Why We Need Choice

5 Nov

This is a joint post from femistorian and Katie O.

After a successful protest against the Genocide Awareness Project that was unfortunately on our campus Wednesday and Thursday of last week, we were disheartened to see a post supportive of GAP on the feminist blog we contribute to. As feminists and women’s studies minors, we fervently believe that the root belief of feminism is choice in all aspects of life, from life pursuits to clothing to abortion. To restrict and judge the choices of other women is inherently not feminist. bell hooks said it best in Feminism is for Everybody when she wrote,

Losing ground on the issue of legal, safe, inexpensive abortion means that women lose ground on all reproductive issues. The anti-choice movement is fundamentally anti-feminist. While it is possible for women to individually choose never to have an abortion, allegiance to feminist politics means that they still are pro-choice, that they support the right of females who need abortions to choose whether or not to have them.

One does not have to personally have or even believe in abortion to be pro-choice. You just have to respect and support the choices of other women, and the minute you begin to actively attempt to restrict these choices and access, you are not being a feminist. That being said, we want to address a few points we take issue with.

Firstly, the post “Abortion is Genocide…? Lets let God decide, as we take a look at an extremist view of the issue” is clearly informed by the author’s religious beliefs. While we do not intend to disrespect anyone’s religious affiliation, we want to make it clear that this is a space for all religious beliefs or no religious beliefs. We also do not think that religion should influence legislation whatsoever. Not all people are religious. Not all people are Christian. Religious beliefs should not be forced upon the actions or choices of any individual. If you wish to live your own life under the dogma of Christianity, good for you! But we do not choose to do that, and we should not be shamed for that. The post in question referenced the idea that if people want to be “saved”, specifically from damnation for having abortions, they should convert to Christianity. This shames not only women who have chosen to have abortions or who are considering abortions, but also those who are not Christian.

Keep Your Rosaries off My Ovaries

Furthermore, a look in to the history of Christianity would reveal that it’s it not as “pro-life” as many Christians claim. Many wars have been fought in the name of God. And it is very noteworthy that despite people saying abortion is genocide because of their Christian beliefs, no Catholic authority spoke against the mass killings of the Holocaust. Apparently people only care about genocide when they are wrongly comparing it to abortion. It is also important to note that Catholic women get abortions at the same rate as any other woman (Guttmacher). To learn more about the women who have abortions, check out this amazing Guttmacher video. (Edit: Nov. 6 at 3:22 p.m. — I wanted to clarify where we got the information about the church’s silence during the Holocaust — it was not just the Catholic church but many across Europe. For more about this, here is a link to an Anti-Defamation League article by Victoria J. Barnett).

The poster, ladyfavor, asked if abortion is not genocide, then what is it? Abortion is a medical procedure that terminates a pregnancy. To compare it to genocide not only shames women, but is blatantly offensive to victims of genocide and secondary victims. To compare anything to genocide is to cheapen it, and this does a grave disservice to all citizens of the world. Simply put, abortion is about choice, and genocide is forced so this is a false analogy. The definition of genocide, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is “the deliberate and systematic extermination of an ethnic or national group.” Unless we missed something and suddenly fetuses are ethnic or national groups, this definition does not apply to abortion.

Now we would like to address the assertion that abortion is a “Black genocide.” Before we do so, we would like to state that we are both white women, and we think that sharing this is necessary for proper discourse about this subject. Unfortunately, this rhetoric allows anti-choice organizations to manipulate people’s emotions and anti-racist beliefs by saying that the intent of abortion is by white people and white organizations to systematically destroy the Black population in America. According to SisterSong, a Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, the most troubling part of this is that predominantly white anti-choice organizations tokenize the few Black anti-abortion leaders, so that this seems to be a Black movement against abortion. Alveda King, Martin Luther King Jr’s niece, is a prime example who works with Priests for Life and is a major supporter of the “Black genocide” rhetoric. (Just a note: Dr. King was a fervent supporter of family planning and Planned Parenthood. Dr. King won the PPFA Margaret Sanger Award in 1966 and his award was accepted by his wife, Coretta Scott King on his behalf.). They rely on the few African Americans in their movement to provide legitimacy within that community and with others. However, they are just using people of color to push an agenda that restricts them. One of the statistics that they love to use is that more Black women have abortions than any other group. However, if you actually do the research, this is because Black women have higher instances of unintended pregnancies. This is because there are major healthcare disparities between Black and white women, disparities that leave Black women disproportionately likely to lack access to comprehensive sex education and contraceptives (Collective Voices, Volume 6, Issue 12).

