Simple answer is, why not? Throughout my childhood and coming of age in the 1990s I never realized a woman would think anything other than pro-choice. My interest in politics/current events/women’s issues stems from having two middle class parents trying to provide their family the American Dream. Voting was always an important dinner table topic of conversation and debate over candidates and issues was always encouraged. I never once felt that I couldn’t speak my mind to my family. This open dialogue became a part of me and shaped my world view.
I graduated junior high, high school, and college all in the 90s and I believe growing up under Clinton, the rise of the Riot Grrl movement, and being taught comprehensive sex education shaped my pro-choice beliefs. I went to a typical cookie cutter ex-urb public high school. My health teacher in high school demonstrated how to properly put a condom on a banana. We openly discussed STIs and how to prevent them as well as how to prevent pregnancy. I don’t remember specifically discussing abortion but I do remember we were not taught abstinence only and we did discuss pregnancy. I have a bit of nostalgia and hindsight for that decade of my life but I don’t think that should discredit my experiences. I remember going to an L7 concert and seeing a table for the ‘Rock For Choice’ group – an organization of women in rock music who performed benefit concerts to educate young girls about abortion rights and voter registration. I took the pamphlets of information and bought a button to wear on my school bag. The next Monday I wore the button and never removed it until it broke and fell off. I very distinctly remember no one in high school giving me a hard time about it or trying to start a debate with me, or any negative reactions from teachers or students. I assumed this was the norm about how the majority of people felt. I wasn’t aware until a few years later that ‘Rock For Choice’ was in part formed as a reaction to the abortion clinic bombings of the early 90s. Obviously the abortion debate was alive and strong, but as a teenager I didn’t know the full history. I just knew I was pro-choice because women have a right to choose and why would anyone argue different?
I”m ticked off. I’m ticked off at pro-choice Americans.
Now before I go any further, I want to say that people who are actively involved in pro-choice activism year round, 24/7/365, need not read on. This is not about you.
To those of you who sit around and go “Roe v Wade is law, why should I speak out?” or “The Hyde amendment doesn’t bother me” - yeah, you keep reading.
My big question is- DO YOU CARE? Do you care about women? Do you care about children? Do you care about your sisters, your mother, your aunts, your daughters, yourself?
All too often in this country we only regard sex trafficking as an international issue. We often forget that, each year, between 100,000 and 300,000 American children are at risk for commercial sexual exploitation. I first became aware of this issue when reading The Road of Lost Innocence by Somaly Mam, a Cambodian sex slavery victim and survivor. It occurred to me that when referencing sex trafficking in this country we often refer to it as prostitution—I have an issue with that.
At it’s very core, I believe that the term ‘prostitution’ connotes a level of choice for all who partake in it. However, many young girls and women are prostituted forcibly and are thus sexually exploited. For instance, today, human trafficking is used for prostituting women and children—there is no choice in this. It has become, in my opinion, the largest form of slavery in our world.
Why should we care and why is this a feminist issue? Well, for one, women’s sexuality is being controlled and exploited. Women’s health and reproductive rights are being harmed daily, while many turn the other cheek. Also, at the heart of sex trafficking is control over women’s bodies. That is why it’s a feminist issue. Lastly, these prostituted women and girls are mostly the ones who endure punishment—even if they were forced into the sex trafficking sector. We must end this.
Anyone who knows me knows that for the last five weeks, I’ve been fostering the most adorable pit mix puppies. So adorable that I created a blog to chronicle their adventures and mischief. The pups came to me at 5 weeks old, three pounds each, and left at an admirable 15-17 pounds. I grew completely attached to these babies, waking up multiple times a night to care for them, buying them little doggie toys, taking them to the neighborhood dog park and watching them gallivant with their friends. Without a doubt, these puppies became the center of my universe and I loved (almost) every minute of it.
Then they got their 10 week shots, and their spay/neuter surgeries, and it came time to start looking for homes for them. I screened people with an intensity that rivals Harvard’s college admissions. If people had so much as a single spelling or grammar error in their application, I cast them aside. Only the best for my puppies! We ended up finding wonderful homes for each dog, and I can say with certainty that they will be loved unconditionally and spoiled rotten.
And yet, my heart is broken into tiny dog-sized pieces. Everywhere I look in my apartment, I think of the dogs. My bedroom floor has dog hair all over it. One of their toys is stuck under my fridge. My bathroom smells like wet dog.
Inevitably, as pro-choice activists we face people who simply do not understand the need for a reproductive health movement. Roe is the law of the land, what’s the big deal? Nine times out of 10 my infuriated response dives straight into an explanation of Hyde, the erosion of protections in the states, and what it means now that we have legally lost the right to have an abortion for health reasons alone. But now I have an addendum, health care reform and the inevitable loss of private health insurance coverage of abortion.
Though I am ecstatic we are on our way to passing historic legislation that will help millions of Americans, I have never been more dedicated to promoting reproductive justice. The mainstream pro-choice movement has officially lost its way and we, as reproductive justice activists, need to fill their gap. I woke up this morning to an email from Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood, four paragraphs in she merely notes that the Nelson amendment stands. If Planned Parenthood is going to settle, who is going to fight?
I understand we all want to improve health care for as many Americans as possible, and that unfortunately we do not have the political climate to get truly comprehensive health care to everyone, but we already compromised on abortion with the status quo. Why do we have to set ourselves back farther? Who does that help? Why are we again leaving behind poor women?
