04/10/2011 § Leave a comment
Note that I’ve included a photo of one of their banners. It’s pretty gruesome. so be aware
Ineffectual in both senses of the term.
In the first place, they are ineffectual in getting at the logical steps that would reduce the number of abortions in the U.S. They also show that you are ineffectual at dealing with human beings who depart from your black-and-white world of ethics. What follows is what I would’ve said to you if I’d had the time, or courage.
Your monstrous, graphic banners assaulted my eyes as I walked to class. I really appreciate your assumption that it is worth risking someone’s emotional well-being to get your message to the young women you shame into listening to you. That is truly despicable.
You assume that the only way to control abortion is to make women feel ashamed of having sex. Normally, I try not to be so presumptuous of peoples’ motivations. My dedication to not being a dick means that I try to listen to what people have to say. Your huge proclamation that the best way to prevent abortion is by waiting to have sex until marriage made it pretty obvious, though. Sluts who have sex out of wedlock are horrible baby killers. They are probably also feminist lesbian witches who stalk the night, turning young, virile Christian men into castrated, godless liberals.
You treat abortion like it is a social disease, rather than the symptom of a larger problem. Abortion sits at the intersection of racism, classism and sexism. Treating abortion like it would never happen if women simply got married before they had sex, and treating women who have abortions like sluts who have no control over themselves entirely fails to address the real issues that women face. You know, in the real world, where people don’t automatically have resources. It’s the same world where women have personality traits that don’t always include the word “nurturing”. In fact, in addition to containing people who have few options, it also contains people who don’t want children. Some of those people are women. *gasp*
Allow me to illustrate this with a little parable about needle sharing and Public Health Policy. In Theory, Method, and Power in Drug and HIV-Prevention Research: A Participant-Observer’s Critique, Philiple Bourgois explains why homeless heroine users persist in sharing paraphernalia, even though we all know sharing needles is dirty, dirty, dirty and we tell them how dirty it is. Turns out, it’s much like smoking culture. You bum me one now, and I’ll bum you one in the future. In fact, if you bum someone a cigarette, they might bum you one when you most need it (that week when you’re telling yourself that you’re gonna quit, then your boss goes ballistic on you, your girlfriend leaves you and your electricity is being turned off.)Telling users that sharing paraphernalia is dirty does absolutely nothing to address the underlying societal framework that necessitates sharing in the first place. So, sharing still takes place. Similarly, telling a woman not to get an abortion because it’s sinful and/or murderous does absolutely nothing to address her reasons for wanting or needing an abortion in the first place.
There is a problem in the broader culture that has to be understood in order to help women (or foetuses, if you think they deserve more rights than women.) The only way we can reduce the number of abortions is to systematically remove the racism, sexism and classism that undermine the rights of women to live in their own bodies and make their own decisions.
Without abortion, women are then left with carrying the child to term and keeping it or giving it up for adoption. I won’t even countenance convincing a woman to have a child against her will and well-being, and then make a commitment to raising that child, so let’s think about adoption then. First, consider how many children you, personally, have adopted. If the answer is “zero” then I don’t want to hear you suggest it as a viable option. First, adoption also has some pretty awful psychological effects on women (and families). Children don’t always get adopted. The cost of adopting children is ridiculously prohibitive to most families. In 2009, there were 1,611 children waiting for adoption in Colorado alone. If they aren’t adopted, then what? They turn 18 and are dumped out of the system, often without any type of resources to support them in the same way a family might.
Now, what do you suggest we do?
I have some thoughts.
1. Teach men and women that it is acceptable to control their reproductive organs. The following is a true thing: People have sex. Sure, not everyone has sex. It is possible to choose not to have sex. Still, sex is awesome. People have it. Women have it. Shockingly, some women enjoy having sex. They might even enjoy orgasms. Setting up a system that says “That thing that causes seratonin and norephinephrin to shoot through your nervous system, that makes you feel great, that is good for your cardiovascular system, that is one of many forms of non-verbal communication between friends/lovers/partners&c. Yeah, that one. Don’t do that.” and expecting it to work is sort of bizarre in the first place. Not teaching people that there are logical steps they can take to make having sex a more responsible endevour is just kind of fucked up.
2. Stop pretending that if you wait to have sex until marriage, you may never have an unwanted child. There are lots of reasons (abusive relationships, poverty, not wanting children in general…) why married women might seek abortions anyway.
3. Undermine the assumption that sex without birth control “feels better”. Often in my life, I have encountered this complaint in young men who suggest they are incapable of having an orgasm if they use a condom. Often, I’ve found this is more about the power of proving virility than about actual ability to get off.
4. Undermine the patriarchal system that allows rape to frequently go unpunished.
5. Related to the above, teach young people that consensual sex is explicitly consensual. This means that both parties are participating with equal vigour, and that one party is not simply giving in to the pressure of coercion. That’s still rape.
6. Empower young women (especially) to make educated, informed decisions about their own bodies, and teach them that they have a right to make choices for themselves.
Addendum: 7. Make birth control affordable for people with low income. A friend remind me of this, and I’m kicking myself that I didn’t add it.
Recognize that, even with all these steps, abortion will not go away. Things happen. It’s a shitty decision to have to make. It is painful. It is difficult. It is not something undertaken lightly, like “I guess I’ll get some milk at the store, pick up the dry cleaning and get an abortion for that pesky foetus I caught the other day.”
I would much prefer if women were offered that choice in a safe environment, without shame or judgement, that offers support and encourages agency.