On January 22, 1973 the Supreme Court of the United States decided in favor of women’s reproductive rights in the case of Roe v. Wade.
On January 22, 1993 I marched with NOW and NARAL in Washington, DC celebrating twenty years of reproductive rights for American women.
Looking back on that moment, nearly 25 years ago, my unbridled joy at bodily autonomy was short-lived. I remember in 1993 how the older women, the women with the gray in their hair and the wrinkles on their faces and the more somber mien, tempered my exuberance. They warned all of us younger women in the crowd that we should not count on Roe v. Wade, that the Anti-Choice contingent was diligently chipping away at our rights, but on the day after President William Jefferson Clinton came into office, reversing some of the Reagan-Bush era changes to Roe, we didn’t heed their words. How could we have? We were entering a new era, and we had a new President. Choice was ours, and if the storm clouds from the Casey v. Anthony decision in 1992 still lingered, surely we had enough sturdy structures, umbrellas, rain coats, and rubbers to weather any upset.
On November 8, 2016 we held our general election. We had a white cishet man and a white cishet woman as our two major choices. The man won. The man won, in part because 53% of white women voted for him. When asked why they had chosen him over the woman, it was because the man was against abortion.
In contrast, 94% of black women voted for the woman, who was pro-women’s reproductive rights.
I ask you…who better to know about enslavement of one’s body than black women? And who consigned those women and the 43% of white women, who also voted with the black women, to slavery? It was the 53% of white women, who don’t like abortion for themselves, but who refuse to allow the choice for other women. The fact that our own uterine sisters used their rights to make choices for themselves as a crowbar into our making our own choices for us is galling. It hurts on a visceral level. How could my fellow white women do this to me? They so carelessly sold us all down the river. They got their way, and our lives are not their problem.
If the Left is to learn any lessons, the primary lesson is that anything the government grants us in terms of civil rights, Constitutional rights, human rights can be taken away. This is, to me as an anarcha-feminist, one of the primary benefits of anarchy; bodily autonomy is baked into the belief system. Unfortunately, we Progressives seem doomed to repeat history because the Conservatives constantly want to throw us all back however many years suits their agenda. Fifty years, a hundred years, two hundred years…it matters not. To their minds, America was great when everyone knew their place and everyone accepted the natural order of things, which firmly put cishet Christian white men at the top of the heap.
We have male legislators, who don’t even know the difference between a vulva, vagina, clitoris, or uterus, making laws that affect our daily lives, while they merrily make any reproductive health care a man might need (from a vasectomy to Viagra) easy and affordable. These same men and their constituents, who think like them, slut shame women for getting pregnant out of wedlock while simultaneously claiming to love the unborn. Yet, when those women give birth, the programs that would help them and their children are cut because we can’t have “Welfare Queens” gaming the system.
Back in 1992, there was an op-ed in The Washington Post. It was written by a conservative pundit. He wrote that women are slave-holders and fetuses are slaves. He spun women’s reproductive rights as an abolitionist movement for the theoretical unborn instead of the actual adult. I remember writing a letter to the editor in response. My point was blistering, along the lines of the hypocrisy of a white Southern man calling women slave-owners for wanting bodily autonomy.
No more. No more will I stand by. My body is my own. I am a free woman. I am a free human being. Let no one determine my body but me.
I am an abolitionist for myself and for every other woman in this country. Let women’s liberation include the freedom of her own bodily autonomy. If a woman so chooses to take a key and lock herself up in a chastity belt made of false piety, so be it. In the mean time, I will think of Harriet Tubman’s immortal words: “I freed a thousand slaves I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.”