This is a blog post we didn’t expect to be writing in Feminist Dystopia month. As you’re probably aware, anti-abortion laws have recently been passed in Alabama and Georgia in the US, with Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Ohio now following suit. We are, of course, already aware of the same conditions in place for people in Northern Ireland, and this only makes the attack on reproductive rights more of an epidemic.
If you’re a keen follower of the recent news and updates, you’ll be aware of the headlines and what’s been going on. However, here is a roundup before we get into the nitty gritty analysis:
– The governors of the above states have signed “heartbeat bills” to police and ban abortion up to eight weeks in pregnancy
– Many opponents state that the “heartbeat bill” which outlaws abortion after the detection of an embryonic heartbeat is, in fact, a total ban on abortion, as a heartbeat can sometimes be detected as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, before a person may know they are pregnant
– The most recent bill, signed in Missouri, has been named Missouri Stands With the Unborn; and it outlaws abortions performed in nearly all circumstances. Under this bill, and many others, exceptions will be made for “medical emergencies”, but not in cases of rape or incest
– Doctors in these states who perform abortions after eight weeks of a pregnancy has passed could face up to 15 years in prison
– Overall, 28 states are currently considering legislation that would ban abortion in a variety of ways
– Closer to home in Ireland, on the 25th May 2018, the Republic of Ireland voted to repeal its 8th amendment, which banned abortion in virtually every circumstance. However, in Northern Ireland, abortions are still banned, and people who seek them have to travel to the UK in order to attempt to obtain them, which is not an option for all
These reports, these bellowing headlines can seem damning and very heavy for women, trans men and non-binary people across the globe. So, we’ve decided simply to collate some helpful and enlightening quotes about reproductive rights for you to muse upon, perhaps refer to in upcoming discussions on abortion, and to hopefully add something different to the already feverent conversation.
Of those promoting enforced childbirth, it should be asked: Cui bono? Who profits by it? Sometimes this sector, sometimes that. Never no one.
(Margaret Atwood, The New York Times)
Health policy decisions are made in the context of a value system that is white, patriarchal and capitalist.
(Carol C Nadelson, The Woman Patient: Concepts of Femininity and the Life Cycle, 1982, pg 10)
The abstraction of ‘the sanctity of human life’ gives the embryo, from the moment of conception, human status equal to – or in practice, greater than – that of an adult woman. The right of the foetus, which is treated as a completely abstract right and elevated above all real life conditions and problems, is then used as a weapon against the rights of women over reproduction. This is done not just in the case of abortion, but also in relation to women’s decisions about medical intervention in childbirth, or their life-style while pregnant.
(Vivien Seal, Ideology and Reproductive Rights, pg 14, Whose Choice?, 1990)
A familiar demand of feminists is for control of our bodies and for self-determined reproductive choices. This includes contraception, abortion, and voluntary sterilization. In a world where millions starve each year, compulsory pregnancy is obscene. It is the right of the woman (who still bears the major daily consequences of completed pregnancy) to determine whether or not she will bear children. In two hours, the world spends on armaments what it spends in one year on children. Control of our bodies, including reproductive choices and childbirth practices, is neither possible nor adequate until women redefine power and share leadership and control of health and other social institutions.
(Betsy Hartmann, Reproductive Rights and Wrongs, pg 16, 1988)
The population control and anti abortion philosophies, although diametrically opposed, share one thing in common. They are both anti choice. Neither takes the interests and rights of the individual as their starting point. Both approaches attempt to control women, instead of letting women control their bodies themselves.
(Betsy Hartmann, Reproductive Rights and Wrongs, pg 35, 1988)
Women are defined by patriarchy as “reproductive bodies”. Our bodies are regarded as potential carriers of unborn generations (…) We are constantly discouraged, forbidden to use our bodies for ourselves.
(Julie Murphy, Egg Farming and Women’s Future, pg 46, 1984)
Throughout history women have all too often laboured under a duty to reproduce. Their reproductive interests have been subordinated to the interest of a society in ensuring a suitable supply of the next generation and their partner’s interest in ensuring the continuation of his bloodline. We must be very careful that under the banner of women’s healthcare, patriarchy does not triumph again.
(Harris and Holm, The Future of Human Reproduction, pg 76, 1998)
Being born female is not a departure from the human norm. Any suffering that is attached to sex is a suffering created by the family, or society, not suffering created by nature.
(Wertz and Fletcher, Sex Selection through Prenatal Diagnosis: A Feminist Critique, pg 87, 1995)
(Our apologies for the lack of intersectional pronouns and wording in some of the above quotes. Their publication dates are noted, and some are old texts, but very progressive for their time, and still cornerstones of reproductive theory, which we thought were worth noting. Disappointingly, truly intersectional critique within this canon of literature are few and far between, but the fact that these academics’ words ring true decades on only fortifies our mission for bodily autonomy for all, and true integrity for one’s own reproductive decisions)
As well as critical theory, here are some of the most striking and relevant tweets we’ve seen on the matter that we wanted to share:
We hope that this post has been easily digestible, and you’re able to take something new from it. For anyone affected by the issues raised, we stand with you. We will be sharing more about these issues on our social channels, so please feel free to engage and comment, as well as share resources you’ve found informative or insightful.