Reproductive Rights vs Lefts

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BY TESSA MORE

 

What’s your situation?

Everybody loves a quiz, so answer yes or no to the following questions.  Do you want a child? If you answered no, are you sexually active? If you answered yes, are you and your partner/s trying to have a child? If you answered no, are you and your partner/s using protection to prevent pregnancy/ the spread of STIs? Protection can vary, from condoms to birth control, to dental dams (let’s be real do they even sell these in stores?) If you do use these forms of protection but somehow get pregnant, because even birth control (whether it’s oral or an implant) isn’t 100% effective, and if you don’t use these forms of protection and get pregnant, are you ready for a child and all the responsibilities that come with it?

If you answered no to the last question, I hope you aren’t pregnant (take a second to figure out when your last period was), but if you are, you have options.

I’m about to say something that will shock many and probably offend just as many. So take a moment to stand up, breath in and out, then come back to this article. Are you ready? Okay brace yourself...

Not every woman wants to have a child. Did you hear me? I’ll say it a little louder for the people not paying attention, NOT EVERY WOMAN WANTS TO HAVE A CHILD. If someone, who doesn’t want a child, gets pregnant they should not be forced to put aside their own life to raise a child. Even though a woman’s body is able to produce a child, it is not every woman’s wish that she becomes a mother. If you do wish to become a parent, good on you! If you don’t want a child now or anytime ever, that’s cool too!

Image from Tru TV’s game show Paid Off (a game show to help pay off student loan debt)

As a senior in college I have spent a whole lot of money on my education, and if I include my private school upbringing it totals well over $400,000. I am beyond lucky and privileged to have very successful parents who could afford to raise two children in private school and then send us to college. But not everyone is so lucky to be brought up by parents who want children and can afford to pay for their education. After having children my mother’s career was sidetracked, she stayed at home to raise me and my brother. Meanwhile my father kept working and furthering his own business.

After college I have high expectations for myself, and I hope to go far in my career. It is near impossible to climb the corporate ladder while raising children at home, and as a woman, that would be expected of me, especially if the *hypothetical* father weren’t in the picture. As a result of my aspirations, I am on birth control. I do not want a “surprise” to derail my plans for a successful future. I want to be as successful as my father, a man, has been able to be.

Not everyone has access to birth control, whether it’s because they don’t have insurance that covers it, can’t afford it, don’t have access to it, or they can’t take birth control because of pre-existing conditions. The list of side of effects of birth control varies, but women who take it risk blood clots and even depression. Although not every woman’s health care covers birth control, most erectile dysfunction pills are covered by insurance providers in the US. Seems hypocritical.

So where does that leave women who wants to succeed but aren’t on birth control? One study shows that 50% of pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, and even if you are using a form birth control it is not 100% effective.

 

Choice or Life?

Now something has happened within the political system in the United States, women’s bodies are regulated and they are unable to make informed decisions about their body. Reproductive Rights have been made into a partisan issue, Pro Choice or Pro Life, Left versus Right.  

One misconception is that any and every Pro Choicer would abort a fetus if they got pregnant, even if that baby is 8 months along. However, someone that is Pro Choice just believes a woman should have the right to decide what happens within her body. Third term abortions DO NOT happen unless the mother’s life is at risk.  

Someone who is Pro Choice might never choose to abort a baby even if they aren’t ready for a child, but a person who is Pro Choice still wants the right to decide for themselves and for others to have that same right. Hence the word choice. You can personally never even consider abortion, and still be Pro Choice, because you want women  to have power over their own body and lives.

This issue could be black and white, if it stopped at your own body. However, reproductive rights are often a platform political candidates run using, “Vote Pro Life!” or “Choose Pro Choice!”.  The ballots we cast wind up affecting more than just ourselves.

People who are Anti-Abortion share images and memes of babies saying “Are you telling me I’m just a lump of cells?” and “It’s easy to be Pro Life when you’re not the one being killed”. These images attack people who are Pro-Choice and Roe vs. Wade, the case that kept abortion legal. But just because something is legal, doesn’t mean it will affect you or force you to terminate your pregnancy.

Alcohol is legal, and if you walk into a bar and say “I’m the Designated Driver I’m not drinking tonight” or “I’ll have a lemonade”, the bartender won’t force you to drink or refuse to serve you because alcohol is legalized and you’re in a bar so you should drink. It’s the same if you’re Pro Choice or if you walk into Planned Parenthood, you will not be forced to get an abortion just because you’re there. If anything they might suggest some prenatal vitamins to take during pregnancy, after all they are PLANNING PARENTHOOD.

