From Stop Patriarchy

A Case for Breaking the Shackles of Mainstream Morality

August 31, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


August 6. I wanted to share an important exchange I had today with a student at UT Austin who identified herself as "pro-life."

She believed that abortion was murder "because it's a baby." We went back and forth for a while about the actual biology, which included me challenging her to answer what happens when a fetus is removed from a woman's body. I wanted to turn the focus to women. We shouldn't waste our time discussing the rights of fetuses inside women's bodies if women are full human beings. So I posed another question:

"Do you think that a woman should be forced to give birth against her will?"

She replied, quickly: "Yes, women should be forced to give birth."

"Against their wills?"


I went on to tell her that 1 in 3 women will have an abortion by the time they reach 45 years old. I explained that when abortion was illegal in this country, between 5,000 and 8,000 women were dying each year from illegal and self-induced abortions. Around the world today, 47,000 women die annually of the same cause.

"So women have always found ways to end unwanted pregnancies. How do you ensure that they give birth?"

"I hadn't really thought about that before."

"Perhaps you would shackle them to hospital beds?" I encouraged her to consider the example of El Salvador where girls as young as 7 are mandated by the state to carry incestuous pregnancies to term, women are sent to prison by the state for trying to end their pregnancies, and uteruses are seized by the state as evidence against women who miscarry.

"I never really thought about what this would look like before."

A society where women were "forced to give birth against their wills" would look a lot like a society where women were shackled to hospital beds at the expense of their humanity for the period of their pregnancy and birth, or a society where women's uteruses were seized and they were thrown into prison for daring to take back their lives through the responsible and liberating decision of abortion.

As this woman walked away, I felt myself growing upset. I was not angry at this woman. This woman, who believed that abortion was wrong, told me she was not ready for a child. She told me she was not responsible enough. She told me that the thought of having a child now was so far off from where she was right now. But she also told me that if she found herself pregnant, she said, "if I were raped, I would not have an abortion." This woman told me that she imagined it would be "difficult" to carry a pregnancy from rape to term, but that "she wouldn't really have a choice." If she becomes pregnant, she will be forced, not by any law, but by a morality that has convinced her state-madated gestation wasn't "that bad." This woman did not walk away with a changed mind, but she had been challenged to confront some of this in terms she hadn't heard before. I really hope that if she becomes pregnant, she remembers what I told her: there is nothing wrong with getting an abortion.

I wanted to share this interaction because it is a desperate case for jumping in to the trenches and fighting to change the terms around abortion, and it starts with a conversation anybody can have. As politicians legislate away abortion clinics, women's lives and futures are being threatened by self-induced abortion and all the medical dangers of that as well as forced motherhood along with everything that means at the expense of their own dreams. We have a real responsibility to be out there changing the terms around this debate. We have to challenge people who are "a little bit" with this, and we have to challenge people who know that they're against this. We have a responsibility as people who know the truth to tell these women who otherwise are unconsciously surrendering to a sub-human status.

If we allow the anti-abortion movement to seize any claim to morality, if Governor Rick Perry succeeds in his goal to, "make abortion a thing of the past": millions of women will be at a loss. They will be forced to carry pregnancies and give birth against their will because they believe it to be their only option. Coerced motherhood is forced motherhood. FORCED MOTHERHOOD IS FEMALE ENSLAVEMENT. In the urgently articulate words of Abortion Rights Freedom Ride 2014: Ground Zero Texas Advisory Board member, Mary Lou Singleton, "Criminalizing abortion strips women of their right to their own lives and turns women into the property of the state. Treating people as property is the very definition of slavery."

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