Friday, January 21, 2011

On Valuing Our Bodies: Roe v. Wade 38th Anniversary edition

I've never known the conflict of maternal instinct versus reality - I have never had to confront the decision of "abortion" or "life," or more specifically, my own life with a child's life - or even, my life and then the life of my child in the hands of another mother. I could not grasp the complexity of the situation if you asked me to. I want to make it easy in my head, because I am human - and human beings want to be in control of things, make easy black-and-white decisions. So, I say now, if you asked me, if I were confronted with a pregnancy scare, I would most likely choose abortion. But it's not for selfish reasons, it's not because I don't care about my body or that unborn child's body - it's because I'm petrified of the life my child could live. I'm petrified of a world that teaches us not to trust each other, and I'm petrified my child would inherit some of my own horrible genetics (see: bipolar), and I don't trust myself to be healed enough to fairly take on the weight of a child and give this child the love she would need to live a healthy life. I barely support myself. I think of these things. I think of two of my closest friends who are both my age (21) and are currently invested in motherhood, who are both pro-choice like I am, and chose to bring life to the world. One of these friends is having a baby that was a product of date rape. I think of how strong she is, how strong that baby will have to be, how tough this world is. I think it takes courage to raise a child correctly - to raise a child with love, and not fear. And I'm not ready yet. And I think it's equally courageous to admit your own limits, your own flaws, to make a jurisdiction over your own body and life, to think cautiously. As someone on the interwebs said in response to the Naomi Wolf rape apologist debacle, "I think we need to remind her that although speaking out about rape is brave, not speaking about your rape doesn't make you not brave."

I think we underestimate the intelligence and power in every woman in her knowing her body and her cycles and her life, the more we lean towards "pro-life" under the misconception that women are just using abortion as "the easy way out" as if it were some fad akin to drugs or as the adage goes, "If ____ jumps off that bridge, would you jump off that bridge too?" The preciousness of life scares me, the feeling in a moment overwhelms me. And I know that to pretend others don't feel this way is absurd. I do not know one person who has carelessly made a decision to have an abortion, who has not critiqued her own self before weighing the options. And it scares me that women who make smart choices are being judged based on the decisions they make with their bodies (whether it be to have the child or have an abortion). It's a trauma in and of itself.

I told my friend Amelia that I would work on doing a blog entry for this blog commemoration, and at first mentioned I had no idea what I would say. My expertise and field knowledge is not in pro-choice roe v. wade liberation movement - it's in trauma. I didn't see what I could write about, until I realized how easily one could mesh into another. Which is to say, women are frequently victims of abuse (sexual, emotional, physical) due to a hierarchy that actively seeks to oppress minorities, and give those who already hold power - more power. And I know that the majority of pro-life supporters are Older White Christian Males who have never first-hand dealt with this complex situation before. And I know that Older White Christian Males tend to top the power scale. And I know that in a high percentage of situations women do something that the oppressor's don't like, the sexuality gets assaulted, insulted, controlled, boxed in. The women become "whores," "loose," unintelligent, etc. And the more sexualized and uncontrolled the woman is perceived to be, the less she is listened to. Coincidentally, although I don't know the statistics within the population of women who have had abortions, I'm guessing there's a high correlation between women who have had abortions and women who's sexuality has been insulted or assaulted... if only because pro-choice sets the standard that a woman is in control over her own body and her own sexuality, and that idea is frightening to society. Similarly, a victim of trauma will also find her body being judged for what's occurred to her and what decisions she made - what was she wearing? what time of day was it? was she watching her drink?

And I get furious. And I go back to my academic papers, and shuffle through to find the quote that's setting off a glaring, loud alarm off as I think of all this:
“Whether or not a girl is targeted because of her sexual behavior, the effect is nonetheless to police her sexuality.” - Leora Tanenbaum, Slut! Growing Up Female with a Bad Reputation

And I think to myself, yes, Roe v. Wade is more than just pro-life or pro-choice, it's about our bodies - every single one of our bodies, and how precious they are - it's about valuing our hearts, our integrity, our intelligence WITH our bodies, it's a movement of bodies that need to be valued, where all lives (born or unborn) need to be valued. It's a movement that says we need to trust that women will make smart decisions about their lives and the lives that will come after them, that women know their bodies and listen to their bodies, that women want to give the world a precious life if they can bear it - rather than risk the lives of two. Roe v. Wade, debates of abortion, are more than just abortion - they're asking if we trust women to be whole as a whole, it's about giving women a life without dichotomy, with both the intelligence and the responsibility of their own sexuality (rather than name-calling and slut-bashing or madonna-praising) so that they can make the choice to respect every body.


  1. Oh my gosh. So good! Can we blog together? You nailed it. Isn't it weird how obsessed other people are with women's bodies? I'm actually in a feminist theory class right now, and we're talking a lot about bodies, and the supposed "cult of motherhood." Technically speaking, women, historically and cross-culturally, have no attachment to their fetus until what used to be known as "quickening" (when they can feel it moving). Further, it's actually natural and instinctual for females (of all species) to kill or abandon their young to procure a better lifestyle for their existing or future offspring/families. Why is our society so obsessed with taking away women's agency when it comes to reproduction? Maybe because we would stop doing it until this world got its shit together? ;) haha, just an idea...

  2. Victoria, this is excellent. As Katie said, you nailed it. Roe vs. Wade is indeed more than just pro life vs. pro choice. And you explained why perfectly.

    This is my favorite part, I think, although you make so many good points here that it was hard to pick just one:

    "I think it takes courage to raise a child correctly - to raise a child with love, and not fear. And I'm not ready yet. And I think it's equally courageous to admit your own limits, your own flaws, to make a jurisdiction over your own body and life, to think cautiously."