Pregnancy is more than thirty times more dangerous than abortion. One study estimates that a nationwide ban would lead to a twenty-one-per-cent rise in pregnancy-related deaths. Some of the women who will die from abortion bans are pregnant right now. Their deaths will come not from back-alley procedures but from a silent denial of care: interventions delayed, desires disregarded. They will die of infections, of preeclampsia, of hemorrhage, as they are forced to submit their bodies to pregnancies that they never wanted to carry, and it will not be hard for the anti-abortion movement to accept these deaths as a tragic, even noble, consequence of womanhood itself.” — Jia Tolentino, The New Yorker
It took me a lot longer than usual to write this newsletter. The more I read, the more I wrote, the angrier and less logical I became. I imagine a lot of people across America felt this way this past weekend. I am both unsurprised and in complete disbelief that federal rights to abortions have actually been repealed in the U.S, at a time where the majority of the US supports upholding Roe v. Wade, with 57% of Americans affirming a woman’s right to abortion for any reason.
I feel physically sick at what this new reality means for so many. I feel sick that, despite hanging its hat on liberty and freedom, America sure does the best it can to carve out exactly who is entitled to such liberties and freedoms. I feel sick because it’s maddening that employers — and not the government — are solely responsible for the healthcare of citizens, that is truly insane to recognize as an immigrant here. I feel sick that women now feel forced to share very personal, and often traumatic, healthcare choices with the public to counter the stigma and raise awareness around just how common this procedure is. It’s like some kind of f*cked up viral marketing campaign, but a right to privacy and autonomy has always evaded women.
Of course, you’ve heard this type of thing millions of times. And I’m sure hearing it from yet another (privileged) woman is really not going to shift the needle. I know that. As cathartic as this stream of consciousness feels, I really do want to focus this rant into a more productive essay.
“Anyone who can get pregnant must now face the reality that half of the country is in the hands of legislators who believe that your personhood and autonomy are conditional” — Jia Tolentino, The New Yorker
A lot of the public abortion debate is highly emotive, especially amongst the population of people who are able to become pregnant. And understandably so. It is completely infuriating to live as a person that’s not deemed trustworthy enough to make your own choices. It is incomprehensible to grapple with the legal reality that your life–the work you do, the people you love, all your offer to the world–is nothing in comparison to your body’s ability to become pregnant. It is completely exhausting to recognize your words likely won’t move the needle, no matter how loudly you shout them. But our emotion unfortunately does not seem to work anymore (did it ever?). Clearly, the people that need to care, do not care about any of this.
Simply put, the “my body, my rights” siren call does not work for its intended audience. If they don’t care about abortion in the instances of rape or incest, they certainly do not care about the rights you have to body autonomy. In fact, I often think the focus on this narrative does a disservice to the real impact of such a ban. It takes away from the focus of abortion’s necessity as a medical procedure, the innocent deaths that will occur in its absence and the vast racist, socio-economic impact this ruling will have on America in the coming years.
As Farida D., gender researcher and poet wrote: “What’s even more dehumanizing than having a basic human right taken away […] is having to explain to them why we need it back.” If you’re a man reading this — especially a man who wields a significant amount of power in your professional or personal life — here’s an imaginary exercise inspired by Caro Claire Burke:
What would happen if you refused to go to work? Or took to the streets to protest every day? Have you even posted anything to your social accounts? Have you brought up the conversation among your friends? Have you donated to an abortion fund? Have you interrupted company meetings to ask your employer what they are doing? Are you an executive, and if so, what are you doing to support your employees? Essentially, I’m asking you to imagine what might change if your anger drowned out ours?
But why do we continually need to point this out? Why does none of it feel like it’s having any real impact? Is it because it feels like it’s all we can do? Perhaps as Tressie McMillan Cottom put it, it’s because “people care as much as their material reality allows them to care.” And pregnancy has always been a “woman’s issue.”
So while emotive responses may evoke instantaneous mobilization, long-term change comes from real organization. It is not enough to simply care. It is not enough to attend a singular protest. Collective organization — the good, community, grassroots stuff — is what we need. We need to rise above the emotive to create logical next steps. If you, or people you love, are emotional over this, ask yourself what you are willing to do to change it. So here’s my start, in the spirit of organization and collective action, here’s a curation of knowledgeable resources & actions you can take today:
- Read this article. Don’t skim read it. Read it properly.
- Also, read this newsletter to inspire collective and local organization.
- If you have the means, set up a monthly recurring payment to the National Network of Abortion Funds, Planned Parenthood and/or the Brigid Alliance.
- Collaborate with your friends on an Instagram/Facebook fundraiser. It takes all of five minutes to set up.
- Spend time researching your local state law. Then volunteer your time, perhaps your spare room (via a trusted organization), and do it consistently. Not just for the next month, but for as many years as it takes.
- Promote the fact that abortion pills, via the federal mailing system, are still legal and accessible even in prohibited abortion states. Look up companies like HeyJane or Plan C Pills to see how you can support them.
- Comment on this newsletter (or if you want to feel more untraceable, in Diem) with any other resources that you think other people should know. Or perhaps share what you’re doing in the wake of the ruling (community knowledge is power!)
- Hold your (male) friends accountable.