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Friday, 29 March 2013

Women's History and Reproductive Rights

By: Liberate Zealot

It's the last days of Women's History Month in the US and in that time I haven't really written anything about the topic for Feminist Armchair Regime.  Women's History Month is a time to celebrate woman and their achievements from the past and sharpen our gaze on the continuing concerns and causes faced by women.  This year much of the focus is on women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, but like every year, it’s important to consider reproductive justice and the role family planning plays in equality for women. 

The individual women who achieve notice in the annals of history, the Elizabeth's and Hypatia's, had extraordinary privileges for their times, one of the most significant being the ability to choose not to marry or have children.  And so it seems obvious to me to state that family planning is the bedrock of women’s rights.  The ability to plan when to have children, and when not to, is a necessary part of achieving parity in education, in income, in the work force, and in government.

The right to reproductive control over ones own body is a right that has long been denied to the majority of women.  And the more intersectional oppression one faces the harder it is to access ones reproductive rights.

For decades before the legalization of the Pill or Abortion wealthy and middle class white women knew how to access safe options of birth control.  Not so for poor women and women of color. This disparity is the reason Margaret Sanger (who is also not the massive racist so many people believe her to be) protested the Comstock Laws and opened the majority of her clinics in neighborhoods with high populations of poor people, immigrants, and people of color.  Currently access to contraception and abortion in the US is still very much based on class, race, and location.

And we know the limiting of reproductive rights is about hurting women.  It isn't about viewing fetus' as children and thus worthy of protection, because the protections of poor children are being stripped away.  And it isn't a secret that many of the states which are the focus of the anti-choice movement have high populations of people of color and people living in poverty.  Mississippi, the state with the most focus around Personhood Bills, and until this month was the state with the most restrictive abortion ban, is also the state with the most African-Americans and the most people living in poverty.

If we can't control our own bodies and whether we become pregnant or not than it's much harder to control our education and careers.  Certainly if we can't control out bodies or plan when, or when not, to have families then we can't live full lives of relationships and pursuits outside of the heart and home.  And should we pick one we'll be shamed for being lazy, for denying our womanhood, for being cold-hearted, for "mooching" off a man.  Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

There is no chance for us if we're denied the most basic human right of deciding what to do with our own bodies. 

I've learned the history of women.  How one must be exceptional, come from immense privilege, to be afforded a place as a woman in general history. How the many amazing unrecorded women faced impossible choices, if they had any choice at all.

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