Category Archives: Blog for Choice

Access denied: A different kind of de facto segregation

blog for choice iconIt’s interesting that “Blog for Choice” day falls right after Martin Luther King Jr’s holiday. It has me thinking about intersections and parallels of civil rights issues. For those who’ve studied segregation, the terms “de facto” and “de jure” are familiar. They mean “in fact” and “by law” and they are used to describe the reality of segregation in the United States today. Segregation in schools, for example, has been illegal since Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 yet there is a great deal of de facto segregation in American schools.

I mention the terms because I think there is a similar phenomenon going on with access to abortion services. Abortion services, since Roe v. Wade in 1973 have been legal — with restrictions — across the United States, and states have not been allowed to ban abortion outright. (Note: some have come perilously close.) But, abortion services are not accessible in many places, and so there is a kind of de facto abortion ban over much of the country.

I think about this on “Blog for Choice” day, because the right to choose to have an abortion is not very real for the women living in the overwhelming majority of counties without abortion services, for whom the cost of abortion is not only the price of the procedure and any attendant health care costs, but also the price of the travel and the cost of days away from work.

Recently, the Guttmacher Institute published the results of its study, “Abortion in the United States: Incidence and Access to Services, 2005” (PDF) and they found that the rate at which women have abortions has continued to fall since 1990. In 2005 there were 19.4 abortions per 1000 women aged 15-44. For comparison, in 1990 there were 27.4 and in 1995 there were 22.5. In raw numbers, this means that 1,206,200 abortions were performed in 2005, about 400,000 fewer than in 1990. (Table 1, p. 9)

This all sounds like good news, and it may be good news. Reducing the number of abortions as a result of reducing the number of unintended and unwanted pregnancies is certainly a good thing. But the report also indicates that the number of abortion providers continues to drop (though that drop has slowed). Taking the whole country into account, 87% of counties have no abortion providers, and what part of the country you live in matters a lot. If you’re in the northeast, where I am, you’re the luckiest. Only a bit more than half of counties have no providers (and we’re pretty densely populated, and counties are packed together, and transit options are not so terrible). If you live in the midwest, though, are among the least likely to have access. Ninety four percent of counties in the midwest have no abortion providers. Obviously that puts an enormous research and travel burden on the woman seeking an abortion. In the south 91% of counties have no provider and in the west 78% have none. (Table 3, p. 11)

Could this be among the reasons that, as reported in the New York Times this past December, the number of births per 1,000 women rose in nearly all age groups last year, ending a decline in teen births that had been going on since the early 1990s and rising above the replacement rate in general for the first time since 1971. As with most social phenomena, this one no doubt has many causes, and actually immigration (immigrant women tend to have more children, for an intersecting number of reasons) is no doubt a bigger cause. But I wonder whether we have reached a level of no-access that more unintended pregnancies are resulting in births than used to.

Amanda Marcotte made some interesting speculations about what else this could mean last week in her post “Could it be easier to force childbirth when abortion is legal“. She wonders whether, because there is no outrage over a legal prohibition in many of those areas, there is less organizing around issues of access. Certainly there are women’s health organizations and abortion access organizations that are trying hard to increase access for women who live in regions without their own providers, but it might be a good deal harder for those activists to drum up support (especially volunteers and money) because there is no legal issue for people to fight.

The theme for this year’s Blog for Choice is “why it is important to vote pro-choice.” I would extend that to “why it is important to vote, talk, agitate and live pro-choice.” Voting goes an important distance toward protecting legal rights. We certainly cannot afford another Supreme Court Justice who is opposed to abortion or weak on privacy rights, for example. But until the rights that are protected by law are made real by ensuring access (geographic and financial) to abortion services, they are pretty unevenly distributed, available to women with privilege to travel if needed, or with the good fortune to live in a place with providers.

The law is only the foundation for our rights. Real live access — to abortion, to education, to opportunity or to anything else — depends on much more than the law. We all need to walk the walk so that it is safe for people to provide the services that the law says we have a right to use.

And that is not a matter of voting. That is a matter of speaking up in the eleven months of the year that there are no elections. It is a matter of declaring that we will not tolerate the infringement of anybody’s rights, regardless of where they live or how much money they have.

It is a matter of finally understanding that class and race and gender and geography all intersect in ways that put some US residents at much greater disadvantage than others, and it is about all of us understanding that such inequality is wrong.

And that goes beyond voting. That means we need to act.

Now.Loudly.

Without rest, until we all are free.

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This post is also published on SexInThePublicSquare.org – it’s like this blog, only with a whole lot more going on!

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Filed under abortion, activism, Blog for Choice, civil rights, pro-choice

Blogging for Choice 2007 – A partial compilation

It was wonderful to read so many “Why I’m pro-choice” posts yesterday! Technorati cataloged more than 150 posts yesterday tagged with “Blog for Choice,” and I’m sure there were many others that used different tags.

Of course speaking up for reproductive and sexual freedom is something we shold do all year round, and many of us do, but it is important to have these days of concentrated focus to help build solidarity and draw renewed attention to the issue.

I’ve collected here just a few of the posts I read, and that I haven’t seen cross-posted in other places.

