This was originally published on OpinYoung on September 5, 2016.
“No woman can call herself free who does not control her own body.” – Margaret Sanger
The free reign of rape apologists and anti-abortion activists (often synonymous)– is a topic we ought to scrupulously dissect. However, in a country as embedded with deep-seated fear of the potential “dangers” intrinsic to women possessing autonomy over their bodies, we allow these “activists” to actively thwart gender equality without much action on our pro-choice part. There exist numerous legislative acts aiming to protect the unborn, the fetuses, “The Right to Life.” There are a very scarce and scattered amount of such effectual acts in place to protect the rights of the woman herself (or any human in possession of a functioning uterus).
I am, as one might interpret from my obnoxious liberalism and feminist ramblings, unwaveringly pro-choice. I feel a deep strangeness at even having to declare that. I believe in reproductive justice, and I would go even farther in my “radical” opinion that abortion is not only a fundamental human right, but more so, an act of social good. I did not develop this concept in a solitary thinking; I have been influenced by a number of feminist activists, and I find an undercurrent of frustration even within our own pro-choice movement- the recurring thought that although we preach about our advocacy of pro-choice policies, we often do so in a way that is unconsciously stigmatizing abortion more.
In Katha Pollitt’s excellent and highly acclaimed book Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rightsshe says, “A man’s home is his castle, but a woman’s body has never been wholly her own. Historically, it’s belonged to her nation, her community, her father, her family, her husband—in 1973, when Roe was decided, marital rape was legal in every state. Why shouldn’t her body belong to a fertilized egg as well?”
Pro is, refreshingly, an unabashed and intellectually provocative argument for abortion rights, and I encourage every person to read it- particularly those, as Pollitt puts it, in the “muddled middle” when it comes to the topic of abortion. Pollitt expertly connects the fear of female empowerment, and the consequent societal paradigm shift, to the underlying stigma of the frightful A word. Furthermore, she makes the connection, as many others have, between rape culture and reproductive rights (or our lack thereof).
To begin, let’s talk about this whole messy, odd, grey area-concept of what anti-abortion activists like to call “personhood.” Personhood, most of these people believe, exists directly at conception, and thus, such persons immediately are entitled to as many rights as a fully formed, conscious person is. This may seem rational and not too inane, yet if you take a deeper look into this concept, holes begin to show up in its flimsy fabric. If personhood starts at conception, why do we not protect all zygotes, then? Why do we not protect every portion of potential personhood, no matter how minute? The thing is, even if one does consider a fetus a human being, it is unlike any other “human being” in the undeniable fact that it is completely dependent upon its mother’s body for survival. No other type of “human being” is in this state of drastic dependency.
As said by Margo Kaplan in a piece for the Washington Post, “The disparity between how the law treats abortion patients and IVF patients reveals an ugly truth about abortion restrictions: that they are often less about protecting life than about controlling women’s bodies. Both IVF and abortion involve the destruction of fertilized eggs that could potentially develop into people. But only abortion concerns women who have had sex that they don’t want to lead to childbirth. Abortion restrictions use unwanted pregnancy as a punishment for “irresponsible sex” and remind women of the consequences of being unchaste: If you didn’t want to endure a mandatory vaginal ultrasound, you shouldn’t have had sex in the first place.”
An enormous number of fertility clinics exist in the United States, most of which provide IVF. Most patients of IVF produce a huge number of embryos, much larger than the number they will actually ever use for reproduction. If said embryos go unused, these clinics will often “dispose of them and donate them to scientific research.” If anti-abortion activists are truly “pro-life,” there should logically exist a persistent uproar over this common practice. After all, the potential for human life and personhood undoubtedly exists in these discarded embryos, so where are the protesters waiting to harass women in the process of receiving IVF? Why are fertility clinics not utterly demonized and hated by these same activist groups?
In Gary Gutting’s piece “On Abortion and Defining a Person” for the New York Times, he says, “Why think that implantation confers personhood? The only plausible reason seems to be that an implanted egg is on a natural path that will, if all goes well, lead to a full-term birth. But the same is true of a fertilized egg. So it’s hard to see that the potential to develop into a newborn morally differentiates a fertilized egg before and a fertilized egg after implantation.”
Gutting lays open the fundamental logic between common anti-abortion arguments, and asks, “The DNA criterion seems to be the only criterion of being human that applies at every stage from conception to birth. If we agree that it does not apply at the earliest stages of gestation, there is no basis for claiming that every abortion is the killing of an innocent human person.”
