Tuesday, March 14, 2006

An Oldie But A Goodie: Some Things Are Worth Repeating

Posted this back on Jan 31st, 2005

Today Was the First Day I Considered a United States Without the Right to Legal Abortion

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush told abortion foes on Monday he shared their support for "a culture of life" and claimed progress in passing legislation to protect the vulnerable.

"We need most of all to change hearts and that is what we're doing," Bush said as anti-abortion activists marked the 32nd anniversary of the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion with a day of rallies, protests and other activities.

I finally decided to start thinking about it. I've been fobbing it of and fobbing it off for a long time now. I didn't think he'd outlaw partial-birth abortion, either. I don't seriously think he can get away with overturning Roe.

But I considered what I would do if that happened.

I've discussed before the great fertility of the women in my family. My fertility has always been a big issue for me, and I've negotiated all of my sexual encounters knowing just how great my risk of pregnancy was. I've never slipped up. I've never had to get an abortion. I never engaged in unsafe sex - not once.

But that doesn't mean that there won't be a future "oops" pregnancy. And no, I wouldn't hesitate to get an abortion if I got pregnant, say, in the middle of law school.

And today I seriously considered it: what happens if Roe's overturned?

Well, I'd spend a day or two sobbing in my bedroom, probably, out of sheer anger and frustration. All that hard work trying to get the world to see me as a person and not the incubater of some guy's sperm - all that work trying to change people's ideas about what children really are: they are created of a woman's body, a woman's breath. Yes, a man contributes half the potential child's DNA, but at the end of the day, the stuff that goes into the creation of heart and lungs and fingers and toes comes out of my body, is nourished by what I eat, how well I sleep.

So what would happen if I got pregnant without wanting to, without choosing to?

Well, likely, I'd take a trip to Canada. I'm one of those lucky people who could afford to take off to Toronto for the weekend if I had to. I could afford to stay in a hotel, afford to pay for the procedure. In fact, Canada would likely have a nice little business providing reproductive health services to American women hopping over the border.

I would be OK. I'm intelligent, I'm well-off.

But Roe V. Wade is about a bigger issue than just the abortion part. It's not about protecting life or fetal rights or any of that bullshit (again, if this was about life, we'd be putting all that energy into childcare services).

Overturning Roe V. Wade, making abortion illegal, is about controlling women. Always has been. Always will be. You won't convince me otherwise, not with all of your arguments about sacred egg meeting sacred sperm: a couple of DNA strands slathered in proteins that have about as much self-awareness as a can of coke.

So when I hear Bush & co. make these broad statements about "life" about "championing life" what I'm actually hearing is an old rich white guy telling me who has control over my body - his sperm. His agency. I will be forced to labor against my will producing a child of my body for nine months. Anyone who has given birth, whose wife has given birth, will be the first to tell you why it's called "labor." Making babies doesn't come easy, doesn't come without cost.

And that cost is not my biological burden to bear against my will. It is not something to be forced upon me by men, by women, by the President of the United States.

So though I will travel to Canada, fly over the heads of poorer women who cannot afford the luxury and instead submit themselves to risky and dubious back-street procedures in their god-given, natural right to control their own fertility, I will come back to a country whose laws still view me as vessel, as no better than an empty jug in want of filling.

That is what the laws will say I am. That is what all this talk of life, and packing courts with judges, means to me.

It means I go back to being a dumb body, a thing, a sperm receptacle, a baby vessel, and NOTHING else.

And soon after I will begin reading even more "studies" about how I can't do SCIENCE because ovaries get in the way of learning, and SCIENCE is bad for babies. I will be told I cannot drive a car, because I don't have the spatial reasoning skills. And if you're not careful, if you're not careful, if you begin to view us as things instead of people, if we become a means to an end instead of an end, an asset, in and of oursevles, then you begin trading women for cattle. Men begin hiding us from view like their best possessions. Men begin encouraging us to go back to finding our strength and identities in men, no matter if that man is weaker, stupider, more spineless than we.

Movie heroines will easily slide back to telling their beaus, "You'll have to think for the both of us!" and they'll mean it.

These gains, these little steps that women have taken toward being considered "real" people, are not very old. There have certainly been other times and places where women were treated as people, but none in our recent cultural memory, the Judeo-Christian one that most of the US comes from, and given any excuse, given fear, we'll slide back very easily to equating women with possessions, because it seems so much simpler, so much easier, so logical, so reasoned.

Life. Yes. We're protecting life. We're protecting the 50s ideal that never existed, the one we all pretended was truth, and was nothing so much as a bald-faced lie that everyone told themselves they wanted to live, they should live.

I want a life where I'm treated like in intelligent, informed, responsible person. I want a life where people look at me and see not a vessel, not untapped fertility, but just a person, just this, me. Not my womb. Not my ovaries.

It is never "one" thing. It will not stop at the outlawing of abortion, just like he didn't stop with outlawing Dilation & Extraction. It will not stop.

It will not stop.

This is why this issue terrifies women. Until you have grown up knowing that old men like these have the ultimate control over your body and what you do with it, over your labor, over how you choose to spend your body's breath and blood, you won't know this terror, this uncertaintly, this screaming, terrified anger at the co-option of all that you are for use by the state.

The closest male equivalent I can think of is the draft: being forced to fight a war you did not vote for, for a cause you did not want, at a time in your life when all the world's possibilities are spread before you. And there is no honor in it. There is no medal. Because you will be told that your purpose in life is just this: to live or die for the state. That is your biological burden, and if you survive this war, you will be forced to take home with you a burden far greater than merely serving the state: you'll be given a child that is yours, whose future, whose mental and physical health, whose deeds, will be forever your responsibility.

And there is no conscientious objector clause. There's no medical leave. There's no reprieve if you're mentally ill.

If a man has sex with you, and you become pregnant, you're consigned to the will of that man and his laws.

Your life is no longer yours.

That's the battle women fight. That's why it's such a brutal battle, and that's why we get so violently passionate about the abortion debate. Because what we're talking about is the co-option of our bodies, our lives, for the state. We're talking about giving up our rights, our bodies, to the will of men and their wants and desires.

And we're fucking tired.

We're not going to be non-people again in the eyes of the law. We're not going to be second-class, second-best, by virtue of birth.

Never again.

3 comments so far. What are your thoughts?

Unsane said...

Women need to start showing more derision for these types of men who feel they cannot reproduce any other way than by curtailing women's freedoms. This viewpoint does not equate with any noble standard of masculinity (and we have had such notional standards in the past, to some degree fulfilled and fulfillable).

There is obviously something desperately biologically and mentally wrong with such men who feel they have to adopt a stance of FORCING women to do anything against their wills.

Rachel said...

I've just written a short thesis on the reclamation of the erotic from the pornographic in women's writing, and something that really struck me as I researched it was how occasionally the Women Against Pornography collective found themselves arguing for the same thing - the banning of pornography - WITH the Christian Right (obviously their reasons were very different). But that must have been very hard.

Living in the UK, I am finding it very difficult to believe that there is actually a supposedly progressive Western country considering this... it's just... devolution. If you want to move to England (not that I'm saying it's much better, but there's at least no plans here to drastically and offensively reduce women's rights) there's a sofa for you at mine :) 

Posted by Rachel

That Girl said...

You're beautiful.