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Every so often, the United States government (or whoever) throws a can of gas on the continuously smoldering abortion debate fire.
Our binaries flare up with the religious nuts who have sudden love for every baby and human (except the women who have actually had babies or terminated pregnancies) on one side and the hands off my body crowd on the other. We watch a handful of crusty old white men and a few insidious women make decisions for the many and a bunch of others argue about it.
Naturally, I have opinions—and yet, I never write anything. I never write anything because it seems so exhausting. I always think, what else is there to say? How will my words land any differently?
I could write about how these crusty old white dudes should really just shut the f*ck up and let us women decide for ourselves when and where and how often we want to use our bodies to create life. But that’s not really productive.
I could easily write about the religious right, how their religion is not mine, and how I don’t see my or anyone’s abortion as a sin, am not worried about my soul or that of the baby I didn’t have, how I don’t live by their moral code, and therefore, do not feel like I need to be bound legally by their beliefs. In a secular country, I have the right to my own spiritual practice, and my spiritual practice doesn’t restrict or stigmatize abortions. In fact, my spiritual practice honors terminated pregnancies.
I could write about the irony, the double standards, oppressive structures, institutionalized misogyny and racism, the ridiculous and easily measured lack of quality care for women and families (the astronomical medical cost to give birth, nonexistent paid family leave, or structural support for childcare), overwhelmed foster care system, how difficult it is to adopt, continual cuts to education, high maternal and infant mortality (higher for Black and Brown people), intergenerational cycles of poverty, and rise in unsafe abortions. But against deep emotional attachments and dogma, statistics seem to fall flat.
I could point to all the countries with their good examples and the extensive social research that shows us that the best way to reduce abortions is not to outlaw them but make them more accessible along with easy access to contraceptives and comprehensive sex education (and how no one in the history of humanity has ever been successful at abstinence so it’s really bizarre that we even think to teach it to adolescents and teens).
I could write about rape and incest; ectopic pregnancies, miscarriages and stillbirths; violence against women; cultural manipulation and gaslighting; obstetric violence; femicide, and all the other traumas women face that are directly related to our overall rights, denial of rights, and abortion rates. (You’re smart, figure it out.)
I could write from my media theories perspective about how curious it is to me that this debate just sparked out of nowhere, nothing really happened, yet. It will. Or. Vote for Democrats? Or. It won’t. Or what else is going on that we are not paying attention to. What smoke and mirrors show is this? Who is managing this dominant narrative, and what do they have to gain? I could point out that questioning the dominant narrative is not the same thing as conspiracy theory, and that it is actually our duty as citizens and humans to think critically, hold the truths of multiple conflicting realities, and question the dominant narratives we are force fed.
I could write, like many women do, about how it’s not that we want abortions, nobody wants an abortion, and for all the men and other people with internalized misogyny pulling out their hair screaming “but the babies, the babies,” that it’s not about the babies that don’t exist yet; it’s about us, people with uteri, all humans, who already exist, wanting and deserving the same equal autonomous and political decision-making power over our own bodies. Because with or without other humans trying to control us, we are autonomous as individuals. And we will make decisions. They truly cannot control our power of creation. Since the history of humans, women have been conceiving, birthing, and terminating pregnancies, via many methods, safe and unsafe, from herbs to coat hangers to modern pills. Guess what y’all? It’s actually a part of life. (You know what’s not actually a part of life? Abstinence.)
I could offer a reminder that if you are really worried about the babies, then there are lots of things you can do. You can go foster or adopt a baby, advocate for better education, maternal care, paid family leave, sex education, contraceptives, healthcare. You can commit to learning about the issues in Yemen, Somalia, Syria, Afghanistan, to name a few, where tens of thousands of babies already born are starving to death directly as a result of U.S. imperialism in the region. I could gently nudge you to see how a vote for neither party will change the neoliberal imperial agenda that throws these societies out of balance.
Is this the goal? A world full of starving, poor, traumatized babies ready to grow up to labor and fight wars? And women who just keep pumping them out, vessels for procreation, empty of their own opinions, desires, and needs?
Is this the best way we know how to thrive as humans? I don’t know, but it feels a little off the mark to me.
I could write, holy handmaid’s tale, every bit of this is an obvious plan to control and dominate women, and why? Why are men (the world over) so insecure about the incredible power that people with uteri have to create and carry life? Why does this insecurity make them want to dominate every aspect of our existence? Gaslight us for thousands of years into believing we are less powerful, less human? Beat, batter, rape, abuse, and murder us. Why?
I could write so many things.
I think what has perplexed me most about being a human in a woman’s body is how I know myself as a complex and fully conscious being and am continually surprised to see that many other humans don’t consider the fullness of my being. And they don’t even know that they don’t, have no awareness that they see people in female bodies as little more than vessels.
I have never desired to have children, and yet, I respect the power I have to create and terminate life in my body. I respect this power of mine and all other people with uteri. I ask that you do too. (Hint: it doesn’t mean that you have to respect the qualities of your being any less.)
So. Instead of all the things I could write that have all been written before, I simply ask that you, humans, work at seeing others of your same species, regardless of anatomy, identity, expression, sexuality, or willingness to procreate, as full, complex, conscious humans, all of whom are worthy of rights, access, inclusion, and love.