Tess’s “Blog for Choice Day” post at Urban Gypsy

Richard Jeffrey Newman’s “I’m pro-choice because I oppose slavery” at It’s All Connected

Lifewords’s Blog for Choice Haiku at Life Words

Meesh’s “Blog for Choice” at The Eph Word

Deborah Lipp’s “Blog for Choice: Why I’m pro-choice” at Property of a Lady

Bean’s “Why I support reproductive justice” at A Bird and a Bottle

Rachel Kramer Bussel‘s “Blog for Choice Day” post at Lusty Lady

Tugster‘s “Interruption,” (with great abortion-as-lifeboat analogy)

Figleaf has six posts at Real Adult Sex (where does he find the time?!) Of his six, these two were my favorites.

Tiffany Taylor’s “Am I pro-choice? Damn straight” at More Than The Sum of My Parts

And if that isn’t enough for you:

Here is a list and some excerpts over at Bush v. Choice, the ones who started it all.

And here is a list of blog entries from Technorati, all of which used the “Blog for Choice” tag.

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Today is “Blog for Choice” Day!

On January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade, and invalidated laws that banned abortions. This is the 34th anniversary of that decision. NARAL Pro Choice America and Bush v. Choice ask that we who are pro-choice take a moment today to publicly say why we support women’s right to access effective, safe, and legal means to end their pregnancies, should they need to do so.

I have been pro-choice for so long that I thought this would be a simple question to answer. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized how many reasons there were.

There are the personal reasons: I was raised by a pro-choice mother in a family that respected women’s rights, valued equality, was open about sexuality. I remember telling my mother when I was 17 that I wanted her to take me to Planned Parenthood so I could go on the Pill because I wanted to start having sex with my boyfriend. She talked about how she wished I would wait a while, but also told me I was the only one who could know when I was ready, and she did take me, and I did get condoms and Pills, and my introduction to sex was much more positive for the openness and safety that surrounded it. Her sister, my aunt, worked at Planned Parenthood as a nurse for several years. The idea that women should have control over their reproductive health was simply taken for granted in my household growing up.

There are the political reasons: I support gender equality and women’s rights and neither of those can be achieved if women are forced to bear children against their will. They cannot be achieved if women do not have ultimate control over when, and if, to bear children. And there cannot be equality or freedom for women if, in order to be certain that they don’t bear children they must never have sexual intercourse with men. (And even for those who choose not to have sex with men, there are cases of rape to be considered.)

There are the moral reasons: To appropriate another person’s body without their consent is to enslave that person, as my friend and colleague Richard has written in his Blog for Choice post. Slavery is about as immoral as it gets. And morally, I do not believe that all life is equal. The life of a woman who is responsible for herself and others is, qualitatively, worth more than the life of a cluster of cells or even a fetus that cannot survive except as a parasitic being within her.

There are visceral emotional reasons: I can imagine what it feels like to be the frightened young woman working hard at getting ahead, suddenly pregnant and unwilling to give up the chance to have the future she dreams of. I can imagine what it feels like to be the mother of three who can’t bare to take away from her children the resources emotional and financial it would take to raise yet another. I can imagine what it feels like to be slowly falling in love with something growing inside me and at the same time be convinced that I cannot raise it, but could not bare to give it away after carrying it to term. I can imagine what it feels like to hate the thing that is growing inside me, put there by an assailant I never want to be reminded of and to feel like nothing is more important than being rid of it. I can imagine the heartbreak of the couple who, after trying to conceive, find that the child they have created will be unable to survive after it is born.

In my ideal world, there would be some button or switch we could activate when we wished to be fertile. Everyone would have such a button. That way men would not accidentally impregnate women. Nor could they impregnate women who didn’t wish to be pregnant. Women could neither accidentally get pregnant, nor could they “trap” a man into fatherhood, and abortions would be much less likely to be needed (though there still would be a need for abortions in the case of health risks).

We do not live in such a world. We live in a world where people, despite their efforts at preventing pregnancy, get pregnant. We live in a world where people are forced, against their will, to have sex. In other words, we live in a world where women must have access to safe and legal procedures for ending pregnancies that they do not wish to have.

And so there is my last reason, a practical one: I am pro choice because I know that, from the beginning of human history, women have found ways to end their pregnancies when those pregnancies have been unwanted. The criminalizing of abortion does not stop women from doing this. It only puts their lives and their families at and unnecessary risk. I am pro-choice because women need safe and legal ways to end their pregnancies sometimes.

I have been fortunate not to need an abortion, yet, myself. I have been sexually active for nearly 19 years and have, because of caution, resourcefulness and luck, not ever had a pregnancy. I know that I don’t want to bear children, though, and I’m certainly not going to stop having sex, so protecting the right to safe, effective and legal abortion procedures is very important to me. And on a much more urgent level, this right has been important to people that I know. I know women who have needed them, I have helped a friend acquire one, and cared for her afterwards. She struggled at first with the decision but ultimately decided that she needed to complete her education before having a child. I know a mom who had an abortion because her marriage was failing and she already had two young children she knew she was going to need to devote all her resources to. I know another woman who had an abortion because she was absolutely certain she was not cut out to be a mom. She’s now in her late 50s and is certain she made the right choice.

Ultimately it comes down to this: women are not safe in a society where they can be forced to bear a child, nor can they achieve equality with men if their only recourse to not bearing unwanted children is to forsake their sexuality.

I am reserving the comments section of this post for readers to offer their own “why I’m pro choice” comments. I will only approve comments on this post that are supportive of abortion rights. On any other post I will not censor debate, but this post not a debate on the issue. It’s simply a place for declarations of support for the right to safe and legal abortions. The debate can continue elsewhere today.

Check back later for a list of links to other Blog for Choice posts.

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