In my senior year of high school, my sociology teacher became the first adult to ask me to decide my stance on abortion. My male, white, heterosexual, middle-class teacher presented my fellow students and I with the polarizing topic, insisting that the discussions to follow respect the ideas from both sides of the argument — that pro-life and pro-choice be considered fairly and equally within the classroom.
At the time, I didn’t read into the overarching politics of the discourse too deeply. Or even at all. I was avidly pro-choice, and spoke my mind frequently during class to proclaim myself as such. However, my arguments were always focused on proving (scientifically!) that abortion was not murder, and stressing the number of children living in foster care already.
My final paper for that class was a 5-paragraph run-on sentence chalk-full of statistics and biological facts-of-the-matter. And while I stand by all of the beliefs my passionate 17-year-old self fought for (and my affinity for run-on sentences), I have quickly come to realize that the battlefield on which I was fighting is corrupt.
In wake of the abortion bills being passed left right and center by men in positions of political power in the United States, I would like to take this moment to write that paper again from a different angle, on a playing field of my own.
“The feminist bias is that women are equal to men and the male chauvinist bias is that women are inferior. The unbiased view is that the truth lies somewhere in between”
- Ellen Willis (to be read sarcastically as fuck)
If I could go back in time and give one piece of advice to my high-school-senior self, I’d tell her, "you're wasting your breath trying to reason with power."
As if unbiased opinions really exist.
As if the autonomy of women’s bodies is discussed fairly only when everyone’s opinions are considered, no matter whether or not they identify as a woman themselves.
Which is complete bullshit by the way, if you didn’t catch the sarcasm.
We need to begin by talking about sex.
In Western Society, sex has consistently been classified a sinful act by innately religious and conservative ideology which necessitate that it be justified in order to be judged otherwise.
In the words of scholar Gayle Rubin, sex is “guilty until proven innocent.”
What is worthy of an innocent verdict, you might ask? That which is heterosexual, monogamous, marital, private, and for the purpose of reproduction. Any sex that falls outside of these conditionals is classified a “sexual deviant,” and chastised both directly and indirectly through means of political and social inequalities.
This is why, when discussing the legal rights of women seeking abortions, it is imperative that the conversation not only consider the ‘aftermath’ — we cannot simply discuss whether or not, once sperm has met egg, the resulting cells are worthy of human rights.
Although this is an extremely important and valid point of discussion, focusing too much of our energy here is problematic because it overlooks the inequality imposed on the sexualized female body as it is objectified and declared something which needs to be ‘controlled’.
By disregarding the rights of the woman in the discussion of reproductive rights, all that is born is patriarchy.
Conservative “pro-life” advocates have such an easy breezy time overlooking women’s rights in favour of the bundle of cells attached to her uterine wall because a woman seeking an abortion is a "sexual deviant." She participated in sex without the intention of reproduction, she did not conform to the expectations of women set forth by patriarchal society, thus, she is inherently sinful and must be controlled.
It matters not the conditions under which she became pregnant, be it consensual or otherwise. What matters is that her body (evidenced by her desire to terminate a pregnancy) participated in an act of sex that is condemned by the political climate of the society in which she lives. This is all the evidence needed for men in positions of political power to nail her body to the wall of omnipresent scapegoats symbolizing male superiority.
These abortion bills are nothing more than a moral witch hunt disguising misogyny with “right to life” bullshit, using reproduction as a trap for women to be subjected, once again, to male dominance.
“Because sexuality in Western Societies is so mystified, the wars over it are often fought at oblique angles, aimed at phony targets, conducted with misplaced passions, and are highly, intensely symbolic” - Gayle Rubin
I’ll say it again: these bills are not about saving the lives of unborn children, they are about controlling women’s bodies and maintaining male dominance and social inequality at the advantage of the privileged and powerful. If you think that arguing against women having the right to choose what they can and cannot do with their own bodies can be done without influence from these factors, then you've got some thinking to do.
To quote Catherine Mackinnon, “we never encounter the body unmediated by the meanings that cultures give to it,” therefore, “we cannot talk about the female body as a non-politically charged entity.” I am stressing here that this discussion cannot be had through a purely biological lens.
In fact, nothing can be understood through a purely biological lens, because we assign everything its meaning through its social and cultural context.
The idea of “naturalism” is a myth meant to exert oppression by conducting a culture of heteronormativity. Politically powerful men forcing women to bear children they do not want is charged with the (false!) belief that motherhood and bearing children is women’s intrinsic, biological purpose.
If men could get pregnant you could get an abortion at an ATM. - a tweet I saw
The final point I want to drive home is that this is not a women’s issue, it’s a human rights issue. Anyone who is refraining from being enraged at the complete lack of humanity being demonstrated by these bills because they have the privilege of being pushed further up the social ladder as women are pushed down, and/or somehow believe it is simply not their issue to speak on, I have one thing to say to you:
Silence is a form of compliance.
For each and every one of my male friends refraining from comment whilst these horrors unfold - your silence is deafening.
To the women and everyone else letting their emotions fuel their “pro-life” arguments:
You’re allowed not to like abortion.
You’re allowed to feel confused, angry, and upset about abortion.
You’re allowed to believe abortion isn’t something you could ever be okay with seeking yourself.
What you’re NOT allowed to do is tell women they don’t have the right to their own bodies.
The right to decide these things for themselves.
The right to their Own. Fucking. Uteruses.