I have taken a couple of days to decompress and think before writing about this topic after Alabama’s governor signed the strictest abortion ban in the country. While I do not believe that it will be overturned by the Supreme Court, that is not what I am here to talk about.
Women’s reproductive rights have in recent years been framed as a Right vs Left or Liberal vs Conservative argument when in reality the argument is over control. Since Margret Sanger opened some of the first birth control clinics in the United States violating the Comstock Laws there have been laws trying to control reproduction. Margret Sanger was offering married women information about family planning.
The argument against birth control and abortion usually falls under religious morality: that God is the only one who has the right to control conception. If we take biology into consideration it takes two people to make a baby, i.e. the male and female. Once intercourse takes place it is up to time and biology of whether the sperm and egg meet, and if that zygote then travels through the fallopian tubes and attaches to the uterine wall. Then it is also difficult to know if that ball of potential will stay and grow into a new human.
Until information about birth control became available, all of the power in creating a child belonged to the man. Women knew that every sexual act could result in pregnancy and have been culturally constrained from withholding sex from their partner. Without knowledge of how the female reproductive system worked, the only way women could prevent pregnancy was by not having sex, but let’s be real that isn’t how life works.
By not having any control over family planning women were stuck. They were stuck at home pregnant or raising young children constantly. For some families that meant a cycle of poverty because the woman of the house could not work. The choice of when to have children and how many children to have was an important step for women’s economic freedom. By not constantly having to worry about when a woman will get pregnant (as opposed to if) employers are more willing to hire women. Many companies would fire a woman when she married because they knew that sooner or later she would become a mother and leave anyway.
Being able to choose when or if to have children has not only been a major source of economic freedom but it has also been an important source of social freedom. Women are not seen as just wives and mothers in society. Young girls and women are taught that she can be anything, and that is because she has the freedom to choose what to do with her body. Her body is not only a vessel that will carry a man’s child.
And that is the bottom line of this article. No matter your belief on birth control or abortion, having control over your body is of the utmost importance. Being able to say no to sex from your spouse, being able to have information about family planning, and having access to safe pregnancy termination procedures is important because all women need the access to choices for her body. Taking away any of those choices is like taking away one block on a Jenga tower. You will be ok at first, but soon you will start seeing the holes and, eventually, the whole tower will fall over. I am a stay at home mother; that is my choice. I know my choice isn’t the best choice or even a feasible choice for other mothers. I don’t want the choice of my fertility and how my family is raised to only be in the hands of my husband. I love him and I trust him, but I know I am lucky, and other women are not.