A friend once told me a story about arguing about abortion with someone she got a hitching lift with. They went up and down, covering all sorts of ground, that's probably familiar to most people who read this blog. The guy thought he was getting somewhere with the argument and said "I just think that birth is a really arbitrary dividing line." an she replied "I agree." Which is when they realised that they probably weren't going to get anywhere.
I thought I'd expand on my previous post on infanticide, and give the people over at Capitalism Great something to do.
The feminist work I find most powerful is almost entirely written by feminist historians. That's probably not that surprising, since history is my passion. What I love about feminist history is it allows us to see women's lives, not as something fixed and inevitable, but something that changes over time. It allows us to explore both agency and oppression.
Linda Gordon's Woman's Boday, Woman's Right: A Social History of Birth Control in America is a great example of that.
Because of the different interest of men and women in the practice of birth control, differences in birth-control techniques have social significance. Som techniques are more amenable than others to being used independently and even secretly by women; some given full control to men; others are more likely to be used cooperatively[....] For example, a list of the types of birth control might look like this: infanticide; abortion; sterilizing surgery; withdrawal by the male (coitus interruptus); melting suppositories designed to form an impenetrable coating over the cervix, diaphragms caps and other devices which are inserted into the vagina over the cervix and withdrawn after intercourse, intrauterine devices; internal medicines - potions or pills; douching and other forms of action after intercourse designed to kill or drive out the sperm; condoms; and varieties of the rhythm methods, based on calculating the woman's fertile period and abstaining from intercourse during it.When look at the history of birth control she looks at infanticide as a form of birth control like any other and explores why it is used more commonly in some times and places than others. She shows why in pre-industrial societies infanticide was often the main form of birth control. Women did leave their newborn, and doing so was a matter of survival. As she says "If infanticide is not suitable in today's societies, it is because we have found better methods of birth control, not because we are morally superiod."
I see why women in different times and places used infanticide as a form of birth-control. I don't think it was because they were morally deficient, or because they cared about children any less.
I think it would be a hideous form of birth-control, because you would still have to go through the stress and danger of nine months of pregnancy. Infanticide was also often controlled by men - and regulated according to the economic needs of society. I'm angry for all the women who had to leave their girl babies to die. I'm so glad that I have more choices open to me, and I know that the reason I do is because previous generations women have organised so that I actually have choices when it comes to getting pregnant.
But if a woman feels like she has no other choice but to wrap her baby up in a rubbish bag, I'm still on her side and will not judge her. I think the mother is more important than a new-born baby.
That's not to say it's a good thing - of course I don't. I don't think a woman should ever feel like her only choice is to abandon the baby in a place where it has no hope of survival. I think ensuring every woman has other options is far more important, far more useful, than pointing the finger, and pressing charges against any woman.
I'll leave you with the story of another woman who was charged with killing her baby:
Fifteen-year-old Mary Turlot, for instance, working as a domestic for a well-to-do farm family in Warren County, New York, became pregnant by the son; her pregnancy discovered, she was discharged.