I am going to take a guess and assume that, as a reader of this feminist blog, you probably consider yourself pro-choice. But how far do you go in the fight for bodily autonomy?
I believe in full abortion on demand. I believe that a pregnant person must be able to end a pregnancy at any time they choose, for any reason whatsoever–or no reason at all. I don’t believe a pregnant person should need a reason, that they should be able to end a pregnancy safely if they choose not to be pregnant any more. I believe that a pregnant person should have a right to end a pregnancy when they want to, right up to term. No time limits, no particular reasons given. This is what abortion on demand looks like: the bogeyman raised by anti-choicers as an apocalyptic consequence of abortion laws. I embrace it. I believe that this is what we as pro-choicers should be pushing for.
The thing that happens when we talk about time limits on abortion is that it de-centres the pregnant person, who is ultimately the only person who matters when discussing abortion rights. Suddenly, it becomes all about the foetus. This is a clever and stealthy way of getting anti-choice legislation in through the back door, often without even mentioning abortion at all. Take, for example, this recent example, where the Court of Appeal is expected to rule on whether a pregnant woman is guilty of poisoning for drinking during pregnancy. Jem points out the implications if the ruling goes the wrong way, that it would give a foetus the same rights as a person. That could have devastating ramifications for abortion rights, as well as giving the state further control over women. I say “women” here because the state is a deeply misogynistic institution, and that’s what this sort attitude is rooted in. It doesn’t matter a jot that a lot of women cannot get pregnant: this is a stick to beat anyone read as a reproductively-capable woman.
We need to de-centre talk of harm to a foetus when discussing things pregnant people are doing. And we also need to realise that any time limit on abortion in strictly arbitrary: the only point in a pregnancy that is not arbitrary is term.
When we talk about reasons for abortion, we inevitably fall into a “good abortions” and “bad abortions” rhetoric. Good abortions are those that happen after rape, or when the foetus stands no chance of surviving after birth, for example (usually, in both of these cases, it’s a nice white woman having the abortion). Bad abortions happen to bad people: that slut who uses it for birth control, and so on. A lot of anti-choicers tend to focus on the stereotypes activated by the bad abortions, while a lot of the arguments we as pro-choicers put forward tend to focus on good abortions: we’ll say things like “surely you don’t want to deny abortions to rape victims?” in a bid to make our interlocutors feel empathy.
And we shouldn’t do that, because there is no such thing as a good abortion or a bad abortion. Reasons for having abortions are only one person’s business: the person having an abortion. It is up to them, and them alone, and it seems unhelpful to contribute to public discourse by dissecting reasons that one may choose to end a pregnancy.
Reproductive rights are under attack. As pro-choicers, we know this. We are permanently on the defensive, holding the fragile ground that we have. But what if we rode out to meet the anti-choicers? What if, rather than defending what we have, we fight for something more, something better, robustly pro-choice and thoroughly unreasonable under today’s terms of debate? By loudly and unabashedly centring the rights of the pregnant person, we could potentially gain ground, without compromises.
I don’t doubt that the idea of full abortion on demand is causing niggling little “but…” feelings in you. I felt it too, when I first thought about the concept. The thing is, so many of those doubts are internalised concessions that we have made to the anti-choice camp, little bits of their propaganda that we, too, have absorbed. When we are constantly told that women are just meatsock incubators, over and over, it starts to seep in and we start to believe all sorts of awful things, including high levels of pseudoscientific biological essentialism.
So I demand full abortion on demand. I don’t want compromises, I want something which centres the rights of pregnant people.