Friday, July 01, 2005

A Feminist Defense of Abortion Rights

This is not a topic I do well, though I have read everything on it for a long time. The problem is that to make the case properly and well I'd have to write a book, and it would have to include the many stories of pre-Roe era women and be written well enough to convey the feelings of life in those days. Other people are better equipped to do that. But it's really my duty to try to give at least a short explanation for my support of the pro-choice platform.

Without birth control and the right to abortion there can be no real gender equality. It's as simple as that. If our fertility is controlled by the government we will ultimately bear children when that government wishes and we will not bear children when that government wishes. Having children changes our lives, more for women than for men, perhaps, but our lives are changed nevertheless, and sometimes these changes are damaging and physically and mentally costly. There can be no real freedom for women to walk down the road at dusk if such a walk could result in a rape which cannot be proven to the satisfaction of the government and if the rape then results in a pregnancy. Giving birth to a child can be dangerous. Bringing up a child in this world is demanding. To have someone else decide when and if you do these things is devastating.

The pro-life answer to these worries consists of abstinence. Women can always say no, we can always cross our legs. But this ultimately means saying no to walks at dusk, perhaps saying no to the new job, interesting but too demanding, or having someone else say no to that job for you because women will just have babies and thus cannot be trusted. And note how the idea of women saying no is one-sided, how the responsibility for abstinence is put on the shoulders of women alone. As if women today were scouring the streets in the search for reluctant men to have sex with. And it doesn't solve the rape dilemma: what if I am raped, get pregnant, and can't prove the rape? What if I'm not raped but had sex because, well, because human beings do want to have sex, and I get pregnant but already have six children and can't feed them? What if I have psychological problems and being pregnant makes me see razor blades for my wrists everywhere?

Abstinence doesn't work. Sex is like food, and people will have sex whatever the punishments we pile on such behavior. The pro-lifers want the punishment to be giving birth or dying from a botched up abortion. This is what sometimes goes for pro-life.

A world without reproductive choice is not a good one for women. Be careful, be more careful than ever, and yet your uterus might be used against your own wishes. Your life doesn't belong to you, never mind about your body. Your fertility belongs to the politicians who decide if you should breed (yes, if you are white, perhaps no, if you are not).

A world without reproductive choice is not a good one for men, either. However careful you are, you might become a father or at least someone who pays child maintenance for the next two decades. And you will have to worry about your daughters, your sisters, your wife, your girlfriend.

No, there can be no real equality without reproductive choice. It's as simple as that for me.