This is an insightful point. Is this so-called “personhood” formally inaugurated at the moment an embryo possesses human DNA? If so, that scientifically dictates that every egg, no matter if implanted, and fertilized, is inherently entitled to the comprehensive list of human rights every fully developed human being is entitled to. This is interesting, and clearly unconsidered by the majority of anti-abortion proponents, due to the blatant illogic of it.
Should women, then, be punished for having miscarriages? Let’s take it a step farther. Should women be punished for not giving life to each and every egg- should the eggs we release during our menstrual cycles be valued as people, too? Why is an unfertilized egg less person-y than a fertilized one? Why do we not spend millions of dollars preserving all embryos and starting an #AllEmbryosMatter hashtags, then? If human DNA is equivalent to life, well, then, science ought to catch up as well, because in the field of biology, when human life begins is an incredibly complicated, controversial topic. There exists no widely accepted consensus on when personhood begins, so why do anti-abortion activists refer to this concept as if it were an unquestionable fact? Dare I say their research is not too thorough? There exists endless ambiguity and no clear line, not even an arbitrary one, for the definition of what a “person” or “life” is, and pretending otherwise is disingenuous and exploitative.
If every single zygote in existence (and then some) must be accounted for as a full human being, my god, the seemingly ludicrous logistics and semantics of this issue would cost unfathomable amounts and require enormous organizing. Arthur says, of this concept, “If anti-choicers want fetuses to share the same human rights as the rest of us, this means they should enjoy the constitutional freedoms of religion, speech, assembly, and other basic freedoms. Since fetuses are physically incapable of believing, speaking, or assembling, they cannot have or exercise any constitutional rights. This puts them in a totally different category than regular human beings. To give another example, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms says that “Every citizen of Canada has the right to enter, remain in and leave Canada.” Fetuses obviously cannot qualify for such a right on their own. Ironically, the Charter also says “Everyone has the right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned”— if fetuses did have rights, this would outlaw forced pregnancy!”
Anti-abortion activists like to throw around disheartening, dramatic phrases such as “personhood” and “unborn babies,” but not only are these words incorrectly unambiguous, but scientifically inane as well. A zygote (a fertilized ovum) has no nervous system; thus, no brain, no consciousness, no ability to feel or think for itself. The vast majority abortions take place before the third trimester, when this “personhood” would theoretically occur. Only 4 doctors in the United States openly perform third trimester abortions. In fact, only about 1% of all abortions performed in the U.S. are third trimester abortions. 90% of abortions are performed in the first trimester, when this consciousness does not exist.
As Arthur says in her essay on personhood, “Also, both a fertilized egg and a cloned cell represent a potential, not an actual human being.”
Science and anti-abortion arguments are not able to coexist. Fact is not even a mere afterthought in any anti-abortion stance I have heard from (primarily male, cisgendered) politicians- the sole reasoning given is a book and a higher power, and a religion many do not have any obligation to believe in. Yet supposedly the Republican Party represents everything that the Democrats apparently are not- like noninterference in citizens’ rights from the government. Yet why does the GOP preach the importance of noninterference from government in healthcare, education, the economy, corporate monopolies, but abruptly decide to wholly interfere in women’s decisions of what to do with their bodies? Apparently a corporation cannot be made to adhere to legislative regulations but women can be. There lies an insidious and rather nauseating pattern here, in this contradictory rhetoric, and that is the concept that women are less than human in their existence. We see this idea everywhere, whether we are aware of it or not, but here it becomes undeniable.
Politicians in the “pro-life camp” often undermine their own masked language, and make gaffes that reveal the true intent of their anti-abortion, anti-contraception beliefs. In 2014, Mike Huckabee said, “If the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of government then so be it! Let us take that discussion all across America because women are far more than the Democrats have played them to be,”
Hey, Mike Huckabee, did you know that not every woman has equal access to decent sexual education classes, probably due to your party’s highly ineffectual abstinence-only version of sex-ed? If we all had sexual education curriculum like the Netherlands or the UK, things would certainly be different, but we don’t. Similarly, not all contraception is 100% effective; every single form has a failure rate, even if used perfectly.
