I'm no stranger to the wasps' nest that is the American fight for reproductive rights, having interned for Ms. magazine, written various pieces about anti-choicers'* legal tactics that seemed to emerge almost daily, attended a rally in LA against the War on Women, and volunteered as an escort outside a women's clinic. Yet the other day I achieved what must be a true milestone in the life of any feminist writer who covers the reproductive rights beat: I got my first anti-choice trolls.
This was as a result of reporting in my capacity as a Lifestyle freelancer for the Daily Dot on Indiana's new restrictive abortion law, which has to be some of the most transparently pointless legislation I've ever seen. It requires aborted or miscarried foetuses to be cremated or buried, effectively furthering the anti-choice position that foetuses are full human beings, plus the emotionally manipulative tactic of "waarrrgh you've killed a BAYBEEEE, we must now have a little funeral for it just to make sure we don't miss out on any opportunity to guilt-trip you, you heartless bitch." And don't even get me started on the horrific emotional burden this hands to survivors of miscarriage, who are given no choice about how they wish to process the already horrible experience of losing a wanted pregnancy. It's also just a massive waste of time and money and presumably adds to the financial burden already on women paying for what is a simple medical procedure. The law also directly flies in the face of the basis of Roe v Wade (which was the constitutionally protected right to privacy) by stating that foetal abnormality is not an acceptable reason for an abortion. Basically, wimminz, if you don't fancy subjecting a child to a life of disability, pain, limitation and discrimination, or carrying to term a foetus that may immediately die after it's born, or may not even make it that far therefore causing you to carry a dead foetus around inside you, you're shit out of luck. Your "reasons" are not good enough for the mostly male senators and congresspeople who thought up this batshit law and voted it in to practice.
Anyway, having reported on Indiana women's fitting response to a male governor signing this bill into law (which was inundating him with calls about their periods until he was forced to disconnect his office's phone lines), I saw my Facebook Author page blow up with shares, Likes and... yup, here they came...the anti-choice commenters. The first one was a nonsensical image about Planned Parenthood allegedly selling foetal parts, a report that has been widely debunked. Quite what the poster hoped to achieve I'm unsure; did they imagine that as a journalist who keeps abreast of reproductive rights news that I would somehow have missed that particular attempt by anti-choicers to discredit an organisation that does a fantastic job of providing sexual healthcare? Did they think I'd give any credence to the idea that PP is an evil organ-harvesting profiteer that entices women - who are obviously always too weak and stupid and easily influenced to know what they really want - into having abortions just so they can make a buck on selling on the results?
Sorry folks, you underestimate me. I know you anti-choicers. I've met you. I've seen you handing pictures of what is most likely doll parts covered in fake blood to a woman who's just come out of a clinic and is standing on a roaring hot city street recovering from an anaesthetic. Your credibility with me is less than zero, not least because two of your folks who tried to sting PP have themselves been indicted by a grand jury on counts of fraud (hoooo, ain't justice sweet?). Also, you know what? - PP are legally allowed to use or pass on fetal tissue for stem cell research as long as the woman who terminated the pregnancy gives her consent (funny idea, isn't it! the crazy concept that the contents of a woman's body is her business to exercise her autonomy over). They're also allowed to claim back their costs for storing or transporting said tissue. What they're not allowed to do is profit from it, but the rest? Well, I'm sure this will confirm in your heads an image of pro-choicers as heartless murdering harridans, but I'm going to stand up and say Planned Parenthood can go apeshit doing whatever they like with foetal parts as far as I'm concerned. Because I support stem cell research. Because I don't equate a foetus with a baby. And because I'm soooo over tactics nakedly designed to try and emotionally blackmail women out of exercising their legal choice by making aforesaid false equation. Take that foetus-fetishising ridiculousness to someone who's actually fooled by it, please.
Which brings me on to the next commenter (after I had deleted the first comment, and of course banned the commenter from my page and reported him to FB) who posted one of the aforementioned pictures of what's probably corn syrup with red food colouring plus some doll parts in a kidney dish designed to look as gory as possible. Well, shit, have they ever seen what childbirth looks like? That isn't a pretty picture either, and it's 12 times more likely to kill you than an abortion, but anti-choicers don't ever mention that little fact, or even care about it because women are expendable whereas foetuses need constitutional rights, apparently. The snidey comment accompanying it was "Doesn't look like a clump of cells now, does it?" Ah, where to even start with that one. Well, how's about the fact that most abortions, if you could see them (and as if anyone working in an industry so regularly threatened with fatal attacks that security in all abortion clinics has to be better that Fort Knox's would somehow be allowed to photograph the aftermath of the procedure anyway, come the fuck on) would look indistinguishable from a heavy period, because 90% take place before 13 weeks? How about the fact that the ones that take place later are often of wanted foetuses that didn't present with serious deformities until the 20-week scan? Or that other reasons for having later abortions including being abandoned by your partner, being prevented from accessing abortion services by an abusive partner, being diagnosed with cancer, being homeless or being misled by an anti-choice doctor? But ultimately, again, to hell with having to justify ourselves to those who think we should fall to our knees and beg for forgiveness just because they wave around pictures of blood and body parts. I don't give a fuck if abortion is gory. I am unmoved by talk of heartbeats, little hands and feet, of foetuses screaming in pain as they're ripped to pieces (and please, fuck all the way off to Uranus with your medically inaccurate fairy tales anyway). Why? Because my belief in a woman's right to control her body is non negotiable. It will not be chipped away by the goriest story or picture you can manufacture. It will not be softened in any way by romanticising of a foetus at the expense of an already live human. It will only ever be strengthened by your nonsense.
(Which, in case it's not already clear, will earn you instant deleting, banning and reporting if you wish to post more of it here or in any of my social media channels. So before you post that meme, why not use your time better by going and volunteering at the local children's home, seeing as you're so invested in mandatory childbirth regardless of whether kids are wanted or not. Better yet, go get some papers and start the process to adopt or foster as many unwanted children as you can. It's called walking the walk, folks. You want no woman to ever abort again? Then you've got a fuck of a backlog to clear first, folks - 102,000 children are currently awaiting adoption in the US alone)
The fact that anti-choice tactics only ever serve to bolster my determination to fight for women's freedom to choose goes to the heart of the matter, I think. We spend so much time pandering to anti-choice jackasses that we forget to stop and ask ourselves, why are we even bothering? Why are we letting them set the terms of the argument, when they would never extend the same courtesy to us? Why should we feel the need to point out that Planned Parenthood don't just provide abortions, but also provide mutiple other crucial sexual health services such as smear tests, contraception, STI testing, tubal ligations (the woman I mention above, who I witnessed being handed a picture of blood and body parts after she emerged from the clinic, visibly woozy, told me that she had just had that very procedure) and that terminations constitute a miniscule percentage of their overal services? As Imani Gandy says, it doesn't matter how much of PP's services are abortions. It wouldn't matter if 100% of them were. Abortion is legal. They are not doing anything wrong. Except in the eyes of anti-choicers, who will always say that PP are doing something wrong, however we try and mollify them. So why do we bother?
On that note, this pro-choicer is announcing that I'm done with respectability politics. And I'd like to thank the anti-woman morons who reminded me of that fact by taking time out of their day to post the most predictable, easily debunked propaganda on my Facebook wall (oh, and for giving my writing more exposure! Really. Cheers, guys). I'm going to say it all, loud and proud.
I don't care if Planned Parenthood provide nothing but abortions. I don't care whether they make money from it. I don't care if they make use of their legal right to pass on foetal tissue for stem cell research. All I care about is that women who need abortions have access to them.
I don't care if women abort in the 9th week or the 24th week, and I don't give a damn what the foetus might look like at any of those stages. All I care about is that women who need abortions have access to them.I don't care if a woman has an abortion "as a form of birth control," if she has ten abortions in a row, if she has an abortion at 24 weeks because she just lay around eating chocolate and watching Netflix for the previous 23 weeks and then suddenly decided to get off her butt and do something about her situation. I seriously doubt that's ever actually been the case, but my point is, I'm here for that woman's rights just as much as I'm here for the women who were raped, who were let down by contraception, whose circumstances changed, who got cancer, who were already mothers and couldn't care for more kids. I'm here for all those women. I don't need them to pass a respectability test for me to believe in their right to do what they fuck they choose with their bodies.
Because that's a right that men sure as hell enjoy every single day.
*I refuse to use the term "pro-life" as I believe it's a deceptive and manipulative term that paints those who would deny women access to safe and legal abortion as somehow merciful and positive. They are anything but. They are not pro women's lives, safety or autonomy. They are not pro unwanted babies being supported by the state, or pro single mothers, or low income mothers of colour. They are pro sadistically mandated births, and thus they are anti-woman and anti-choice and deserve to be described thus.