This morning I couldn’t walk the dog because of the rain and I can already tell that it’s going to put me out of sorts for the rest of the day.
This morning I heard from my one friend in New Orleans. He’s safe in Missouri, but he and his partner are pretty sure they’ll have nothing to go back to. I want to say something about the ways towns along the Mississippi put themselves back together after devastating floods, about the ways in which you’ll still see the lines on the houses and buildings that survived that let you know how high the muddy water went, but you’ll also begin to see new buildings and new houses, but shit like that, though true, sounds pretty trite when it’s your house that’s gone.
This morning I read for the first time Marge Piercy’s “The Grand Coolie Damn” and I’m sitting here with my brain blown wide open. This says so much about why I hate the Democratic party–the “progressive” party–and I’m floored that it was written thirty five years ago. How can this shit still be so true? But it is.
So I feel like I should clarify my rhetorical stand on abortion, even though I’m pretty sure it’s clear to most of you. When it comes to her own body, a woman should have an assortment of tools available to her to keep things working–access to healthy foods, comprehensive health care, a good job, education, self-knowledge, and contraception. But most of all, a woman must have bodily autonomy. Period.
She–not her husband, not her boyfriends, not her girlfriends, not her parents, not her god, not her church, not her government–must be in control of her body and its functions.
And the most significant factor in being able to have a healthy life and a good job and an education and a family is being able to plan pregnancies and to prevent unwanted pregnancies. It’s as simple as that.
I don’t believe abortion should be the first and only tool a woman uses to prevent unwanted pregnancies. I think women should have thorough knowledge of how their bodies work and easy access to birth control. I don’t think one’s use of birth control, no matter one’s age, should be thought of as a moral issue. When you show us the movie about menstruation in sixth grade, show us how to put a condom on a dildo at the same time. Make it matter of fact.
Women who want to go on the Pill should be given the Pill without any lecturing from their doctors about its immorality (which still happens, as I know, because it happened to me). If women want access to Plan B, they should be able to go to their drugstore and get it, no moral questions asked. And, if a woman wants an abortion, even if we find it morally reprehensible, she ought to be able to get it.
And though I firmly believe that, if women had real knowledge of how their bodies worked and easy access to contraception–minus the moral lecturing–the number of abortions would dwindle, I refuse to talk about reducing the number of abortions. I refuse to couch my beliefs as “pro-choice” rather than “pro-abortion” because “pro-choice” seems like the softer, less political, less offensive term. And I refuse to support the Democratic party when the use abortion and their willingness to concede ground on the issue as fast as possible in order to try to win (but obviously continue to lose) elections.
Because all that talk reinforces the bullshit belief that women’s private behavior is up for public judgment and that control of our behavior is an appropriate political negotiating point. And, fuck me, but at least anti-abortion forces are up front about it–they want to tell all women that they must always do the same thing, regardless of their circumstances (carry any and all pregnancies to term).
But to see the Democratic party also just accept that as true–that society has the right to control what women do with their own bodies–and to pander to voters by promising that they can control women in ways pleasing to the anti-abortion people makes me sick.
So, I’m pro-abortion not because I believe every woman should have bunches of abortions, but because I believe that any political movement that promises to control the behavior of women specifically and promises to curtail their medical options is so offensive that the only appropriate response to it is to meet it with something equally offensive to it.
i hate the fact that this is so often a response from me and from others, cause you know we’d like to offer something substantive in return, but “well said, as always”
I’ve got to go against you on this one B.
It’s a little more complicated than simply a woman’s health issue. There are special cases like rape or a health risk to the mother, when it should be solely the mother’s choice. But the average ‘oops I got preganant’ is different. The idea of a woman choosing to have the abortion without telling the father, or doing it against the father’s wishes is despicable. When it comes to that, the man’s opinion is just as important as the woman’s. In my book, that decision requires a yes vote by both parties in order to be done.
I will limit that by saying that if the man wants to insist she have the baby, then he should be prepared to be the sole caretaker physically and financially and absolve the mother of any responsibility after the birth.
As for the rest, I say right on.
But the father is never risking his life. Even in the U.S. women face the fact that eight out of every 100,000 live births results in the mother’s death. Then there’s the fact that many of the men we want to have babies with end up killing us, since homocide is the leading cause of death among pregnant women.
In a perfect world, where women had consistant access to self-knowledge and birth control, where men and women who were prepared to raise a child together were the only straight people who had sex, where men really viewed women as equal and autonomous human beings, and where pregnancy wasn’t dangerous, then I’d be happy to talk about men having an equal say in it.
I still would probably end up believing that it’s just not possible for men to have an equal say, but I’d at least be willing to consider it.
But here, in this world, where people are self-serving first, and where pregnancy is hard and dangerous, and many women live in real fear of the men they’re intimate with, I just don’t see how we’re anywhere near a time where we can talk about equal sharing of the decision.
I mean, yes, good men ought to be able to raise their children, if they want. But again, we go back to the fact that it’s nearly impossible to tell the good men from the bad men until it’s too late–y’all look just the same. And these things we do–fucking bad men even though we don’t want to, having abortions without telling them, etc. are really fucked up self-preservation strategies.
I am truly sorry that good men end up getting hurt by the ways we’re fucked up by the patriarchy. How long have I been arguing that men have a huge stake in seeing us come up with some different ways of relating to each other? Forever now, it seems.
But that’s the hard lesson I keep preaching: how things are between us are fucked up and it doesn’t just hurt women. You all have a stake in challenging this bullshit because you are hurt by it, too.
But there’s a certain high stink to the bullshit of insisting that women act like they aren’t damaged by their systemic oppression. (Don’t have abortions. Oh, but you’ve had sex with a shitty man. Well, don’t fuck shitty men. Oh, well you didn’t know he was shitty when you started to fuck him. Well, now you know. Leave him. Oh, he’s threatened to kill you. Well, shit, stop reminding us of how shitty you have it. Etc. Etc.) If we stop oppressing women, we’ll stop being fucked up by the oppression of women. That’s the simple hard truth.
Everything else starts to seem like good men begging women to stop reminding them that there’s a problem.