Tag Archives: abortion

How a love of life can equal hating women, or, my issues with “pro-life” rhetoric

24 Aug

I posted this status:

Anti-choice legislation doesn’t do anything for anyone. It creates a larger burden for women who already have the least amount of access to reproductive health options. It takes away options for family planning and then blames women for the consequences. It pretends to care about fetuses as it comes from the same people who are cutting funding for education and refuse to talk childcare. It is oppression and it is sexism and it is woman-hating. Plain and simple.

In response to reading this article:

Planned Parenthood vs. the States: The Legal Battles Rage

And someone commented with:

Explain to me how love of life equals to hate of women.

I thought that my argument was outlined pretty well in my status, but then I took another look and decided to try to tease all of my thoughts out. Ta-da! Short new blog post.

My issue is assuming that these bills come from a “love of life.” I don’t see how they express anything close to that. Yes, they seem to be deeply invested in a bag of cells developing to birth within every uterus ever, but I don’t call that a “love of life.” I think to claim you “love life,” you have to be honest about what kind of lives you love. The anti-choice movement values the “life” of the fetus (and I say “fetus” because they don’t push nearly as much legislation that would guarantee support for the fetus after birth, and as a matter of fact they demonize such laws as “entitlement programs” for the “takers” and “moochers” and are currently taking funding away from public schools like it is their job), and that is where it ends. They have no love for the life of the woman, and if they do, it is a very patronizing kind of love that assumes they know how that woman can have her best life. They also seem to be fine with the lives of poor women, rural women, and women of color being further marginalized through lack of access, because those are the groups of women that are most directly impacted by this legislation.

I don’t think that a “love of life,” in an honest definition of the phrase, would be equal to hate of women. But this is not actually love of life.

What it is is pushing a patriarchal set of beliefs drawn from right-wing Christianity onto an entire population of people who have the capacity to give birth. It is expecting that all people with uteri should conform to your idea of a life deserving of love, and those deserving lives do not include the vast majority of people. That “love of life” is conditional. You love the life of the person if they avoid having sex before they want to procreate so that they will only ever have children that are wanted. You love the life of the person who can provide for that child adequately so they don’t have to rely on welfare or adequate public schooling. You love the life of a woman who is defined only in reference to the full use of her reproductive capacity.

I don’t know about y’all, but I would not call that “love of life.” I would call that prejudice and marginalization through laws. And that is some sexist, misogynist, classist, and racist BULL. SHIT.

[Side note: I realize that I use the word “woman” here quite often, though I tried to also use phrases to include all gender-identifying people who have the capacity to give birth. Anti-choice legislation does not just affect those who identify as “women.” This legislation is oppressive to all people, and specifically to those uterus-having people who run the risk of getting pregnant in our society. I apologize for any cisgendered bias that ended up in this post.]

**UPDATE!**

So, after someone responding to the above blogginess as akin in rhetoric to Ann Coulter and Michelle Bachmann, I responded with this, which I though would be a good addition to round out this post as well:

I really have to disagree with you on associating “anti-choice” with “anti-life.” When I wrote the first part of this blog, I was absolutely in a state of feminist rage. The resulting explanation of my issues with the word “life” in association with any of the family-planning related legislation was certainly more of a “preaching to the choir” move than an attempt to appeal to people who do not see the world the way I do. That is certainly true. However, I stopped using the term “pro-life” a long time ago. To me, it represents the same kind of misleading rhetoric that the “Crisis Pregnancy Centers” do. “Pro-life” inherently demonizes everything else. As I pointed out in my rant on my blog, I find it difficult to accept “pro-life” as the name of a movement that only cares about the life of an unborn child. I say that because the policies reflect this: restrictive policies don’t actually increase the health of the mother nor does having an unwanted baby necessarily improve the life quality of the person giving birth. Further, these laws are never brought up at the same time as laws that would guarantee that every child born has adequate food, housing, education, and support. As a matter of fact, the party supporting this legislation consistently demonizes mothers on welfare and is currently stripping funding from education.

