abortion is part of the conversation. Perhaps, again, it's the company I keep, but to speak about the freedom to abortion is also to include in discussions of access to a lot of other things besides the operation.

    This isn't even a "whole other conversation" when the discussion is limited to legal abortion and abortion access. Class (and race and geography and age and marital status and many other things) limit that, too. It's one reason access has become so restricted in law and practice: there's a certain class of people who will never have to worry about accessing abortion for themselves or their female relatives. So they don't care--may even be glad to see--when abortion is taken away from other women. When we make these other factors invisible, we allow anti-choicers to claim that they haven't, in fact, made abortion virtually impossible for large swaths of the American population.

  30. I was just reading another blog by a WOC, which is private so I can't link, but she talked about how her children were ALL SHE HAD IN THE WORLD... no money (she posts on her blog at work, one reason it is private), no education, no partner, etc. Her children give her joy. Child-rearing is the only way she feels creative in her life.

    THIS is also a pro-life/pro-choice issue, that so many poor women feel this way. There can be no real choices for childbearing when so many women feel if they do not have children, what will they have? Who will take care of them?

    These issues just seem so obviously framed by folks who never have to worry about that kind of stuff... they regard childbearing as only one of many interesting choices they have.

    This woman I describe sees childbearing as the only good thing in her life.

    And how is THAT a "choice"?

  31. That makes sense to me. I see it as a both/and situation. It is necessary both to secure the legal rights and access to services (abortion, birth control, etc.) and to create a world in which decisions about reproduction are truly free - uncoerced and unaffected by poverty, lack of education, inequality, or any other injustice. Framing things as either/or misses the point: we won't be truly free until we have both

  32. Magniloquence--just FYI, I wasn't the commenter who said "If you can't control your fertility, you can't control anything else in your life." I have a hassle with the comment ID thingy on blogspot, so I sign my name at the bottom of my anon posts (and if I forget, I post with a note that such-and-such a comment was from me).


  33. I agree with Magniloquence - until women have the power (economic) and education to make the choice, they cannot truly choose anything - they are often coerced by outside forces.
    But it does no good to bury one's head in the sand and let the option of choice be swallowed up by religious fanatics. Choice must always remain an option - not force, but free will.

  34. Yikes! Sorry Sheelzebub. I thought that didn't sound like you. That's what I get for commenting while dashing out the door.

  35. Hi Lisa! I've been thinking about what you said here, and my 2 cents would be that it's important for the pro-choice side to remain holistic and grow more and more in that direction.

    Both locally and internationally, it is the pro-choice activists who have a fuller, more realistic, more practical and, I would argue, more sensitive approach to women's health and the value of women's lives.

    I know a lot of people on the opposite side who make use of pretty words quite well - "life" "honour" "beauty" "motherhood" - but at best, their work is hopelessly naive. Of course, there are exceptions.

  36. Anonymous10:12 AM

    Hi - I was the anon who posted "if you don't control your fertility you can't control anything else in your life." I didn't write that because I believe it is the ONLY truth about women's lives, but because it is ONE truth among many, and it is the one that I think explains why so many women are so passionately dedicated to preserving their right to birth control and abortion. The idea that the state, or a man, or a religion, could force you to bear a child against your will causes a deep, profound reaction of rebellion, repulsion, and fear in many women. I believe this *feeling* is what drives the focus on abortion rights as a way of asserting control over their bodies in the face of this fear of captivity.

    But the confusing thing to me about this argument is thatabortion/birth control rights are perfectly compatible with the goals of broader social-economic justice -- unless you believe that abortion and birth control are contrary to social justice. I guess you could say that the focus on abortion rights prevents us from forming political coalitions with those sectors that are also in favor of social justice (e.g. Catholics). This is the whole "common ground" debate. But the problem is that the anti-abortion, pro-social justice sectors are not really willing to accept a cease fire. Their focus on social justice is viewed through the lense of reducing abortion (see, Alexia Kelly) NOT through the lens of helping women.

  37. I think it's simply completely impossible to reduce an issue that has as many facets and ramifications as there are women faced with it.

    Personally, I think free abortions should be unquestioningly available to all women at all times, whenever they want one, I think you can't choose to believe in abortion or not insofar as abortion exists (it comes into existence as soon as you have pregnancy) and has to be dealt with. However this view is not part of how I identify, and I'm finding it a little disturbing, if I may say so, that some people's first reaction is to demand that Lisa reveal her identity - if she is a pro-abortion or anti-abortion person -, in this matter, before they can engage with the rest of the ideas she is presenting here.

    La Lubu,

    "If you can't control your fertility, you can't control anything else in your life."

    You know, I've heard this my entire life and it is so meaningless to me. What if you can control your fertility? Does that give you any more job security? Does it give you access to healthcare? Does it keep a roof over your head and the utilities on? No?

    What you are saying rings very true to me. Also, someone else mentioned financial constraints around carrying a pregnancy to term. Well, my first reaction is to think that I couldn't afford to carry a pregnancy to term - if I got pregnant now, I'd get the abortion, there's no other option for me. Then again, in a way, I am in a privileged position if that's how I react, in terms of my upbringing - most women who have what I have would think, never mind, I've got a roof, I've got a partner, I'm pregnant, I'll have the child. There are as many views as there are different situations. I don't think the concept of "choice", or of "control" is useful here at all, mainly because those things - even for the most privileged of women - are often illusory.

    A while ago (but after my own brush with the pro-choice movement) a friend of mine talked about when she went to a large abortion rights organisation as part of a group to try and get them to broaden their approach to reproductive justice as a whole. They got heckled and told in no uncertain terms to shut up.

    That's because the debate often centres around identity - whether you're the type of person who is pro-abortion, or the type of person who would oppose abortion. Reading pro-choice literature, sometimes it feels like they're doing little more than drawing evil mustaches on the anti-abortionists. It's always that slightly fascist demand to know who people are, see their card.

    But when really addressing the problem of reproductive justice, you can't reduce it to a simple question of identity, so it's a lot less attractive. I mean, there's so much else involved in reproductive "choice", there's whether you get to abort or not, but there's also whether your social worker or your neighbours think you're the type of person who has too many kids, there's enforced sterilisation, eugenics... even saying that all women should have the option to have children before abortion becomes a possible choice, is an oversimplification. What about women who are sterile because of disease, or because they worked on plantations with pesticides, or grew up in a toxic environment? What about the contrast with articles about powerful mothers (white, upper middle-class or aristocratic) who have fantastic broods of kids?

    I'm sure we could all think of examples of women faced with a reproductive choice and their situations would all be different. Often, their situations are made infinitely worse by various people wanting to figure out what kind of person they are before they can even interact with them.

    I got told I "gave comfort to anti-choicers" just because I don't hate anti-abortionists, which is very mild compared to Lisa being spat on. And the guy made it very easy for me to put a rocket up his butt. Still - makes it easy to see where the real work isn't being done, I guess.

  38. How is merely saying the words, "I want to spit on you," substantially different than saying, "I hope you burn in hell," or "All you baby murdering whores should die," or on and on down the list of terrible things I've heard said to or about demonstrators who actually give a damn about *women* and not just or primarily about their precious fetal cargo?


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