As members of End Fake Clinics, a reproductive justice group on campus, we were happy to see the Nexus address the presence of the anti-abortion advocates on the UCSB campus, however implicitly, through the “Left Said, Right Said” column (“When Does Life Begin and Who Decides That? Why This Debate Matters,” Daily Nexus, Jan. 15, 2013).
We were less happy by the limited and narrow views of reproduction, gender and sexuality presented in both the “pro-choice” and “pro-life” arguments. As leftist reproductive justice activists, we often expect to find the approaches and ideologies of the anti-abortion right wing problematic. But the ideas that have been produced as “left” or “pro-choice” are also in need of critique, as Michael Dean’s supposedly pro-choice justification for abortion highlights. For example, Dean describes himself as “of above average means,” stating that “as a person who is capable of caring for a child, any decision to avoid my responsibility for that child’s life must be grounded in selfishness.”
In doing so, Dean reiterates the common anti-abortion position that suggests that people who have or consider abortions are selfish, and that when abortion is “resorted to for the wrong reasons,” it is immoral. That th is negative view of abortion is presented as the “pro-choice” position should make clear the many similarities in what the Nexus presented as two opposing views and give pause to anyone who believes in reproductive and sexual freedom.
Beyond this, Dean makes comments that have been critiqued by reproductive justice advocates, including his insinuation that poor women or women who cannot afford children should not reproduce.
We would like to suggest an alternative way of thinking about reproduction.
We need to move beyond the moral frameworks that both the anti-abortion and abortion-rights positions rely upon. Anti-abortionists frame the woman choosing abortion and the action of abortion as inherently immoral. Some pro-choice advocates, including Michael Dean, describe some abortions as immoral. Those women who have had “careless” sex or prior abortions, those who have “too many” children, possibly from “too many” partners, those who have no money to raise their kids without state support — these are the immoral women making “bad” decisions. Through the circulation of the trope of the careless, selfish women seeking abortion — a trope the supposedly “pro-choice” Dean perpetuated — women’s sexuality is policed and controlled. Hardly pro-choice, if you ask us.
How we understand abortion in the U.S. today is not how it has always been understood. In fact, abortion was not even legally regulated until the mid-1800s. Ideas about reproduction — including those about gender roles, abortion and reproductive technologies — are socially, discursively, geographically and historically constructed. If we know that how society thinks of these issues changes over time, this understanding should open up a space for more compassionate and less dogmatic approaches to discussing reproduction.
If we refuse a moral framework in which some outside person or government entity decides what counts as moral, we can view abortion as a simple and quick medical procedure that is actually 13 times safer than childbirth. We can recognize that the feeling most women report after an abortion is relief. We can see that negative ideas about abortion are based in draconian ideas about sex and sexuality, namely that it should be for baby-making purposes. Walk through I.V. at any hour of the day and you’ll hear sex happening for alternative reasons.
Let’s cut to the chase: Both mainstream “pro-life” and “pro-choice” positions are based in outdated and messed-up anti-sex judgment and morality that does not reflect the ways in which young people live their lives. Sex is good. And, believe it or not, so is abortion, because it allows us to lead our lives in ways that we want. As that old feminist bumper sticker says, “Against Abortion? Don’t Have One.”
Submitted by members of End Fake Clinics. For more information, check out our website at http://endfakeclinics.wix.com/efc.
Views expressed on the Opinion page do not necessarily reflect those of the Daily Nexus or UCSB. Opinions are submitted primarily by students.