Ok, guys, I haven’t ranted about abortion here for awhile. And I think you all know I’m pretty vocal about being completely Pro-choice. But lately a big “discussion” in the atheist/skeptic-verse has brought this to the fore, as well as my reasons why.
Here’s PZ Myers’s post on it, which has some fan-fucking-tastic discussion going on in the over a thousand comment long replies. It is not for the faint of heart, because the Pro-Choice people (mostly women, but some dudes) are done coddling bullshit arguments about this topic, particularly those espoused by (almost entirely male) anti-choice advocates, or amateur philosophers who seem to think that this is all just a diverting academic exercise. Other female atheists and skeptics have also spoken out on this matter, vociferously: Greta Christina, Stephanie Zvan, Ophelia Benson, Dana Hunter, to name a few.
Now, the important part here is NOT the catalyzing event. It’s the discussion itself, or rather, should women have less right to bodily autonomy than your average corpse. Not just man, but corpse. Why do I say that? Because when you die, no matter how healthy you are or how many people need your organs, or how usable they are, UNLESS you have agreed to be an organ donor, no one can touch those perfect, pink little inside parts. No one can make you agree to donate your organs after you die, and if you don’t agree they won’t take them.
And that’s when you’re DEAD. If you are alive, they cannot make you donate organs, bone marrow, or even just blood not even if you are the only possible donor and the other person will die without your donation. Parents cannot be legally compelled/forced to donate any of those things even to save their own children. And we know this because parents have sued one another trying to force the parent who is a match to donate whatever it was to their child, and have LOST.
As a society we take the concept of Bodily Autonomy very seriously. This is why we let people refuse medical treatment, vaccines, whatever in the name of religious belief, or even just because they don’t wanna. Now there are mitigating circumstances, like when the parents believe that, but the state will intervene on behalf of the child, because the child cannot consent legally, but that is a whole other kettle of fish. Suffice it to say, that if you are a person of an age where it is determined that you can make your own informed decisions, you get to decide if something happens to you.
Unless you’re a woman.
Then everyone wants to get all up in your business, from employers wanting to tell you what treatments you can have (birth control), to politicians and religious leaders trying to force you to donate your organs for nine months to support a pregnancy you may not want. Everyone seems to think they have a say about what goes on in my uterus, apart from me.
This is bullshit.
The first point to consider is the Violinist Argument, which goes like this:
But now let me ask you to imagine this. You wake up in the morning and find yourself back to back in bed with an unconscious violinist. A famous unconscious violinist. He has been found to have a fatal kidney ailment, and the Society of Music Lovers has canvassed all the available medical records and found that you alone have the right blood type to help. They have therefore kidnapped you, and last night the violinist’s circulatory system was plugged into yours, so that your kidneys can be used to extract poisons from his blood as well as your own. The director of the hospital now tells you, “Look, we’re sorry the Society of Music Lovers did this to you–we would never have permitted it if we had known. But still, they did it, and the violinist is now plugged into you. To unplug you would be to kill him. But never mind, it’s only for nine months. By then he will have recovered from his ailment, and can safely be unplugged from you.” Is it morally incumbent on you to accede to this situation?
Now, given what I said above, you have every right to unplug the Violinist, even if it kills him.
How is this different than pregnancy?
The first person to say “But pregnancy is natural” gets kicked in the jimmie, because natural does not mean without risks. If you look in that Pharyngula thread, you will see a staggeringly long list of things that do or can happen to a woman during pregnancy and childbirth. Even perfectly normal, everything goes right YAY! pregnancies do not leave the woman unscathed. From that thread at Comment #237 , a comprehensive list of all the things that can and do go wrong during pregnancy compiled by Pharyngulite Valde:
This is a list that I have compiled about the health effects of pregnancy, for ignoramuses who think that because pregnancy is ‘natural’ that it is necessarily ‘healthy’ and ‘always good’:
Pregnancy and health:
“That means each year in the U.S., about 700 women die of pregnancy-related complications and 52,000 experience emergencies such as acute renal failure, shock, respiratory
distress, aneurysms and heart surgery. An additional 34,000 barely avoid death.”
