Blogging for Choice

22 01 2008

Last Friday marked the 35th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade, what did you do to commemorate it?

To be honest, I’d forgotten about it until I sat down at my computer. My tuesdays are long days, and I had a total of 25 minutes in which I was not in class or working between breakfast or dinner. I used those 25 minutes to eat lunch. So, I didn’t think about reproductive justice today, because I was busy, because I was focusing on other ways to overthrow patriarchy and feminist film makers and the Library of Congress classification system. And because right now, I’m not pregnant. I’m not pregnant because I have access to (moderately) safe forms of birth control and because the integrity of my body has not been compromised.

But that is not to say that reproductive justice isn’t important. Hell no. It’s rather to demonstrate one of the particularly dangerous realities of the recent attacks on reproductive justice that pro-choice advocates have been fighting back, tooth and nail – the reality that if Roe v. Wade is overturned, it still won’t be women like me who will have to be thinking about abortion. Sure, if it’s overturned, I’ll be thinking about it. I’ll be pissed as hell and ready to kick some ass, and then I’ll be working to get it back. But if Roe v. Wade is overturned, it won’t be upper-middle class white women who will be most concerned. Because, G-d forbid I ever need an abortion and it isn’t legal in Ohio, or DC, or California, or wherever I’m living – I can go to Canada. I have the means and an incredible network of family and friends who would support me, and I could do what I needed to take control of my body. But poor white women, and many women of color, don’t have that kind of access, and finding safe, affordable abortion providers will be incredibly difficult, if not downright impossible.

The Republican Presidential Candidate Mike Huckabee went to Georgia today. He went to support anti-choice activists and lawmakers who are working to pass a constitutional amendment in the Georgia legislature that would both outlaw abortion and provide a legal definition of life which begins at fertilization. Called, quaintly, the Human Life Amendment.

As a progressive individual, I support and stand behind the notion of “human rights,” including but not limited to those laid down in the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In classifying human rights, I would maintain that human rights definitely include things like the right to liberty, the right to an education, the right to living without fear for one’s safety and security (not that women ACTUALLY have this, but there are still a lot of folks who don’t quite consider women to be people just like the mens), the right to autonomy in decision making, and … wait for it… the freedom to exercise agency over one’s body.

As a woman, I believe I am human. Radical proposal though it is, this outrageous law seeks to deny my personhood and replace it with a very particular status, that of the Potential BabyMaker. Ironially, that link above for the amendment will direct you to a website with the URL personhood.net. Because they really want you to believe this issue is one of personhood. The problem, as I see it, is that they aren’t REALLY concerned with people, they are concerned with zygotes and fetuses (who may one day be beautiful children that I will love and work to protect – but right now, are not). And they seek to criminalize women on their behalf. A leading anti-abortion attorney, James Bopp, made sure to clear that up for us all, when he explained that passage of this amendment could bring about “enforcement of homicide laws against pregnant women, restricting the activities of pregnant women, outlawing contraception and so on.”

Yes. You read that correctly. Enforcement of homicide laws against pregnant women. Restricting the activities of pregnant women. Because honey, in case you weren’t sure already, your ability to live your life is considerably less important than the collection of cells growing inside of you. Some much more so, that you best not drive your car, lest you get in an accident, miscarry, and find yourself charged with the murder of your own child, in addition to the trauma of a miscarriage. The inanity of this law almost bowls me over so completely that I want to believe it’s a joke. But it’s not. They want to take away access to contraception and criminalize your pregnancy, unless you spend it barefoot and cooking. (But don’t cook with wine, they might think the alcohol hasn’t cooked out and charge you with reckless endangerment.) This may come across as vaguely comic, but it’s really not a joke, and there are thousands of women living in Georgia whose freedom and agency is being threatened.

One of the cornerstones of the Reproductive Justice movement is the concept of reproductive justice itself. More than just the right to an abortion, reproductive justice is about the comprehensive health and freedom of women. From SisterSong’s publication “Understanding Reproductive Justice:”

Reproductive justice, at that time, was defined as “reproductive health integrated into social justice.” Reproductive justice was further developed as an intersectional theory emerging from the experiences of women of color whose communities experience reproductive oppression. It is based on the understanding that the impact on women of color of race, class and gender are not additive but integrative, producing this paradigm of intersectionality. The concept of reproductive justice was further elaborated in a seminal paper written by Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice in 2005.

And from the Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice:

We believe reproductive justice is the complete physical, mental, spiritual, political, economic, and social well-being of women and girls, and will be achieved when women and girls have the economic, social and political power and resources to make healthy decisions about our bodies, sexuality and reproduction for ourselves, our families and our communities in all areas of our lives.

Reproductive Justice is about more than abortions. It is about the freedom to live, as reproductive beings, and exert control over every aspect of our lives. To access political, economic, and social power and to live within a paradigm in which we are empowered and enabled to make choices about our bodies and our lives. It’s about having the freedom to be.

So the fight for Reproductive Justice isn’t about whether or not you’d have an abortion. It is about whether or not you will demand the respect to make that decision for yourself. And you can be sure as hell that I’ll be thinking about reproductive justice tomorrow.

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