The amount of logic and basic human reasoning in his argument is- you guessed it- zero. First of all, Huckabee implies that women can somehow magically “control their reproductive systems.” Wow, I have female reproductive anatomy and I never even knew that I could do such a magical thing! Yet another unsurprising, miraculous, scientifically absurd argument from the GOP- side by side with Todd Atkin’s “legitimate rape” argument. Furthermore, painting women seeking birth control as sex-crazed, brainless creatures while simultaneously claiming that the Democrats are the ones who are sexist would have an amusing amount of irony if it weren’t so utterly terrifying. Also, do Huckabee and his Republican colleagues not know about sexual assault? About the fact that 1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetimes; that non-consensual sex (rape) isn’t exactly “preventable” by victims? Where is the corresponding demand of men to control their libidos and reproductive systems? Why are we not demonizing men for accessing vasectomies? Why are men not scolded for impregnating women? Men are not expected to take part in unwanted pregnancies they are a part of, they get a get-out-of-jail-free card due to the fact that the said pregnancy is not taking part in their body, and that, they’re men.
If Republicans were really anti-abortion and pro-life, rather than anti-woman, they’d fight tirelessly to reduce the horrifying statistic that 1 in 3 men would commit rape if they knew they could get away with it. They would fight the nauseating truth that 1 in 16 men are rapists in this country, and that, 32,101 pregnancies result from rape each year. They would say, hey, men, stop both having consensual sex and also sexually assaulting women so damn much; get your act together so we can prevent abortions.
Another thing is the hypocrisy. I am one of the first to point out the many flaws and hypocrisy apparent in even my own camp- the pro-choice field, yet the anti-abortion rhetoric is absurdly hypocritical. Republicans are big fans of the Constitution. The 2nd Amendment, too. The 2nd Amendment, despite its clear grammar and unambiguous language, is utilized as a defense for anti-gun control laws, and the Supreme Court decision to extend the 2nd Amendment to individuals is respected and utilized heavily as defense for their positions. Yet Roe v. Wade, which constitutionally guarantees every woman the right to an abortion, without an undue burden imposed upon her, on the basis of privacy (which is flawed in itself but that’s another story) is somehow ignored and made a mockery of. As Trevor Noah said of the GOP on this topic, “Human life only holds value until you take it out of the package, and then it’s worth nothing.”
Jeb Bush responded to the 45th school shooting in 2015, at Oregon Umpqua Community College, by saying, infamously, “Stuff happens.” He did not even provide a reasonable, even if anti-gun control, remedy for such “stuff.” If Bush and his Republican colleagues were as adamant about stopping these tragedies as they were about legislating female bodies, (and autonomy) can you imagine the endless scope of lives saved? Where is that pro-life spirit now, Mr. Bush?
Another common argument is that pregnant women wishing to obtain abortions are taking the “easy way out” or/and that they’d really like motherhood if they just tried it. However, 59% of women obtaining abortions are already mothers. These women know what motherhood is and still seek abortions in order to do what is right for them.
The consequences of unintended and unwanted pregnancies being carried to term are profound and often devastating for women. The renowned and recent Global Turnaway Study, conducted by researchers of UC San Francisco, found much highly enlightening and unprecedented information of how these pregnancies impact women. The study found that women who are turned away from abortion services yet seeking termination are three times more likely than the women who obtained abortions to fall below the poverty line in the following years, and only 48% of these women turned away from abortion services had a job. As said by the Gawker affiliate i09, “When a woman is denied the abortion she wants, she is statistically more likely to wind up unemployed, on public assistance, and below the poverty line. Another conclusion we could draw is that denying women abortions places more burden on the state because of these new mothers’ increased reliance on public assistance programs.”
Additionally, women unable to receive wanted abortions are more likely to stay with abusive partners. The psychological, emotional, and physical consequences of unwanted pregnancy are far more damaging than those of getting wanted abortions. The majority of women who have received abortions do not regret their choice. There is virtually no correlation between abortion and increased depression, or other mental disorders.
Meaning, women know what they want to do with their bodies, and are not thoughtless, emotional creatures unable to make well thought-out and informed decisions on their own. Meaning, their bodily autonomy belongs not to the government but to themselves.
