Recently, Alabama’s governor Kay Ivey signed a bill titled the “Human Life Protection Act.” It outlaws all abortions except those performed to prevent serious risk to the person who is pregnant. No exceptions are made for cases of pregnancy by rape or incest. While pregnant people will not be prosecuted, doctors who dare to perform an abortion could face felony charges and up to 99 years in prison.
This bill is the strictest law banning abortion to be passed since the strides made by Roe v. Wade in 1973, which allows abortions to be performed upon request before a fetus is “viable” outside the uterus, which is usually around 24-28 weeks. Eight other states have also passed new, oppressive bills in 2019, which have made it more difficult or close to impossible to access abortions. These rollbacks have led to widespread pro-choice organization and outrage on the streets and the internet.
A Lack of Accessibility
Every person deserves access to both appropriate and affordable medical assistance and reproductive autonomy. However, the pro-choice movement needs to respect and include the experiences of all people if it wants to create meaningful and lasting change. The movement needs to not make exclusionary concessions that only make room for certain kinds of people in order to achieve mainstream success.
It is disingenuous to suggest that all Americans are given an equal chance to lead successful and fulfilling lives. Reviewing a history book shows that people’s lives are valued differently based on how removed they are from the ideal “American” that society is generally catered to. This value system has affected the treatment certain groups of people are subjected to.
A person’s race and class can heavily affect their access to proper reproductive healthcare. When the mainstream feminist movement discusses the
A History of Exclusion
In attempts to control the population of communities considered “unfit” to reproduce, birth control and sterilization have been disproportionately promoted to poor people of color. They were often coerced into the treatments and/or given confusing or false information about what was being done to their bodies. A glaring example of this is women in Puerto Rico being recruited and forced to participate in human trials for birth control pills years before they were approved by the FDA in 1960. Manufacturers themselves did not even know the effects the pills would have. Birth control and other forms of contraception have created opportunities and freedoms for the people who choose to use them. However, it is important to acknowledge the racism and classism that has permeated their development and distribution.
Need for Change
Many personal accounts and calls to action related to the recent bans and abortion, in general, I have read and listened to have used language that implies abortion bans are exclusively harmful to cisgender women. Using gendered language when discussing reproductive health and abortion is alienating. It ignores that transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming people are capable of getting pregnant and deserve the same access to care. “If it feels uncomfortable to see references to “pregnant people” or “patients,” imagine what it would feel like to see yourself erased from an issue that revolves around your very own body and your right to autonomy,” wrote s.e.
Examples of people with relative amounts of privilege who are involved in social movements being allowed to make choices that deny other people the same opportunities they are fighting for are not hard to find. Concrete steps must be taken to ensure the pro-choice movement does not continue to be one of these movements.