One hypocritical thing is that someone who is Pro Life will fight tooth and nail to ensure that abortion is banned, because they think God would damn all of humanity if a baby dies. However once that baby is born they stop caring about the mother and the baby. They won’t vote on measures  to get that baby healthy food or a good education. Pro Life often goes hand in hand with having extreme religious beliefs. But god forbid (ha get it) that baby be born female, anything other than heterosexual, anything other than white, anything other than able bodied, because those same Pro Lifers stop caring and condemn that baby to a life subject to hatred, abuse, violence, and inequality.

People who are Pro Life often use the argument that they are “Protecting Women’s Health”, that abortions are dangerous! But one study by the CDC found that getting a legal abortion is 10 times less dangerous than getting a colonoscopy, an abortion has a death related rate of - .00073%- where as getting a colonoscopy, has a death rate of .007%. Not to mention, child birth is much more likely to kill you, 90 times more likely actually, .056% chance of mortality as a result of carrying a baby to term. You are more likely to get struck by lightning, than have an abortion related death.

 

Reproductive Rights - for Men and Women

If you want more information on Anti-Abortion activists, check out John Oliver’s piece on it here, it’s cool because you don’t have to read anything, then again if you’ve made it this far then you might be fine to keep reading.  Anti-Abortionists want to get rid of legal abortion by defunding organizations like Planned Parenthood, even though abortion is only one of the many services they offer.

There are many organizations that help reproductive rights and equality, Planned Parenthood is just one of them. Planned Parenthood offers many services, most pertaining (BUT NOT LIMITED TO) to women’s health; they offer breast cancer screenings, birth control, morning after pills, HIV services, LGBTQ services, patient educations, and MEN’S HEALTH SERVICES including: STI testing, cancer, fertility, sexual dysfunction, and routine check ups.

So I was curious, why would someone, especially a woman, be Pro Life? Is it that some women don’t want control over their own body and the ability to make decisions pertaining to it? Or is it that some women are misinformed, and don’t understand that they can believe that abortion is something they would never do, while still being Pro Choice. Some women think that getting an abortion is linked to a form of PTSD, even though Postpartum Depression is more prevalent among mothers. Then factor the stress that comes from raising a baby you are unable to provide for, having a child will probably have more of an effect on you in the long run….

I searched “I am Pro Life because” to try to further understand the reasoning, and the second hit that came up was titled “10 Reasons Why I Am Pro Life- Students for Life”. The author’s second reasoning was centered around how “well-timed pregnancies give children a healthier start in life” and if a mother has an unplanned pregnancy she should have the support to carry the baby to term, yet often she doesn’t.  What about after the baby is carried to term? What services are provided while caring for an unexpected pregnancy? Often the mother can’t return to work soon thereafter, and if she does, someone still has to watch the child, whether it is a daycare, a family member, or a friend. It all adds up. 

As someone who is Pro Choice, you are not choosing to govern someone else’s body or factor into the decision that goes into keeping a baby. Every woman is entitled to her own decision, and every pregnancy and circumstance is different.  Someone who is Pro Life often puts their own beliefs on others, voting on politicians who align with their beliefs, who wish to implement laws that pertain to all women’s reproductive rights. Whereas the other side, Pro Choice, believes each women should be able to make their own decision when it comes to their body. Many women who are Pro Choice would not terminate a pregnancy, but they aren’t Pro Life because they can sympathize with women who would use an abortion.

Anti-Abortionists equate abortion with the death penalty, when a fetus is often nothing more than a couple of cells when the pregnancy is terminated. It’s near impossible to convince someone who is Pro Life that being Pro Choice is a better alignment, and vice versa.

 

Reality Risks - The Global Picture

Why would anyone want to defund organizations that just offer help to both men and women? Is it that men want to control women, and force them to have children so they can’t fully participate in the workforce and break the glass ceiling, instead staying at home caring for children while men continue to control politics and office spaces? It’s really quite hard to say…..

It seems odd that the rights of an unborn child outweigh the rights of half of the population, often times due to Catholic conservatism. Women don’t have control over their own bodies, and in 26 countries abortion is still illegal. In another 37 countries, abortion is banned unless it is necessary to save the life of the woman, including Mexico, UAE, and Brazil.