What ends up happening is, then, that Black women once again have restricted agency and disenfranchisement from their choices, bodies, and freedom. Given the historical context in which African Americans live – that they were once literally owned, systematically raped by their masters, and used as objects to solely produce more free labor – this language of genocide and civil rights is a disgusting and manipulative way of further preventing Black women from achieving equality. What this language implies is that Black women are either instigators of their own genocide or they are fools – puppets of white people attempting to wipe out the Black population. One option completely wipes Black women of any agency at all, and the other accuses them of genocide. We would like to link our readers to a wonderful post by Loretta Ross, founder of SisterSong, on RH Reality Check for more about this specific issue.

The post also referred women to biased, anti-choice, post-abortion resources. One such resource was the Harrisonburg Pregnancy Center, a religiously affiliated facility that masquerades as a legitimate clinic. Katie O. went undercover there last summer and wrote about her experience with their misinformation and medical inaccuracies here. In fact, San Francisco is working to make CPCs illegal because of the fact that the refuse to disseminate proper medical information, that they lie to women, and because they are not clinics, do not keep women’s information private.

[The following paragraph was written by femistorian:]

Ladyfavor’s post also asserted that rape survivors (we are not victims) should have no say in what happens if they become pregnant. As a rape survivor, this deeply, horribly upset me. Rape is a traumatic experience. Not only does it take away your autonomy over your body, but it deeply affects your mental autonomy. For the first year following my rapes, I suffered from severe anxiety, depression, PTSD, and even attempted to kill myself. I was lucky enough to have an incredibly supportive group of friends and an excellent therapist who taught me how to overcome my trauma and draw strength from my experiences. To suggest that rape survivors should further lose control by not being able to choose what happens with a resulting pregnancy continues to strip them of control. Had I become pregnant after being raped, I would undoubtedly have terminated the pregnancy. I was raped four years ago and the aftershocks continue to this day. This is not to suggest that all rape survivors should get abortions, but if they want to do so they deserve access. To suggest that any fellow survivors should be forced to live with even more physical effects for nine months is egregious.

Finally, we strongly encourage all of our readers to look into abortion photos and do your research (if you can stomach it). Just because something looks scientific does not mean it is true. For a non-graphic depiction of abortion, go here: http://www.abortionaccess.info/abortionpictures.htm. This small cluster of cells clearly packs less of a punch than photos anti-choice websites like to disseminate. Reproductive health clinics don’t tend to post these pictures because they are respectful of their patients and because it is not necessary to do so.

Remember to be informed and think about all parts of this issue – abortion is complex and intersectional. Women and the realities of their lives should be placed above a fetus, which legally is not a person, and should not be considered a person.

Edited at 3:22 p.m. to include a source from the Anti-Defamation League.

8 Responses to “Why We Need Choice”

  1. Kelsey 11/05/2011 at 9:02 pm #

    Pregnancy as a result of rape is an interesting issue, as it is one of the few situations in which even adamant pro-lifers permit abortion. I feel it is important, though, to protect women from pressure on BOTH sides after a rape. Too often, women are pressured to abort because of the idea that it would somehow make the rape “go away,” and after these abortions it is easy for friends and family to think that the woman has completely “recovered”. For some, carrying to term (whether parenting or giving for adoption) is actually the right choice, and it is just as important not to judge, condemn, or criticize those brave women as it is to protect those who cannot keep their babies.

    • Katie O. 11/06/2011 at 3:38 pm #

      I agree that women should not be criticized for not having an abortion after pregnancy, but I disagree that there is “pressure” for women to abort after rape. The point of choice is that there is no pressure either way, simply support for women regardless of what they decide. No one thinks that an abortion after rape will make “the rape ‘go away.'” Women should have support and have the option to have an abortion if she is pregnant because of a rape (or just finds herself with an unwanted pregnancy at all). After a traumatic experience like rape, rape survivors deserve to have full autonomy of their bodies. No one rape survivor is more brave than another simply because she carries to term.

      • Kelsey 11/06/2011 at 10:51 pm #

        Ideally, a total lack of pressure and judgment is exactly what choice entails. In reality, however, this is rarely the case. Common wisdom suggests that after an experience as traumatic as rape, women cannot help but see the fetus as no more than an extension of her attacker, a continuing violation of her bodily integrity and her powers of self-determination. This assumption seriously insults the intelligence of women and the compassion that any human should be able to extend toward another–logically, if the fetus is a human, there is no reason for it to be punished for the crimes of its father.

