Tag Archives: abortion

Guest Blogging

German readers and avid Google Translate users can read me over at the Mädchenmannschaft today. I wrote about the recent French law to fully reimburse contraception for minors and abortions.

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

Happy 100th International Women’s Day!

Here is why we celebrate:

The feminist revolution has come to the Middle East.

Feminist academia embraces diversity.

Feminism goes global.

Women’s reproductive rights improve in Nepal. In the United States not so much.

And here is why we need to keep on fighting:

The war on women’s reproductive rights is a war on all women’s rights.

Marine Le Pen may win the presidential election in 2012. A woman at the top doesn’t necessarily make for a more just society.

Circa 80 percent of the world’s refugees are women and children.

To be continued…

 

Don’t Practice What You Preach, or: What The Republican Party Can Teach Us

Recently I posted a blog entry about the women’s quota. During the process of writing I marvelled at myself for taking such a clear position in the debate. Naturally, I had familiarized myself with the pros and cons and developed my own opinion, but not without wondering: How does someone with rather socialist leanings such as myself end up defending the rights of the top (female) capitalists in Western Europe’s neoliberal society? The answer is fairly simple: what seems like a paradox at first sight is really a strategy.
But it doesn’t end there. Contradictions run through my blog like a red thread:

How can I justify promoting women’s liberation all over the world, even though I strongly reject the burqa ban?
Why do I bother fighting for the rights of mothers and families, when I’m trying to deconstruct the deification and euphemization of motherhood at the same time?
After reading and endorsing post-feminist theory, how can I still refer to men and women as biological and cultural categories?
How can I be pro-choice but anti-abortion?
How can I criticize commodity fetishism, while enjoying watching Sex and the City?
Why do I want to see more non-white models in Vogue etc., when I am critical of sexism and ageism in our society in general, and decry the objectification of women in advertisement?

a walking contradiction?

Everyone with strong convictions will come across similar difficulties at some point, be they personal or professional, or else their convictions are not very convincing to begin with or have never been challenged. So how do you negotiate this predicament? The answer: Don’t practice what you preach. The world can’t do it, and neither can you.

The Republican Party is a good example (no, seriously). Their entire program is highly paradoxical, culminating in their recent “pro-life” activities, which are really more adequately described as pro-death. How do they live with themselves, you might wonder? Well, I cannot answer that question for you but I do suspect how they make sense of it all: Behind all the seemingly contradictory aspects on their agenda lies one major goal that holds them all together. In the Republicans’ case this goal is to make the rich richer and the poor poorer, and with this in mind all of their recent activities make perfect sense all of a sudden: bust unions, fight health care, defund crucial women’s health institutions. The math is easy: The rich will always be able to pay a doctor – for a nose job, an STI screening or even a (secret) abortion. The poor will be left to their own devices, and especially poor women will be forced to once again give up control over their bodies. Occasionally the Republicans drift into hypocrisy, when they claim to act out the “will of the American people”, but generally their actions are rather consistent with their ultimate goal.  While this strategy may seem cruel, for the Republican Party it has proven very successful.

Back to my strategy: Just like the Republicans I, too, have an ultimate goal. Mine is, and I am not ashamed to say it, to make the world a slightly better place. All my convictions are based on that premise, as paradoxical as they may seem separately. The reason for that is that I had to learn to distinguish between theory and practice, between ideal and reality, between utopia and feasibility.

As I wrote in the aforementioned blog post, in theory a government may have implemented all the laws necessary to protect every minority from discrimination, in practice, however, some of the same structures are still in place that prevent us from truly living in equality. Some of those structures are systemic, some are cultural, with the two reinforcing each other constantly. In a post-gender, post-race society (I’m referring to the elimination of gender and race clichés, not the elimination of those categories) discrimination should be radically diminished or even non-existent; a quota system would become obsolete. However, it should be clear to everyone that this is by no means an adequate description of our reality.
As German grunge band Tocotronic put it back in 1995: Die Idee ist gut, doch die Welt noch nicht bereit. (The idea is good, but the world isn’t ready for it yet.) To put it in familiar feminist terms: “I’ll be a post-feminist in the post-patriarchy”.

I have to face the fact that I can’t eliminate discrimination (a quota can only do so much), but I can support measures that would improve the situation. Likewise, I cannot change the fact that our labor market is highly hierarchized, with some positions enjoying all the benefits and others hardly making a living, but I can try to give a greater variety of people access to these positions and to improve the way society views them.

I may not live up to all of my standards. I may have to make tough calls under certain circumstances,  but in the end I hope that small victories will make it all worthwhile.

In everything I do and promote I try to keep the greater picture in mind, but sometimes it is the small steps that count. Even if they seem to be sidetracked for a while, at least they are moving forward.

Newswatch

Today’s show on Democracy Now! is full of horrifying news:

Sexual assault and rape in the U.S. military has been ignored by the Pentagon for years – now they’re facing a lawsuit.

CBS News correspondent Lara Logan was beaten and sexually assaulted during the Kairo demonstrations, and the media has resorted to victim-blaming and racism.

The Republicans’ “War on women” is widening in scope.

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.