Thursday, January 22, 2009

The 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and the future we were promised

My friend Tom Brislin (of the NJ band Spiraling) wrote a song called "The Future", wherein he laments that "this is not the future we were promised/this is not the future we were counting on", and while I can't speak directly to whether he's getting political with this song (he's got a history of writing songs that sound political, but really aren't), I really feel like "The Future" has been the theme song for the last decade. So as I Blog for Choice for the very first time, I want to consider the future we were promised and how we can make that a reality, thereby relegating my friend Tom's song to being a mere relic of the Bush Administration.

The theme for this year's Blog for Choice is "What is your top pro-choice hope for President Obama and/or the new Congress?" and what I want probably isn't all that different from what most pro-choice feminists want: preserve our right to choose when and whether we will have children; encourage birth control and the use of condoms in developing parts of the world, especially where HIV and AIDS are rampant; end sexual slavery; end or at least reduce federal funding of ineffective ideologically driven (rather than fact driven) abstinence-only education; end the ability for health care providers to refuse to give women and girls Plan B, or even birth control pills; and stop conflating my right to choose when and whether to have a child with the right for a health care provider to choose to refuse me that right. In America, you don't have the right to refuse someone the ability to exercise their rights. Or at least, in any other arena no one has that right.

As it stands now, and for some reason people like to argue with me on this one, women do not have complete medical sovereignty over their bodies. This is a fact. Whenever there is legislation telling me what I can and cannot do with my body, I am denied sovereignty over it. Where women are forced to have the consent of their husbands, fathers, or the random guy they fucked one night and the condom broke, in order to have an abortion: those women's choices are limited, and their sovereignty denied. This isn't an article of my "world view" here, it's a fucking fact. If someone tells me, an adult, that I cannot do something without the permission of a man who is not my doctor, my rights are being abridged.

There's this bullshit about parental notification too. I know that a lot of people, including my beloved mother, think that parental notification is a good thing. But I don't. I don't think it's a good thing for legislatures to force children to tell their parents things, not in the least because it, rather than protecting the rights of good parents, unjustly rewards bad parents. If I had gotten pregnant as a teenager, I would have told my mom, law or no law, because she had raised me in an environment where I knew I was safe. I would not have told my father because I knew that I would not be safe doing so -- but Washington State law would demand it. Some people argue that teenagers are children, and as children they don't have any rights, but that's bullshit too. Others still argue that you need parental permission for all medical procedures, so why should an abortion be any different?

Abortion is different because women get killed for having sex out of wedlock. Women get killed for getting pregnant out of wedlock. And I know people are going to tell me that doesn't happen in America, but I guarantee you that it does. Just because they don't talk about it on the news, doesn't mean it doesn't happen.

What I find so much more insideous are these spousal notification laws, which essentially say that a woman is the property of the man who impregnated her and if he doesn't consent to the termination of that pregnancy, she has no agency, no sovereignty, and cannot have the procedure. Blatant sexism. Women aren't wombs with legs, we're human beings with rights and in the words of the late George Carlin, if you think the rights of a fetus are more important than the rights of woman, you try to get a fetus to scrub the shit stains out of your underwear for 25 years without complaining about it.

My hope for the pro-choice proirities of the Obama administration and 112th congress is that their priorities actually be pro-choice. It is possible to lower the abortion rate while making sure that women and girls have their rights intact and recognized -- Bill Clinton did it. It is my hope that President Obama will look at his girls and decide that they own their bodies, not him, not their future husbands (if they are heterosexual and marry), but their own. We need to end this archaic tradition wherein women don't have a say over what happens within them; we need to end the tradtion of women as property and "walking wombs", so that we can tell other parts of the world to knock it off too.

My hope is that in the next 4 (read 8) years, the whole world becomes more pro-choice, pro-woman, pro-child, and pro-family. You can't be pro-child and pro-family when you refuse funding for low-income women to get prenatal care. You can't be pro-woman when you refuse a woman sovereignty and agency over her body. You can't be pro-family when you refuse to allow some kind of funding for childcare so that mothers can work and, instead of having all of their money going to childcare, actually being able to save money for their kids' college, or some kind of rainy day fund -- or birthdays, groceries, and rent.

This starts with making it absolutely clear that there MUST be equality in the health care system. And while a lot of conservatives will prattle on about "on-demand abortions" (and we can't even get on-demand fillings for god's sake!), when women have the same rights as men to insist they have a valid medical procedure done without any interference from someone who isn't a doctor advising them in the same manner they would for a root canal, we'll have reached another step toward equality.

The next thing is making sure that women who want children can take care of those children. And that those children have health care, education, food, clothing, a home, toys, and emotional security. The future we were promised, with all of its glittering hope, begins with parents being able to take care of their children and foster growth and integrity.

Maybe in a world where every child is a wanted child, we will have our jetpacks and flying cars.

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