Making abortion illegal does nothing but make safe abortions illegal. It does not decrease the number of abortions. Worldwide, 1 out of every four pregnant women will choose to have an abortion, and this number will not somehow magically decrease if abortions are made illegal or highly restricted, as they are now. 20 million of the 42 million abortions performed per year are unsafe. Women in need of an abortion, particularly low-income, marginalized women, will get an abortion. The difference is that their abortion will not be a safe one. According to Women on Waves, “Globally one in eight pregnancy-related deaths, an estimated 17%, are due to an unsafe abortion. Every 9 minutes a woman dies needlessly as a result of an unsafe illegal abortion.” Furthermore, they state, “Romania provides a unique case study of the factors that influence the use of unsafe abortion: in 1966 legal abortion was restricted and the abortion-related maternal mortality rate increased sharply, ten times higher than the average for the rest of Europe; in 1989 abortion was again made available on request and the number of maternal deaths fell sharply. By contrast the Netherlands has the lowest reported abortion rate Of the 29,266 abortions performed there in 1997, the complication rate for first trimester treatments was 0.3% with no resulting deaths whatsoever.”
Another thing I want to talk about is guns. Not guns themselves, but the accessibility (and need) of guns relative to the accessibility (and need) of abortions. In Alabama, as of 2011, there were 8 abortion clinics, while there are 859 gun dealerships there today; there is a 48 hour waiting period on abortion while there is no waiting period on purchasing a gun there. In Alaska, there are 9 abortion providers and 612 gun dealerships. Even in California, there are 512 abortion clinics and 2,209 gun dealerships (but we have a 10 day waiting period for all firearms). Since 2011, around 162 abortion clinics have closed due to Congressional restrictions, most with absolutely no scientific or legal precedent, (including the law being argued over in Whole Woman’s Health vs. Hellerstedt) many being proven unconstitutional. In 2014, a 72-hour waiting period bill was passed in Missouri that did not even allow exceptions in the cases of rape or incest. This kind of waiting period tells women, you are not clearheaded or competent or intelligent enough to make such a decision on your own; you will second-guess something you obviously have spent a lot of time considering, yet 28 states have these waiting periods. If you are a young, low-income woman who does not have the means to travel to one of the few abortion clinics in your state, and somehow get off of work/school, rent a hotel room for the waiting period, not have your safety compromised if you are the victim of rape/incest or are in an abusive relationship, then sorry, says the GOP, your constitutional right to an abortion is nonexistent. In other words, you can go induce your own unsafe, possibly life-threatening abortion- either way, you’re screwed, and it’s not our responsibility.
Until 1869, even the Catholic Church permitted abortion before movement of the fetus, and punishment for abortion after that year was mild, equivalent to a misdemeanor rather than an act as extreme and morally heinous as murder. As Joyce Arthur writes, “Another key difference is that a fetus doesn’t just depend on a woman’s body for survival, it actually resides inside her body. Human beings must, by definition, be separate individuals. They do not gain the status of human being by virtue of living inside the body of another human being—the very thought is inherently ridiculous, even offensive.”
As said simply by Chris Hallquist, “The fact that an embryo has human DNA does not prove it is a person, because human tissue samples have human DNA and human tissue samples are not people. .
Simply because one is an (uninvited) guest in one’s body is not unequivocal permission to stay, to reside, to utilize all of the resources of the host’s (the woman) body. This idea of a host and a guest in reference to a woman and a fetus is also unnerving, due to the long-held metaphor of woman as vessel rather than person herself. And to assume that a body is inherently, constantly available for any guest to use at their will, is ludicrous and unprecedented in any other circumstance. Bodily autonomy enforces this concept. For example, even states cannot force individuals to donate their organs and blood, no matter how dire the consequences might be. In our society, particularly American society, the Constitution (a beloved document by so many originalist Republicans) is the primary creator of our culturally precious right to autonomy, to free will, to freely exercise these rights to choose. If the Second Amendment were abolished, hell would break apart into this country, and overpowering cries of “but it’s our right” would be heard in the streets. Yes. If one believes it is their right to own a gun, despite the potential for unnecessary mortality inherent in that gun’s existence, why is a woman automatically denied her right to her own body, even if there exists the merest potentialfor human life inside of her? Why does this uninvited creature take on rights even she does not have, and override her autonomy?
Arthur states, “A fetus is not a separate individual—it lives inside a pregnant woman and depends on her for its growth. In fact, the biological definition of “parasite” fits the fetal mode of growth precisely, especially since pregnancy causes a major upset to a woman’s body, just like a parasite does to its host. I’m not trying to disparage fetuses with the negative connotations of the word parasite; in fact, parasites and their hosts often enjoy mutually supportive relationships, and this obviously includes most pregnancies. However, the parasitic relationship of a fetus to a woman means that its continued existence requires her consent—if she continues the pregnancy unwillingly, her rights and bodily integrity are violated.”
