Politics / Reproductive Rights / Women and Gender

Fight for Your Right: Choice Undermined by New Legislation

Last night, I did my good deed for the week and volunteered at Chocolate Madness, the annual fundraiser for NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, an organization that lobbies for pro-choice legislation and legislators and advocates for increased access to the full spectrum of reproductive choices.  Chocolate Madness raises awareness for reproductive rights in a fun and delicious way.

Two hours of unadulterated chocolate access…what could be better than that!  From fudge and cupcakes to tiramisu and fondue, over 25 Boston restaurants and bakeries, such as L’Espalier and Kickass Cupcakes, donate their time and treats.  Luckily, my vegan chocolate oasis Taza Chocolate was at the event to sate my cocoa cravings.  But my sweet bliss soon turned bitter by some unsettling news.

Oklahoma just passed two invasive laws concerning abortion, one of which is now the strictest abortion law in the U.S.  The first law, involving giving women ultrasounds prior to abortions, “requires a doctor or technician to set up the monitor where the woman can see it and describe the heart, limbs and organs of the fetus.  No exceptions are made for rape and incest victims,” writes James McKinley in the NY Times.  The second law prevents women from suing their doctor if they refuse to tell them their fetus had birth defects.  Since when is it acceptable for a doctor to withhold information?  Why is the media not giving this more coverage??  Both laws go beyond any other legal measures in the country.

In McKinley’s NY Times article, Anita Fream, the Chief Executive Officer of Planned Parenthood of Central Oklahoma says,

“These laws all have the same goal, and that’s to discourage women from seeking abortions in the first place.  They just throw down one roadblock after another in front of women and hope maybe they will give up.”

But Oklahoma isn’t the only state facing stricter laws.  Georgia’s legislature will vote next week on SB 529, which will prevent doctors from performing “criminal abortions.”  But the bill goes further by banning abortions based on the race and gender of the fetus.  Anti-choice groups have posted billboards in Atlanta stating, “Black children are an endangered species.”  They argue that black women get more abortions because clinics are in urban areas where people of color live.  But Loretta Ross, Executive Director of SisterSong, a women’s reproductive collective for women of color in Atlanta, told the NY Times,

“The reason we have so many Planned Parenthoods in the black community is because leaders in the black community in the ’20s and ’30s went to Margaret Sanger and asked for them.  Controlling our fertility was part of our uplift out of poverty strategy, and it still works.”

Many people think that women have already achieved equality.  While we certainly have come a long way, we still have far to go.  As I wrote earlier this month in Open Letters Monthly, many women my age and younger have taken the previous generations’ struggles of Roe v. Wade, the right to vote, etc. for granted. Many strong, independent women do not call themselves feminists, despite their support for feminist issues.  In the book Manifesta, co-authors Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards write,

“The presence of feminism in our lives is taken for granted. For our generation, feminism is like fluoride. We scarcely notice we have it—it’s simply in the water.”

Now those same freedoms that my generation and younger grew up with are being eroded.  Whatever people choose (or choose not) to call themselves, I hope that more girls and women realize the power they possess to voice their opinions.  We need to stand up and speak out against injustice; it’s our only hope to create a more equitable world.

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14 thoughts on “Fight for Your Right: Choice Undermined by New Legislation

  1. As dismaying as it may be for ‘pro choice’ advocates to concede, there is a KIND of reasoning behind that Oklahoma law presenting women seeking abortions with ultrasound images of the “heart, limbs, and organs” of their fetuses: the reasoning is to present them with a visual reminder of the COST of what they’re about to do. Those fetus hearts are beating; those fetus limbs are moving; many of those fetus organs are developing. In other words, those fetuses are ALIVE. They’re totally dependent on their mothers in order to live, yes, but the elderly in nursing homes are totally dependent on their caregivers too – if their nearest family wanted to kill them, I doubt anybody would say it’s too much to ask that they LOOK at them first. But then, that scenario would never be entertained, because killing the frail elderly (“a daughter’s right to choose – what do do about Mom”) hasn’t been co-opted as a gender issue.

    It’s almost as infuriating as Loretta Ross’s moronic comment quoted above, that the reason there are so many abortion clinics in poor urban areas is black leaders eighty years ago kinda wanted it that way. God forbid the reason should come from the OPPOSITE of long-term planning! Like for instance that there are more abortion clinics in poor urban areas because the INHABITANTS of those areas NEED more such clinics. “and it still works” – I’d laugh if it weren’t so tragic.

    Leave it to the Opinioness to get me riled up on first reading!

  2. I have always been an advocate for killing the elderly, but that’s another topic for another day.

    In certain cases, i do think this reminder, that a child is actually developing inside the womb, could be beneficial.
    Many women later regret their decision & sometimes endure long-term depression, as a result.
    Others might be reckless & irresponsible, forgoing contraception, and relying on abortion as the solution, in multiple instances (i once knew a girl that had three abortions, or so she claimed).

    Regardless, i am very much pro-choice, as no one should be allowed to make this decision for the woman.
    In cases of rape & incest, i find it incredibly cruel that a handful of warped & misguided folks actually believe the victim should be forced to carry the child to term.
    It’s like a double victimization.

  3. I’m not really against the idea of giving the ultrasounds prior to the abortion either. Probably, in most cases, it won’t deter the aborter. In the few instances where it does, then we can probably surmise she wasn’t really sure about going through with it anyway. Of course, in regards to victims of incest and rape, I’m don’t think this is very tactful at all (“here’s your fetuses 3rd arm, etc”).

    Has there been any legislation pushed through in regards to victims of zombie rape?