As of August 9, Argentina’s senate defeated a bill that would have legalized abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy and in cases where the life of the mother is at risk. During the 15 hour debate between the senate, most senators mentioned God or the Bible as justification for their viewpoints, and there was pressure from the Church to rule against a democratic vote. The leading cause of maternal death in Argentina is from complications from illegal abortions, often attempted using drugs to treat ulcers; between 45,000 and 60,000 pregnant Argentinian women are hospitalized each year as a result of attempted illegal abortion. The lives of unborn and unwanted children matter more to the conservative religious than the lives of the women who are dying every day, what kind of God would want that?

It’s hard to not lose hope, but there are small forward strides being made in other countries in a push to reclaim patriarchal and conservative laws. In May of 2018, thousands of Irish women flew back to Ireland to vote to legalize abortion in the conservative Catholic country. As a result Ireland voted to repeal the abortion ban in a surprising landslide victory. These are rights women and men are fighting for across the globe. Criminalizing abortion doesn’t mean that it won’t still happen, it just means it will continue to happen while putting the woman at risk.

 

The End Result - Women in the Workforce

For most of history, women have been paid less, passed over for promotion, and offered positions where they can be replaced easily. This is justified because there’s always the possibility that a woman could get pregnant, and have to go on leave to give birth and begin raising their children. Even if a woman gets married, and has no inclination to have a child, she may still be hindered by her marital status, because somewhere down the road the boss thinks there’s a possibility she may give birth and need to take time off. The glass ceiling seems to be reflecting societal expectations that women shouldn’t strive to achieve positions of power but instead stay at home and raise a family.

Even if that woman gets a college education and a high paying career, a new relationship could be hard to begin because of the worry in the back of a woman’s mind that “what if” which could prematurely derail the relationship. Women who are childless and single get farther in the workforce, and as a result children can be damaging to a woman’s career.

But wait wait wait. If you’re in a relationship, whether it be married, engaged, dating, hooking up, whatever, wouldn’t your partner who got you pregnant be hurt in the workforce as well? Wouldn’t they have to take some time off to raise their newborn child?

There has been a slight shift, a stay at home dad/ non-mother is becoming a bit more common, but still women are expected to stay at home and raise the children. I read a fictional book recently that stuck with me, Us Against You (the sequel to Beartown) by Fredrick Backman. In it there is a woman who is a successful lawyer, who is held back by the fact that she has to work in the small Beartown. She is married to a former NHL player turned general manager of Beartown’s hockey team. They have 2 children. Her entire career she works harder than any of her colleagues, yet her children rely on her and not their father for most things, taking time away from her true passion. Over the years she gets recruited by multiple large firms to work for them, but that would mean uprooting her family, including her husband and his job. SPOILERS (if you plan on reading this book but I doubt you are) after many trials and tribulations, the woman leaves her company and starts a new firm, a goal of hers and her colleague. One day her daughter writes a song about her mother “You taught me that daughters don’t have to have dreams - we can have goals”. Only when her family supports her aspirations can the mother flourish fully, her husband even quits his job to join her new firm and support her.

Now I am writing from an American point of view, so I can only read about the dynamics that exist elsewhere. The book Us Against You is set in Sweden, so I don’t doubt that this power dynamic does exist outside of the US.

Men are often supported in their goals, whether it’s by their employer, their wives, or their families. Meanwhile, other women, society, and oftentimes her own family, will scold a working woman for pursuing goals and a career, even after having children.

To avoid this gendered ridicule, women use forms of birth control, or abort pregnancies, so they can continue to focus on their career. Yet there are still people who think there should be laws against legalized abortion. But remember, illegal abortion does not mean abortion will end. It only makes it much more difficult for a woman to have access to a safe abortion.

Last year on my college campus there were a handful of guys selling coat hanger necklaces to support an organization that helps women get safe and legal abortions. The coat hanger is reminder of a dangerous time when desperate women would risk their own lives to live a life without the struggle of raising a child without the proper means, often using a wire coat hanger. I was encouraged that men would support a cause that affects women predominantly, because it’s not that common.

Reproductive rights aren’t, as the name implies, a right vs left issue. It’s an issue of women’s equality. Any woman should have the right to live a life without a child, if she so chooses. Just as any man can live a life free from raising a child, even if he happens to have one, and neglects to support it.

If you live in the US, make sure you are registered to vote, and exercise that right. The midterm elections are coming up this November. And it is crucial to do research into each candidate. Then you can vote on candidates that have platforms you actually back. Organizing and attending protests and rallies are good ways to educate others on the importance of voting. But if you want to see real change in the world, that you support, you have to cast your vote.