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“Continuing the Battle for Women’s Reproductive Rights”

4 Nov

Abortion is one of the most contentious issues in the United States today. Stemming from a long and complex history, society’s reactions to and perceptions of the procedure have varied over time. Early on, there were virtually no restrictions, either religious or legal, for abortion. Only in the nineteenth century did laws and churches begin to regulate the use of abortion. Long was the battle to regain reproductive rights, but in 1973, Roe v. Wade established a woman’s “right to choose” as a personal, medical decision which did not merit the interference of government (Shaw 320). Since that Supreme Court decision, the issue of abortion has dominated discourse in political, religious, and educational settings. Despite the work of anti-choice advocates across the country, abortion has remained legal, though not as easily accessible as in the past. Abortion should continue to be legal, with no restrictions, because legality does not affect rates of abortion; women who undergo illegal abortions are much more likely to face complications; and because women should be trusted to make the best decisions for themselves, their bodies, and their families.

In the United States, we have a tendency to believe that if something is outlawed, it will stop occurring. The fact that we continue to act based on this assumption shows a lack of institutional memory, as history has shown us repeatedly that people in desperate situations make choices in spite of laws to the contrary. This trend holds true for those seeking abortions. Studies have shown that, worldwide, rates of abortion do not decrease where the procedure is illegal. In a “comprehensive global study” conducted by the World Health Organization and the Guttmacher Institute, findings suggest that “outlawing the procedure [abortion] does little to deter women seeking it” (Rosenthal 1). Although some criticize these conclusions as hasty and biased, the World Health Organization serves as a relatively objective institution, and thus a balancing factor when considering an issue as controversial as abortion. Additionally, as we’ve seen in When Abortion was Illegal and I Had an Abortion, the desperation some women feel when faced with the financial and emotional responsibility of a child often outweighs the possible legal consequences of having an abortion. Based on both comprehensive, unbiased studies and individual stories and experiences, one can conclude that the legality of abortion has little to no impact on a woman’s desire to get an abortion and ability to carry out that desire.

Although legality does not deter women from seeking or obtaining abortions, it does impact the safety of the procedure. When forced to secure an abortion through illegal channels, a woman risks severe medical complications, which oftentimes result in death. In fact, globally, “125,000 to 200,000 women die each year from complications related to unsafe and illegal abortions” (Shaw 322). Had those women had access to education, contraception, and legal abortion, they would not have died. This points to one of the most infuriating parts of “pro-life” rhetoric; if anti-choice advocates truly valued life, they would spend more time working to save the lives of thousands of women all over the world. Instead, they choose to prohibit women from seeking a potentially life-saving procedure, and shame them for placing value on their own lives. Again, the films we screened for class offer individual accounts of how dangerous and psychologically damaging an illegal abortion can be, and how important it is to recognize a woman’s personal medical decisions, for those decisions are often truly a matter of life and death.

The evidence presented above is compelling in that it quantifies the importance and relevance of safe, legal abortions for women all over the world. However, offering numbers will accomplish nothing if the root cause of the controversy over reproductive rights is not enumerated. Ultimately, the fight to keep abortion legal is a fight for women’s autonomy. Over the course of the last two centuries, women have fought for equality and fair treatment. We gained many rights, including the rights to vote, to divorce, to own property, and to attend institutions of higher education. Despite these incredible victories, we continue to battle for the right to own our bodies. Women must be trusted to make decisions that are correct for their health, their lives, and their families. The reasons given by women who have had an abortion overwhelmingly indicate a strong consideration of responsibilities to others and to themselves. Approximately “three-fourths of women cite concern for or responsibility to other individuals” and “three-fourths say that having a baby would interfere with work, school or the ability to care for dependents” (“Induced” 1). These statistics demonstrate how careful and considerate women are about their decision to abort, and underscore the importance of having faith in women’s personal choices. The best people to make decisions for women’s bodies are women themselves. Dr. Tiller, a Kansas abortion provider who was assassinated in May of 2009, understood this better than most. His motto – “trust women” – continues to ring through the pro-choice movement (Goldberg 2).

Abortion has served as a wedge issue in political debates, religious settings, and even among friends. Ultimately, however, there is only one right answer. Abortion should remain legal, because the legality of the procedure has no impact on the rate of abortion; complications and death often accompany illegal abortion; and women need to be trusted to make the best decisions for themselves. If we lose the right to abortion, we lose the right to our own bodies. We lose the right to rule our own lives. We lose ourselves.


Author’s note: Please do not use my words without assigning proper credit. That’s called plagiarism.


Works Cited


Goldberg, Michelle. “The Compassion of Dr. Tiller.” The American Prospect. The American Prospect, Inc., 2 June 2009. Web. 3 Nov. 2010.

“Induced Abortion: Facts in Brief” (2010). The Alan Guttmacher Institute.

Rosenthal, Elizabeth. “Legal or Not, Abortion Rates Compare.” The New York Times 12 Oct. 2007. Print.

Shaw, Susan M., and Janet Lee. “Health and Reproductive Rights.” Introduction. Women’s Voices, Feminist Visions: Classic and Contemporary Readings. 4th ed. Boston: McGraw- Hill Higher Education, 2009. Print.

Speak Out: I Had an Abortion. Dir. Gillian Aldrich and Jennifer Baumgardner. SpeakOut Films, 2005. DVD.