Of course, not all people who identify as personally “pro-life” support this legislation. I know plenty of people who identify as feminists but are “pro-life” when it comes to their own reproductive choices. I am talking about the political movement taking form in hundreds of bills pushing to restrict women’s access to reproductive health. For the reasons I’ve listed above, and for so many more reasons that I don’t have the space to share here (including the fact that if the “pro-life” goal were achieved and abortion was made illegal, we would go back to the time when women died of illegal and self-performed abortions) I will not support this rhetoric of misrepresentation that creates knowledge where women’s access to control of their reproductive lives is associated with being against “life.” I refuse to give any support to this discourse that is directly responsible for laws that restrict all people with the capacity to get pregnant.

In my work on analyzing discourse, I found an explanation of “common sense” and “taken-for-granteds” as tools that the powerful use to influence the powerless. Using “pro-life” to describe a movement that continually strips women’s abilities to control their own lives through legislative action is one of these “taken-for-granteds” that now fully permeates our culture. I refuse to accept these policies and this political agenda as having any real investment in life, and so, it is a political, critical, and feminist stance that I take when I call this movement “anti-choice.”

Ann Coulter makes statements that are racist, classist, sexist, ableist, and misogynist and full of shock value to defend patriarchal ideological beliefs. Michelle Bachmann consistently uses information that are, in fact, non-facts to support her arguments, which also fit under what I would call patriarchal legislation.

As a person who has a uterus, I am affected by the legislation that comes out of this movement. As someone who refuses to fit into patriarchal expectations of my sexuality and reproductive health, I am one of the demonized by this rhetoric of “life.” Comparing my choice to call this movement “anti-choice” in order to show the sexist and misleading nature of the term “pro-life” with the misogynist and utterly horrifying rhetoric of Michelle Bachmann and Ann Coulter is offensive and completely misses the point. Further, it erases the hierarchies of power and institutionalized oppression that separate me, a woman, from the powerful political movement that represses my reproductive rights and my access to equality through the erasure of those rights.It assumes all things are equal and somehow innocent of demonizing discourse in their existing state of “pro-life” “pro-choice,” when nothing could be further from the truth.

And that, as they say, is that! Good night all!

Life Post-Rapture

21 May

The internets have been all a-twitter with the news of the upcoming rapture, and by golly it is here! Today is the day! Sell your possessions! Quit your job! Donate all of your money to charity (or broke graduate students… hint, hint). Make sure you find your pet a new home, and say a little prayer for all the blasphemers out there who doubted that the day had come.

In all seriousness, this rapture has been everywhere! From New York City subways to Madison Wisconsin, the believers in the rapture have been working really hard to make sure everyone knows it’s coming. I appreciate that, I like to have a little forwarning when the shiznat is about to hit the fan of revelation. I’ve also been enjoying the advice of Best Roof Talk Ever as they count down the days to the rapture and help me understand what it coming.

In these wee small hours of the rapture morning, a friend asked me what I planned to do when I was left behind without my family. I had a few responses that I didn’t even realize existed, and they gave me pause.

1. I wouldn’t actually be alone, because most of my friends and a good chunk of my family would be here, too, so it wouldn’t be so bad. Plus, I’d pretty much know my grandmother was in heaven, instead of trying to sleep on a painful hip. That seems like a pretty big improvement. Although it would be too bad that my great aunt just spent all that money getting lasik, not that it would matter, once she was with Jesus.

2. I would open my bakery. My three co-founders consist of an atheist, a pagan methodist and her husband, so I’m pretty sure we’ll all still be around and maybe we can luck out and inherit the money to start a new business from a distant relative, or something. Plus, with all the people gone, the unemployment rate is bound to drop since there will be so many job openings. Hell, the rapture may just be the answer to the recession. The newly revived job market will be the perfect environment to start Mo’ Butter Less Problems, our bakery where every treat is named after a literary character. Some months will even have themes! July will be Harry Potter, and October reserved for vampires (but not, obviously, those stupid twilight books). If you’re still around after the rapture, you should look us up in about six months. That’s Mo’ Butter, Less Problems. Perhaps our tagline could be “Making Life After Rapture Sweet!” or, “Life after the rapture sure tastes sweet!” I see plenty of possibilities.