Another aspect of anti-abortion rhetoric and policy is the permission of abortion in cases of rape or incest. This is an exception, however begrudging, made by anti-abortion activists and political figures to somewhat placate the general left-leaning populace that although they believe every fetus has a right to life, this right, is, as Arthur says, “negotiable” and “not absolute or paramount.” This is an antithetical, and even ironic, idea, because this certainly, for once, values the well-being of the woman over the fetus’s. Yet it is also highly problematic and contradictory. To permit abortions solely in the cases of rape and incest is to coercively, and often unsafely, force a survivor of extreme sexual abuse and trauma to report her trauma, which is an entirely different and horrific battle in itself. If rape, or as the disturbingly uneducated Todd Atkin likes to say (and many other members of his party), “legitimate rape” is the definitive open gate to abortion, is abortion given to a woman who says she was raped or a woman whose rapist is prosecuted? Given that 1 in 4 women are raped, and out of every 1,000 rapes, 994 perpetrators will walk free (according to RAINN), it is highly implausible that these anti-abortion activists will actually be able to act on their promise to protect survivors. The primary anti-abortion base, the Republican party, has, historically, done extremely little to correct the grave flaws of the criminal justice system’s handling of sexual assault- in fact, the party has often done far more worse to rape victims than good. Also, why is a fetus conceived from consensual sex intrinsically more human, and why is their life more precious, than one conceived from assault?
Concludingly, there looms one nauseating, soul-crushing question left to be answered by the anti-abortion movement: does the autonomy of the woman or the fetus gain precedence? Which is more valuable, a clump of cells taking unsolicited refuge in a woman’s body with a scientifically undetermined potential for future, theoretical “personhood” or the living, breathing, conscious, alive human being- the woman- who will have to live with the immeasurable consequences and ordeals built-in with parenthood?
In what grotesque formulation of society do we value the unborn over the born? A society in which women are regarded, both legally and culturally, as less than human, as “vessels,” as “asking for it”- both rape and pregnancy in their possession of vaginas and working reproductive systems, as bound to motherhood from day one of their humanhood, as creatures conceived to repopulate rather than to live? In what society do we punish women for being women, or punish any person with a certain organ for having said organ?
Women will not stop getting abortions. Never. Before Roe v. Wade, approximately 5,000 women died annually from illegal abortions. Even if there existed legal, official rights of a zygote, of a fetus, even if every type and manifestation of abortion and birth control were outlawed, even if any of the most obscenely dehumanizing notions of anti-abortion advocates were granted to reality, even then- we would not stop getting and giving abortions, and you can guarantee that we will also not stop dying from them, if you outlaw the practice. Those at the forefront of restricting abortion are also, even if unintentionally, at the forefront of inadvertent murder to women- femicide, a rather paradoxical truth for those who claim to be “pro-life.” I am aware that you do not want women to die, but even if you do not think you will cause that, by restricting something that not all women, contrary to popular belief, really want, you will lead to fatalities and unsafety, you will lead to irreparable harm to primarily a specific gender.
There are 0.6 deaths per each 100,000 legal abortions performed in the US each year (according to WHO), while childbirth- what these anti-abortion advocates wish to universally enforce- is far more fatal, with 8.8 deaths per each 100,000 childbirths (according to WHO).
Interestingly, according to the Guttmacher Institute, “the abortion rate is 29 per 1,000 women of childbearing age in Africa, and 32 per 1,000 in Latin America — regions in which abortion is illegal under most circumstances in the majority of countries. The rate is 12 per 1,000 in Western Europe, where abortion is generally permitted on broad grounds.”
One can therefore reasonably conclude that restricting abortion will not lessen the number of abortions performed, but instead lessen the number of safe abortions performed, and thus, increase the number of women harmed. The undue burden of accessing an abortion, or even reproductive care in general, is inarguably one of the primary trademarks of misogyny in our time. Any person unwilling and/or unable to become a parent in possession of a uterus is automatically subjected to the will of legislation written and passed by overwhelmingly cisgendered, white, hetereosexual men with little to no factual understanding of how abortion actually works. (link samantha bee video here). I often question if the world I am existing in is reality or The Handmaid’s Tale, and I cannot ever really decide on an answer where I do not feel an unnerving malaise at the prospect of even the potential of pregnancy. I do not feel safe in my own body, because I do not own it, it does not belong to me. My body supposedly belongs to a handful of uneducated and rampantly misogynistic white males who will never be pregnant, and statistically, likely never sexually assaulted, unlike my 1 in 4 chance. Gender parity simply cannot occur without the comprehensive legalization, without any restrictions, of abortion, and to utterly shift the way in which we think and talk about abortion and reproductive rights. It cannot. To inhibit women from abortions is to inhibit us from living as human beings.
