The Coathanger Conundrum

by adriennelindsay

*This post is inspired by NARAL’s Blog for Choice Day 2013

Today is the fortieth anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court Case that established a woman’s right to choose. As far as I’m concerned, we as a country should have spent those forty years making great strides in the field of women’s reproductive rights, but lately, it feels like we’re moving backwards.

Vanity Fair published an article chronicling the life of Norma McCorvey, better known as Jane Roe, the title character in the case. She evolved from a pro-choice activist to an Evangelical pro-life advocate, a surprising journey for a woman who was so heavily involved in the defining fight for women’s reproductive rights. But a line in the article that stood out to me, stated that Norma McCorvey ultimately looked after herself first and foremost, and made her activism decisions based on what would benefit her most.

Isn’t that the way the lawmakers in this country have treated reproductive rights?

At the very least, isn’t that the way many powerful men treat a female’s reproductive rights?

Abortion doesn’t fit into their religious agenda, or, more importantly, the religious agendas of their constituents. Notice the go-to for sexual education in this country is still abstinence. Never mind the fact that access to condoms and birth control would drastically decrease the number of unwanted pregnancies, as well as STDs.

Why are we as a country so afraid of teaching our children, of giving them vital information that allows them to make conscious and informed decisions?

And why do we always blame the woman? It takes two to tango. A woman does not just “get pregnant.” It takes sperm to fertilize an egg. Whether or not the male wants to take responsibility for his actions, it needs to be universally accepted that it is a joint responsibility, regardless of the outcome of the pregnancy, whether the woman keeps the baby, or decides to get an abortion.

The choice to abort a baby is—at least in my experience with friends and family—a daunting and difficult decision. It is not an “automatic default decision” or the “easy way out.” The procedure takes a toll on a woman, her body, her relationships, and her mind.

But the activism surrounding the pro-life movement continues to grow. Picketers outside of clinics, Susan G. Komen foundation’s break with Planned Parenthood, Richard Murdoch’s comment during election season about babies conceived through rape being “intended by God.” Todd Akin. Etc.

I’m not sure that the pro-life movement has realized that women seeking abortions are trying to be responsible. Many of them are in difficult situations, be it an abusive relationship, a desperate monetary situation, drug addiction, or other extenuating circumstances.

Before Roe v. Wade, abortions still occurred. However, without the option of a safe and legal procedure, undergoing a backdoor abortion very often ended in mutilation or even death. But to some women, abortion was/ is the only option. And even if the federal government rules in favor of the pro-life camp, the process will not end.

Which would be ironic, because for a group who declares themselves “pro-life”, they don’t seem to give the life of the mother the same value and consideration they place on an unborn fetus.

I haven’t had an abortion. But the fact that I have the right to choose—that the world believes I have enough sense and understanding of my own personal situation, and my own body to make a thoughtful and educated decision—is what makes me feel like I am taken seriously as a woman. All the legislation that conservatives want to introduce to restrict abortions: ultrasounds, counseling, etc., makes it look as if women run blindly to abortion clinics without understanding the actual procedure. And perhaps there are women who do. But the vast majority understands the consequences and the reality of abortion. These proposed laws are not opening our eyes; they are making us feel as if those people in power do not trust our decision-making skills.

That’s what I find offensive.