“A fetus is not a human being, it’s part of a woman’s body,” said Sunsara Taylor on the Michael Slate Show the other day while I was listening in the car. She probably says that phrase several times a week as one of the initiators of the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride, an American national movement to resist and reject the unacceptable economic, political, and social conditions of women, currently touring America. But for me, it was a paradigm shift in my personal attitude toward abortion. Something clicked, and I suddenly realized what a victim of patriarchal structure I’ve become.
I’m pro-choice, I volunteer for Planned Parenthood, I rail about the desperate need for comprehensive sex education in schools, and if my daughter were to become pregnant at 14, I’m pretty sure what my recommendation would be. But I’ve never been quite sure that I could have an abortion myself, and I’ve always felt hypocritical about that. I’ve had this nagging feeling that somehow I’m not worthy of advocating for safe and legal abortions when I’m not sure I could actually go through with one myself. But what Taylor gave me permission to realize is that there is no hypocrisy in my thought or action. There’s my choice and the other individual choices of women. The fetus is part of me, and that’s why I get to decide.
And if we don’t get to decide, then we’re not free.
I’ve been so indoctrinated by the ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality of the abortion fight, that I’ve failed to understand that my choice is simply that – my choice. I somehow allowed it to become attached to the other side of the debate – the side that views women’s wombs as property of the state, things that can be legislated on, regulated, forced to comply with law. My brain fused the two in a muddle of confusion where I began to equate my personal choice with the evil doings of the right wing party who seek to enslave women. I would get so confused, thinking ‘What’s wrong with me? Why wouldn’t I have an abortion when I support the pro-choice movement so fully?’
My epiphany, as has been the case with many other issues of mine in the past, is that it just doesn’t matter. That is, I don’t need to spend one more ounce of angst on those questions. What matters is that ‘pro-life’ legislation is about the enslavement of women, and it has to stop. If their agenda were truly about ‘saving the lives of children,’ then there would also be legislation for child care, child health care, subsidized pre-school programs, even – gasp! – help for those single moms the right wing are so eager to create. But as we all know, Republicans routinely slash and burn anything helpful to single mothers, especially poor ones. Randi Rhodes characterizes this hypocrisy so well: “Love the fetus, hate the child.”
For just one example of many in America currently, now that bill SB5 has passed in Texas, all but five abortion clinics will be forced to close. Wendy Davis acted heroically with her filibuster, getting the issue onto the national stage, but the bill went through anyway. How many women will be forced into impoverished miserable lives because the government has decided to invade their wombs? This from a state where it’s A-ok to stash thousands of pounds of fertilizer in a flammable warehouse with zero regulation. Oh yes, they’ve picked their battle, and the weapons are aimed at women. Many other states are waging the same war.
And make no mistake that forced motherhood is tragic. Republicans have this utopian idea that once the kid is born, everything will just work out somehow. But resources don’t just magically appear; fear and resentment don’t wither at the sight of his cute little cheeks. Now that I’m a mother, I realize how enslaving it truly is, even with plenty of resources. In fact, one mom at Violet’s pre-school who was bringing her second child into daycare for the first time told me, “I feel like I just got out of prison.” And her kids were planned! Imagine the thousands of women who don’t have the luxury of ‘getting out of jail’ with expensive daycare. How do they do it?
I’ve always fought for subtlety of message – I over-explain everything to Violet so that she has the information she needs to make informed decisions. But sometimes things are black and white. Sometimes you have to pick sides. So I thank the Freedom Riders for clearing that up for me, and hitting home the weight of this issue. I’ve pulled the cobwebs of my indoctrination aside to recognize that the hypocrisy I was feeling was just a product of the right wing message that’s been drilled into my head for so long that I had not only internalized it, but was beating myself up with it. My personal choices have always aligned with my politics, and I have nothing to apologize for, just like every other woman in America.
Abortion on demand and without apology! Then women will be free. Learn more about the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride here.