If you dare to question abortion rights be prepared to be denied the support of mainstream feminism.
The feminist movement is proud of its achievements in regard to reproductive rights so to question these gains especially the right to abortion, risks being denied the label feminist. I was married for seventeen years and other than when I was pregnant relied on contraceptives to prevent any unplanned babies. I didn’t want any more children so I chose to use an intra-uterine device as I was never comfortable with the idea of taking the contraceptive pill. I am supposed to be for ever grateful to feminism for the contraceptive choices to which my generation had access, but although they helped me avoid unwanted pregnancies and abortions, these choices failed to give me freedom.
Why did I spend my married years concerned with contraception? Well I didn’t want to have any more children of course and why would I or anyone really want to have an abortion. I also complied with my husbands sexual needs, not my own. In the wonderful words of Germaine Greer writing in The Whole Woman, abortion although necessary must be seen as ‘the consequence of oppression.’ Greer asserts that it is very strange that a woman who has completed her family continues to expose her cervix to semen when all she is really wanting is sexual pleasure. Greer suggests this is because intercourse is ‘an act of domination’ and that women who can’t suggest another way to make love or to insist on a condom ‘are certainly not calling the shots.’
I would rather have avoided the need to have IUD’s inserted and instead been instructed on my natural fertility cycles that can be learnt and used to plan a pregnancy or to avoid same. Men need to own any problems with such birth control not me . When the twitter conversation recently turned to the issue of abortion following a profile article of Melinda Tankard Reist, the author of Giving Sorrow Words and Defiant Birth, Tankard Reist was attacked for her known critique of abortion. The right to an abortion has become the ‘holy tenet’ of feminism and according to feminist and author Anne Summers, if you don’t support women’s rights ( meaning abortion) then you can’t be a feminist.
In our male dominated and sexually saturated society abortion rights have an important place. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t take the conversation further and that doesn’t mean I am not a feminist. But then I have a lot of problem with the word feminist. What does it mean? Just individual rights or collective rights to freedom for all women. Mainstream or liberal feminism fails to go to the root causes of women’s oppression and has come up with bandaid solutions to controlling women’s fertility such as contraception and abortion. The need for abortion rights needs to be considered in light of the societal context and we shouldn’t be afraid to go there.