Discourse on the intersections of politics, feminism, and motherhood.

Monday, July 24

The Far-Reaching Tentacles of Reproductive Control

The New York Times published an article yesterday reflecting the far-reaching consequences of eradicating a woman's right to choose. Maria, a recovering crack addict, has been battling the state's DCF department in order to regain custody of her children who have since been placed in foster care. The department has also petitioned the court to permanently exculpate Maria's parental rights including the baby now growing in her stomach. They plan to take the baby right after delivery. This particular story is important for reasons that affect the reproductive rights movement. How much control does the government have when deciding who is an appropriate mother?

Feministe provides a glimpse into yet another instance of control, with a detailed complete write-up regarding Barbara Harris's CRACK campaign.

Issues of reproductive choice have been influenced by race, economic status, and geographical locale. Women and girls in lower income areas have been overwhelmingly effected by governmental cuts in education and drug treatment programs, access to safe effective health care, opportunities to achieve, and access to birth control. In New York Gov. Pataki's veto of a bill that would have made the morning after pill available over the counter was a blatent step to ensure his chances of a republican presidental nomination. As in this example government has prioritized power over the majority of people's needs and the larger interests of the New York public.
Susan F. Wood the assistant FDA Commissioner for Women's Health quit over the government's rejection of the morning after pill. She stated;
"I can no longer serve as staff when scientific and clinical evidence, fully evaluated and recommended for approval by the professional staff here, has been overruled," she wrote in an e-mail to her staff and FDA colleagues."

The political environment is clearly a contradiction. Political figures in bed with right wing religious fundamentalists block any access to the morning after pill or education regarding safe effective birth control methods, but yet campaigns to give drug addicted mothers 300 bucks for sterilization of their reproductive capacity and the government's ability to separate children from mothers seems a bit counter productive.
The country bitches about the welfare system which is designed to keep women and children below the poverty line, and presents an image of the welfare mother that is stereotypical and misleading. The government decides they have a right to separate children from family in the best interest of the children but then complains about the over population of jevenile detention centers, drug addicted teens, teenage pregnancy, and the prision system. The reproductive rights movement is much larger than the right to abortion. The reproductive rights movement encompasses issues affecting all women and girls and their rights to safe health care, education regarding their own bodies, and autonomous, private, decision making regarding their own well being. Most importantly the right to decide when and where and with whom a women will become a mother. The governement can not decide who gets to be an appropriate mother. This issue is all too real at a moment in pop culture when the press decides which celebrity mother as botched up motherhood on any given day. This issue effects the breastfeeding controversy and stay home or work debate. All of the these current areas of contention divide women making it difficult to mobilze and work together for the greater larger idea of the freedom to choose how to mother and when to mother without critical or judgmental messages stating one is not fit.
When is the government going to figure out, you can not place the needs of a child away from the mother. Separation is just as tramatic as a parent's death so to heal, one must provide programs for drug addicted mothers to overcome, provide real opportunities to acheive a decent job, and change a welfare system that penalizes women for making too much money. If the government would create safe educational programs and provide access to birth control and the morning after pill surgical abortion rates would drastically decrease (in theory of course).
The fact that these programs are inherently contradictory makes one conclude that the larger issue is control of women's bodies and some women; black, inner city, lower economic status deserve more control than white middle class women.
The feminist stance on abortion and more broadly reproductive choice has since been directed at defending what the right has thrown at them. We as women need to mobilize to encapsulate the larger over arching issue of control. Control over our own health care, children, ways in which we choose to mother, when we concieve, how we birth, right to protect ourselves, and our rights to make decisions privatly regarding our own bodies. Women's bodies need to stop being the map for political war zones fighting over the country's moral fiber.

Recommended reading:
The Abortion Myth
Feminism, Morality, and the Hard Choices Women Make
Cannold, Leslie. Rene Denfeld, fwd.

"The feminist position on abortion is little changed from thirty years ago, argues Leslie Cannold. Mired in the rhetoric of "rights," feminists have failed to appreciate women's actual experience of abortion and have ceded the debate on the morality of abortion to the anti-choice contingent. In order to counter the current erosion of abortion rights and appeal to women of Generation X, who don't remember a time when abortion wasn't safe and legal, feminism must evolve a richer, more nuanced understanding of abortion, she says, one that is premised on the right to choose, yet sensitive to the value of the fetus and the serious responsibilities of motherhood."


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