3. Revel in the new political, social, and spiritual American landscape. I try to imagine the country without right-wing Christian tea-party-ers, evangelicals, and political conservatives, and a tear of happiness springs to my eye. I would start community organizing to make sure Texas went back to being blue, now that the Bible belt was rid of a majority of its residents. I would encourage multiple parties to bring more diversity into local, state, and national elections, now that the people who kept trampling all OVER my rights were happily situated with Jesus. I would start compiling a list for Barack Obama, who I’m pretty sure would still be hanging out, full of suggestions for nominations to the newly-opened seats on the Supreme Court. All of my suggestions, of course, would be progressive, pro-choice nominees. I would be a part of a wave of taking back our reproductive freedoms, as states like South Dakota and Mississippi increased the number of clinics offering family planning and abortion services to a number able to serve the entire state community without causing undue hardship on any population within their borders. I would encourage young women to take over the property space of Crisis Pregnancy Centers in their neighborhoods and turn them into environments for positive conversations about being a young woman in this new American society, and I would tell them explicitly that the future was, actually, theirs to shape.

I know that this rapture is a really fringe kind of thing, and so most of the things I talk about here are pretty ridiculous to base on this one seriously unfounded marginal idea. But the thing that really struck me was how big my dreams kept getting when I thought about what could be. A professor once told me that there can be no change if we aren’t brave enough to envision the kind of future we want for whatever cause it is we’re currently fighting for. It’s strange, but the rapture has allowed me to start to envision the kind of world I want for myself, my family, and my friends, and I hope I can carry that kind of strength in vision and optimism forward into the far harsher reality of our current situation in the country and around the world.

And I just wonder… what would you do?

-me

So you want to be “pro-life”

20 Feb

Do you?

I need to throw this disclaimer out there to anyone who is reading this: I am so, incredibly, totally pissed.

When I was in high school, my friends and I decided to do a history fair project on Roe v. Wade. Up until that day, I had very specific beliefs about abortion. I was a practicing Methodist who was very involved in the church, and that had a lot to do with it. Plus, I was a little self-righteous middle class white teenage girl who thought she knew absolutely everything. I believed that abortion should only be legal in cases of rape, incest, or medical necessity, because I honestly believed that you should only have sex if you were ready to deal with the consequences. Obviously, I didn’t get out much. Then we went and interviewed Sarah Weddington, the lawyer who argued Roe v. Wade, and my entire perspective on abortion changed.

The truth, that I did not honestly know, is that before abortion was legal, women got abortions anyways. And they didn’t always survive. The OB/GYNs and the emergency room physicians told Weddington that women showed up at hospitals every day infected, hurting, and dying from illegal abortions. Some illegal abortion providers sexually assaulted the women they came to help. Some women took pills full of toxic chemicals, or shoved knitting needles and hangars up their vaginas in order to end their pregnancies. Some women, like a girl named Sophie that Sarah told us about, were able to procure safe illegal abortions, but then, because those providing them were not always trained doctors, were given false and misleading aftercare information that led to infections and, in Sophie’s case, death. After learning the lengths that women would go to, even my relatively conservative Christian morals could not stand in the way of my concern for women’s lives.

Now, my opinions have changed. I do not believe that anyone should be denied the right to any family planning services, including abortion. I am a self-identifying sex positive pro-choice feminist, and I would not have it any other way. I don’t think sex is just for procreation. If it was, relationships, and life, would be much less fun. Also, I don’t believe that abortion has to be a life-altering decision, or one that is emotionally devastating. I validate and affirm all experiences of women who have abortions, and I have no expectations of how they will or should feel. It is their own personal decision, and that is how it should stay.

Since the conservative Republican majority has taken over, there have been multiple assaults at state and national levels against women’s rights to choose. Of course, these assaults, especially the recent vote in the house to defund Title X and, therefore, Planned Parenthood, are not only on abortion services. It is a valid point to bring up the plethora of other services that Planned Parenthood provides in cities across the country to the poorer citizens in those communities. These include HIV testing, breast cancer screenings, and annual pap smears, to name only a small few. You can check out the Planned Parenthood website for more information on the wide variety of reproductive health services they provide.

