Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Conservatism, tradition, and ownership of the female body

As you probably know, US Congressman Todd Akin has invited a shitstorm this week with the following statement in the context of a debate about abortion:

"If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."

And in case you haven't already heard about this; yes, he really said that. So if you're one of the significant number of women who have been raped and WERE unfortunate enough to get pregnant as a result... well, you must have wanted it reeeally, mustn't you?  I mean really, really deep down. Or something.  'Cause there's got to be something called "illegitimate rape" if there's "legitimate rape", hasn't there? Maybe you were just unconscious. Or underage. Maybe you just didn't fight hard enough. Whatever the case, it must not really have been proper "rapey rape" if you got pregnant.

For the hard of thinking, yes the above is sarcastic.

But what about the context, while we're at it?  Does that matter? Well, yes, as it happens - though maybe not for the reasons you think.

Congressman Akin wants to block access to safe and legal abortion, even in cases where the woman seeking it has been raped.  He is under the impression that his own half-baked notions about the "sanctity" of a cluster of undifferentiated insensate cells takes precedent over our right to control our own bodies. Why? Because he says so, and because... well, you know. You're only a woman. It's not like you're a real person, or anything.

It's long been my opinion that we pro-choice people play right into the hands of the "pro-lifers" (who're rarely pro-life about anything other than foetuses, have you noticed? When was the last time you met an anti-war, anti-death penalty, pro-healthcare, anti-hunting, fruitarian pro-lifer?) when we ask that tired old question "what if she's been raped?".


Well, it's related to my post from yesterday, in a sense - it's making an excuse that isn't necessary, it's tacitly assenting to the allegation that there's something about abortion that needs to be justified to other people.

If I get pregnant by ANY means, I am allowed as an adult and as my own person to decide what I want to do about that fact. It is no one's. Goddamn. Business. But mine. In fact, one might argue that my decision NOT to abort an unplanned pregnancy might require more justification, since that would affect other people than myself.

Pro-choice people are not "pro-abortion", whatever our opponents may say. None of us are going around telling people an abortion is a fun thing to do on a Saturday night, that they should invite some friends round, have a bottle of wine and make a night of it. We're not encouraging it, recommending it, we're not necessarily even saying we as individuals think abortion's ethically OK or that we'd do it ourselves; we're just saying that it's up to the individual to decide for herself. That's all.

So what's the opposing position to the pro-choice one? Well, let's face it - it's "anti-choice", isn't it? Let's be honest.

As I've already said, "pro-life" people are often - perhaps even usually - only pro-life when it comes to a foetus. Conservatives in the States are significantly "pro-life" and also significantly opposed to giving people the right to healthcare. Wait, what?

When a person says they are "pro-life", what they really mean is that they are anti-choice. What they're saying is that they want to take away your legal right, as a human, to make a choice different to the one they believe they would make in your place.  If someone is morally opposed to abortion, they  have every right to maintain an unplanned pregnancy, no one's trying to take that away from them. But if they make the mistake of thinking that their personal moral stance should be forcibly applied by legal means to everyone else in the country because they believe it... that must be opposed.  If it is not, and if the right to safe and legal abortion is repealed, what that will mean is that every other person in the USA has more rights over your body than you do. Because you can get pregnant, ergo because you're a woman.

You are not a second-class citizen. You are not the property of men in Congress. You are not a slave to the conservative anti-choicers. You are not an incubator. And you do not need to have been raped - "legitimate rape" or otherwise - to win the right to control your own body.

So yes, you should be angry about what Akin said. But you should probably be more angry about the fact that people like him have forced the pro-choice movement into a position where we have to plead special circumstances to maintain our right to make our own decisions.  So please, PLEASE - stop asking the "what if she was raped?" question.

1 comment:

  1. First of all, I applaud your post overall; it's very well written and accurate in many ways.

    Two issues I'd like to bring your attention to:
    1. Many "pro-life" women actually have abortions; what is usually cited is: "I'm not like those other women."
    2. Arguments from rape are not directed at the wankers of his ilk; they are directed at all the sensible people.