Wednesday, January 24, 2007

What we've lost

Blog for Choice day has come and gone, and there's a lot of great posts. I'm very excited that a lot of feminists have taken this opportunity to interogate and question the usefulnes of 'choice' as a slogan, goal, or analysis. I have lots of ideas about this, and hopefully I'll get round to writing about some of them soon, but in the meantime, I wanted to write about one tiny corner of those issues.

When abortion battles were fought and won (or lost, in New Zealand's case - but we won the wore), they weren't fought using the term 'pro-choice'.

The feminist slogan was: "A woman's right to choose"

The most obvious thing we've lost in the compacting of the slogan to a label is the woman. The feminist slogan put women at the centre of our argument.

The term pro-choice, also steps back from demanding our rights, and phrasing those rights as anything which interferes with making the choices we wish to make. I believe that charging women fees for abortion interferes with her right to choose, just as surely as making her get her abortion signed off by two doctors.

The phrase pro-choice is too wishy-washy, too vague, and too open to the idea that it's the ability to choose that matters, rather than the quality of the options. The choice between continuing and unwanted pregnancy or working as a prostitute to pay for an abortion is a choice some women have to make, in places where abortion isn't funded by the state. That doesn't mean I'm for that choice. Other women have to have abortions because they can't afford the time off work that would come with pregnancy. Again I'm not pro-that choice. As a feminist part of what I want is to ensure that women don't have to spend their lives choosing between two shitty options.* In the meantime I will fight to ensure that women themselves are able to decide which shitty option they think is better, but that's not my end-goal.

So maybe I'm not pro-choice after-all - I think I'll ditch the short-hand - waste the extra syllables and make sure I always say that I believe in a woman's right to choose.

* I'm not saying (and don't believe) that abortion is always a shitty option, but that it can be, for some women under some circumstances.


  1. Anonymous8:51 am

    So who do you think should pay for a woman's abortion if not the woman herself or her partner? Who is responsible for her pregnancy in the first place? Society? What kind of fucked up thinking is this? You want some poor bastard who didn't sleep with her in the first place to go and dig ditches and then fork over some money so she can have a foetus sucked out of her womb?

    And the whole "a womans's right to choose" implies that the baby hasn't got a hell of a lot of choice in the matter. Any woman who has an abortion is a murderer and should be charged as such. It is a living being, regardless.

  2. So Anon, when someone has an accident who is responsible for that? And yet in NZ our society has long believed that the person who has had the accident is entitled to state support for their income and also paying for their treatment.

    I can think of many other examples where state provision is made for problems people have that are not necessarily down to the actions and systems of our state, or our broader society.

    Your denial that this should apply to women seeking an abortion is more fairly explained by your second paragraph - you are opposed to state provision because you are opposed to abortion full stop.

  3. Anonymous3:30 pm

    I think your "right to choose" argument is a red herring. Inasmuch as we should have the basic freedom to live our lives in the manner that we deem fit, there are all sorts of legal, social, economic and physical constraints imposed on us that make our choices less clearcut. One thing I've noticed is that most people using the "right to choose" argument focus entirely on government policy, and completely ignore physical or market-driven constraints. I think that although it's more difficult to justify blame, these are no less an encroachment on their rights.

    Of course there's heaps a democratic government can do to help uphold freedoms. Some of them involve revoking draconian government policies from the past, others involve imposing restrictions on entities with power. However, if you want to "uphold rights" with government funding, then there's a queue stretched to the moon - people who are sick, poor, ill-educated, victimised, you name it. And there will always be a limited pool of cash.

    I'm not against state-funded abortions per se. I just think that paying for one's own abortion isn't really a violation of rights, but more of a logistics issue. FWIW, I wouldn't ever take for granted the right to actually have an abortion in NZ, and I admire your ongoing battle with that portion of society that'd rather see a woman's life & health ruined than soften their reflexive prolife stance. But I think WRT state funding, that addressing issues that may be linked to our increasing repeat abortion rate (, contraception, peer pressure, self-image, alcohol, consent, whatever) would be a more relevant way to uphold a woman's rights to physical and emotional health, purely because the positive impact of this approach is a lot further-reaching in a woman's life than a free abortion.

  4. I deleted a whole bunch of comments because I'm not actually interested in having the same boring debate about abortion that happens everytime you bring this topic up.

  5. Anonymous8:54 am

    If you delete my comments then that is the last time I visit this blog. What's the point if you don't allow debate.