Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Reproductive Justice: The Tentacle of the Abortion Octopus

Andrea Smith’s “Beyond Pro-Choice Versus Pro-Life…” seeks to “reject the pro-life versus pro-choice model for understanding reproductive justice” (2009, p. 454). Smith points out this model’s deficiency in relating to, and including, the woman of intersectional disadvantage. Smith suggests:
The pro-life position supports a criminalization approach that depends on a racist political system that will necessarily impact poor women and women of color who are less likely to have alternative strategies for addressing unwanted pregnancies. Meanwhile, the pro-choice position often supports population control policies and the development of dangerous contraceptives that are generally targeted toward communities of color. And both positions do not question the capitalist system – they focus solely on the decision of whether or not a woman should have an abortion without addressing the economic, political, and social conditions that put women in this position in the first place (2009, p. 454).
I was struck by the author’s verbiage: “dangerous contraceptives.” In response, Planned Parenthood reported in 2000:
            At the dawn of a new century and new millennium:
  • Ninety-eight percent of American women use birth control at some point in their lives.
  • Eighty-nine percent of Americans favor more access to information about birth control.
  • Eighty-one percent think birth control access is a good way to prevent abortions. (2010).
I can hardly understand how a population of women in favor of more access to birth control, and open to new forms of birth control, should be concerned about dangerous contraceptives. In general, I really agree with Smith’s main point: we need a new model to encompass an enlightened society’s intersectional perspectives on the issue of abortion. Speaking to Smith’s report on the avoidance of questioning the capitalist system, I ask why we would need to question something that cannot and will not be affectively changed? Of course we must consider the environment of the individuals of our society in every way. Kavanaugh finds:
…sexual expression and reproduction are never merely private choices. These choices themselves influence and are influenced by our social and economic environment. People who trumpet capitalism and individualism fail to realize that those very forces drive human choices about sex and child-bearing (2004, p.7).

Clearly, this is an issue that I could research and cite and expound on for days on end. I do firmly believe, however, that the more we know, the closer we come to a middle ground. I do not personally see the issue of abortion as a yin and yang. Instead, like Smith notes, “both [sides of the abortion debate] depend on similar operating assumptions that do nothing to support either life or real choice for women of color” (2009, p. 447). This is certainly a tentacle of the abortion octopus that we can do something about.
Kavanaugh, J. (2004). The values vote. America, 191 (17), 7.
Planned Parenthood (2010). History and successes. General format. Retrieved from http://www.plannedparenthood.org/about-us/who-we-are/history-and-successes.htm
Smith, A. (2009). Beyond pro-choice versus pro-life: Women of color and reproductive justice. In V. Taylor, N. Whittier & L. Rupp (Eds.) Feminist Frontiers (pp.389-399). New York, NY: McGraw Hill, p. 446-457.

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