Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Meanwhile, in Arizona. Or Wombs as The Sites of Sexism and Racism.

Arizona governor Jan Brewer signed into law:
a controversial bill that makes the state the first in the nation to outlaw abortions performed on the basis of the race or gender of the fetus.
The move comes as anti-abortion groups across the nation try to seize on gains made by political conservatives during the November elections, seeking enactment of new state laws to further restrict abortions.
Under the new Arizona statute, doctors and other medical professionals would face felony charges if they could be shown to have performed abortions for the purposes of helping parents select their offspring on the basis of gender or race.
Monica Potts notes that this seems to be a nonsense bill on its surface:
It's really clear that the law just limits abortion rights. Sex-selection in abortions would be a real problem -- if it actually were a problem. I've tried, and failed, to imagine a scenario in which a mother, pregnant with her child and the child of her chosen partner, would suddenly discriminate against the fetus based on race, so that seems an invented problem as well.
Mmm. Monica is correct that this bill is just one drop in the gigantic new flood of anti-choice legislation in all those Republican-dominated state governments. But there's a different reason for proposing it, and that is the old divide et impera strategy: It tries to set the liberal/progressive ideals of gender and racial equity AGAINST the liberal/progressive ideal of reproductive choice for women! (That reproductive choice is necessary (though not sufficient) for true gender equality is something the forced-birthers hope we don't notice.)

Thus, this bill suggests that the places where the fights for gender and race equality happen are the uteri of women:
Backers of the measure said the ban is needed to put an end to sex- and race-related discrimination that exists in Arizona and throughout the nation.
This is utterly ridiculous. But not so ridiculous when you note that in another anti-abortion campaign the message is all about race genocide.

First there was the billboard stating that the most dangerous place for an African-American child is in the womb. Next came the billboard asking whether black women might be aborting the next Obama:
Anti-abortion billboards featuring President Barack Obama and stating that a potential president is aborted every 21 minutes have a media stir in the last 24 hours.  But Black Women for Reproductive Justice, a member of the Trust Black Women Coalition, make it clear that these billboards do the black community on the whole a disservice.
Toni Bond Leonard, BWRJ President/CEO, says “The groups behind these heinous attacks upon Black women care nothing about Black children or the Black community. These are some of the same groups who fought against healthcare reform and oppose government safety net programs that would directly benefit Black women, our families and our communities.”

Divide et impera, as I said. But this is also yet another example of the anti-abortion strategy which tries to twist the arguments for abortion rights into its opposite. Banning abortions protects women, we are told, and you can still read the old misinformation about abortion and breast cancer on several sites. Even one Justice of the Supreme Court has wondered if having reproductive choice is really in the best interest of women.

And hence the banning of sex-selective abortions in the state of Arizona. How could a feminist support the (in this case quite theoretical) abortion of female fetuses just because they are female?

Look what is happening in China and in India where abortions are used for sex selection! It is girls they don't want! We are going to but a stop to that right here in Arizona.

Or that's how I imagine the argument goes. But banning sex-selective abortions isn't going to stop the reason for them: Many societies don't value girls or women. As long as that is true, daughters will be less desired than sons. Fix that problem and sex-selection in abortions will become rare. As I mentioned, this doesn't work in reverse. If anything, restricting women's reproductive choices will lower their relative standing in societies which value the traditionally male characteristics of work outside the home and independence.