The RP History Month Rant: Protecting Women’s Bodies and Our Right to Choose

The Supreme Court upholds the partial-birth abortion ban and ignores, in fact, “refuses to take … seriouslyâ€? 30 years of previous Supreme Court decisions on abortion.

Bush “pleased”; Redstar and pro-choice individuals everywhere “aghast” and “infuriated.”

I don’t understand how a nation that allows capital punishment, has such flimsy gun control laws that a 23-year old mentally ill student can buy two guns, tortures prisoners, and blindly invades other countries (what else am I missing in my fury right now…help me out here…), can justify this decision based on the “sanctity of life.” 


Never mind that the type of abortion procedure at issue here is a very small percentage of all abortions.  It’s the symbolism of this decision (listen up ladies: your lives are not your own, nor are they particularly valued), and the expectation that it will accelerate the erosion of abortion rights in the U.S.  Ginsberg, the sole women on the Supreme Court wrote the dissent and lambasted her colleagues for this blatantly partisan decision; the lawyer for Planned Parenthood claims:

“This ruling flies in the face of 30 years of Supreme Court precedent and the best interest of women’s health and safety. … This ruling tells women that politicians, not doctors, will make their health care decisions for them.â€?

Wesley has been writing extensively lately about the conversations among men regarding gender in his separate discussions of Don Imus, Hillary and the threatening blogosphere.  Our gendered power imbalance in this country is absolutely manifest in the abortion debates.  Of course, there are pro-life women, and like the Hillary-haters, they’re often the most staunch in their opposition to abortion.  But research ($) shows that

a state’s abortion policy is determined by the strength of interest advocacy groups and political forces. The greater the membership in the National Abortion Rights Action League, the percentage of female state legislators and the percentage of Democratic female legislators, the less restrictive a state’s abortion policy. The greater a state’s population that are Roman Catholics, the more restrictive a state’s abortion policy. (my emphases)

Consider some of the states leading the charge to restrict abortion right now.  South Dakota attempted to ban abortion last year, and is now in federal court defending its mandate that doctors tell women seeking abortions that they are killing a “whole, separate, unique, living human being.” It is in the bottom 10 (14.2%) of states in terms of the percentage of women in state government, according to Rutger’s Center for American Women & Politics.  The national average is 23.5%. 

Another example is South Carolina, where the House has a hideous and original proposal to require women considering an abortion to view an ultrasound of the fetus.  “Critics consider it a way to intimidate women who already have made an agonizing decision.” (my emphases)  South Carolina has the lowest percentage of women in state government in the nation, 8.8%.  On this recent House proposal, only one of the 13 women in the House voted against it.  From South Carolina’s The State.com:

Democrats, led by Rep. Todd Rutherford of Richland County, tried to carve out an exception in the proposal for women who are victims of rape or incest. Time and again, they were beat back in fairly close votes.

Rutherford was not shocked.

“Honestly, people, including Democrats, their lack of guts doesn’t surprise me anymore,� he said. “The number of women, they just fold over.�

Afterward, Rutherford said female House staffers thanked him for “defending them.�

Rutherford thinks a number of House Republicans…were afraid the bill’s supporters would find candidates to challenge them in next year’s primary elections.

I know, I know, abortion politics are not as simple as women v. men.  But it sure feels like somebody’s driving us backwards into those dark, dangerous alleyways.   As my friend Nikki reminded me recently, I have access to a wider range of perspectives than many (we were discussing breast feeding): rich or poor, black or white, foreign- or native-born, U.S. or Africa, MIT or Southie, I’ve got a little of just about everything in my life (though the religious right in my life are Orthodox Jews).  That exposure makes it easier for me to associate abstract political discussions with the realities of so many different peoples’ lives.  And so the thing that I loathe in these social conflicts about abortion access, illegal immigration, gay marriage, etc., is how easily we forget that we’re discussing people’s lives, and the very personal, painful decisions they’re often compelled to make.

(F*ck!  I’m pregnant!  We shouldn’t have had sex, just like that abstinence class instructed.  But I wanted him to like me, and he said it would be safe.  We should have used condoms at least…I wonder where we could have gotten those?…Now what I am going to do?????). 

Political mandates that seek to dictate the terms of those decisions do little more than increase the risk and insecurity in people’s lives regarding personal decisions they’re likely going to make anyway. 

Abhorrent partisanship, weakening separation of church and state, and gender inequality in leadership and power leads to, lo and behold, intimidation and restrictions on women.  It reminds me of the pro-choice posters I used to see on the NYC subway: 

True dat. 

Not to mention, the American Journal of Economics and Sociology article that I reference above also finds:

that abortion restrictions have no statistically significant impact on a state’s abortion rate.

Shocking!!!  I wonder if capital punishment doesn’t actually reduce the murder rate in the U.S. either…

For those of you still with me and sufficiently fired up by now, consider signing Ms. Magazine’s petition to keep abortion legal, safe and accessible.


4 Responses to “The RP History Month Rant: Protecting Women’s Bodies and Our Right to Choose”

  1. April 18, 2007 at 6:58 pm

    I want to write about this shortly – in the meantime, I wrote about our conversation about Cho Seung-Hui – but I empathize with your anger; I think there’s no way to see this as something other than a setback, and the natural conclusion of an anti-woman, antiabortion campaign by conservatives stretching over many years, pretty much to the original decision of Roe v. Wade, if not Griswold V. Connecticut. I do wonder, though, if this is the start of something or the high point of a movement that can’t close the deal on what it wants to do next – eliminate Roe and criminalize abortion. People may support incremental restrictions, but the majority does also support the notion that a woman has a right to decide this for herself. Those things are in conflict, and I think the dividing line – as it has ever been – is fetal viability. Once this baby can survive on its own, all bets are off. But before that – where, we should remember, the vast majority of abortions occur – a lot of conservative arguments fall apart. I think women get this, I think men get this, and I think a lot of people want to keep some sort of option open. That may not be the best defense for Roe, but it’s a start. And the next best, it seems to me is electing a Democrat President in 2008… and that, too, seems like a foregone conclusion. This decision may well just add juice to women abandoning the GOP, and that seems to me like backfiring, in the big scheme of things.

  2. 2 Poseidon
    April 21, 2007 at 1:02 pm

    Right on, redstar. And, right on, Barbara Kruger!


  3. 3 D Rogers
    February 20, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    I believe in women’s rights – to have sex or not. If you choose to exercise your RIGHT to have sex*, and then conceive, you must then exercise your RESPONSIBILITY to either take care of the life you have made, or to give it up for adoption to someone who will.

    To destroy a potential life in order to remove the consequences of your own sexual behaviour is not responsible behaviour. It is like wanting to have your cake and eat it.

    The male/female power-struggle thing is a smokescreen, and not relevant in any way to this debate. Even if abortion were legal everywhere in the world, it would still not be a responsible thing to do.

    I do have compassion for those who struggle as a result of taking responsibilty for their decisions, but, it is better that YOU make a sacrifice in order to act responsibly, than to sacrifice a potential human life on the altar of self-interest.

    *I am not entering the rape debate here – except to say that only a minority of abortions are the result of rape.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: