11:54, July 10 140 0 theguardian.com

2018-07-10 11:54:06
Are you pro-choice? It's time to shout it from the rooftops

A DIY surgical abortion is not a nice thing to talk about. It involves the insertion of the wire from a coat hanger – or a knitting needle, or another thin rod or stick – into the cervix of a pregnant woman, with the aim of opening the cervix to induce a miscarriage. It is as horrible and dangerous as it sounds.

This kind of abortion often leads to uterine perforation, infections, infertility and the deaths of women. And prior to the passage of Roe v Wade in 1973, it was common: accurate statistics on illegal abortions were scarce because, of course, they were illegal, but annually in the 1950s and 60s they numbered in the hundreds of thousands. And thousands of the women who had them died from complication, or suffered life-changing injuries, because they lived in a country that would not allow them to safely and legally make reproductive decisions. A country that we may soon find ourselves living in again.

Now that Donald Trump has nominated Brett Kavanaugh, a conservative, to be the new justice to the US supreme court, we may see Trump attempt to fulfill his campaign promise to reverse Roe v Wade. America thus faces the possibility of a backslide into the dark ages when abortion was illegal, forcing women to take extreme measures to take care of their own bodies and lives. The president’s campaign against abortion in the US is a campaign to deprive women of our human rights, and if he succeeds, many women will die.

The data is very clear: making abortion illegal does not prevent abortion, but it does kill women. A report released in the spring by the Guttmacher Institute found that abortions are just as frequent in countries with the most-restrictive anti-abortion laws as in countries where women have the greatest access to freedom in their reproductive decisions. The rate of “least safe” abortions – neither performed by a trained provider or using a recommended method – is highest in countries with the most restrictive abortion laws.

If Trump and his colleagues really intended to reduce abortion rates, they would focus on better provision of contraception, which has been shown to have the most demonstrable effect on the reduction of abortion rates. But reducing abortion rates is not their intent: rather, by aiming to make abortion illegal, members of the forced-birth movement (some call is “pro-life”, but that’s a clear misnomer for people who care so little about the lives of living women) are also aiming to control women’s bodies, to strip away our power of self-determination, to criminalize us for regarding ourselves as people rather than “hosts”.

Much has been said in recent weeks about the role of civility in politics. Abortion has long been viewed an uncivil topic for public discussion because it requires consideration of other things that some people think are not nice to talk about: women’s bodies, wombs, blood, sex.

Perhaps this is part of the reason why those of us who believe that women should be able to choose whether or not to be pregnant will often demur on the issue, even though we are in a majority: 69% of Americans oppose the overturning of Roe v Wade, and yet so many of us remain quiet about our opinions for fear of offending someone who might base their disbelief in the rights of women on a religious text.

I am as guilty of this as many: for while I always considered myself pro-choice, for many years I adhered to narratives that held that certain kinds of choices were more socially acceptable than others, and that women who’d had abortions were wise not to speak about them. I wouldn’t have dreamed of challenging someone whose views on the subject were opposed to mine. That wouldn’t be nice, I thought, until I realized that I was passively propagating the idea that women should be ashamed of their bodies and decisions.

I realized that I could not consider myself truly pro-choice until I believed that no one but the owner of a womb should be able to make a decision about whether or not it should be used to carry a child. This individual right to privacy is, after all, what the 14th amendment guarantees us, and it is what the majority of Americans who believe in it must now fight harder than ever to preserve. Write to representatives. Take to the streets. Don’t let forced-birthers have a say without telling them why they’re wrong. No matter how uncivil it gets, it won’t be remotely as bad, or brutal, or deadly as abortion by coat hanger.

  • Jean Hannah Edelstein is a freelance journalist based in New York City. She is the author of This Really Isn’t About You
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