Tuesday, August 28, 2012 |
There has been a lot of talk lately of the extreme Republican platform of using state power to force women who are rape victims (well, provided it's "legitimate" or "forcible" rape) to carry to term the rapist's child. People have rightly been horrified at the thought of such disregard for a woman's suffering.
But more often than not, this debate has obscured the broader debate over abortion. Let us not accept on face value that abortion is just another issue with political back and forth. Let's not take for granted the idea that only the far extreme of the right is the horrifying prospect in terms of access to abortion. Regardless of one's personal beliefs, using the power of the state to restrict or even ban abortion - in even a normal pregnancy case - should be in and of itself a horrifying concept. I can guarantee you that if something similar existed for men, or if men could become pregnant, the idea that the state ought to be allowed to control this medical decision would not simply be horrifying, it would be unimaginable. 30% of women who become pregnant will access abortion services in their lifetimes. You tell me what medical procedure that nearly one-in-three men access at least once in the course of their lifetimes could ever have a prayer of being tinkered with by the government. Ever. And to clarify in no uncertain terms, it is no business of the government to tell them what they can and cannot do, and what safe medical procedure they can and cannot access in the privacy of their doctor's offices.
We cannot sit here and claim to be the freest nation on earth if that freedom excludes or hampers a woman's right to safe and legal abortion. Each of us has the right to our own morality. But no one has the right to force the any given definition of moral conduct on an individual when it comes to her own, personal health and body, not even the elected representatives of the people. If women lose control over their own reproductive health, not only will the cause of women's rights be set decades back, but the very idea freedom itself.
We have no reason to shy away from this debate. Women's access to a crucial medical procedure should not be limited to the mercy of Mitt Romney and his reluctant acquiescence in the wake of a nationwide firestorm to allow abortions only in cases of rape and incest. We need to stop the far Right from equating a heinous crime such as rape with abortion and say that it can only be justified as a remedy for this other crime. That is disgusting. 70,000 women world-wide die every year from unsafe and illegal abortions. And that's just the number that die, not to mention the other spectrum of health detriments women suffer for having to get an illegal abortion.
The right of women to choose an abortion is as fundamental as the right of anyone to basic health care. It is as basic as their right to all prenatal treatment for a successful pregnancy should they choose to carry it to term. Abortion is health care. It's long past time that the right to choose a safe abortion and access to a range of family planning options were considered basic, fundamental human rights. It isn't about when you believe "life" begins; it's about whose life we're messing with. A zygote is not a living, breathing human being, and using it to restrict the medical choices and health care rights of women as a matter of public policy is barbaric.