Discourse / Letters / November 20, 2013

Are women people?

I can’t decide if I was more infuriated or embarrassed that TKS columnists erased women/pregnant persons entirely from their discussion of abortion rights.

I actually did a search of the page to make sure I didn’t miss the words “woman” or “pregnant person,” and my search yielded 0 for “Abortion: Government’s responsibility to protect lives” (which cited a definitely credible blog called “The Survival Doctor” to prove when “life” begins) and 1 for “Abortion: Sacrifices a woman’s right to choose” (which – spoiler alert – isn’t about women at all). Both sides omitted women from the debate. Not that abortion has anything to do with the life of the person carrying the fetus…

In 1986, Marie Shear defined feminism as “the radical notion that women are people.”

So let’s be radical for a moment and make the following contentions:

  • Women are people.
  • Pregnant people are people.
  • Having a uterus doesn’t negate one’s personhood, despite popular belief.

It is exhausting to constantly be proving your personhood. And by no means are women the only people who have to fight that fight.

One particularly poignant example of the blatant erasure of women from these columns reads as follows: “No one doubts that the government should protect the lives of its many citizens from birth until death, one of the government’s main roles if not its most important. Thus, the government certainly has a right, even an obligation, to protect an unborn baby. How can this human being obtain liberty and be able to pursue happiness if his or her life is taken away?”

My question is does my life count? Do the lives of people with uteruses count? Should the government protect our right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

I was disappointed to see such a lack of critical thinking and nuance from both sides. The articles adhered to the pro-life/pro-choice dichotomy, which isn’t productive.

The word “choice” implies that people have a choice in procuring an abortion. For many women, it is not really a choice if they need an abortion because they cannot afford to raise a child, their life is at risk, they are in an abusive relationship, their family will disown them, and the list goes on.

The word “life” assumes that pro-life advocates care about all life. There has been little to no discussion from pro-life advocates of preventative measures to ensure the life of the pregnant person and fetus/child such as comprehensive, inclusive sex education, accessible and affordable health care and child care, enforced child support, etc.

So I position myself here as someone who cares about reproductive justice, a holistic approach to reproductive health and human rights that acknowledges how agency, misogyny, cissexism, racism, classism, and ableism intersect with anti-abortion agendas. In the “pro-choice” column, there was no acknowledgement of the intersections between the disability justice and reproductive justice. The “pro-life” column attempted to define when a fetus is entitled to human rights without acknowledging the gross violations of human rights that often lead to pregnant people seeking abortions by necessity, such as sexual violence, poverty, and lack of a support systems on a legal, structural level and/or a personal, familial level.

The fact remains that 1 in 3 women will have an abortion in her lifetime, so where are these people in your reporting? Because when we are erased from the discourse that directly affects our human rights, our agency and humanity are negated. I would urge this award-winning publication to be more thorough in its research and reporting.

Note: This letter to the editor was incorrectly published with Samantha Paul’s byline. It has since been corrected.

Allie Fry

Tags:  Abortion feminism health personhood pro-choice pro-life reproduction reproductive

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Nov 24, 2013

Exactly. Women must be afforded the same rights to the control of their bodies that men are already given. If Pro-lifers really want to prevent abortions, they need to strongly support and promote scientific sex education, starting in elementary schools, and also access to free birth-control prevention for all people.

    Nov 26, 2013

    yes but you just said words that give them hives like: scientific, sex and education, that is a no-no, if you want to be “pro-life”

Nov 26, 2013

The author is exactly right; the columns she references dehumanize women. I also particularly agree with her assessment that the classic pro- life/choice debate is *not productive.* That point really resonated with me, and I wish more people could view things along those lines.

Nov 27, 2013

Extremely interesting editorial. In this debate people often miss the mark in considering what goes in to these women’s choices (or lack thereof). Also, that sex education is still not taught even though it’s been proven to reduce unwanted pregnancy. Of course, that is simply another symptom of patriarchy taking away agency from women, particularly young, poor women. Thank you for your views.

Jan 05, 2014

Great: you made your points well, and are to be applauded for taking a stand on an issue that is still messing up people’s minds. My own comment on the issue “whether a fetus is a person” is this: if a census taker comes to the home of a couple, one of whom is a pregnant person in her sixth or seventh month, and is asked how many folks are living there, are they required to say “Three.”? I don’t believe so. A human being is not a person until he or she is born alive.

Jan 15, 2014

Right on, Allie Fry.

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