Friday, January 22, 2010

Trust Women

Okay, the theme for Blog for Choice Day is Trust Women, a slogan based on a button Dr. Tiller used to wear before he was murdered. The question: what does that mean?

In a truly just world this would be a non issue. In this context it simply means that women, as individuals and in general, know what's best for themselves and their particular situation when they make decisions regarding their own bodies. Whether that means looking at their lives and deciding that an abortion is the best thing to do at the moment or choosing to have a baby, it's still up to the individual woman to look at her life and make that choice.

Seems simple enough, right? It should be relatively obvious that the individual should make the decision over what happens to their bodies, especially in situations like an unwanted pregnancy. However, as we all know, we don’t live in a truly just world.

Over the past decade a number of bills have been proposed in various state legislatures aimed at covertly limiting access to abortion. From requiring pregnant women to view ultrasounds of the fetus to waiting periods to counseling sessions to laws requiring parental and/or spousal notification/consent, these bills (some even passed into law in some states) are aimed at making a medical procedure that’s legal more difficult to get, especially for poor women or women who have to travel long distances to get an abortion. While some people claim these measures are to protect the unborn, supporters of these measures also tend to state that they want the women to know what an abortion is before they have the procedure.

Apparently, these legislators and their pro forced birth supporters are under the impression that a woman who chooses to terminate a pregnancy is unaware that she’s getting an abortion. One of the talking points some in the anti choice/pro forced birth movement like to state regarding abortion is that women get it for selfish reasons such as to not miss a trip to Europe or to fit in a prom dress. Along with the various proposed bills, statements like these have one purpose: to imply that women act on impulse and are incapable of knowing what’s best for them when it comes to medical procedures and their own bodies. This approach not only manages to insult the intelligence and logic of each individual but manages to be the most glaring and obvious sign that they believe women can’t be trusted to make their own decisions.

The truth is there is no one reason why a woman would have an abortion or choose not to have one. The reasons are as varied as each individual and take in factors ranging from current circumstances to past abuse to the simple realization that one may not be ready to be a parent at this time. While the anti choice/pro forced birth movement would like to hypothesize women as one monolithic group, it doesn’t work that way with human beings.

That’s where trust comes into the picture. Since we can’t live other people’s lives, we have to understand that it’s up to them to decide what to do in a given situation. Abortion isn’t an issue that just pops into a woman’s mind at the spur of the moment. It’s something that a woman has thought about and discussed. As for things like the consent laws mentioned earlier, most women facing an unplanned pregnancy discuss the issue with their families before making a decision and the women that don’t bring it up to them usually have a legitimate reason not to discuss her choice. To demand the consent of a third party into what should be a personal decision between a woman and her doctor annihilates the issue of trust and turns the status of a woman from human being with agency over her life to nothing more than someone’s property. That is the issue.

Trust requires that we view human beings as individuals who can make their own decisions and deserve accurate information in order to do so. Too often, especially when it comes to issues in the reproductive freedom and reproductive justice movement, the powers that be along with certain people practicing a rigid interpretation of their chosen religion have chosen to mislead and condescend to both men and women interested in this issue rather than do the right thing and realize that individuals can and should make their own decisions regarding these issues whether it’s exercising their right to get an abortion or choosing to give birth in a manner that they don’t feel dehumanized by to even making sure that people have access to contraception and emergency contraception without unnecessary delays or other people using their values to deny someone the right to exercise the decisions they made and wish to stand by in their own lives. Only when a woman can make a choice on these matters in a climate free of intimidation or fear of reprisals and/or violence can a society be said to truly trust women.

It seems so simple when you think about it.