We know that not all women possess equal, or even remotely similar, opportunities and access to sexual education and reproductive services. Women of color, the LGBTQ+ community, and numerous other disadvantaged groups face an ungraspable burden in attempts to control their bodies and minds, and this disproportionate struggle cannot go unacknowledged by the pro-choice movement. It is fundamental to our rise and success to empower all women, not solely the white, cis, heterosexual, upper-middle-class, educated women we like to assume as the default searcher of an abortion. We are more than the privileged default, more than a one-size-fits all feminism, and abortion access is absolutely key to enforcing this somehow-revolutionary ideal. Control of our reproductive lives is essential to our liberation. As said by Louise Melling of the ACLU, “Women currently make up 57 percent of college students (up from 42 percent in 1970) and are obtaining advanced degrees in record numbers. In the mid 1970s, women made up only 16 percent of medical school graduates; today they constitute nearly 50 percent. Likewise women holding science and engineering doctoral degrees have more than quadrupled since the late 1960s. And the ranks of female Fortune 500 CEOs have grown from 1 in 1973 to 12 in 2007.” The timing of this uprise is not coincidental. It is the direct, explicit evidence of the correlation between our bodily autonomy and our freedom to live as we please rather than as we are expected to.
When, according to the Guttmacher Institute, 61% of women having abortions are already mothers, the argument that every woman is inherently cut out for motherhood really begins to disintegrate. Many of those seeking abortions are already mothers, thus, they know what motherhood is actually like, and their desire for an abortion is a highly informed choice unlike any other. A similar argument is that abortion is psychologically harmful, and can lead to depression, even PTSD, and other mental disorders. However, the American Psychological Association, a nonpartisan organization, claims otherwise. In fact, I would argue that forcing a woman to undergo a pregnancy and unwanted motherhood is just slightly more “psychologically damaging” than an abortion.
I would argue that waiting to have children until one is ready and psychologically, economically, and emotionally able to do so is far more responsible than forcibly going through a pregnancy and attempting to support a child that cannot truly be supported to one’s best abilities. Abortion can lead to better motherhood along with, of course, no motherhood for women like myself. And each choice here is not more or less valid than the other.
A topic I cannot discuss abortion without mentioning is Planned Parenthood, and the intractable, mostly ludicrous, misinformation and controversy surround its existence and services. The GOP attack on Planned Parenthood is perhaps the most antithetical and self-destructive partisan attack in existence. The logic is mind blowingly nonexistent. Republican party members, such as Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, and endless others, preach incessantly about the perils of Planned Parenthood; detailing illegal fetal tissue dealing (that has ended in a lawsuit and has been proven to be highly edited and false), the encouragement of abortions and “female/adolescent promiscuity.” Planned Parenthood is a nonprofit organization, serving 4,665,000 people (of all genders) per year, with 79% of those patients under the poverty line, 75% of the patients there to receive “services to prevent unintended pregnancy,” and one that prevents an estimated 515,000 unintended pregnancies per year
The term “pro-life” is misleading, when there is all the evidence to the contrary- “Anti-life.” No anti-abortion advocates have been murdered for their views, no “emergency crisis centers” (which are disguised as abortion clinics but only dissuade abortion and shame the woman with false statistics and infactual science) have been bombed or gunned down. The first abortion clinic arson happened in 1976. The first provider was killed in 1993, and there have been around 11 murders and 26 attempted murders due to anti-abortion violence, including the recent, most infamous one in Colorado at a Planned Parenthood.
If you take a look through the National Abortion Federation’s Violence Statistics Page, (linked here) you can find detailed accounts of the countless and immeasurable number of violence at abortion clinics.
If this sounds a lot like extremism, that is because it is. Extremism is defined as “the holding of extreme political or religious views; fanaticism.” This is a textbook case.