Data modeling suggesting 21/100,000 US maternal mortality rate
In 2004/2005, 1.7 million women per year suffered adverse health effects
Normal, frequent or expectable temporary side effects of pregnancy:
exhaustion (weariness common from first weeks)
altered appetite and senses of taste and smell
nausea and vomiting (50% of women, first trimester)
heartburn and indigestion
dizziness and light-headedness
bloating, swelling, fluid retention
congested, bloody nose
acne and mild skin disorders
skin discoloration (chloasma, face and abdomen)
mild to severe backache and strain
difficulty sleeping, and discomfort while sleeping
increased urination and incontinence
breast pain and discharge
swelling of joints, leg cramps, joint pain
difficulty sitting, standing in later pregnancy
inability to take regular medications
shortness of breath
higher blood pressure
tendency to anemia
curtailment of ability to participate in some sports and activities
infection including from serious and potentially fatal disease
(pregnant women are immune suppressed compared with non-pregnant women, and are more susceptible to fungal and certain other diseases)
extreme pain on delivery
hormonal mood changes, including normal post-partum depression
continued post-partum exhaustion and recovery period (exacerbated if a c-section — major surgery — is required, sometimes taking up to a full year to fully recover)
Normal, expectable, or frequent PERMANENT side effects of pregnancy:
stretch marks (worse in younger women)
permanent weight gain or redistribution
abdominal and vaginal muscle weakness
pelvic floor disorder (occurring in as many as 35% of middle-aged former child-bearers and 50% of elderly former child-bearers, associated with urinary and rectal incontinence, discomfort and reduced quality of life — aka prolapsed utuerus, the malady sometimes badly fixed by the transvaginal mesh)
changes to breasts
scarring from episiotomy or c-section
other permanent aesthetic changes to the body (all of these are downplayed by women, because the culture values youth and beauty)
increased proclivity for hemmorhoids
loss of dental and bone calcium (cavities and osteoporosis)
higher lifetime risk of developing Altzheimer’s
newer research indicates microchimeric cells, other bi-directional exchanges of DNA, chromosomes, and other bodily material between fetus and mother (including with “unrelated” gestational surrogates)
Occasional complications and side effects:
complications of episiotomy
temporary and permanent injury to back
severe scarring requiring later surgery
(especially after additional pregnancies)
dropped (prolapsed) uterus (especially after additional pregnancies, and other pelvic floor weaknesses — 11% of women, including cystocele, rectocele, and enterocele)
pre-eclampsia (edema and hypertension, the most common complication of pregnancy, associated with eclampsia, and affecting 7 – 10% of pregnancies)
eclampsia (convulsions, coma during pregnancy or labor, high risk of death)
anemia (which can be life-threatening)
embolism (blood clots)
medical disability requiring full bed rest (frequently ordered during part of many pregnancies varying from days to months for health of either mother or baby)
diastasis recti, also torn abdominal muscles
mitral valve stenosis (most common cardiac complication)
serious infection and disease (e.g. increased risk of tuberculosis)
ectopic pregnancy (risk of death)
broken bones (ribcage, “tail bone”)
numerous other complications of delivery
refractory gastroesophageal reflux disease
aggravation of pre-pregnancy diseases and conditions (e.g. epilepsy is present in .5% of pregnant women, and the pregnancy alters drug metabolism and treatment prospects all the while it increases the number and frequency of seizures)
severe post-partum depression and psychosis
research now indicates a possible link between ovarian cancer and female fertility treatments, including “egg harvesting” from infertile women and donors
research also now indicates correlations between lower breast cancer survival rates and proximity in time to onset of cancer of last pregnancy
research also indicates a correlation between having six or more pregnancies and a risk of coronary and cardiovascular disease
Less common (but serious) complications:
increased intracranial pressure, brainstem infarction
molar pregnancy, gestational trophoblastic disease
(like a pregnancy-induced cancer)
More permanent side effects:
Ok, that list is longer than most of my posts here. That is all the shit that can go wrong, even when everything looks like it’s going just fine. More women die from pregnancy and childbirth than from abortions in this country. But don’t worry, the anti-choice shitheads are looking to change that, and take us back to the bad old days before Roe. In 2008 12 women died from abortion complications in the US, in a total of 825,564 abortions, or a rate of 1.5 abortion related deaths per 100,000 abortions. In that same year the rate of maternal and pregnancy-related deaths was 15.5 deaths per 100,000 births.
