It's Blog for Choice Day. (Read about it here too.) That means Roe v. Wade gets a 35th birthday... and it's not looking so good. Tons of brilliant people have posted brilliant things chock full of information and the power of their own experience all over the web -- those links above are a digest of some great writing on reproductive justice, gender, and self-determination. Another clearing-house of reproductive rights news and info is here.
Last year, this journal entry by artist and sex-ed activist Heather Corinna was my blog-for-choice citation on my livejournal, because I didn't have a proper blog. It's still great... But the intervening year for women's rights in this country has been one of the most dismal yet. Anthony Kennedy's opinion in Gonzales v. Carhart in April was truly one of the most infuriating, weltschmerz-inducing things that happened to me in 2007 -- and that is saying something! I wrote about it then:
If you look at the language in the Kennedy opinion today, it's really, really disturbing. I for one am glad to learn that the new test for demonstrating that a group deserves to have its constitutional rights protected is apparently whether a law is "unconstitutional in a large fraction of relevant cases" -- excuse me, wtf?!! I thought the idea that we should worry if ONE person would be left out was part of the whole reason for constitutional rights in the first place. How many, I wonder, is a "large fraction"?? I love how he basically acknowledges that this ruling results in an unconstitutional burden, risk, and deprivation of autonomy and privacy in SOME cases, just not apparently a large enough "fraction."
Also, I love how it says this decision "does not impose an undue burden" on exercising your constitutional right to end a pregnancy, but also reflects the state's "legitimate, substantial interest in preserving and promoting fetal life." [So the state regards itself as having a legitimate interest in women who want to have abortions, not having those abortions. Just great--but we knew that from Planned Parenthood v. Casey.] I love how it says that if there's major uncertainty in the medical community about whether prohibiting this procedure "creates significant health risks" -- well, that's no problem! The legislature now has the right to decide definitively in the face of medical uncertainty, settling it once and for all. Doesn't that make you happy?!
Also, check this -- probably the most grossly offensive part of the whole idiotic opinion. It totally reveals the egregious presumptions from which Kennedy is writing:
"It is self-evident that a mother who comes to regret her choice to abort must struggle with grief more anguished and sorrow more profound when she learns, only after the event, what she once did not know: that she allowed a doctor to pierce the skull and vacuum the fast-developing brain of her unborn child, a child assuming the human form." All of which lead up to this (unsurprising) statement, now the law of the land: "the government may use its voice and its regulatory authority to show its profound respect for the life within the woman." But not, it's abundantly clear, for the woman herself.
--------[end 2007 weltschmerz / begin 2008 weltschmerz]
Yep, I was pissed, and I'm still pissed. Salon has a great interview right now with an abortion doctor who's written an amazing-looking book called This Common Secret, about the real people she serves -- it's really worth reading. All these other brilliant bloggers-for-choice have done a fabulous job of showing the facts and the consequences of this bullshit rollback of human rights in the area of women's bodily self-determination... but I'm pissed off. So this is my day-late Election-Year Weltschmerz Blog for Choice, and in it I am going to say exactly what I think, and it causes me great weltschmerz that the terms of public discourse have been so co-opted that my position sounds extreme.
Abortion has been around forever, and it is not "rare," no matter what centrist Democrats would like to think. Around 40 percent of women in American will have an abortion at some point in their lives! (I can't even get with some of the stuff Frances Kissling of Catholics for a Free Choice says about this. I appreciate all the work she's done, but some of her rhetoric is still rooted in moral, which is to say religious and prescriptive, thinking about abortion as a choice.) We need to have it around! ABORTION IS GOOD.
Abortion is NOT in itself "sad;" in further news it is neither "selfish" NOR "selfless." Any of these emotions or value judgments that might be present in the set of circumstances around a particular abortion inhere in the circumstances, NOT in abortion as a medical procedure. Abortion IS the act of a person doing what is right for her in the area of life with THE greatest consequences: reproduction, parenthood, personal life, family life. This aspect to it, that it is the act of a person acting in her own interest, is what makes it a morally good act. It is specially serious because pregnancy is serious -- without an abortion, pregnancy makes TWO people (2, remember?) PARENTS. Responsible for a child.
I don't know about everyone else (actually, I do know about a lot of folks, hence the weltschmerz), but I believe that what's good for a society grows out of what's good for its members, on every level. If I got accidentally pregnant right now, I would in overwhelming likelihood have an abortion. And the only thing I'd feel guilty about is that because I live in New York and am privileged, I could make that happen for myself when so many women can't.
And no, a fetus is not a "member of society." (If Colorado decides it is in November, I will scream.) A baby is a member of society. After it's born! (Remember those? We don't hear as much about them in the news these days, unless it's to beat up on women who are fucking them up by doing _____[fill in blank].) Whether a woman wants to abort a fetus or have a baby is up to HER, and no one else. Whether some fun factoid about fetal development (yeah, I loved the movie, but Juno's "It has fingernails!" really pissed me off -- for one thing it's totally untrue, Juno was nowhere near 20 weeks, which is when it gets fingernails) is a charming, moving aspect of the mystical creation of a life taking place inside an expectant mother -- or a totally irrelevant, oppressive, disingenuous, propagandistic ploy to force a woman to abide by the decision-making framework of someone who is NOT HER -- depends on whether the woman wants to carry the pregnancy to term and give birth, or not. And nothing else.
I think a lot of our fucked-up-ed-ness around abortion comes out of this weird dual nature. It is at once a medical procedure like any other that should be the province of health-care providers, and it should be criminal to interfere with it for political reasons. At the same time, because of the physical capacity to reproduce that has been used by men to subjugate women for most of human history, we have this situation where women's ability to exercise the basic human right to bodily self-determination depends on this medical procedure and all the whole modern medico-juridical apparatus standing around it. On one hand, modernity is nice that way. Safe abortion, less risky than pregnancy and birth, exists. On the other hand, patriarchy advances along with progress, devising up-to-the-minute modern and postmodern ways to keep women -- all over the world -- down.
So, this January 23rd, after a full day of reading about the legal and policy issues in play, I say: FUCK THAT. Fuck the new anti-choice ploy to get young men who might otherwise realize that being pro-choice benefits them on their side by masquerading as touchy-feely pro-compassion faux-emo men's movement shit (which when you scratch it, is usually sexist!). Fuck the apparent new romantic-comedy genre of people who decide to go through with unwanted pregnancies and it all turns out fine (there's way more to be said about this, but fuck it until we have a genre where people get abortions and are happy and it all works out ok in the end!). And fuck Anthony Kennedy and the horse he rode in on. (And Hang On, Stevens.)
And work like hell -- everyone -- for the Democratic nominee for president, because we're already stuck with the 5 who are on the court now and their insulting excuses for jurisprudence, some of them for another couple of decades, but another 4-8 years of Republican judicial appointees would usher in an era of violence to all kinds of rights that I truly just don't want to imagine.