For pro-choicers to succeed in the battle for reproductive justice, the last thing we need to do is give in to the wants of those who stand against women’s rights. The last thing we should ever do is sacrifice the rights of some women in an attempt to gain rights for others. After all, who is the pro-choice movement supposed to stand for? Women. If we stand for some women and not for others in order to please those who work against women’s rights, then I am confident that we will fail.
However, a recent article written by Frances Kissling seems to suggest that, as pro-choicers, we should not stand our ground. She suggests that we should sacrifice some abortion rights and give in to fetal worship if we want to win when she says that we “pretend the fetus is invisible” and that we should sacrifice more second and third trimester abortion rights. She claims that these “are not compromises”, and I have to ask, if they are not compromises, what are they? If we sacrifice the rights of of some women and take the focus off of women so that we can put it back on fetuses just to please a misogynistic society, how is that not compromise? Yes, it’s true that the abortion rights movement is fetus orientated. However, pro-choicers are not going to win by giving into the fetus obsession. Pro-choicers all have different opinions on the value of the fetus; that is fine. If all pro-choicers wake up tomorrow and say “oh, fine! There is a moral difference between a first trimester abortion and a second trimester abortion!” we will not be any better off than we were. The problem is not our differing views on the moral value of fetuses, the problem is that we live in a society that cares nothing for women’s lives and women’s rights. The abortion debate is already revolved around the fetus, and we are not going to win by making it even more so. If we want to make society recognize the fact that women deserve full equality, even when pregnant, then we need to recognize that, ultimately, it is not about the fetus.
Kissling claims that “we need to firmly and clearly reject post-viability abortions except in the most extreme cases.” Newsflash: women don’t wait until they are 36 weeks along and then decide “hm, I think I’m going to have an abortion today!” Women take this seriously, and it is certainly not up to Kissling to decide what is an acceptable abortion and what is not. This is where trusting women comes in; there are many reasons why women have second and third trimester abortions, ranging from rape to financial difficulties to fetal anomalies to mental or physical health reasons to not realizing that she was pregnant. All of these women deserve respect, and none of these women’s rights should be sacrificed. Also, taking away second and third trimester abortion rights will, inevitably, lead to the infringement upon first trimester abortion rights, as well. Anti-choicers are not going to settle for restricting late term abortions only, so we should stop attempting to appease to them. They will not stop fighting until they have eliminated all reproductive rights (and yes, I do mean all of them).
Kissling goes on to state that “the abortion-rights movement needs to change the way it thinks about the state” and that we “need to fight to get government to provide resources that women need, from subsidized birth control to better prenatal care. We also need a real effort to reduce maternal mortality and pregnancy complication rates in this country”. It’s true that we need to fight to get the government to do these things. It’s true that, ideally, women’s reproductive care (including abortions) should be funded. I actually agree with Kissling, that would be great. It seems somewhat idealistic, however. I believe that this goes back to what I wrote earlier; we need to get America to realize that women’s lives are worth something before we can get the government to do anything for us.
One more statement in this article that irked me was when Kissling stated that people should “take every step possible not to create fetuses they will have to abort.” Well, yes, people who don’t want pregnancies should probably do their best to avoid pregnancy. However, the problem is not that people aren’t doing their best. The problem is our lack of sex education and lack of contraception access, especially for poor women. It’s easy and simple to say that people are not doing enough to prevent pregnancy. It’s easy to put the blame on them. However, it’s not going to help unless we address the root problems.
If the pro-choice movement is doing anything wrong (of course we’re not perfect), it’s that we are not fierce enough. While Kissling seems to suggest that we should become less adamant on some aspects of abortion rights, I suggest the opposite. We should reject all compromise or common ground with the anti-choice movement and fight endlessly for all women’s rights. Throwing some women under the bus will eventually get us all thrown under the bus