Why I am pro-choice

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Mother n Child (late 1930s) by Omega418.

Several years ago, I was asked to do a project for a Women’s history class and interview a woman of a certain age in the family. I interviewed my great Aunt Alberta. My aunt was her mother’s namesake and she told me my great-grandmother’s story. According to the census of 1930, my great-grandmother was my grandfather’s second wife. Born in Mississippi in 1907 to a family of 15, she met and married my great-grandfather, a Baptist minister, sometime in the late twenties and to their union were born three children: Uncle Isiah in 1927, Lula, my grandmother in 1929, and my Aunt Alberta in 1930. About 1933 my great-grandmother Alberta became pregnant again.

The economic injustice of the Jim Crow south was intensified by the near total economic collapse brought on by the depression. Times were tough for blackfolks anyhow, but the misery of the depression made some of us long for the degradation of slavery because at least they could be assured of being fed. It was into this climate of desperation, penury and fear that my great-grandmother faced the prospect of having a fourth mouth to feed.

When a woman is intent on ending a pregnacy to preserve the family that she already has, there is nothing that she won’t do.  My great-grandmother searched high and low for an abortifacient that would work and settled on a method, which is lost in the mists of time, that took her life. Her death left a hole in the family that could never be filled. My great-grandfather re-married twice. The woman who raised my grandmother and her siblings was a cold, emotionally distant woman who expected her grown children still at home to pay room and board before each eventually married. My great-grandfather was a strict disciplinarian who had trouble understanding the difference between necessary discipline and child abuse.

Several years ago, my Auntie gave grandma an old black and white photo similar to the one here. My great-grandmother, who my grandma closely resembles, is holding an infant, my aunt, while her two toddlers stand to her sides. Grandma cried as she told us how much she missed her mother. Her loss is felt even now. Because of limited career choices available to their generation, my grandmother and her sister became nurses and I know that her mother’s death made grandma firmly and unalterably pro-choice. Out of respect for her and the memory of my great-grandmother, I am too.

It did my heart good to see that the National Organization for Women endorsed Barack Obama and Joe Biden today. They said in part, “Sen. Obama is a co-sponsor of the Prevention First Act, to strengthen access to contraception and reproductive health care, and prevent unwanted pregnancies. He strongly supports Roe v. Wade and will oppose any efforts to overturn it. …Sen. Obama opposed the nominations of George Bush’s extreme right-wing nominees to the Supreme Court, who have consistently ruled against women’s rights.”

“For more than a decade, Barack Obama has said “yes” to women’s rights, while John McCain has consistently said “no” – NO to pay equity, NO to contraceptive access and reproductive rights, NO to appointing Supreme Court judges who will uphold women’s rights and civil rights, NO to funding shelters and other anti-violence programs, and NO to supporting working moms and dads with policies that support work/life balance.”

Barack Obama is not perfect and is far too accomodating and corporate for my taste. However, he is the only candidate in the race who shares most of my values that is capable of winning. Anybody who claimed to be for Hillary Clinton that doesn’t support Barack Obama is lying when they claim to be feminists. Feminists support the rights of women–all women, to be free of patriarchy, racism, violence and economic discrimination. Supporting John McCain and his right-wing fembot is antithetical to the philosphy of feminism.

Hiding behind John McCain and Sarah Palin or Cynthia McKinney changes nothing. Sarah Palin is not a feminist, no matter what she claims, and she doesn’t support preserving the reproductive rights of women. Cynthia McKinney, on the other hand, is a good feminist, but she has absolutely no chance to win.

The choice for feminists is clear. Anybody who says anything different and insists on bludgeoning Barack Obama as the scapegoat for the slings and arrows of sexism is really more interested in preserving white supremacy than they are in defending Hillary Clinton from sexist patriarchy.

13 thoughts on “Why I am pro-choice

  1. zeitgeist9000

    SB, you blew me away.

    Your knowledge of your own family history is astounding in a time when many don’t even know their own cousins. I hope that time has healed for your family a lot of the hurt and pain of the past.

