Tag Archives: abortion

The Reproductive Rights Movement Must Claim Its Role in True Disability Justice

Reproductive rights demonstration; Black woman in center holds sign saying Reporductive Rights for All

Laurie and Debbie say:

Imani Gandy can be relied upon for clear thinking, thoughtful analysis, and on-target conclusions. Her recent article at Rewire, “It’s Time to Stop Talking About Whether Margaret Sanger Was Racist” is a perfect example. Gandy has been involved in working with Planned Parenthood on Sanger’s support of eugenics for the better part of a decade. This article follows her 2015 analysis of Sanger’s racism. In the older article, she makes this case: “Anti-choicers wield misattributed and often outright false quotes about Sanger as weapons to shame Black women for exercising their right to choose, and even more nonsensically, to shame them for supporting Planned Parenthood.”

Six years later, Planned Parenthood’s president and CEO, Alexis McGill Johnson, has written a New York Times op-ed intended to close the conversation about Sanger’s politics and Planned Parenthood’s racist history. Gandy supports McGill Johnson, approves of the stance, and has her own closing words about this topic: “… ultimately—I don’t really care.”

Instead, Gandy wants the organization to move forward and talk about the right-wing shift into a focus on “protecting” fetuses with disabilities:

I know how anti-choicers operate; I know that some will continue prattling on about Sanger’s nefarious intentions to wipe out Black people. But, frankly, blaming Black women for Black genocide and accusing Planned Parenthood of targeting Black women isn’t as fashionable as it once was.

What is fashionable? Weaponizing people with disabilities.

As Gandy lays out, this shift is based in large part on an opinion Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote when the Court refused a case covering “reason bans,” which are abortion bans based on the reason the pregnant person wants to abort the baby:

[Thomas’s] opinion was a diatribe against Margaret Sanger, and it focused on her eugenicist beliefs in a wildly disingenuous way: His opinion was laser-focused on Sanger’s belief in eugenics and “racial betterment,” and reading his opinion, one might think that Sanger was pushing for Aryan rule the way the Nazis did during the Holocaust.

She wasn’t.

Margaret Sanger wanted poor people and the “insane and feeble-minded” to stop breeding, irrespective of their race; when she talked about “racial betterment,” she meant bettering the human race by sterilizing people with disabilities.

We agree wholeheartedly with Gandy: as Planned Parenthood has confronted its founder’s racism and the ways that have affected the organization over the decades, it now must confront its relationship to ableism and disability justice.

By not confronting the cynicism with which abortion foes are weaponizing people with disabilities in order to march toward a world in which abortion does not exist, we are ceding the argument about what true disability justice looks like to anti-abortion advocates who don’t care about people with disabilities.

Even as the reproductive rights movement makes great strides when it comes to racial justice—as evidenced by McGill Johnson’s op-ed—it is failing when it comes to disability justice. And while I, being non-disabled, certainly am in no position to debate the merits of reason bans from the perspective of a person with disabilities, I can say one thing for sure: Conservatives don’t care about people with disabilities, and they certainly don’t care about people with Down syndrome.

Conservatives, in fact, don’t care about people (with a narrow range of exceptions). They certainly don’t care about familles. Gandy quotes an Ohio mother of a child with Down syndrome:

“Our statehouse is controlled by the Republican Party and has been for many years. The same legislators who voted to outlaw abortion of fetuses with DS [Down syndrome] also voted this past year to remove language that would have increased funding to county DD [developmental disability] boards.”

This is nothing new. Debbie is reminded of a 1973 Malvina Reynolds song, “Rosie Jane“:

When that baby is a child,
It will suffer from neglect,
Be picked upon and pecked,
And run over and wrecked,
And its head will be crowned with the thorn.
But while it’s inside her
It must remain intact,
And it cannot be murdered till it’s born.

Reynolds wasn’t thinking about disability, as much as about poverty, and whether or not an individual parent has the capacity to care for a child, in a country which provides little or no economic or social support to children and their parents, then or now. Gandy, 50 years later, is turning her own laser focus on the ways the right wing weaponizes everything it can use, and how that affects the lived experience of both pregnant people seeking abortion and disabled people of all ages.

In order to protect abortion access for all people, reproductive rights activists need to shift their attention to disability justice. If reproductive rights organizations and advocacy groups don’t meet this moment, abortion foes will continue to weaponize the disability community. That serves no one.

The one thing Gandy doesn’t say in so many words, but we feel sure she would agree with, is that disability justice is important in its own right. Fighting for disability justice is much more than a reproductive rights issue; it is an issue which does (or at least should) matter to every single one of us.

In the middle of the article, Gandy says:

I feel like I have been standing in the middle of a crowded room screaming and no one is listening.

