Saturday, September 30, 2006

The right to continue a pregnancy

Pinko Feminist Hellcat has a really interesting post about reproductive justice, and how it's much more than the right to buy an abortion. Her starting point was Beyond Pro-Choice Versus Pro-Life by Andrea Smith.

Andrea Smith begins with some really interesting interviews she did with Native American women:

Once, while taking an informal survey of Native women in Chicago about their position on abortion—were they "pro-life" or "pro-choice"—I quickly found that their responses did not neatly match up with these media-mandated categories.

Example 1:
Me: Are you pro-choice or pro-life?
Respondent 1: Oh I am definitely pro-life.
Me: So you think abortion should be illegal?
Respondent 1: No, definitely not. People should be able to have an abortion if they want.
Me: Do you think then that there should not be federal funding for abortion services?
Respondent 1: No, there should be funding available so that anyone can afford to have one.
Example 2:
Me: Would you say you are pro-choice or pro-life?
Respondent 2: Well, I would say that I am pro-choice, but the most important thing to me is promoting life in Native communities.
This analysis is much more common than you'd think. Actual women having actual abortions aren't generally making statements about the life-status of the fetus, but decisions about their own lives, and the reality that we live in.

Sheezlebub laid it all out in her post
It isn't about choice. It's about power, it's about basic civil and human rights. It's about dignity. It's about access to health care so that a woman can do what best for her and her child, instead of having no alternatives and then being thrown in the clink for being a dirty poor brown junkie or a lax bitch who didn't get prenatal care. There be cooptation down this road of choice rhetoric--that dirty trashy slut made bad choices and should be punished for them! For the sake of the baby, dammit! And lo, she is, and because she's not a wealthy or middle-class White woman, she's invisible.
I agree that feminism isn't about choices - feminism is about changing our society so women no longer have to constantly choose between shitty alternatives.

Despite that I think that there is strength in the slogan 'a woman's right to choose' though (strength that gets lost in the watered down idea of being 'pro-choice'). When I was going through the archives of an abortion rights group from the women's liberation era, I found this fantastic leaflet that emphasised that the right to choose meant the right to bring an unplanned pregnancy to term and keep the baby. A right that we can't have unless the work involved in child-rearing is recognised, and the costs involved in child-rearing is collectivised. To me that's the (and the idea that women could have a right to choose when they can only have an abortion if they can pay for it is ridiculous).

I am an absolutist about a woman's right to decide whether or not to end a pregnancy. I don't think there are any circumstances where I'm a better judge than the pregnant woman about whether or not to continue either a pregnancy or this particular pregnancy. If a woman has had a sex test and decided to abort the pregnancy because the fetus is female, then who am I to say "no, you're wrong, you can raise a baby girl"? The same is true if the fetus is going to be disabled, or if the father was of a different race.

But the problem in all those situations is that women may have very limited ability to exercise their right to continue their pregnancy and raise that child. You can't have reproductive justice in a society where women can only have an abortion if they can pay, but equally well you can't have reproductive justice in a society where women can only continue the pregnancy if they can pay. If we use the right to choose rhetoric, that has to mean that we're working on both sides of the choice.


  1. I'm pro choice, in fact I think being pro choice is pro life (in that the mothers life, and quality of life for any child that is born).

    I've been through the process supporting 2 close friends who have felt that this was best for them at a young age (both about 17 at the time) - being an evil capitalist male and all.

    I can understand those two responses though. I think women should have the right to choose what they do with their own bodies, as your body is your most important piece of private property, if you don't own your own body - what good is any other property. I see however where they draw the line at federal/state/taxpayer funding being used. Just as I don't agree with state money being used on anti abortion promotional material (as it is in the USA)

    The reason I agree with them on this, is I don't believe that people who do not belive in abortion should be forced to fund abortions via tax. Why should you be forced to fund something you are morally against (be it abortion, or whatever). I see no problem with it being covered by health insurance, private charity or other volunatry forms of payment however.

    If that makes sense.

  2. Anonymous2:24 am

    what do you guys think about post-natal abortions? Do you thin kthere should be funding for those?