But, you know what? There is a reason that none of the republicans are standing up in Congress saying, “We don’t want to fund breast cancer screenings!” You want to know why? Because this is not about all of those other services. This is specifically about abortion. So I’m taking them to the mat. I refuse to tip toe around this issue. I believe it is my right to have access to safe and legal abortions and to have health insurance that allows me to pay for them, whether that is private or state funded. I don’t care if you are Catholic or some other form of conservative and you think that this little sack of cells is more important than my life and my decisions. I simply don’t care. I will not force you to abort your fetus or to take birth control if those don’t fit into your life plans, so why do you feel that you have the right to make those decisions for my life? The thing is, you don’t. And for far too long we have been too afraid of the controversy to come out and say these kinds of things. We have hidden behind things like Obama’s statment, “No-one is pro-abortion,” and arguments that shy away from coming face to face with the anti-choice rhetoric that focuses on the rights of the fetus. So here I am, telling all of you anti-choicers out there, I am pro-abortion. I am pro women having access to every level of family planning that allows them to live their lives as they see fit. Further, I believe that women have the capacity to make that choice. Yes, all women. I am not going to take back that statement. For too long we have let things like 24 hour waiting policies and mandatory sonograms slide because we are afraid of the public reaction to our views. I am not afraid anymore. I can see that the writing is, in fact, on the wall and that they anti-life people have left behind any attempts they ever made to be objective. If they aren’t being objective, why do I have to be? Your policies don’t have anything to do with protecting women. As a matter of fact, they put women at risk. By limiting the funding available for places like Planned Parenthood and the ability of women with health insurance through the government to have their abortions covered, the women who are most directly impacted are already poor. Do you really think the best idea is to force, through your legislation that implies that you do not trust women’s abilities to make this decision, these women to have an even greater financial burden? Why is a fetus so much more important than a child? I don’t see you rushing out to implement national child care. As soon as that fetus hits air and becomes a living, breathing, being, your lobbying no longer protects her. The idea of a 24 hour waiting period is offensive and preposterous. Are you implying that the woman making this decision didn’t already spend 24 hours thinking about this decision? Further, you assume that all women have the ability to take 24 hours after getting to a clinic to wait to have an abortion. Again, this puts the burden on poor women and women in rural areas; two realities that all too often coincide.

I respect your right to make decisions regarding your own body, but my respect stops there.

When I called my father on Friday in a tizzy because the House had just passed the bill to defund Title X, he told me that it was “just politics” and that people had “voted for these representatives.” This was infuriating for multiple reasons. I did not vote for any of these people, which was the first. Second, this is not just politics. None of this is “just politics.” Politics are never “just politics.” I also had this feeling that I could not articulate at the time, that if he had a uterus, he would not have been telling me to calm down. “Entitlement programs,” he told me, “are always the first to go.” Maybe that is the recent historical reality, but that doesn’t mean I have to let it happen without a fight.

I am throwing down the gauntlet and pointing the blame at everyone who voted in this conservative House. Hopefully the Senate will stop this bill. I already called the offices of both of my senators and have their aids a piece of my mind. But, just because the bill stops doesn’t mean the fight is over. This passing in the House should be a wake-up call to everyone who has been blissfully unaware of the precarity of our rights to reproductive justice in this country. It isn’t time to sit back and watch politics play out, like my father suggested. It’s time to take notice and demand that the voices of a few self-righteous fundamentalist Christians aren’t the only ones being heard.

Be on the lookout for deeper policy analysis coming out of this blog in the next few weeks.

There is a rally in NYC at Foley Square on the 26th of February in support of Planned Parenthood and against all of this ridiculous anti-choice legislation. It is from 1-3. You should be there.

-me

What! It’s Blog For Choice Day! You don’t say!

21 Jan

i like blogging. i like choice. way to go, NARAL, putting them together!

Well, hello y’all! All righty. Let’s just dive in, shall we? Today is Blog for Choice Day, as feministing.com alerted me in the fleeting last minutes of my afternoon at work. “But, why today?” you might ask, and that is a relatively understandable question. Tomorrow is the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, lovely readers, and that is why today is BFCD.

