In an attempt to fix this problem, I’ve begun working at a campaign office for the Democrats. Not working as in getting paid, but working as in spending all of my free time organizing volunteers and not seeing that guy I’m married to or any of my other friends for zero monies. That said, it’s super fun and I get to hang out with high schoolers and 70 year-olds who all think I’m 20.
Despite being a Democratic office, a lot of the girls have told me that they are Republican, or at least anti-choice. They are bright, but also young and their parents are incredibly influential right now. It’s not really surprising when they explain their distorted, second-hand versions of history (quote from one 17-year-old: “Bush was just cleaning up Clinton’s mess”). Hey, when I was in high school I identified as a Republican. It took some education and some exposure to the world and a variety of different types of people before I started to understand the ideas that would eventually lead me to the left.
If I were 17, I might look at the number of women the Republicans are pushing in front of the camera and think, hey, maybe that party is lookin’ out for me. The so-called “pro-life” stance is one that is easy to understand when the world can still be simply boxed and explained in black and white. End life=murder. Murder=bad. I can see how a young woman might not see choice as essential to women’s rights.
But I assure you it is.
For those who enjoy facts, this Guttmacher/World Health Organization study showed that abortion rates are lowest in countries that have the least restrictions on abortions (along with the least restrictions on family planning resources), while 97% of deaths and injuries from illegal abortions happen in countries where abortion is illegal and that those deaths and injuries are on the rise. In other words, you don’t stop abortions by banning them, you push them outside of the law and women die. I think we can all agree that women dying is bad for women.
Of course I can show you studies and give you numbers, I can tell you about my grandmother’s friends who died of illegal abortions, but to most of us that’s not reality. We’ve always lived in a post-Roe world. We’re not worried about bloody hangers, or the more likely chemical cocktail that some desperate woman is going to drink. We’re worried about those mythical monsters: the callous welfare queen on her fifth abortion because she’s too lazy to get on birth control; the teen who wanders in to a clinic, 8 months pregnant and on her cell phone, asking for an abortion so she can hit up the Justin Beiber concert with her latest bf. The honest conversation about sad, but sometimes necessary abortions fades and gives way to hysteria. If we don’t tell kids about sex they won’t have it. If we put up obstacle after obstacle or outright ban abortions, women will just get over it. Like it’s some kind of recreational drug.
That kind of thinking is wrong and easily disprovable, but because of it I’m going to add this: choice isn’t just about death or injury. That’s obviously the most dire reason we need to keep it safe, legal (and rare), but it’s not the only reason.
It’s not a coincidence that the second wave of women’s liberation coincided with the invention of the Pill and Roe V. Wade. The progress we’ve made is a direct consequence of being able to choose what we do with our bodies, to choose when and where and with whom we have children. Being pregnant isn’t just wearing a backpack with a kid inside for 9 months. It can be life threatening. It can keep you bed-ridden. It’s emotionally, physically, and financially taxing. The lions share of child rearing still falls on women and the lifetime of emotional and psychological damages of relinquishing a child for adoption are arguably far worse than those abortion. Being pregnant and/or caring for unplanned children is potentially a significant road block or dead-end to finding, keeping, or excelling at jobs; procuring political offices and fighting for pro-women laws; leaving abusive relationships or finding healthy ones; financial and emotional stability; getting an education; or rising above the poverty level.
If men and women are going to be equal, we need the same opportunities. Without intervention our own bodies are an impediment to those opportunities. It isn’t enough to say don’t have sex. Women are human and healthy adult humans require sex. It’s not enough to have adequate prevention. As good as it is, sometimes prevention fails, and sometimes people fail at prevention. Having access to the education and means to prevent pregnancies, the support to keep them when wanted (something we truly don’t talk about enough), and the freedom to safely terminate them when women have no other choice is essential to our equality.
So, no Sara, Carly, Christine, and every other woman running for office who likes to pretend to be looking out for me. You cannot be feminist and not be pro-choice. You cannot care about the health and safety of women and not be pro-choice. You cannot say you support equality and not be pro-choice. Attacking my right to choose is attacking my right to be a full participant in society.
And to those girls, those bright, lovely girls, who will hopefully grow up and learn about nuance, who will eventually learn about impossible choices and inequality, don’t be fooled by bumper sticker logic. You don’t have to like abortions. You don’t have to support abortions. But any person, man or woman, parent or politician, who tells you that they’d like to take away your ability to make decisions for your body is not, not, NOT looking out for you.