Monday, January 22, 2007

Continuing the Struggle for Reproductive Rights

MaGreen and I attended Planned Parenthood luncheon on Friday, which is an annual event marking the 34th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in the US. Nine hundred people attended the event including notable public figures like Sarah Weddington, who at the age of twenty-six argued the winning side of the Roe v. Wade case. There were also several elected officials present including State Reps Alma Alan, Elen Cohen, and Rick Noriega; City Controller Anise Parker; and City Councilmembers Sue Lovell and Peter Brown. Volunteers, donors, staff, and other supporters filled the tables.

Outside, on the sidewalk, about ten anti-abortion protestors held up signs and passed out pamphlets. One of them noticed my Planned Parenthood name tag and asked me if I believed women should have abortions. I said, “I believe in women’s right to choose.” Then she asked my friend, a woman, “Don’t you think women should have the right to choose pregnancy?”

“Of course,” my friend said. I was reminded not only of the different between our beliefs and theirs, but also of the difference between what they believe we believe and what we actually believe.

Inside, the keynote speaker, Marcia Ann Gillespie, gave an inspiring speech on reproductive rights. Gillespie served as the editor-in-chief of Essence and Ms. magazines and has participated in a number of struggles for racial, gender, and economic justice. She spoke about the difficulties of living a life of activism. She said, “When we remain committed to human rights, we often feel alone.” She also noted the need to question one’s own privileges and assumptions in what she called “a constant de-crudding process.” I really liked that phrase. Gillespie noted that her blindness to heterosexual privilege was one of the later layers of crud that she shed.

For me, real understanding of gender inequality came late, and is still coming. I did not have a strong opinion about reproductive rights until I was in college and various people tried to convince me of their positions. It was not until I was in a small gathering where a gynecologist explained why he performed abortions that my own position solidified. He said he didn’t have a single reason, one airtight argument, for supporting reproductive rights. He said that his patients each have their own stories. Sometimes a woman has been raped. Her life is in jeapardy. Or the fetus has miscarried. Birthcontrol failed. Perhaps the woman did not use protection and does not believe that a pea-sized cluster of cells in her own body ought to become a baby. Maybe the woman is poor and lives in a country that does not support mothers, where she and the possible child will not be able to live a dignified life. Or the woman has already had six children and does not want anymore. Each of those stories are the reasons.

Even if we do not agree with the validity of every single one of those reasons, we should support the right and the capability of those women to choose abortion during the first trimester, as one choice among other possible choices. Protecting that right should be one part in a larger struggle for gender equality, fair distribution of wealth, affordable childcare, universal healthcare, and education.

1 comment:

MaGreen said...

I like your point about us living in a society that doesn't support mothers, GreenDaddy. I was hoping one day you might write a post about some of the ways other societies do (fyi, GD works in a field where he studies this kind of thing). You tell me about what one country or the other does for its mothers, and I'm always astounded, because I often wouldn't even have thought about how helpful a given program or policy would be.

I know some things are giving three years maternity leave...but other things are smaller.

In order to slip in the near non sequiter requisite of my thought process, I want to say how much I love that IKEA has parking for pregnant women & moms of young children. Such a small thing can be an enormous help.