I know, I know, the a-word isn’t something people generally bring up in polite company, but let’s be frank. I stopped paying attention to socially-enforced norms of politeness about three years ago, and so far so good. I do acknowledge the complexity of this issue, but only culturally. Let me explain. In other developed countries, and in the time before Roe v. Wade, abortion was not the a-word. It’s just something women sometimes have to do, and that is how it was treated. (For first-hand accounts of this, you should definitely check out Jennifer Baumgardner’s work in I Had An Abortion, also available in book form and as a t-shirt). For a fictional, but still incredibly honest, look at abortion across generations, you can check out Cher’s incredible film If These Walls Could Talk. (Just be sure you have a hanky, because the three main characters are making incredibly difficult life decisions.) My point is that in the contemporary American political landscape, the movement many refer to as “pro-life” (but I prefer to call “anti-choice”) wasn’t organized and visible in the way we see it now until after Roe v. Wade was passed in 1973. So, I accept that our political landscape has created a controversial topic out of what was, once, just something women sometimes had to do, and in observance of that I acknowledge that some readers will still see this topic as something incredibly polarizing and about everything but the everyday realities of women’s lives and their ability to make decisions about their bodies.

See, this is the part of the conversation that gets lost in the rapid-fire political arena, where talking heads try to address philosophical, political, and economic issues about abortion while completely silencing the voices of the women who are actually experiencing the reality of abortion in their lives. Why is that, I wonder? I hate to fall back on the “damn the patriarchy!” trope, but when something that is, at its base, a question of the ability of women to make their own choices about their bodies, doesn’t the “damn the patriarchy!” argument seem to hold a little more water?

I know many people who are personally “pro-life” because of their own experiences and history or because of religious beliefs, and I encourage them to have their own opinions and to make their own decisions about their lives. Just because I have the right to do something, doesn’t necessarily mean that I will do it if it is in opposition to my own beliefs. However, in a country as multifaceted and varied as ours, attempting to change women’s access to abortion based on the conservative religious views of only one group of people seems completely irresponsible, wrong, and morally imperialist.

Are any of you familiar with this symbol?

no more coat hangers!

If yes, then you already know the answer to my “what do you think it means?” question. Some people are familiar enough with it to know it has something to do with the women’s movement. Others are so far removed from the realities that caused this to become a symbol they have made such assumptions as, “what do they have against wire hangers?” Here’s the skinny, folks. When abortion was not legal, women had them anyway. To assume that just by reducing access through legislation one will stop women from having abortions completely disregards the reality of women before Roe v. Wade was passed. Women were having unhygienic operations, sometimes on their kitchen tables, meeting men who did, on occasion, assault them as part of the procedure in order to procure abortions. One self-remedy, along with dangerous and life-threatening herbal remedies, was to use a wire hanger. I’ll leave it to you to determine how that worked. Just think about it for a second, it will come to you. Women were coming into emergency wings at hospitals daily, suffering from infections and other complications due to the unsanitary and unregulated nature of abortion pre-Roe. Women were, quite literally, dying to have abortions. This is in America, a “developed” nation, and only forty years ago.

After W made nominations to the Supreme Court, the concept of overturning Roe v. Wade received a lot of airtime, both from pro- and anti- choice camps. Jennifer Baumgardner makes an incredibly astute observation, as she points out that a country without legal access to abortion would not be all that different from the reality of many women today. There has been so much legislation passed to reduce access to abortion services, and the political climate in many states has reduced clinics providing the procedure to, in some cases, only one in the entire state. This, combined with such policies as the 24-hour waiting period, creates what adds up to be, realistically, a country where women do not have access to abortions.

There is a new law that the GOP plans to bring into the House in the new session, HR-3, or the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.” Not only do I find this preposterous and offensive, but I’m also a little confused about the idea that we can choose where our tax dollars go according to our own religious and moral beliefs. For example, can I, a crazy feminazi, earmark all of my taxes to only support abortion services and comprehensive sex education? I also wonder how the GOP would feel about a “No Taxpayer Funding for War Act,” which I think would receive just as much moral support, though perhaps, since it isn’t just effecting a “special interest group,” people would find it less realistic.

I realize this post may have been a little all over the place, but it was my attempt at blogging for choice. I am a firm believer that women are fully capable of making decisions, even ones as heavy as accepting, and using, our control as the ones with the uteri over life. I don’t think that this decision is necessarily an easy one, but I also do not find fault with the women for whom it was not difficult. Abortion is a personal, not public, decision, as ruled by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade, and I regard it as such. I do not believe in limiting access to or funding for abortion, because history has shown us how dire the consequences can be. I would never, ever force someone to abort their fetus, but I demand that same respect should I or anyone else decide not to carry that little sack of cells to term. I am pro-choice, and I’m proud to be.

In Sisterhood and Solidarity,

me