Tag Archives: pro-choice

Why We Fight: The War on Women and the continuing attacks on our reproductive rights

I don’t always comment on every major event that’s happening in relation to women’s rights – I simply don’t have the time – but it still surprises me how long I have managed to stay silent about the current “War on Women” that is being waged by the GOP in the United States. The main reason has certainly not been ignorance, as I have been following the developments in detail. Rather, I have been speechless in light of the severity and magnitude of the political attacks on women’s rights and freedom. My initial reaction has been sheer incredulity.

I want to emphasize something I keep mentioning on this blog: feminism to me is fighting for women’s rights to ensure equality, but that doesn’t simply mean looking for new means to get there. More and more, feminism means preserving the rights that we already have, because even though they may seem common sense to us, it doesn’t mean there aren’t forces out there ready to take these rights away if given the chance.

The US-American War on Women is simply the most blatant and extreme example of how this plays out: the GOP race for the presidential candidate started out with confirmations of its anti-abortion stance (very sad indeed, but not at all surprising), and culminated in the demonization of all forms of birth control, the violation and criminalization of the woman’s body and the reduction of women’s lives to that of breeding cattle. I see no better way to phrase this and I don’t have the nerve for euphemisms. Women’s lives as we know them today? In the U.S. they are at risk, and if I lived over there I would seriously consider emigrating before I got into a situation where I would have to hand over my own bodily autonomy to the state.

But make no mistake: If you’re European and tend to dismiss the Republicans, the Tea Party and their supporters as crazy extremists, you’re fooling yourself. Because even Western Europe is slowly seizing to be a safe-haven when it comes to women’s reproductive rights. The attacks come mainly from the political right. In France, the National Front’s Marine Le Pen stated her plans for restructuring Planning Familial centers (the French equivalent to Planned Parenthood), claiming that abortion had become too comfortable. Nicolas Sarkozy, who’s been trying to pander to the FN voters for a long time, recently suggested that minors need to obtain parental consent before being able to get on the pill.  In England, anti-abortion voices (I refuse to call them pro-life; that’s simply false advertising) have grown stronger and more influential, and they are not falling on deaf ears either. In Germany, a medical insurance company offered financial benefits to those who are members of the anti-abortion organisation Pro Life Deutschland and pledge that they would never have an abortion.

To be fair, all of these examples pale in comparison to  what is happening in the U.S. right now, but they are a reminder that women cannot rest on the laurels of second wave feminism, when these same achievements continue to be under attack. It is very easy to argue that these anti-abortion advances are based on moral and ethical values – and I am the last person to deny that these issues are something we need to negotiate as a society – but as the developments in the U.S. have shown, the underlying motives have little to do with progressive ethics and life choices, and everything to do with religious fundamentalism and reactionary views on family and the role on women.

Fact is, there is a generation of men and women out there that still believes that women should not be allowed to make decisions for themselves or for others. Because abortion and birth control isn’t just about children; it is about women’s ability to participate in society. And it is on our generation to reject this backlash and to prove that there are kinder, more sustainable alternatives that include a women’s right to her physical autonomy. To be clear: fighting for women’s reproductive rights is key, but we should never forget to emphasize the economic and social dimensions as well. Many attempts towards the restriction of abortion are justified with accusations of racism and eugenics without including the bigger picture. We cannot allow for these false accusations to take over the public debate. We need to reject the tampering with symptoms and continue to stress the causes: poverty, precarious labor, structural discrimination, societies hostile towards children and working mothers, austerity and the dismantling of the welfare state, an uncertain future…

On a lighter note: here is a hilarious response to former U.S. presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s anti-abortion campaign, and the termination of said campaign…

Funny or Die: Rick Santorum Aborts Presidential Campaign

Notes on Abortion

Some truly horrendous news have made the rounds this week. First, a couple from Minneapolis in the U.S. of Anything-is-possible has decided to create an online poll on whether or not they should have a baby. I would have voted please, don’t but unfortunately the woman is already pregnant. The poll on birthornot.com is supposed to decide whether or not the Arnolds should deliver their baby or have it aborted.

The blog has already been debunked as a right-wing anti-choice trolling stunt but the evidence for that lies in the entire concept of the blog itself. As Amanda over at Feministe has pointed out:

At first blush, I gave it 9-to-1 odds that it’s an anti-choice stunt, just on the fact that the couple running it have the pro-choice view completely backwards. Putting what you do with your body up to a vote is the anti-choice view. Treating women’s bodies like they’re public property is the anti-choice view.

Cindy Sherman: "Still", 1978

Needless to say, the whole idea is absolutely disgusting. Obviously, the future parents (Oh God) are not really considering an abortion but instead are trying to create outrage against the pro-choice movement. Except, of course, the pro-choice movement would never encourage people to leave it to random users on the internet to make this crucial and life-changing decision. Pro-choice doesn’t mean pro-abortion. It means respecting the autonomy of the woman’s body and ensuring her safety and well-being when she executes her right to this autonomy. Therefore it is necessary that the legal framework allows for safe and professional abortion clinics. Countries that do not provide this legal framework will have to be held responsible for disturbing news such as this: In Thailand, 2000 illegally aborted fetuses were found in the mortuary of a Buddhist temple.

Abortions are illegal in Thailand except when the mother’s life is in danger or she has been the victim of rape or incest. The New York Times writes:

Thailand is a Buddhist country, and many people are generally conservative on sexual matters. Though there is a thriving sex industry here and birth control is widely available, advocates for safe sex say many young people are ill informed on the subject.

[…]

The woman under arrest [for providing the illegal abortions, my insert], Lanchakorn Janthamanas, 33, was quoted in newspapers as saying that she learned to perform abortions by watching the doctor and the nurse with whom she used to work. Most of her customers were students and teenagers, she said. (Seth Mydans, NYT, 2010)

Illegal or not, abortions will happen, the question is only whether or not it will be at the expense of women’s lives and human decency. Abortions cannot be prevented but pregnancies can. The Dutch for example have a very relaxed approach to teenage sexuality; easy access to birth control and sexual health education is readily provided. As a matter of fact, the Netherlands have very liberal laws on abortion. Coincidentally, it is also one of the countries with the lowest youth pregnancy, abortion and STD rates.

Unfortunately, there has yet to be developed a contraceptive for utter stupidity. My only hope is that the future child of the Arnolds will grow up unaware of the fact that its parents deprived it of its dignity by using it as a political tool.

Wangechi Mutu: "Untitled"

UPDATE: The Pope Benedikt XVI. has, for the first time ever, approved of the use of condoms ”in well-founded singular cases“; a huge step towards decreasing the rates of abortions and, of course, AIDS.

UPDATE: Apparently, I was a bit too hasty with my last statement. The Pope implies, that he approves of condom use only to prevent infection, not pregnancies. While I am glad that he cares so much about male prostitutes, it is disheartening to see that women are once again reduced to mere vessels for potential new life.