It’s time to listen.

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Men Making Women’s Decisions: In Person, In Sport, In Politics

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Laurie and Debbie say:
..

We started with a story we found on Twitter. Here’s Meg Elison, author of (among other books), the highly-recommended The Book of the Unnamed Midwife:

Motherfucker comes to my table, unbidden. I assume he’s a waiter; he’s not. I’m having a drink and a snack. I look up and he’s got Fake Concern Face on. Without preamble he says, “If you took better care of yourself, you’d find somebody to love you.”

She shows off her wedding ring, gives him the finger and tells him to Leave Her Alone. But he can’t.

“I didn’t mean anything offensive by it. I just think we have these moments of clarity–“

I tell him if he needs to make a fat girl cry so he can have something to jack off to, then he better pay by the minute for it because there are professionals who provide that service. I am not one of them, and this is not an appropriate place to solicit me.

We’ve heard, and made, some pretty tough comebacks in our time, but this is one of the truest ones ever.

He still can’t leave, but she finishes him off:

He has the NERVE to “Namaste” me as he slinks out of this place where I was having a peaceful moment by myself. Friends, I yelled GO FUCK YOURSELF at his cringing back.

She also makes it completely clear that she was shaking and rattled, because she was verbally assaulted with no provocation. And you just know that guy went home and felt sorry for … himself. The best part is that he may never do that to anyone again.

He’s a small-time, basically trivial, example of a man thinking he both knows what’s best for a woman he doesn’t know, and that he has the right to interrupt her life to give her the benefit of his wisdom.

He matters for two reasons: first, because there are millions of him all over the country and the world, trying to make fat girls cry. Second, because he’s an individual example of wielding toxic societal power.

***

Who do you think made the decision to turn down Castor Semenya’s appeal regarding women and testosterone in Olympic sports? The Court of Arbitration for Sport, which (if you can tell by names) is definitely majority male. They made this decision even though they know it’s difficult, if not impossible to implement. They also ruled that athletes who wish to compete in women’s events, but whose testosterone is over an arbitrary level, will have to take drugs to reduce those levels. The World Medical Association has urged its members in 114 countries not to cooperate with this:

We have strong reservations about the ethical validity of these regulations. They are based on weak evidence from a single study, which is currently being widely debated by the scientific community. They are also contrary to a number of key WMA ethical statements and declarations, and as such we are calling for their immediate withdrawal.

But again, men not only feel they can make decisions on women’s bodies, they are formally authorized to make those decisions, and they don’t have to respond to, for example, doctors who think their decisions are unsafe and unethical.

For some history on this controversy, read this post from about a year ago. We hoped things would get better after that.

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Ohio state representative John Becker, however, has managed to outdo both random San Francisco harassers and Court of Arbitration biased judges with his proposed “anti-abortion” bill. Ohio already has one of the most restrictive laws in the country (miserably superseded in the last week or so by Georgia’s indefensible law), but it isn’t enough for Mr. Becker, who wants to eliminate rape and incest exceptions, and also (while claiming this isn’t what he means) ban most forms of birth control. But then he completely loses touch with any reality:

The bill excludes treatments for ectopic pregnancies from the insurance coverage ban, which seems like a good thing—we should try to treat ectopic pregnancies!—until you realize that Becker’s notion of treatment for an ectopic pregnancy is fucking nonsense: “Part of that treatment would be removing the embryo from the fallopian tube and then reinserting it in the uterus so that’s defined as not an abortion under this bill,” Becker said.

The bill says the term “nontherapeutic abortion” does not include a “procedure for an ectopic pregnancy, that is intended to re-implant the fertilized ovum into the pregnant woman’s uterus.” Presumably, Becker envisions a world where doctors are trying to “fix” ectopic pregnancies by reinserting wayward embryos into the pregnant person’s uterus.

Except that’s not how it works. That’s not how any of this works.

“That doesn’t exist in the realm of treatment for ectopic pregnancy. You can’t just re-implant. It’s not a medical thing,” said Miracle.

Mr. Becker doesn’t, it would seem, know what a woman’s anatomy looks like, let alone what can and can’t be done medically, surgically, or even magically. All he knows is that “he’s no expert” but he is willing to try to convince his fellow legislators (most of whom are almost certainly men) that they all know what’s “right” and what’s “wrong,” and are more than proud of themselves for exercising their power on the living bodies of the women they feel compelled to control.

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Men aren’t going to stop tormenting women in restaurants, telling women whether or not we are women, or telling women what we can, or can’t, do with our own bodies, any time soon. So let’s all take up Meg Elison’s rallying cry and stand up against them.