    After the 2004 elections, Hillary actually came out in favor of reducing abortions, and that was part of the reason I believe NARAL came out and endorsed Barack instead of her shortly before the Oregon primary. The head of NARAL said Hillary was representative of the past in terms of the pro-choice movement and in the process infuriated their local chapters across the country. Personally, I’m closer to where Hillary is than Obama, although both profess full, unequivocal support for women’s reproductive rights. Obama flubbed the abortion question at Rick Warren’s rigged evangelical forum, and I think it bears much thought that there ought to be a mutual goal between the pro-life and pro-choice movements of reducing abortions.

    Stacking our courts with conservatives who rule conservatively not only on the abortion issue but also on affirmative action, trade, crime and punishment, and business really makes a mockery of our judicial system.

    On the other hand, abortion as a means of birth control is equally abhorrent in my opinion.

    We need to find a way to reduce abortions in this country without the so-called nuclear judicial option.

  2. “Cynthia McKinney, on the other hand, is a good feminist, but she has absolutely no chance to win.”

    I don’t think you understand Federal Election Law and political parties. McKinney only needs 5% to “win.” By Federal Election Law both McKinney and the Green Party would get MILLIONS OF DOLLARS in funding. This would mean the Green Party is a recognized and FUNDED NATIONAL PARTY.

    It would mean MILLIONS OF DOLLARS in funding for 2012 as a VIABLE run. This is how 3rd parties become national funded political parties BY LAW.

    If there is EVER to be change in this country that’s how it’s done.

    In 40 out of 50 states millions of votes for Obama will be wasted. In “red” states that McCain will win, votes for Obama count as ZERO ELectoral Votes = Obama votes are WASTED.

    In “blue” states that Obama is sure to win, All votes over the winning margin are WASTED. Whether Obama wins those states by 1 or 100,000 votes, he gets the same number of Electoral Votes. That overage is WASTED.

    On the other hand, ALL those otherwise WASTED votes would count towards Cynthia McKinney’s 5%

    The public is kept ignorant of USA Federal Election Law and that perpetuates corporate two party control.

    I can’t see how a “skeptic” or feminist could support Obama given that, in reality, he will do nothing to change the rate of women in poverty.
    Remember it was Bill Clinton who’s “Welfare Reform” exasperated it and Obama isn’t going to change that. Look at where his funding is coming from.

    Obama better than McCain, perhaps. Is that REALLY all you want, perhaps not. Then you should consider whether your vote for Obama will be wasted vs a vote for Cynthia McKinney for the 5% to create VIABLE change for women and particularly black women.

  3. Fantastic blog posting, SB. We all have our own reasons for being anit-choice or pro-choice, and it was extremely interesting to read your reasons, probably even moreso because it’s coming from a male perspective.

    I’ve never had an abortion and don’t know that if push came to shove whether I could, BUT I’m not about to have SOMEONE ELSE legislate what I can or cannot do with my body. I’ve had friends who have made that monumental decision which changes their lives forever; some with incredible regrets, others knowing it was the right decision for them and those involved. I don’t know a single soul who has EVER taken that irreversible trip and had not a care about its impact.

    Do not think for one millisecond that if McCain and Palin, should they be elected (shudder at the thought), women’s reproductive rights will remain as they are now–they most certainly will not! Even now the anti-choice (gosh how I hate that they use the power of semantics by calling themselves pro-life…don’t tell me I’m not PRO-life just because I’m PRO-CHOICE) movement is constantly working their way into the halls and rooms of power to chip away at the rights given to women by Roe-v-Wade. Don’t sit idly by and assume things will remain the same, folks.

    I posted a powerful NARAL video on my blog a few days ago which drives home the point that McCain/Palin are dead-set on taking away a woman’s choice, EVEN IF SHE IS RAPED! That should scare the daylights out of everyone.

    Again, thanks for the insightful blog posting, SB.

  4. rikyrah

    This is beautiful,but I expect no less from you.

    I don’t know of any woman in her right mind who is PRO-abortion.

    That’s such bullshit.