I don’t know about you, but 1.5 per 100,000 is a LOT less than 15.5 per 100,000.
See, this is the thing. Most anti-choice shitheads are also against all the things that might make it easier for women to avoid unwanted pregnancy in the first place (birth control), or that might help her deal with an unintended pregnancy, get pre-natal and neo-natal care and raise the child (social safety net, socialized medicine, maternity leave, affordable healthcare, affordable childcare), so I just can’t take them seriously at all when they say they care about children.
But unless you’ve been living under a fucking rock of self-imposed ignorance, you should fucking well know all that.
What I want you to consider is this:
If a man went to a doctor for a vasectomy, or any other medical procedure that was perfectly safe, vetted and had such low injury/fatality rates, and the doctor said, “Well, everything looks fine, but first the state has mandated (for no good medical reason) that you’ll have to look at this sonogram of your testicles, and we’ll be using a sound* to really get in there so you can really see things in perspective, and then you need to go home and wait for 72 hours to see if you change your mind about cutting off those cute little sperms’ potential access to ova. Think of all the babies you could be fathering.”
We would be talking lawsuit city. No man is going to put up with that shit, because it is an attack on his bodily autonomy and his right to make his own medical decisions.
And that is exactly what the abortion “debate” is about.
It’s not a debate. It’s a bunch of people who hate women, because remember they aren’t doing anything to HELP those children they insist on forcing their mothers to carry to term, violating our bodily autonomy. They are abrogating our rights.
Remember our Violinist up above? In no other situation can one person be forced to use their body to support another person’s life. So, even if you DO think the fetus is a person, that STILL isn’t an anti-choice argument. You cannot force a parent to donate an organ, or blood, or breast milk once the child pops out. Why is it any different BEFORE it’s a living, breathing being who can survive outside of the womb?
Misogyny, plain and simple. And these people give themselves away whenever they talk about children being the “consequences” of sex.
I don’t know about you, but viewing children as a punishment is fucked up.
Now, on to point two.
Yes, this is already hella long, but bear with me.
Abortion is not the only area where women’s bodily autonomy is under attack. I mentioned the attacks on women’s access to birth control already. But women are frequently second guessed when they want to be sterilized, and asked if they’ve really thought about it. Which is another thing endemic to anti-choicers, this bizarre belief that women go happily along with a pregnancy until some point during month 8 where they’re like, “Oh, hey, I have a free hour before my nail appointment? Why don’t I get an abortion?”
What the fuck is wrong with you people? I don’t know how much more proof you need that they hate and distrust women than that shit.
But back to getting sterilized or any other treatment that involves one’s reproductive organs. If even hysterectomy is the only real possibility of solving a serious medical issue like fibroid cysts (in the case of a friend, by 22 she had already had two surgeries to have them removed previous), doctors will make women undergo psych evals to make sure they REALLY want to “sacrifice” their fertility in the name of NOT LIVING IN CONSTANT DEBILITATING PAIN!!!!!!!!!
Honestly, I have to say, if you’d rather live with the constant pain instead of getting the hysterectomy, I’d be tempted to send you for psych eval then, but I wouldn’t, because YOU GET TO DECIDE WHAT HAPPENS WITH YOUR BODY.
Seriously, this disdain for women and their ability to decide things for themselves permeates so much of our culture it’s almost impossible to tease it out in words. From the victim-blaming of rape culture saying that rape is just when women have sex and “regret” it, to doctors acting is if husbands are owners who should get a say in what we do with our bodies, even if we don’t have one, this disdain colors everything. It’s in our media with the way that serious fucking issues like abortion and access to birth control and pre-natal care are blown off as “women’s or special interest issues” instead of issues that face half the fucking population.
Abortion is just the playing field where you get to see that disdain and outright hatred enacted most blatantly.
Rights are not up for debate, that’s why they’re rights, to paraphrase Rachel Maddow. I should not have fewer rights than a man in this society, that isn’t ok. No woman should.
*penile probe for those not in the know