With hope that it will get stopped somewhere through the Courts, Alabama (a US State) is likely to pass a bill that would make getting an abortion a felony. The same bill would also make it a felony for doctors to carry out the procedure, with jail terms of up to 99 years if caught doing so. I’ve spoken before about the politicising of abortion, but the debate around it comes down to a single concept – power.
Abortion, like many issues that we face today, is not a political issue. Climate change is not ideologically driven, it’s an environmental catastrophe that must be handled swiftly. Refugees seeking asylum and being held in damning conditions is not a political issue, it’s a humanitarian one that we have more than enough obligation to attend to. Similarly, abortion is not a political issue, it is a medical one and should be a right for all women.
So why then, in the US, Australia, etc. is there this need to push it through the slaughterhouse of political discourse where “pro-life” (better described as anti-choice) arguments are given equal or more footing than the rights of women? The answer is pretty simple: it all has to do with holding power over specific segments of the population.
America’s recent trend on this topic has been the introduction of the “foetal heartbeat bill”, i.e. women are not able to get an abortion after 6 weeks of conception, before many realise they are even pregnant. Much like the US’ strongarming of the United Nations’ resolution regarding sexual violence in war, it moves sexual and reproductive health away from the medical sphere and plants it firmly in the hands of the politicians. It denies the basic right of healthcare to women who need it and removes all autonomy they have over their own bodies.
As a small aside, in the US this is even more concerning, for both the woman and the doctor. In all but a few States, those in prison lose their right to vote for the duration of their sentence, and some do not allow people with prior felony charges to vote even after their release. It is the reason a lot of people of colour are so disenfranchised after being targeted on drug charges.
I have a friend who is studying midwifery at university and have the pleasure of helping her with assignments (the writing/proof reading side, not the knowledge side) and tagging along for the occasional class with her when I visit. I am more than happy to do so, as it gives me insight to an issue I would otherwise be ignorant of. One of the primary aspects of midwifery, and all women-centred healthcare for that matter, is to allow women – professionals and patients – to have control of their own health and body. A part of this is having access to information and making an informed decision on how to proceed.
It puts the rights, needs, and wants of the woman first and aims to empower them in a system that, historically, has been the domain of men. Introducing laws that place restrictions on abortions has nothing to do with abortion, per se, but are blatant attempts to eliminate women’s control of their own reproductive health. It is similar to the arguments of banning contraceptives like condoms or the pill – the element of choice is removed.
As another aside, it is mildly amusing that many who oppose abortion are those who believe the government has no right to interfere in their lives. That seemingly does not apply, however, when that government introduces restrictions they enthusiastically support, mostly on demographics they are not a part of.
I would also reject the notion of religion being a relevant factor in all of this. I would hardly take advice on sexual and reproductive health from any religion on the best of days, but throughout history those institutions (in the West, mostly the Catholic Church), alongside the State, have proven themselves to be the pillars of oppression. You are at liberty to hold whatever opinion you desire on abortion, but your religious convictions are not a valid argument for denying the rights of others. The same-sex marriage debacle a few years ago was another example of that.
Abortion is a healthcare issue. Abortion is a women’s issue. Abortion is an individual’s issue. Given all the relevant information, a woman, and her alone, should get to make the choices about her own body. Let us hope we can surpass this hurdle sooner rather than later.
Liked this? Read Some Things Just Aren’t Political, Like Abortion
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