When Abortion Was Illegal: Untold Stories. Dir. Dorothy Fadiman and Beth Seltzer. Prod. Daniel Meyers. Concentric Media, 1992. DVD.



today’s links

26 Sep

FBI cites terror link in raids of local activists. Someone please explain to me what is happening to this country, and how I can make it stop.

These two readings are close to my life and heart because of the people I love who have struggled with and achieved great things because of attention-allocation afflictions.

New Study Shows Promise for Identifying, Reducing Reproductive Coercion. Reproductive coercion is a type of abuse that people don’t talk about enough, but occurs incredibly frequently. It’s a way to control and limit a woman’s choices surrounding her own life.

A piece from examining how this country has, slowly but surely, stripped away women’s rights over the course of the past year. You’d think, as we move forward in time, we’d become more progressive. But it seems like America putting it in reverse and taking us back to a time before Roe v. Wade.

Related to the post above, this is one of the consequences of limited/no access to abortion in certain parts of the United States.

Despite some of the incredibly depressing links above, there is some hope. I want to finish today’s links with a post from Feminists For Choice about the way Planned Parenthood is protecting a woman’s right to choose in one of the more unlikely states: Utah.

I hope you all have a wonderful pro-choice week.


25 Sep

i have posted on my tumblr recently:

The Combahee River Collective Statement


The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House by Audre Lorde (i need to read so much more by her. @jessicaannabelle: was zami good?!)

(lololol. also, the single fuck that was not given probably had something to do with DADT, abortion rights, or any of his other recent fails)

Poem about My Rights by June Jordan

today’s links

8 Sep

Hey everyone! I started this entry on Labor Day, which is why the first link references the holiday. These links are all very pertinent, regardless. ❤

Today is Labor Day, and even though my college doesn’t have the day off (OH THE HORROR), I’m trying to spend some time thinking about labor practices int the United States. After all, Labor Day isn’t just a day to sit around and do nothing. It could be a day to work for better work conditions. Colorlines talks about important workplace reforms that everyone should be thinking about this Labor Day.

Dan Savage links to (and quotes) an article about the impatience of the American people and our unwillingness to understand that solutions to pervasive societal problems will take time to implement. That’s not to say, however, that there aren’t some problems which have quick solutions, or which deserve immediate attention because of the amount of time they’ve been ignored.

You know all that stuff about reintegrating people into society after they’ve served time in jail? Well it’s all talk unless you’re working to do things like “ban the box,” which prevents employers from asking applicants about their criminal records. How is someone supposed to reintegrate into society if they can’t get a job?

Feministe has cross-posted a series of three posts from the Global Maternal Health Conference in New Delhi. Here are one, two (about how important context is for maternal health) and three (about outpatient abortion services).

You obvi need to read the new Vanity Fair article on Sarah Palin. See Dan’s post about that here.

Stand up for the rights of LGBTQIA students in schools by reading this article and adding your name to the petition.

Today’s links

29 Aug

New U.K. Study: One in Ten Women in Prostitution Are Slaves. That should send a message to guys who pay for sex: either make sure you’re paying someone who is not a slave, or don’t pay for sex. Still haven’t reached a conclusion regarding my thoughts on legality/illegality of prostitution.

Kentucky lawyer is cited for contempt for refusing to divulge the name of her client whose status as a minor compels her to seek permission from her parents or the court before obtaining an abortion. The young girl did not want her name given in court, and the law states that she had the right for it to remain private. Rock on, KY lawyer, rock on.

Someone remind me what the problem with stem-cell research is? From what I can tell, it improves the lives of people actually living with actual diseases, who can actually feel pain. I’m glad the Obama Administration feels the same way I do.

Hey! United States! You’re failing again! A new study shows that “the U.S. trails other nations in the proportion of women holding elected positions.” But we’re really super progressive, right? And feminism is totally unnecessary, right? Because we’ve definitely reached our full potential as a gender, right? Or, you know, not.

The word “abortion” is googled more in conservative areas where access to the procedure is much more restricted. Interesting. Thoughts?
Coming at you from Feministe, which rocks my world all the time: Marginalized folks shouldn’t always have to be “the bigger persons” Too true. Most of the time, I try not to be a huge asshole when calling people out, I try to explain coherently why whatever has been done or said bothers me, and I try to be calm. At Grinnell, that’s been working really well, and people are pretty much always down to hear what I say and respect my feelings about subjects, words, etc. But sometimes that doesn’t work. And sometimes, I just don’t care how “sensitive” or “overreactive” I’m being. The other night, a guy friend (who actually isn’t really a friend anymore) made a rape joke, and I just went off on him. Two of my girlfriends were there with me, and I know there were a little taken aback by how upset I got, but I really couldn’t give less of a shit. I’m gonna get angry sometimes, and I sure as hell hope (for your sake) that it’s not at you.

Quick hit

19 Aug

Please, for the love of whatever you find holy or important, don’t use the words “pro-life” to describe people who oppose a woman’s right to choose. They are not pro-life, they are anti-choice. Unsafe abortion kill tens of thousands of women every year, and people who advocate anti-choice policy put the well-being of women at risk.

In the future, please use the phrase “anti-choice” to describe someone who opposes a woman’s right to make choices for her family, body, and life.