Truly Pro Choice

There's a big difference between being pro-abortion and pro-choice. While members of the former camp seek to protect legal access to abortion, those of the latter, including myself, know that abortion is merely one of many reproductive options that should be available to all women. Just as one isn't truly pro-life if one is in favor of policies that make childrearing extremely difficult for poor women (as most so-called pro-life Republicans are), one cannot claim to be pro-choice and yet stand for coercive steriliziation and abortion procedures on mothers deemed unfit or undesirable, as one Massachusetts judge attempted to do to a schizophrenic woman.

Meet Family Court Judge Christina Harms, who, on January 6th, ruled that 32 year-old "Mary Moe" didn't have a right to bodily autonomy, granting guardianship to her two parents so that they could consent to an abortion on her behalf. According to Harms, it was permissible for Moe to be "coaxed, bribed, or even enticed...by ruse" and then given an abortion-- against her will. To make matters worse, Harms then directed that Moe be sterilized.

Fortunately, the ruling has been reversed. Yet the fact that in 2011, a judge in the United States of America would even fathom forcing a woman to have an abortion and then sterilizing her is cause for alarm. Not only does this violate her bodily integrity on a very fundamental level, but it sets a dangerous precedent. Should alcoholics be allowed to have children? Should people with low IQs? Should the poor? The United States' record on this issue is hardly clean. Forced sterilization and other coercive policies have a classist, racist, oppressive history.

Bottom line: No judge has the right, legal or moral, to curtail a woman's reproductive ability. I thought this would be a no-brainer for self-identified pro-choicers, such as those who comment on the popular feminist blog Jezebel, but I was sadly proven wrong. Here are a few of the comments:

"I'm a big supporter of letting women do what they want with their own bodies, as long as it does no harm to others. Her choices with her body are clearly harming others, and not accidentally. If she will never be able to take care of children in the future, is it really that bad to take away her ability to make more?"

and

"I work with schizophrenics. Some are more functional than others...Those that are severely incapacitated should not be having babies.

The inability to make a clear, formed decision is the issue."

Although comments like these were outnumbered by those critical of forced sterilization, I was shocked that they appeared at all. It is definitely inadvisable for severely mentally unstable people to have children (which, by the way, doesn't apply to all schizophrenics; many sufferers of this disease lead normal lives), but the price of freedom is allowing people to make choices we don't always approve of.

Choice means being able to have an abortion. Choice means being able to give your child up for adoption. Choice means being able to have twenty kids-- even if it kills you in the process, as it might very well do to Michelle Duggar. Choice means being able to have no kids at all. Choice means having access to different kinds of birth control.

We can't call ourselves pro-choice if we don't believe in these things.

College student, future history teacher, and feminist. 

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