This is something I wrote a while ago because I was so frustrated by a few rogue comments that crept into my Facebook news feed (sidenote—do you ever notice the comments of someone you knew in college that just catch you off guard—like, this person really thinks that?? I would never have guessed from my interactions with her/him back when we went to school together—how can I not lose pretty much all respect for this person?). I kept it on my desktop for a while, but figured it needed a home.
Anyway, here it is…
I am writing in response to the handful of people I know, however tangentially, who objected to Texas state senator Wendy Davis’ 13-hour fillibuster to shut down its most recent bill restricting abortion access in the state. I will preface this by saying that I actively try to surround myself with people who have viewpoints that are different from my own—they challenge me to think critically and stand behind my opinions, rather than simply preach to the choir. I have plenty of friends who are on “the other side of the fence,” if you will, and they are all good people. However, some of these friends, especially women, simply baffle me when it comes to their views on the slew of attacks that lawmakers are waging on American women’s reproductive organs.
Most women I know who are against reproductive rights are also interested in pursuing successful careers and being economically independent. It seems that they haven’t caught on to the fact that these debates have nothing to do with “babies,” and everything to do with what these (mostly male) lawmakers believe to be a woman’s rightful role in society. I hope that one day they see this clearly and stand up to their right wing peers Megyn Kelly style. In the meantime, I offer this response to a former classmate who posed the following question on Facebook: “ I have never seen people so jubilant about abortion. It’s just creepy to me. I mean, what are they excited about, exactly?”
I completely respect your views on this issue, as well as your right to express them. However, as someone who feels quite strongly about reproductive rights, perhaps I could shed some light on why so many people were “jubilant” about this woman (literally) taking a stand for the rights of all women in her state.
The key issue really isn’t abortion per se, but rather it’s about women having full control over their reproductive organs, and in turn their social and economic futures. While the burden of unintended pregnancies falls primarily on women, the decision about what they can do with their bodies is being debated by a body of legislators that is 80% male. And with the number of restrictions on reproductive health access dramatically increasing of late (including sex education, contraception, STD screenings, etc. in addition to abortion), it follows that putting a stop to yet another one of these laws, even if just temporarily, is pretty exciting for people who are fans of women’s rights.
The thing is, the burden of abortion restrictions fall mainly on the most vulnerable women—young, poor and rural—who often have the least access to things like comprehensive sex education, birth control, and even supportive role models who could encourage them not to have unprotected sex. They also have a limited ability to, for example, take off work to travel for hours to the nearest abortion clinic (because this law would in effect close almost all abortion clinics in Texas and outlaw the use of tele-medicine—which is crucial for people living in rural areas with limited healthcare access—for prescription of abortifacients). It also so happens that the very states that have the worst access to sex education and basic reproductive health services also have the most restrictions on abortion access. This has the effect of increasing the number of women who face this terrible choice, while at the same time limiting their options. So, they either have a child that they can’t afford, with little or no support from the father, or turn to drastic measures to terminate their own pregnancies, such as buying abortifacients from Mexican pharmacies and using them incorrectly.
Worldwide, the legality of abortion does not affect the incidence of abortions. However, it does affect the safety of abortions. In the United States, having a legal abortion is less dangerous than giving birth. On the other hand, the procedure is over 34 times more dangerous in countries that outlaw abortion.
Again, I understand why on a personal and/or religious level you would object to abortions. However, making abortion illegal endangers women, and essentially sends the message that the fate of a clump of cells holds more value than the fate of a full-grown human being. Personally, I would rather not see my friends die at the hands of back-alley abortion providers. When I lived in Kenya, practically everyone I met had a friend or family member who died this way. If you talk to American women who were old enough before Roe v. Wade, they will tell you the same thing about their own experiences.
Hope this helps,