        My comments in my last post and this one are drawn from the first-hand accounts of rape survivors. (Victims and Victors, by David C. Reardon, documents a study of rape survivors and their experiences with abortion.) When surveyed, many survivors said that their friends and family were reluctant to talk about the attack and instead seemed to hope that having an abortion would somehow make the rape “go away” and allow the woman to “go back to normal.” Before and after the abortion, these women did not receive the support they needed to make a rational decision. They were pushed into a choice that was not right for them, and they regretted it.

        Another group of women who were surveyed in the same study reported carrying their children to term and experiencing joy and healing. Their experiences fly in the face of the common wisdom that supposes any pregnant rape survivor can see her child only as another attacker or as a morbid reminder of what she went through. I agree with you that there should be no pressure; unfortunately, that is not what happens in reality.

  2. Kat 11/05/2011 at 9:02 pm #

    Thanks for posting a well researched article on abortion and what it means to be pro choice. The discourse and rhetoric for the anti choice movement can be so compelling (and incomplete) at times that it distracts people from the facts. People need to be more informed on the subject because as you both say, it is extremely complex.

  3. internationalcupcakebandit 11/06/2011 at 3:17 pm #

    This post was inspiring and wonderfully refreshing after this past week. I applaud you, so sincerely, for sharing you’re experience with us in hopes to open the eyes of people who are unaware. As for the “black genocide” argument, thank goodness you said that. I can’t tell you how much i’ve argued about the exact same notion. I fervently agree with much of this post but even as someone non-religious, we shouldn’t make assumptions on the catholic church just as anyone religious or someone who opposes abortion should not judge the pro-choice and those who choose abortion, though I understand where you are coming from here. To the comment from Kelsey, I could be interpreting your meaning of this incorrectly, but I think it’s fundamentally wrong to make the assumption that the women who do not have abortions are “brave” and those who to are cowardly, which is a common mantra inscribed in society. Nothing about having an abortion is un-brave, I actually think the opposite. Whether you have an abortion, carry your pregnancy to term, or aren’t pregnant at all– you are all women, you are all brave human beings.

    • Katie O. 11/06/2011 at 3:29 pm #

      Hi! I edited the post to include a source from the Anti-Defamation League about silence from the church during the Holocaust. I totally understand where you’re coming from, and I just want to say that we weren’t trying to make unfounded assumptions, thought it may have seemed that way. Hopefully that source can clear up what we were trying to say there! We weren’t trying to be judgmental, just point out what we perceived to be hypocrisy.

      And thank you for your comments about how having an abortion is not cowardly. Given the opposition to abortion in the country, and the way that women who have abortions are painted as selfish, negligent, and sometimes cruel, I agree that to take control of such a circumstance and to do what you feel is best is a very brave action.

    • Kelsey 11/06/2011 at 10:53 pm #

      “I think it’s fundamentally wrong to make the assumption that the women who do not have abortions are “brave” and those who to are cowardly”

      I understand how you got that impression from my post, but I did not intend to send that message. My apologies. All kinds of women have abortions and all kinds of women have babies–some are brave, some are scared, and many are both.

  4. femistorian 11/06/2011 at 11:28 pm #

    Kelsey,
    First, before commenting I suggest you look into less biased sources. David Reardon is the director of the Elliot Institute, an organization that advocates incredibly strict abortion regulations. Perhaps instead you could look at the APA study that found that “post-abortion trauma syndrome” is a lie and does not exist. Their study also found that teenagers who were pregnant and aborted the fetus had more self-confidence, did better in school, and generally just felt better about life than their peers who carried to term in the years following their choices. I would also suggest reading this http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19637075 Reardon’s writing conflicts with the APA and many other scientists and researchers, who have all found that abortion carries no greater mental-health risk than carrying a fetus to term. Also, by assuming that people who are compassionate would not get an abortion, you are shaming women. As we have stated multiple times, abortion is a complex issue but it does not stem from hate or lack of compassion. Finally, as a rape survivor, I find your comments regarding rape and abortion offensive. Please do not assume to know the feelings of all rape survivors, especially those who have had abortions, because I can promise you there are plenty that are glad they did it and didn’t feel pressured. I suggest you look at http://www.thanksabortion.com/ and http://www.imnotsorry.net/

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