I’m pretty bad at planning ahead, and as usual I’m a step or two, and a day or two, behind the rest of the world (or the blogosphere, at least). So here is my belated entry to this year’s Blog for Choice Day, on the topic Trust Women:
First, go read Do you REALLY trust women? at FWD/Forward. I mean it. Skip the rest of this post if you only have time to read one thing right now: go read that. If this is to make any sense to you, you need to have read and understood that post.
Second (you read the FWD post, right?), an all-too-real example of the above: Kerry Robertson, whose story I linked to in Whose child is this?, has had her baby removed from her by Irish Social Services. Whether or not there is “more to the story” (there is always more to the story than what becomes public, though not always in the way people who say that mean), the fact that her learning disability has been used throughout as the public justification for these actions — blocking her marriage to her fetus’s father, removing her 4 day old breastfeeding baby from her care and her presence — is far more proof than I would ever care to have that we do not trust women, and that motherhood is a function of privilege, not a privileged status itself. Robertson made the “mistake” of being too young, too unmarried, too poor, having the wrong parents, and being disabled by her kyriarchal society: for that error, she has lost the child she chose to have.
Abortion rights are important, indubitably, indisputably. I would likely not be here if my mother had not had the right to choose when her IUD failed while she was a medical student. In my own very-much-tried-for-pregnancy, I found the knowledge that I had choice, that at any time for the first several months that I could change my mind, to be immensely, indescribably helpful and joyful. I’ve known women who are happier for the abortions they chose, and women whose lives were damaged by the abortions they wanted but could not obtain. We need 100% available, accessible, legal, safe abortions.
But there is so much more to reproductive rights, to real choice for women, than just abortion. And more than that, throughout history and throughout the world today (yes, in your country, in 2010), women who were not the “right” kind of women have been and continue to be coerced or forced into abortions and sterilizations and separations that they did not want.
My own grandmother was strongly encouraged to have an abortion — in the 1950s, in the USA — because of concerns over what the medical procedures she was undergoing at the time would do to her fetus and what the pregnancy would do to her; which is to say, because of ableism that says some babies are not worth having, and because of the misogynistic belief that women can’t be trusted to make the choice for ourselves. She was privileged enough (and obstinate enough: my grandmother did, in fact, wear army boots) that she was able to say no, to make another choice, to birth my mother, and only thus am I here today.
I am not anti-abortion. I am, it can easily be said, pro-abortion, in that I do not think of abortion as an “unfortunate necessity” or a “lesser evil”. But to be pro-choice, we need to think in far broader terms than just access to abortion, as important as that is.
“Trust women” means nothing if we do not also trust women to choose to retain her fertility (no matter how many children she has had or what gender she was assigned to at birth), to choose to not retain her fertility (no matter how many children she has had or what gender she was assigned to at birth), to choose what types of reproductive assistance to use when, to choose to carry her pregnancy to term or to terminate it, to choose to how much prenatal screening to have or not have, to choose the location and manner and attendants — or lack thereof — for her birth, to choose when and how and with whom to raise her child(ren).
We don’t have to agree with the choices any woman makes, and we damn well should work to make sure her choices are uncoerced and unconstrained by kyriarchy (classism, capitalism, racism, sexism, ableism, and so on), but we do have to trust her to make them and all the other choices that exist around reproduction if we are to claim we trust women.