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Responsibility and Reproduction: Abortion as Radical Self-Care

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October 21, 2013

What is the typical picture that anti-choice politicians paint of a person who chooses abortion?

She is a cisgender straight woman (of course). She consented to sex with a cisgender straight man (of course), which means she that she consented to becoming pregnant.  She’s not married, nor does she have children. She’s young and irresponsible. She should have known better than to have sex! The anti-choice view behind sex is pretty obvious: Don’t have sex unless you’re married, because obviously when you are married, you can handle children financially and responsibly.  Birth control is an abortifacient and makes you sex-crazed. Don’t even utter the words “Plan B.” The anti-choice view is that if you have sex before marriage and accidentally become pregnant, that is your punishment for wanting sex for pleasure.

This view is similar for women of color who chose  to have children, especially women who receive public assistance such as TANF or SNAP. They are looked down upon as ultimately irresponsible because they keep having sex and having babies! In the end, women who are often pegged as “welfare queens” because they have sex for pleasure, and also accidentally become pregnant. You can easily note a hate in the anti-choice world for awesome sex.

This picture painted by conservatives is nothing new. Women who dare to have sex with men for pleasure are often characterized as sex-crazed and irresponsible. Responsibility is one of the key ideas around anti-choice logic: If you were stupid enough to have sex, you have to deal with the consequences of a pregnancy.

These ideas about the world about sex and responsibility have some serious ramifications around women’s lives.  A recent story has come to the surface about Lisa Mehos, a woman is going through a particularly nasty custody dispute with her ex-husband. Her ex-husband, Manuel John Mehos, and his attorney are using her medical records, particularly her abortion, as evidence as her as a bad parent – one who “sleeps around.” Therefore, making her a bad parent.

This goes back to this anti-choice view of sex for pleasure and abortion as the epitome of irresponsibility, especially for Millennials, the ultimate self-centered narcissistic generation. Millennials are constantly reminded that we are the coddled generation, a bunch of Kidults who can’t do their own laundry or cook our own food. As Katherine eloquently points out – we have bills to pay, in fact, thousands of dollars in student loans generations before never had. We often rely on our own parents or public assistance to scrape by. Therefore, it should not be a surprise that a Millennial will choose to terminate their pregnancy. And, no, choosing an abortion does not mean we are continuing to be a bunch of selfish incompetent, soft grunge-filtering half-adults.

The conversation we need to be having is about how abortion is often the most responsible decision a person can make. The vast majority of individuals who seek abortions already have children of their own. They often choose to terminate their pregnancies because of financial reasons: children are expensive. Abortion, in certain ways, is the ultimate form of self-care. It’s making your life a priority. It’s making sexual pleasure a priority. And that’s terrifying to anti-sex, anti-choice leaders.

In this case, a woman’s sexual history and behaviors, tied to her abortion, are being scrutinized as reflection of her parenting, while her ex-husband’s sexual history is not held against him.

This burden of sexual responsibility reflect deeply rooted double standards and sexism. Sexual double standards not only hurt women but enforce harmful gender binaries. They assign particular behaviors towards men and women, including this bizarre idea that women, especially young women, who have sex for pleasure are these “hook-up culture” entrenched she-devils.

Sex for pleasure needs to be embraced as beautiful and normal, between all genders. Abortion needs to be thought as not eliminating the negatively connotative “consequences,” but as a radical form of self-care and responsibility. By framing reproductive justice in this way – as a way to take care of yourself and your life, it helps shatter false images of irresponsibility deeply rooted in sexism around abortion.

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