I was nearly an abortion. And honestly I’m cool with that.
Really. I am. If I personally had been in the same situation that my mother had been in at age twenty, I would have gotten an abortion. My mother decided to keep me, which I’m also cool with. I mean, I like existing. I’m a fan of it. I’ve gotten the argument from a lot of anti-choicers (I refuse on principles of decency to call them pro-lifers) that I wouldn’t be alive if my mom had aborted me. My response is “Well, then you’d be having this argument with someone else instead, I suppose.” I wouldn’t exist, fine, whatever… no skin off my ass because my ass was never born! It wouldn’t matter! So that argument is stupid and I’m going to put the stupid hat on it and set it in the corner with a set of encyclopedias.
There is not really any singular point in my life where I realized “Oh hay, I’m pro-choice! Yay me!” I was an observant and curious child; and my mother was very frank about The Way Things Were. When I asked where babies came from, she gave me an honest answer. When I asked her what abortion was, she told me the truth. And she told me the truth about the way it used to be for women when abortion was illegal. If there is one thing I am grateful for, it’s that I was born in a time when women have the right to be something more than a wife or a maid or a nurse. If there is one thing I am grateful for it’s that I have the right to walk outside without covering my head up and without an escort. If there is one thing I will fight for the death for, it is the freedom to be whoever I want to be regardless of my gender or race or sexual orientation or religious preference. I feel very strongly about this, more than anything in the world, that I will never sacrifice independent thought for safety or comfort.
I am angry. I am disappointed. I am filled with sorrow. Today, President Obama signed an executive order reaffirming the Hyde Amendment in order to appease Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) in order to pass health care reform. While I am happy that healthcare reform seems to be in its ending stages, I do not support that women’s reproductive health and rights have been compromised. These are not matters to be voted on.
As I heard today, this giving in to Stupak is basically the Senate’s way of saying that women’s reproductive rights can continue to controlled by white men—in a way I do agree. However, I feel that greater forces are at play here. Think for instance of low-income women and families. What happens when a low-income woman who really needs an abortion cannot attain one via health insurance—what if she simply cannot afford to have an abortion (they’re pricey)? What happens when paying for an abortion for an unplanned pregnancy pushes a low-income family further into debt? I believe that all women should have the option of having an abortion if they need one. Sure there are condoms and contraceptives, but it is important to remember that not all women have access to these things that we so often take for granted.
As I sit here I am wondering what ramifications will be had given that President Obama pushed women in America under the bus today. I understand that there will be times that he will disappoint us with the decisions he makes, but this should not be one of those times. What happens to low-income women working minimum wages jobs (which often do not provide health insurance coverage) who need to have an abortion for whatever reason? What about them? This executive order, this provision that reaffirms the Hyde Amendment, renders these women silent—that is not fair and it is not something that I will stand for.
So, while we sit enraged over the decisions of today, it is important to remember that our fight is far from over. We must not stop and will not stop until women are no longer thrown under the bus. We must fight for our reproductive rights and health! And we must continue until we are all afforded the health care that we—humankind alike—deserve.
Since the world began, women have not had rights over their own bodies. Our bodies have been manipulated, used, abused, and prostituted for money. For these reasons, I am pro-choice. I am pro-choice because I believe every woman around the world has a right to what occurs on her body; that every woman has a say. That every woman has a choice as to whether she has a pregnancy or whether she has an abortion; the right to work or choose to be a stay at home mother. For me, being pro-choice is about women having the right to choose in all aspects of their lives.
Choice is such a powerful term. And in the year 2010, it is still not something many women have been afforded. In many parts of Africa, a young girl is forced to undergo female genital mutilation. Whether it is a product of culture or not, as some argue, many of these young girls still do not have a choice in these acts occurring on their bodies. Domestically as well as abroad, many women do not have a say in whether or not they enter the labor market or stay home to raise children—oftentimes their decisions have already been made for them. And here in America, given the recent Stupak-Pitts amendment, we have all seen that women seemingly lack choice when it comes to our reproductive rights. I stand here today to say that we need to fight this battle and fight for choice—the choice to pursue everything and anything we desire.
As a proudly fierce pro-choice feminist I charge you to live it and be it. Stand up for what you believe in and never back down. Have no shame! You have many pro-choice allies supporting you and we will continue to fight until we have gained our right to choose. Peace and love y’all.
I am pro-choice for so many reasons, but only one that truly matters. Not that I want to diminish the other reasons that I have built my pro-choice foundation on, but in my heart and in my mind I know that this one reason burns brighter than the others. By no fault of their own, mind you, they are perfectly good reasons each one of them. But the main reason that I am pro-choice, and the reason that everyone should be, is because NO ONE, and I mean NO ONE (hence the overly emphatic all caps typing), has the right to control any woman’s reproductive choices other than the woman herself.
I could talk about the ethics of bodily autonomy being behind my reasoning, or I could point to the resource and population control necessities pulling a string or two in my thought processes. I could talk about the science behind my beliefs which place a high value on sentience, or expound on the ways that I do not believe a person is a person until they are born. I could talk about any number of backers to my way of thinking, but again, the one that matters the most, is a woman’s right to control her own body and make her own choices. And this is a right that no government, no religious body or followers, nor any rapidly dividing mass of cells within her body should be able to take away from her.