In response to being identified as a victim of right wing anti-choice violence Dr. Tiller once said, "I am a willing participant in this conflict… I choose to be here." I read these words for the first time shortly after Dr. Tiller was murdered. His life was taken as a result of the conflict he willingly participated in, becoming a martyr for choice. I have been pondering what it means to be a pro-choice advocate versus an activist.
In order to be an activist one must be willing to face conflict, we cannot hide under the many “what ifs…”. I believe confrontation often shows people’s true strength, conflict is uncomfortable and difficult more so for some than other’s. Dr. Tiller’s response to being called a victim made me ponder what it means to be a willing participant in a conflict over abortion. What does is mean to be an activist and not just an advocate? An activist intentionally makes choices and acts to create social change, while an advocate speaks on one’s behalf.
A few times in life, I have heard someone say men’s conflicts are fought over women’s bodies. I am not sure who the first person to plant this seed of thought in my mind was. Access to abortion is one way conflicts are worked out over women’s bodies. Women are the source of reproduction, thus we hold the future of humanity in our bodies. Our bodies are a source of power, both politically and economically. Women who seek abortions are criminalized in many places and even in places like the United States where abortion is legal but inaccessible women are stigmatized. Our bodies are a means of control, a means of asserting power and control. Women are often systemically raped as a tool of terrorism. This not only damages the woman psychologically and physically, but also makes her and the child she bares outcasts. These are only a few examples of how men’s conflicts are waged over women’s bodies.
In a book called The Ethical Slut, by Dossie Easton and Catherine Liszet, I read the words, “We need to politicize to protect our right to accurate and positive information about sex.” (p.94) This book is about our culture in regards to negativity towards sex and pleasure. This quote reminded me that in order to act as a willing participant in any conflict one must be willing to become political, one must be willing to take a stand and act on that stand. I can not simply advocate for access to abortion; I have to help my sisters’ access. I have to be willing to drive my sisters to the clinic, to help her find information on clinics, and lend her money when I have it. I have to support her choice no matter what and I have to be willing to motivate other people to support individuals that are beyond my personal reach. Abortion Activists work towards creating a world where reproductive health is available even when these rights are under attack.
Activism means becoming a willing participant in a conflict, and it is essential to politicize. As long as women’s bodies are terrorized and controlled by political forces, those of us who advocate for women’s rights must be willing to fight. We must be willing help educate, motivate, and mobilize others.