Why am I pro-choice? I don't often examine my reasons, am usually content to offer a "because women should have autonomy over their own bodies" as sufficient cause. But what about me personally? Yes, I've had an abortion. Yes, I've had a child. In both cases, I chose what I wanted to do, and I believe that every woman should have that right.
There was no incapacitating post-abortion syndrome (or whatever the "pro-certain-life" crew is calling it lately). What I did feel was relief. And here is another reason I'm pro-choice, because the discourse around pregnancy, abortion, and motherhood is such that, while I didn't feel guilty about the abortion, I felt guilty about not feeling guilty. I felt guilty because I had no business being pregnant anyway--I should've known better. I felt guilty because one of the factors in my choice was that I was a college student on scholarship far from home and I knew that I wouldn't have been able to stay at my university. Was that selfish? And as a woman, defined largely as a potential mother, wasn't I supposed to be infinitely selfless? I don't want other women going through that "ashamed of not being shamed."
But I am learning that the way I conceptualize choice is influenced somewhat negatively by my privileged-in-some-ways status. First is my previously narrow definition; when I talk of reproductive freedom, I usually mean access to birth control and abortion. Though I know that there are other issues, I prioritize those, because they have been my concerns. But recently, I found this definition from INCITE: Women of Color Against Violence :
REPRODUCTIVE FREEDOM INCLUDES: Free and low cost drug treatment for pregnant and parenting women that offer neo-natal care, pre-natal care, and childcare. * Freedom to seek health care services without the fear of being reported to the police, welfare officials, child protection services (CPS), or immigration law enforcement. * Harm reduction strategies that reduce the risk of babies being born drug exposed. * Resources to address the root causes (rape, poverty, trauma, oppression)for which pregnant women use drugs. * The TRUTH about the risks of choosing long-term birth control methods like Norplant and Depo-Provera. * Supportive community environments where women can make healthy and non-coercive reproductive choiceYes, I thought. I agree with every bit of that. So why haven't my words and thoughts reflected it? But rather than dwell on why I haven't prioritized these issues, I have to work to make them part of my own definition of reproductive freedom.
And BfP has posted an excerpt from Andrea Smith's Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide. What it reveals is that a narrow definition of choice like mine "continues the marginalization of women of color, poor women and women with disabilities." Some reasons why:
1. One example of this marginalization is how pro-choice organizations narrow their advocacy to legislation that affects the right to choose to have an abortion–without addressing the conditions that put women in the position of having to make the decision in the first place.
2. While contraceptives are often articulated as an issue of “choice” for white women in the First World, they are articulated as an instrument of population control for women of color and women in the Global South. (I think petitpoussin's post about "elective" sterilization in California prisons is somehow related to this).
3. The prevalent ideology within the mainstream pro-choice movement is that women should have the “choice” to use whatever contraception they want. Yet, mainstream activists often do not consider that a choice among dangerous contraceptives [like Depo-Provera and Norplant, which I know are favored at some health units in North LA] is not much of a choice.I have been dismissive, even on this blog, of the effects of the population control/eugenics ideology of Margaret Sanger in a, "Yes, it's bad, but look what came out of her work" sort of way. I have been dismissive, in real life, towards women who have unwanted pregnancies and yet cannot afford abortion: "How can't you afford abortion? Having a child is much more expensive!" I have been dismissive, in my thoughts, of women in my community who have unwanted pregnancies and yet do not want an abortion because of religious and cultural beliefs.
And what I can say, as a woman, and I think, for me, especially as a woman of color, is, "Shame on me." My own discourse about choice has to stop being so limited, so clueless, so exclusionary.
It's really not choice at all, if it is only the domain of women who can "afford [it] or [who] are deemed legitimate choice-makers."