    I’ve been there. HOlding the hands of friends and family, and through volunteering, women who are heartbroken at the choice they have made, but felt they had to make it.

    It is their CHOICE. NO government entity should have the OPTION to tell a woman what to do with HER BODY.

    I am as libertarian as I can be on this issue.

  5. On Stunted Feminism...

    Feminism is not defined by one issue alone. If the nomination of Gov. Palin has shown us anything, it is that the shameless Democratic partisianship of the feminist establishment has deeply limited American feminism in such a way that it’s as if a prerequisite for membership is an ideological litmuts test. how bogus!

    i write in agreement of Green Genes, who hinted at the serial exploitation of women around certain issues that has persisted in the background while these so-called feminists have championed “women’s rights.”

    the story within this piece is moving…but it is riddled with conflicting ideas…to write that feminism is to support the rights for all women but then to call Gov. Palin a fembot is antithetical to the spirit of the feminist movement, being that it is divisive and mean-spirited.

    And to zeitegeist’s reasoning behind NARAL supporting Obama, I disagree. NARAL was looking for political favors so they hedged their bets on who they thought looked most likely to win.

  6. Skep,

    Wow. This is a great, great piece. I’ve always been conflicted about abortion. As rikyah mentions, no one is actually “pro-abortion”.

    Both of my parents are ministers and they have recounted to me, tales of desperate teenage girls on the Southside of Chicago trying to get abortions during the 60s (when abortion was illegal in Illinois) and risking life and limb to do so. My parents were against abortion before coming face-to-face with these girls, and then completely changed their stance.

    I also think that if a woman wants an abortion, she will find a way to do so, and risk her own life in the process. That’s why I count myself among those who are pro-choice. At the same time I do think that we should attempt to decrease the number of abortions, but not through fear and shame. I think we need to completely eradicate the whole “virgin/whore/player” paradigm which drives too many sexual relations in this country. My goodness, what’s wrong with talking about the sacredness of sex and suggesting to people that it is best preserved for those whom we love?

  7. Hi SB, Glad I dropped by; this was a very interesting and important post. There have been three generations of these in my own family. It’s caused us a lot of pain, but never would we think of stripping women of their reproductive rights. I did a long and personal story about our experience which you can read here if you’re interested. I think you’ll like it a lot.

  8. RisingTide

    If they made abortion illegal, and I could not responsibly care for the child, nor have a hope in hell of adoption — I’d just kill the newborn baby.

    There are places in this world where kids go blind by the age of five, and are dead by the age of ten. $10 to save a child — permanently. Five shots of Vitamin A. Think About It.

    Gov. Palin is using the feminist movement as a stalking horse to roll back the equality women have achieved. She does not believe women are equal to men, and is actively ANTICONTRACEPTION. Fuck her.

    Who, greengenes, is funding Obama? Two million of your brethren. That’ll be more than vote for Cynthia, this year. And Thank God.

    Lobbyists should die!

  9. Cliff

    SB, this is a deep subject, surrounding your family story.

    I don’t know, I’m stuck in the middle

    “For more than a decade, Barack Obama has said “yes” to women’s rights, while John McCain has consistently said “no”

    I say “Yes” to women’s rights, but I don’t agree with abortion.
    I guess I’ve already arrived at a contradiction.

    I want Women to have the right to choose whether or not to give birth, but would recommend that they would undergo counseling before they would actually terminate a pregnancy, so that they may know that abortion is absolutely the only alternative.

    I know from experience, that guilt always sets in a woman’s head, afterwards, and I think the majority of the time that after the procedure is complete, that many women would have reversed their decision.

    I’ve been there twice, and even though I was young and dumb, I felt a little guilt myself.
    Afterwards they were saying,

    “I SHOULD HAVE KEPT IT,”

    with tears rollin’ down their face.

    Okay it’s settled

    Counseling Classes for Women who seek Abortion!

    Oh yeah, Angie, where are you!

  10. “If they made abortion illegal, and I could not responsibly care for the child, nor have a hope in hell of adoption — I’d just kill the newborn baby.”

    It’s already being done….just check the news stories.

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