  4. To the above posters who don’t really object to the idea of giving ultrasounds before abortions, I don’t think that you really understand exactly what this entails. This law specifies that the doctor must perform a transvaginal ultrasound because earlier in pregnancy (before 14 weeks) it yields a clearer image. An abdominal ultrasound (the kind pop-culture makes us familiar with) is usually suitable for the practitioner to date the pregnancy for medical purposes. A transvaginal involves inserting a rather sizable (about 8 inches) probe into the patient’s vagina. It is uncomfortable under the best of circumstances but, particularly for rape victims, it can be traumatic. It can also cause complications for the pregnancy, should the intent of this law be realized and the woman chooses to continue the pregnancy, by rupturing the gestational sac and damaging the placenta and seriously affecting the health of the woman and the fetus.
    There’s also the wholly patronizing idea that the woman who has chosen to end her pregnancy doesn’t understand what she’s doing and needs lawmakers to tell her by forcing her to undergo a medically unnecessary procedure. This isn’t a decision anyone comes to lightly and she’s probably given a good deal of thought to the entire process. To assume otherwise is insulting.
    I also think it’s worth noting that all of the above posters are men. Just sayin’…

  5. @Sarah, thank you so much for your technical explanation as to what occurs in various ultrasounds. I completely agree with you that it’s insulting to a woman to assume she has not given it thought, which is precisely the premise of this legislation.

    @Steve, comparing fetuses to the elderly, while an interesting analogy, is inaccurate as they survive outside of another person’s body. Also, being pro-choice or pro-abortion doesn’t mean you want to kill living creatures. I am both and yet I’m also vegan (but that’s for another blog entry…).

    While I respect and appreciate @Steve, Julian and Brian’s opinions, I don’t think you all fully grasp what it’s like for a woman to have to face this. Hell, having a yearly physical at the gynecologist can feel invasive, let alone having a probe inside you before you go through an abortion.

    And what about the 2nd law in Oklahoma…where it’s legally acceptable for a doctor to withhold information regarding birth defects in the fetus?! A doctor should provide their patients with all of the information they have; to do otherwise is morally reprehensible.

    I know people have strong reactions to abortion. So I think it’s important to engage in discourse about our feelings on the subject. Thanks everyone for your comments!

  6. I have to admit i wasn’t familiar with the procedures involved.
    Sarah’s description sort of clarrified many things, and i do agree that it sounds overly invasive.

    When i was plagued with kidney stones in October of 2007, they performed an unltrasound, which i assumed was what they do to pregnant women.
    I even joked to the woman Doctor, in my uncomfortable state, “Is it a boy or a girl?”
    Nobody laughed.

    Anyway, thanks for the correct information.

  7. Glad my time at Planned Parenthood continues to be of use!

    @Opinioness: Mike Huckabee made an argument similar to Steve’s (i.e.: the elderly) on “The Daily Show,” and Jon Stewart, my imaginary husband, smacked that nonsense down. The clip is on the show’s website. Worth finding if you get the chance :)

  8. It isn’t nonsense! I utterly fail to see how such eloquent, intelligent young women can place such enormous, complacent confidence in a line of justification as flimsy as “well, it’s inside my body, so I can do what I want with it.” The ONLY axis of morality here is LIFE, regardless of condition or location. A frail elderly person is completely dependent on human caretakers to live, but that fact doesn’t transfer the power over that life to those caretakers. The analogy is point-by-point, regardless of what Jon Steward, the near-brainless stand-up comedian, has to say about it.

    Sarah’s disturbing details about the mechanics of this mandated ultrasound obviously throw the question into a different light (and that second law, allowing doctors to lie to their patients for Moral Majority reasons, is obviously morally bankrupt) – they reveal it as an attempt not to INFORM the patient but to INTIMIDATE her, and that’s clearly wrong.

    But so is abortion itself. Once there’s human life, once that human life is distinct from its mother (not necessarily able to survive, of course), an entirely different schema of morality locks into place. LIFE locks that new morality into place, regardless of how developed that life is (or how it came to be). If you disregard it, if you take that life for any reason, you’re murdering somebody. Saying “I had every right to do it, because a) the life in question wasn’t really a ‘somebody’ and b) it all happened on my personal property” is exactly the rationale slave-owners have used for thousands of years – and surely that’s not the kind of company even educated, opinionated people what to be in, right?

  9. @Steve, as a man, you may never understand the sanctity of choice when it comes to a woman’s body, which has become a legal, political and moral battleground. Your argument lies at the crux of the divide between pro-choice and pro-life arguments. But life is not the axis of morality because to me, and others who are pro-choice or pro-abortion, life does not begin at conception. So your argument is not as black and white as it may appear.

    If people have a moral problem with abortion, so be it, that’s their right. But I do have a problem when others attempt to mandate women’s actions towards their bodies. Also, I would caution you against telling a woman who’s been raped that she’s “murdering” a fetus by aborting it when her choice in intercourse was violated.

    Finally, your slavery analogy is false. While slavery equates commodification of bodies, reproduction and abortion do not. Women’s bodies belong to themselves. So a woman making a choice about her own body is not the same as societies subjugating others through slavery. You are comparing apples and oranges. But clearly, we may have to agree to disagree here.

    @Julian, a new recipe is posted! @Brian, my prognosis…watch more zombie films.

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  12. “The ONLY axis of morality here is LIFE, regardless of condition or location.”

    Dear Steve – Just because you can state your opinion as a firm sentence, with forceful use of the Caps-Lock button for added emphasis, does not make it a fact. That is your opinion – one that I do not share.

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