Stop Punishing Poor Women’s Sexuality Through Abortion Bans!

Nearly 1 in 4 women under the age of 45 will have had an abortion. Women’s access to abortion continues to be a matter of contention between mostly white, mostly male, politicians who tout about the sanctity of life while simultaneously working to deny the benefits that women and children rely on to survive. Rather than help those children who rely on social assistance and the state for healthcare (literally by letting a program insuring 9 million children expire) and food, Congress has moved forward with a national ban on abortions past 20 weeks.

Anti-choice hypocrisy would rather claim that the rights “of a human being who has never taken a single breath a single breath are more important than the rights of the person with thoughts, a past, relationships and emotions that would be forced to renounce her bodily autonomy to accommodate the fetus.” The fight for a fetus’ life ends the moment a child is born; it does not continue as the child is raised, especially the fifteen million children who live in poverty in the United States.

Abortion bans are not implemented to curtail abortion rates. If one truly wishes to see the end of abortion, there would be universal access to various forms of birth control, along with comprehensive sexual education in public schools to help the decrease in teenage pregnancy rates; these methods have effectively helped to decrease the abortion rate, which occurred in 1 in 3 women in 2008. Abortion bans continue across the country because it is the state’s way of controlling women’s, especially poor women’s, sexuality. It is a method of punishing women’s sexual freedom, while make their struggle to survive ever more precarious. As Jon O’Brien, President of Catholics for Choice, noted, “When we take away a women’s choices about her own body, we hamper her ability to make sound decisions for her and her family. We force her into her tougher bargains to make ends meet. We threaten her capacity to thrive. We hurt her ability to raise children that are healthy and resilient. And we perpetuate cycles of poverty.”

That is what anti-choice men in power want: poor women forced to have children, forced to work nearly any wage to care for said children, to survive. A never-ending pool of desperate labor willing to work for scraps to avoid starvation, and then the continued reproduction of those poor pools of labor in the form of their children. Means of sustaining an exploitative capital regime hide under the guise of being pro-life.

A continued insistence on women’s necessity to remain chaste and virginal perpetuates the belief that women are only sexual for the sake of procreation, and never for pleasure. Harper’s Bazaar has the best response for the continued control of women’s decision to have sex for enjoyment:

“There are certainly going to be people who will reply to this by shouting, ‘then women should keep their damn legs shut.’ No. Go crawl back to the time capsule you came out of. 95 percent of Americans have pre-marital sex. 9 months of unwanted pain and possibly death is not an acceptable punishment for being unlucky while engaging in an almost universally practiced past time. It is the punishment for 0 percent of men, which is the correct percentage.”

Today, the United States has one of the highest maternal death rates in the world. We save the fetus to kill the woman. We proclaim the rights of the fetus’ “life” while exploiting and killing the poor women who are forced to bear it. That is not pro-life; that is anti-woman. When we scream “Never Again!”, we are not only demanding the protection of women to have a safe and legal abortion. We are protesting the desire to revert to a time when women died from illegal and dangerous abortions. And as our elected officials gleefully hinder the march of progress for women’s reproductive freedom, women and men everywhere should continue to raise their voices to make sure we hinder them every step of the way.

(Photo Credit: Women’s Web)