By Kathe Pollitt
At a time when abortion rights are under severe attack, Kathe Pollitt has written an important book that takes up many of the most relevant issues surrounding the Pro-Choice movement. In her book, Pollitt exposes the myths used by the anti-abortionists. She demonstrates how these forces are primarily aimed at taking away any rights women have gained over the years.
One of the themes of this book can be seen in following passage:
“To force girls and women to undergo all this (complications associated with pregnancy and giving birth to a child) against their will is to annihilate their humanity.”
Pollitt also argues that”
“Legalizing abortion didn’t just save women from death and injury and fear of arrest, it didn’t just make it possible for women to commit to education and work and free themselves from shotgun marriages and too many kids. It changed how women saw themselves: as mothers by choice, not fate.”
While the anti-abortionists argue that they are “pro-life,” Pollitt gives us the facts of how abortion related deaths declined significantly after this procedure became legal. “Deaths from legal abortion declined between 1973 and 1985 (from 3.3 deaths to 0.4 per 100,000 procedures.)”
The anti-abortionists argue that fetuses should have all the rights as human beings. Pollitt answers this argument with the following statement:
“Even if we all decided to define personhood to include fertilized eggs and embryos and fetuses, they would not have the right to use a woman’s body against her will and at whatever cost to herself.”
If fetuses are viewed as people the 20% of all pregnancies that end in miscarriages might also be viewed as acts of murder. Fertility clinics that routinely destroy embryos would also be viewed as murderers.
If you feel that these views are farfetched, consider the 1991 Supreme Court decision of Automobile Workers v. Johnson Controls. This decision ruled that Johnson Controls could not bar fertile women from jobs because these jobs might cause potential birth defects. In other words, women are fertile for about 30 years. Employers have argued that during these years they should be prevented from many occupations because they might become pregnant. Even the Supreme Court ruled against Johnson Controls, but this is the kind of madness corporations are willing to inflict on the lives of women.
One would think that the anti-abortionists would favor sex education as well as full access to birth control. Women who routinely use birth control only account for about five percent of all abortions. However, this isn’t the case. In several states government funds that were once used for family planning, now go to centers that counsel women against abortion.
In fact some of the same people who argue against abortion also argue against assistance to indigent mothers who have children. This brings us to an issue anti-abortionists refuse to talk about.
Before abortion became legal women had abortions and affluent women had safe abortions. Making abortion legal made it possible for working class women to have safe abortions.
Pollitt supports this argument:
“The ability to determine the timing and number of children undergirds the modern ideal of egalitarian, intimate marriages based on love, companionship, and mutual sexual delight.”
Abortions in China
In her book Pollitt neglects to mention abortions in China. Clearly this is not a focus of her book, but it is an issue people who favor choice might want to be aware of. In China families are forced to have only one child. If a family is unwilling to be limited to one child, abortions are forced on women. Affluent women can avoid this law by paying a fine of thousands of dollars. According to my calculations, this state of affairs means that there are twice the number of abortions per capita in China as the United States.
Clearly those who favor choice are opposed to forced abortions. Kathe Pollitt does give the facts showing that the number of children women have goes down when they have opportunities in education and employment.
Abortion and The New Jim Crow
Michelle Alexander wrote a book titled: The New Jim Crow – Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. This book argues that the old system of Jim Crow legalized discrimination has been replaced with a system where Black people are grossly over-represented in the prison system of this country. How is the theme of this book relevant to the issue of abortion?
The point is that after Jim Crow became illegal, the forces that have power in this country worked to reverse this important gain. A similar course of events occurred when abortion became legal. Powerful forces began to reverse this gain. What does this say about the government in this country?
Clearly a representative government would work to make life easier for those who have few resources. However, the government in this country has consistently worked to reverse gains made by women and Blacks.
Kathe Pollitt gives the facts showing how the democrats have worked to reverse the gains made because of the legalization of abortion. However, she also implies that the democrats might be a bit better than the republicans on this issue.
Pollitt is correct in arguing that the anti-abortionists are primarily opposed to the rights of women. The question is why?
We live in a capitalist system where the number one priority is profits. When capitalists can pay women and Black people less, this means they can have more in profits. As their system goes into decline, as it is today, they are even more driven to roll back on everyone’s wages and benefits.
This all means that we need a workers government where the central priority is that human needs are more important than profits. This government would also make it a central priority to reverse the discrimination against women and Blacks. There is no more important issue than giving women the right to decide if and when they are to become mothers.