Back in the 1950’s, well before I was born, and, actually, before my mother was even born, the Pill revolutionized contraception, finally giving women the chance to be in charge of their bodies’ reproductive systems. I didn’t grow up in a particularly religious household, and was always taught that I, as a woman, had as much freedom and rights as a man, that my body was mine, and no one else’s, and if I wanted to have kids, then that was my choice, if I didn’t, then that was my choice too. I grew up around a large group of like-minded people. Within this group some people have used some form contraception, others haven’t, and some have had children and will have more at some point in time. I have known people who have had unwanted pregnancies, some who decided to abort, and others who decided to keep the baby. I have known people who have had trouble having children and others who are adamant in never having children. Up to now this is all pretty normal, right? Where I grew up the doctors would prescribe the Pill from the age of 16 if you chose to want to take it, they would also prescribe it for teenagers with problem skin or with other hormone-related issues.
Basically, I grew up with the right to choose what I did with my own body.As females, this was never really a question: it was the norm. I grew up in countries where Church and State were separate, and where the leader of a political party was not in charge or pushing a religious agenda on state-run institutions such as healthcare, education and welfare. And yes, contraception should be considered as part of healthcare. One of the fundamental differences between a male and a female body is that a woman carries a child. A man cannot get pregnant; he can only get a woman pregnant. I know, this is not news to anyone, but it’s an important part of what I am trying to convey in this post. So, where I come from, there was never a question on whether you could obtain the Pill on prescription if you wanted it. The same goes for other forms of contraception (after discussion with your general practitioner and/or ob-gyn, depending on what country you live in). There was never a question about me feeling lucky that I lived in a country that advocated choice as a fundamental right for women, knowing full well that there are many other countries out there where women still do not have a choice. I never took my freedom of choice for granted.
I moved to the US 7 years ago, and am pretty happy here on a general basis. I don’t pretend to understand the politics of this country like I understand those of Great Britain and France, but I am getting there, reading through all of the bullshit and trying to get a clearer picture of it all. That’s what democracy is all about right? Everyone has the right to become a leader if the general population votes them in. This means that each potential leader needs to win the general population over with new policies that will bring about change. Positive change that is, things that will make life better for everyone. Maybe universal healthcare or better education. Maybe larger tax rebates for people below a certain tax bracket, maybe stronger laws to prevent banks from over-lending and creating a huge hole of debt. There are so many different subjects that I can think of that could always do with a good overhaul, or at least a change. So why on earth are two of the most talked about subjects leading up to election times contraception and abortion?! Why are these two subjects so high on many (Republican) candidates’ agendas? What is so importantly wrong with the way we obtain contraception that this needs to be changed?
Over the past 50 years or so we have come pretty far in making progress towards equal rights between men and women. There is still a way to go, but I still feel like I have grown up in a place where I have always felt I could do whatever I wanted, and could choose to do whatever I wanted. So now I am reading about people who want to take certain rights that I had always considered as given rights away from me. Or, at the very least, limit them, making it much more difficult to make a choice if I need to. If I want to have sex without becoming pregnant, then is it not my right to take the responsibility into my I don’t own hands and make sure that I don’t become pregnant? It is my body, and only I own my body and can decide what happens to it. If I am not careful and become pregnant and decide that I cannot, at this time, bring a child up in a suitable environment, is it not my choice to decide to remove the unwanted foetus from my body before it has a chance to grow into a child? And to do so in the safest way possible? Why do certain people want to make it into a state decision on what I do with my body? I read about people such as Rick Santorum and Rick Perry talking about making abortion illegal, even in the case of incest and rape; of making it extremely difficult to obtain birth control through your health insurance. How about forcing all women who already have to go through the trauma of choosing to abort a child to view a sonogram before they are allowed to go through the procedure? So what’s next? Forcing women to give birth to a child that was conceived through rape and being a mother to a child that will constantly remind her of a traumatic episode in her life? Kudos to any woman who can do this, but what happened to having a CHOICE in the matter?
If a woman wants to have 10 children and bring them up, then that is her choice. If a woman wants to sleep with as many men as she feels like without becoming pregnant, then that is also her choice. If a woman wants to wait until marriage to sleep with someone, then that is her choice. If a woman wants to give up her child for adoption then that is her choice too. No man, or woman for that matter, should decide what a woman is to do with her body, and make this into a law. In the past, before birth control was so widespread and abortion was still illegal it was so much harder to make the choice. Women would die at the hands of backstreet abortionists, or find themselves with a child before they even had the chance to live themselves. Instead of reducing our rights to next to nothing, why not be more efficient about teaching sex education at school and making the need for abortion and the emergency contraception pill less prevalent? Why not make it easier for women to use contraception, so that unwanted pregnancies are kept at bay? Why not look to the future instead of reverting to the past, and continue to provide women with the right to choose what they do with their bodies?
This country has been known to go into other countries with the aim of dismantling dictatorships and bringing democracy to an oppressed people. A decade ago, when the US went into Afghanistan there was so much talk about how women under the Taliban had no rights at all, and how their lives were dictated to them by men. The uproar that this caused in the Western world was normal, right? However, at this moment in time, at home, there are certain people who are looking to start reducing the rights of women in their own, free, country. These are the people that are already, or may soon be, elected into power. A little scary, no? In what way or form is reducing the right of choice in women going to make this into a better and safer country to live in?
If you are American, unlike me, then please make sure you vote. Apathy can only lead to a government that may not make the wisest of choices in terms of policies and some of these candidates have a few very scary policies that will affect us all if they ever go further than just words. In certain states women are already feeling the pain, so let’s not let it go any further? In the end it’s all about the right to CHOOSE. And this right of choice should never be dictated to anyone, man or woman.
This is an ongoing discussion, something that shouldn't be swept under the carpet. I fear that one day soon some hard-lined politician will make his way towards removing our choices, to be honest this is already happening (see Texas and Georgia for example). I've only scraped the surface here, but it's food for thought. It scares the shit out of me to be honest.
An excellent article by Soraya Chemaly on the same subject can be found HERE