This is my second try at writing a post about the reality of anti-abortion laws passing right now in America: despite the rhetoric about men who know nothing about women then creating policies about women’s bodies and health care, the reality is much more complex. It’s men, yes, but also white women. And as far as I can tell, those women who support such policies in the population more broadly are also white. The Atlantic has already done the fact checking. The first post I wrote was mostly snark and I figured that wasn’t useful save to vent my frustration. But that thinking got me to another place: as much as I feel it’s the job of other white women to call these anti-choice white women out and in, I am realizing I don’t know how. And part of the not knowing is not knowing what their deal really is.
I suspect they fall into a number of categories, and I’m not sure what to do with any of them save try to educate and persuade.
- They’re firm believers in patriarchy and see women as second-tier citizens who owe sex and reproduction to men.
- They’re acting in accordance with their faith–ok, this I can grasp–but they don’t seem to know or care that their faith and our national politics are not and should not be the same thing. Right, so it’s one thing to say “I’d never have an abortion, my faith prohibits it” and another altogether to say “You should never have an abortion, as my faith prohibits it.” Basic constitutional law bars that kind of thing, and yet! it happens all the time. So I suspect for these women, there’s a gap between what they’re willing to tolerate on behalf of other religions (imagine the reaction if all foods now had to be kosher and are thus priced accordingly. Hoooeeee) and what they think we ought to tolerate on behalf of theirs, because theirs is correct. I don’t know how to address that.
- They think women are stupid and don’t realize what abortion is or means (for them). This line is related, I imagine, to #2 for some. I’ve had experience with this one. I was literally in a church, squirming as an ad came on for the local Knights of Columbus affiliated with that church; the Knights were very proud that they sponsored “information” available to women outside clinics providing abortion services about “what really happened” etc etc. A relative saw my face and asked what my deal was, and I said, “women know what they’re going in there for. They’re not stupid. This is a choice they’re making,” and she demurred, saying it was important that women be informed. So, uh.
- No doubt there’s a substantial chunk of women in here for whom this belief set is combined with other awful belief sets like racism, and the two work together–prohibiting some women of color from choices, for example, so as to keep their positions low.
In all of these cases, I don’t know how to engage in a conversation so as to a) not explode and b) bring these women around.
The reality is that women have sex with men; that women are entitled, as much as men are, to physical pleasure; that women are entitled to control their own fertility as a piece of their right to privacy. That’s how the law works.
The reality also is that abortion will happen whether or not it is legal.
The further reality is that to limit women’s access to abortion (and possibly contraceptives, if some of these people can be believed) is to limit their ability to be functional members of society to the fullest. It limits their ability to pursue careers, to create financial stability and independence for themselves (incredibly significant after centuries of women’s forced dependency on men, which compelled them to stay married in abusive and otherwise awful situations).
And I don’t doubt that a chunk of women who support anti-choice policies LOVE that idea–see bullet 1 above. But I suspect for others, they either haven’t thought it through OR, if they have, they still see their faith as paramount, regardless of anyone else’s.
And I find that deeply frustrating.
We need to move beyond the rhetoric of bad men making decisions for women and come to realize that women sabotage each other, and somehow enact change. I suppose my angle would be to ask questions, but I don’t know where that would get me:
For example, what do you think happens when a woman cannot get an abortion where she lives and desperately needs one?
What would you do if you had a pregnancy from a sexual assault and couldn’t get an abortion, and knew that having that birth would be reliving the trauma over and over again?
What if you LOVE motherhood–you have several children!–but end up pregnant at a time in your life when you couldn’t possibly feed another mouth, or your body couldn’t handle the strain? Then what?
If you’ve got ideas on having these conversations, I’d love to hear them.