Posted by: *carrie* | April 29, 2010

It’s Not My Issue…. And Why It Should Be

Depending on where you get your news, you may or may not have heard about Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Florida working on anti-choice laws to make it more difficult for women to have access to safe abortions.

[If you haven’t read or heard about these laws, here are links for Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Florida]

I’m now going to backtrack several years. When I was growing up, in a moderately conservative, Protestant household, we were “pro-life”. I, as a result of being in this family, was sort-of “pro-life” by default, not because I ever actually thought about it at all. I also had the advantage of being in school at a time when sex education was taught in a non judgemental environment, and while it wasn’t the best sex ed ever, it was pretty thorough. So I felt pretty secure in my options to prevent pregnancy, which even as a 15 year old who didn’t pay much attention to the pro-choice debate, seemed like the best way to reduce abortions. But abortion wasn’t my issue. I didn’t see how it affected me.

I got to college (w00t finally!) and ended up with some friends who were active in our campus’ NOW chapter. I considered joining once or twice, because I’ve always identified as a feminist. But most of their events seemed to center around abortion. By this time, after a few conversations with some pro-choicers (who had some excellent things to say about why they were pro-choice), I had switched sides and was pro-choice myself. I felt there were other important things to do as a feminist group, and fighting for pro-choice constantly, in a post-Roe v Wade world, seemed unnecessary to me. Abortion wasn’t my issue.

So fast-forward to present day. I’ve always identified as Feminist (yes, with a capital F) and have recently become more and more involved with the movement and politics of being a Feminist. It didn’t really take very much for me to start to understand why this pro-choice movement still exists, why it uses so many resources.

Women’s choice is under attack constantly. It’s not about “saving the babies”. It’s about controlling women by controlling their bodies. It’s about not trusting them to make the right decisions. It’s about controlling teens and young adults, by not educating them properly on birth control (and STD/STI prevention). It’s about punishing people for perceived evils. It’s also about keeping women focused on this one issue (which should have been done and over with, but isn’t) and preventing women from focusing on additional issues.

The Ms. blog recently had a post titled The 10 Worst Abortion Myths – and How to Refute Them. They point out that some states already have abortion bans on their books – waiting on the moment that Roe v Wade is overturned.

The three states I listed: Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Florida, are working on their anti-choice legislation in light of the recent health care overhaul. But also because making abortions difficult to get is considered a “win” for the anti-choice movement.

The laws all require women to view an ultrasound before seeking an abortion. This is because anti-choicers and the patriarchy think women don’t understand what a fetus is, I guess. They want to try and sway you (since you’re a woman you must be easily swayed by emotions, right?). In Oklahoma, at least, the law also protects doctors who choose to lie about any potential health issues that may cause the mother to consider an abortion. The doctor can say anything, can blatantly lie to the woman (or girl), and they will be protected. Even if the baby could kill the mom. Even if the baby is going to have a disease that will kill it within a week of being born. So much for the Hippocratic Oath.

Anti-choice is about controlling women and treating them as if they are incapable of making informed decisions that are best for themselves (and, when applicable, their families).

A lot of anti-choice people will allow exceptions: “abortion is okay if the mother’s life is at risk” or “if she was raped”. What they’re saying is that even they understand that sometimes abortion is really the best option – they just want to be the ones to dictate what those circumstances are. Even if we use a very conservative estimate of 1 in 20 women being raped (most studies place it between 1 in 4 to 1 in 7 women) we have an unacceptable amount of women being raped, and potentially becoming pregnant as a result. I have never been sexually assaulted. Until I started reading about rape, I had no idea it was such a widespread occurrence. I didn’t know the statistics, which contributed to my thinking “It won’t happen to me”. Which contributed to abortion not being my issue.

For a long time, abortion simply wasn’t my issue. I was pro-choice. I thought about it when I voted (I’ve never voted for anti-choice politicians). I’ve championed other womens’ rights causes, I’ve worked for international justice, I’ve volunteered for environmental causes. I have access to healthcare, and various forms of safe birth control, and knowledge on how to use that birth control, and even have an abortion clinic within 50 miles. I never expect to need or want an abortion. So I never saw how abortion, how access to it, affected me.

I now understand anti-choice is about the patriarchy trying to continue its hold on women and their lives and bodies. I understand that, yes, we do need better and more education. I understand that, due in part to my own apathy in the past, anti-choice has been slowly chipping away at my rights. What if I had joined that NOW chapter and learned all of this years ago? What impact would I have made then?

Abortion is now one of my issues. It should have been one of my issues all along.


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