broken walls and narratives

A not so revolutionary blog about feminism, socialism, activism, travel, nature, life, etc.

Why I Fight for Reproductive Rights

Once again it is the 40 Days for Life, when pro-life activists stand outside the Building for Women for 12 hours a day…for 40 days.  It is a national campaign that began in 2004 and manages to mobilize its supporters twice a year for 40 days of protest and prayer.  I must admit, this is impressive dedication and ability to mobilize people.  I am a part of the Twin Ports Women’s Rights Coalition and we go there once a week on Fridays from 12-6.  It is hard to mobilize people to the same degree that the pro-life side can.

While many women support the right to choose, few feel the need to go out and picket in support of this right.  It is the same with many causes.  Those who go out and protest are a very tiny minority of the mass of people who may support the cause.  But, doing this remains very important.  Here is why:
We are losing:
The fact of the matter is that while many people are generally pro-choice, the right to abortion has been whittled away over the past 40 years.  It has been 40 years of defeat.  This defeat comes in the form of waiting periods, parental consent, admitting privileges, funding, restrictions on abortions after 20 weeks, and the vast swaths of the country where it is impossible to get an abortion owing to distance to a clinic.   89% of the women in this country live in a county without an abortion provider (and that is from 2011 so it is probably more now.)  95% of MINNESOTA counties do not have providers.  Of course, there are some women, such as those in the military or in prisons, who have no access to funding or freedom of access at all.
Beyond losing in this legislative sense, we have lost in discourse.  Once again, many (well, stubbornly around half depending on the measure) people support legal abortion, but with caveats.  It should only occur early.  It should be rare.  It is shameful.  Abortion is inferior to birth control.  It is sad and tragic.  It is better to allow it than to punish women and doctors.  There are hundreds of caveats like this.  Rather than abortion on demand and without apology, most people accept it only as a necessary evil.  To me, the pro-life movement has been very successful at helping people imagine blobs of cells and tissue as human.  It is sad that so few people can imagine the humanity and worth of an adult female.   I want to be a human.  I want to participate fully and equally in society.  Honestly, as dramatic as it sounds, I would rather DIE than be forced to endure pregnancy.  It seems dehumanizing and disgusting.  I am more than just an incubator of life.  For me, abortion is a legitimate choice.  Anything less is an insult to my humanity.  With that said, we need to protest to remind people that women’s lives matter and to stand against the endless onslaught against our right not be forced to give birth!
No one will fight for this but us:
There is this misplaced notion that if we elect pro-choice candidates that the battle is won.  Well, for 40 years these pro-choice candidates have not been able to stop legal restrictions on abortion.  It might be easy to blame pro-life politicians, but really, can you think of a mainstream candidate who has truly advanced the cause?  If they have, it is with those hundreds of caveats.  In fact, they are a source of the caveats!  The Clintons helped to add “rare” into abortion discourse in the 1990s.  Hilary called it a sad and tragic choice.  Carter supported the Hyde Amendment.  Obama has in quotes and voting record, sought middle ground with anti-choice activists, sought to ban later abortions, wants teens to see the “sacredness” of sex, and voted present rather than “no” on several anti-abortion bills in Illinois.  In trying to compromise or appease less radical voters, they inject the discourse with poison.  Mainstream reproductive rights organizations place their hopes in the electoral system, and as such are restricted by the stifling discourse.  They are pro-choice yet fail to see any choice in the political system.  And so the conversation is less radical.  It is accepted that abortion should be rare, it is regretable, it should be ended, it is tragic, no one wants it…  cautious caveats that shame women and justify restrictions.
The truth is that no one will fight for women, but a women’s movement.  Politicians may give lip service to the issues of women, but in the absence of a strong social movement there is little incentive to make good on promises.  An agenda regarding women will never get pushed beyond what is comfortable and electable.  Who would put themselves out on a limb?  No one…unless of course there is a vibrant social movement pushing for more change.  This is why democracy is in the streets.  It may not feel this way when there are six people standing on a corner- but it would if everyone who believed in the issue showed up.
There is nothing wrong with protest:
I’ve said it before, but protesting isn’t very respectable.  People understand volunteering at a soup kitchen.  They get it and they idealize it.  They don’t get standing on a corner.  Worse, there is even a sense of cynicism about it.  It doesn’t change anything.  It is pointless.  It just copies the tactics of the pro-lifers.  It antagonizes people.
Protesting does change things.  It forces people to see things and deal with issues. It draws attention to a cause.  It shows people that they are not alone in their opinion or struggle.  When we counter picket the pro-lifers we show that there is another side and that the other side isn’t content to be invisible.  We want to be seen and heard.  We want our view represented on the street.  We are not there to harass or antagonize women.  We are there to show them that there are people who support their choices…so much so that we are willing to publicly proclaim it.  We also show the workers in the building that we support them.  They can’t protest because of a conflict of interest, so we are a voice to those who can’t speak out but want to.  Protest shows that the fight isn’t over and the discussion is ongoing.
So that is why I protest the 40 Days of Life.  I protest because of the losses, because no one will fight for me, and because it is a way to promote my views. I fight because I am terrified of the day that I am forced to be pregnant….and it isn’t about being responsible or making smart choices.  It is about enduring patriarchy…rape culture…and the fear that I could be a victim.  It is also a conviction that I matter.  My life matters.  My hopes and dreams are more than a biological capacity I was cursed with on account of my biological sex. I hope that others will join in.

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