Tuesday, June 23, 2009

feminist <=> abortioneer?

Sparky's post from yesterday reminded me of a piece of writing that affirms why I do what I do, so I'd like to share it. It's almost amusing that I am about to reinforce certain stereotypes here, but OK: in the passage below, replace the word "feminists" with the word "abortioneers" and you'll understand why, at least for me personally, they are inseparable -- why the imperative to facilitate women's access to abortion is part and parcel of my belief that women are human beings and that is that.
Feminists have a vision of women, even women, as individual human beings....This is not a bourgeois notion of individuality; it is not a self-indulgent notion of individuality; it is the recognition that every human being lives a separate life in a separate body and dies alone. In proposing “the individuality of each human soul,” feminists propose that women are not their sex; nor their sex plus some other little thing—a liberal additive of personality, for instance; but that each life—including each woman’s life—must be a person’s own, not predetermined before her birth by totalitarian ideas about her nature and her function, not subject to guardianship by some more powerful class, not determined in the aggregate but worked out by herself, for herself. Frankly, no one much knows what feminists mean; the idea of women not defined by sex and reproduction is anathema or baffling.
(the notorious Andrea Dworkin, in Right-Wing Women: the Politics of Domesticated Women, 1983.)

It bears repeating: Each life must be a person's own, not predetermined by totalitarian ideas about one's nature and function.

I know of people who claim to be feminists but against abortion, and I know of people in the abortion field who do not appear to be feminist or womanist or pro-liberation. Both seem to have completely misunderstood what they are doing. It's not for me to define either of these for everyone else, I know; but sometimes I want to say COME ON! What do you think you are doing??

Today I spoke with a woman whose young daughter was turned away by a doctor who couldn't be bothered to treat her but kept a lot of their hard-scraped money. The reason for the turning-away sounded pretty bogus. Obviously you often hear only one side of the story, but I mean pretty bogus. Their remaining hope was to scramble for more money, travel to another city, and hope that by then she wasn't too far along for the clinic there. I wanted to go out there and shake the first doc, ask what s/he is thinking, what is s/he in this profession for, and why is s/he parading around being the bad stereotype that none of us knows personally but anti-abortion folks love to believe is all of us?

I am here to help women fight against being reduced to their reproductive organs (and they do fight!), to help them remain free to become their fullest selves, to brace my arms with them and stretch open the pouches of their lives that risk shriveling in this air salty with scorn, so they can exist beyond their officially-sanctioned "nature" or "function" as receptacles of men's urges and battlefields of men's power struggles. I am not here for anything else.

I am not here for "population control" -- arguments about environmental wellness have their place but it is not in my clients' counseling rooms or their vaginas. I am not here for the man who wants her to "take care of it," it being the cramp in his style. I am not here for her father or her mother who have already decided the best course for her life, informed consent be damned. I am clearly not here for the money -- ha ha ha!

I am here for every her who needs me to be here, recognizing the self beyond the female pronoun and the "female problems." If you're not here for that, then what are you doing?


  1. Never considered myself a proper feminist, though I probably am. It's unclear.

  2. I LOVE YOU!! THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! You are very right about all this. There are people who do this work who are not necessarily feminist and don't really 'get' what you're talking about. If anything infuriates me, this is it: doing abortion work from a non-feminist approach. If so, it does a great disservice to the women. Where will I have my abortion? At FEMINIST clinic! :-)

    Thank you, Placenta Sandwich!


This is not a debate forum -- there are hundreds of other sites for that. This is a safe space for abortion care providers and one that respects the full spectrum of reproductive choices; comments that are not in that spirit will either wind up in the spam filter or languish in the moderation queue.