Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Happy 35th Birthday, Roe v Wade!

I'm just going to be honest. This blog for choice day, there's really not much that I can think of to say that would be profound. I've given the long diatribes as to why I'm pro-choice, last year's post was all about how the argument should be re-framed as being about reproductive justice rather than simply abortion rights, etc., and this year I really don't know what to hit as far as issues concerning choice go.

I guess I could give an optimistic view of everything feminists and pro-choice activists have accomplished for women's choice, such as getting Plan B over-the-counter, some states refusing to teach abstinence-only sex education, the success in overturning South Dakota's abortion ban, and other such pro-choice victories. There have even been pro-choice successes in my community. USF's Feminist Student Alliance held a Rock for Choice event last semester which raised over a thousand dollars for the organization W.O.M.E.N., a group that funds abortions for low-income women in need. There have been many pro-choice victories that the pro-choice and feminist community should be very proud of.

However, there have also been some setbacks and some goals that still have not been met. For example, although we got close, we didn't get to completely overturn the Global Gag Rule. States are still trying to push abortion bans through their legislative bodies, and of course the Supreme Court decided that women shouldn't have the right to protect their health by all means necessary through the decision made in Gonzalez vs. Carhart, complete with an entirely patronizing opinion from Justice Kennedy. These are things that we need to work on, but I think every pro-choice activist knows this.

Another thing that I think pro-choice activists need to work on, and this is somewhat akin to the re-framing of the entire argument, is terminology. I hear the word "abortion" misused so much. Even today in my Natural Sciences class, we were talking about genetic therapy, stem-cell research, and the ethics of IVF. Someone in the class kept referring to the embryos that die due to IVF as "abortions", yet they're not abortions. Abortions are the termination of a pregnancy. The embryos used in IVF practices that die are usually never implanted. The only way they could be part of an abortion is if they implanted and were then subsequently miscarried.

Another friend of mine referred to Plan B and all oral contraceptives as causing "abortions" because the ovum may not be able to implant. However, pregnancy begins at implantation, so it wouldn't be an abortion, it would be a failure to implant. People using the word "abortion" just to mean the death of an embryo is very harmful to women's reproductive freedom, I think, because if anything that a woman does causes such a death, it's suddenly controversial, which also gets into other reproductive justice issues, including the newly released issue of caffeine use causing miscarriages. All of this controversy about women's actions causing the deaths of embryos is very damaging to reproductive freedoms, in my opinion. Should women have this information? Certainly. Should they be expected to lose all agency once they become pregnant? Absolutely not. That is the line that needs to be drawn. Information is a good thing. So is choice.

I guess that's what I'll leave you with. Just remember that information is always good, and so is the ability to make choices after that. That is what needs to be protected, what was set on a path 35 years ago, and what will continue to be fought for and won by feminists and pro-choice activists all across the country, and hopefully, the globe. We need to keep a good balance of realizing our accomplishments, such as what we're celebrating today, but we also need to keep our eye on the prize. I know we'll get it some day.

P.S. While you're wishing Roe vs. Wade a happy birthday, wish Feminists to the Rescue a happy birthday as well!

1 comment:

FEMily! said...

The language surrounding reproduction and abortion needs to be accurate for people to form a well-informed opinion on the issue. Actually, accurate language about women's reproduction in general is extremely important, especially since women are judged by their sexual practices. A few weeks ago, a guy on Maury had the following defense as to why he wasn't the father of his ex's baby: "I had sex with her, and two weeks later, she tells me she's pregnant!" That's actually how it works! And then there was that one case about a woman who believed she wasn't informed about what abortion is before she had one, because the doctor said the embryo was "just tissue" and the nurse later told her the embryo was a "baby." Accuracy would have avoided a lawsuit.

And "Fertility Note's" Blog for Choice post talks about how abortion rights affects infertile women seeking in vitro fertilization.