One last thing is this: a woman can have an abortion for any reason she sees fit. This may seem audacious; too many pro-choice advocates argue that rape/incest are the most/only valid reasons for one to obtain an abortion, that there has to be numerous 100% valid and unquestionable reasons for her not wanting a child, but the simple fact is that, contrary to patriarchal popular belief, not all humans possessing a uterus want a child. Not all women want a child, or another child. That should be enough reason in itself. If I do not feel ready or desirous of a child, I should be able to not have one. It works to our collective benefit when we legalize abortion without restrictions. There is an intrinsic misogyny in a pro-life stance, and if I have yet to find a valid argument to counter that statement. When banning abortion senselessly kills more women, when poverty increases due to unintended pregnancy, when women are treated as second-class citizens unable and incompetent in their own thought-processes, I do not see how a pro-life stance is at all “feminist.”
There are infinite reasons behind why a woman might not want to be forced through an unwanted pregnancy, but let me name just a few. First, giving birth to a child in a hospital can be extremely expensive; costing around $3,000 and $37,000 in the United States, yet I see nothing about expanding Medicaid to these (often low-income) women you want to force into childbirth. The GOP is clearly not a fan of universal healthcare, so the logic is already crumbling. Also, childbirth is a whole lot more dangerous than abortion, in fact, childbirth complications are the sixth most common cause of death for 20-34 year old women. Also, the stigma that often accompanies pregnancy and isolation is unknowable if you have not experienced it. A pregnant teenager can, and often will, face enormous alienation and shame from her peers or even be kicked out of her home; a rape victim will often be put into unspeakably dangerous situations due to her pregnancy and face the full-on force of rape culture, not to mention intractable trauma at carrying her rapist’s child inside of her body. The act of pregnancy itself can be horrifyingly dangerous and traumatic depending on the circumstances, and there are so many different circumstances Republican cisgendered white men will never know. A woman of color, or an LGBTQ+ woman face extraordinarily different challenges throughout pregnancy, and yet Republican policies want to make life harder for most of these minorities.
Many argue that taxpayers should not have to be forced into paying for abortions, but guess what? Taxpayers pay for all sorts of things they may detest or disagree with, such as our entire military, and also, check out the Hyde Amendment that bans the use of most federal funds to pay for abortions except in a few special circumstances.
There are immeasurable social, economic, and medical benefits brought into our country and world through accessible, legal abortion. The comprehensive study Legalized Abortion and the Public Health thoroughly describes, factually, how this is true in numerous ways, and I invite you to read through the entire thing. As stated by the Huffington Post, “Access to safe, legal abortion influences women’s decisions about unwanted pregnancies. The most compelling evidence comes from the impact of the Hyde Amendment on poor women. The discontinuation of Medicaid funding for abortions for poor women accounted for about half the increase in African-American women as heads of households. Parental notification and consent for abortion have been linked with a small increase in white women heading households.”
The most vulnerable and marginalized women depend on the accessibility and option of abortion. Again, stated by the Huffington Post, “ Pregnancy and childbirth are especially dangerous for older African-American women. Women at higher risk of poor medical and social outcomes of pregnancy disproportionately rely on abortion.”
There is also excessive evidence that unwanted pregnancies, due to a lack of accessible abortion, lead to higher child abuse and neglect rates. This trend continues, as decreased abortion accessibility leads to an increase in children reliant on social services.
Abortion is an act of social good. It furthers gender equality in both explicit and subtle ways by its full, unquestioning allowance of women to be treated as human beings in this country able to make the right decisions for themselves and their lives. It allows women to choose their own lives over the enormous, and frequently unmanageable, effect a child, or simply pregnancy, will have on their lives. It allows women to put their autonomy first rather than the ignorant, misogynistic gender norms coercing their bodies into being soulless, reproductive machines. Pro-life advocacy focuses on this one concept: we are pro-life, but selectively. We are pro-life until you are a Mexican, undocumented immigrant, or a rape victim, or a Syrian refugee, or anyone who does not fit impeccably into our constraints of those lives we deem worthy of protecting and preserving. We are pro-life of embryos and zygotes and not actual, living, breathing, conscious human women with lives to live and minds of their own.
If I ever receive an abortion, which is not unlikely, since 1 in 3 women will have an abortion in their lifetimes, I will not feel shame for my decision, because I know I will have chosen what was right for me, as an individual, as a citizen, as a human being with integrity and autonomy and self-awareness. I will not allow stigma to override our independence or self-knowledge, and I urge you to not, either.