Abortion: My body My choice

Activism in Rochester, NY

This photo was taken at the March For Women’s Equality, Women’s Lives in Washington, D.C. on April 9th, 1989.[1] This banner was made by the National Organization for Women chapter in Rochester, New York. This banner is extremely bold, decisive, and powerful. By asking the question, “Choice?” and answering with “YES” this banner demonstrates the strength of women in defending their rights. Additionally, this fearless statement reveals how important of a role feminism played in the fight for abortion rights during Second Wave feminism and beyond.

In 1989, a case entered the Supreme Court which had the ability to overturn Roe v. Wade, and thus prompting a loud response from feminists. The threatening anti-abortion laws being tried in the Supreme Court in addition to the Bush administration’s support for anti-abortion motivated feminists from all over the country to march.[2] The most important theme of the march was the unification of women. Women demonstrated that any threat to Roe v. Wade or their reproductive rights would not go unnoticed. This sentiment is still alive and just as valuable today.

In the Democrat and Chronicle article detailing the 1989 march, several quotations from Barbara Moore, the leader of the NOW chapter in Rochester, were included. “If they overturn or weaken Roe vs. Wade, they’re going to see an outcry like they’ve never seen before. Politicians will feel the full force of women’s anger…this is a right we cannot lose, we will not lose. We will not go backwards” (Moore).[3] Personally, these quotations stood out as they reflected the influential women that once fought for equal rights in Rochester.

This picture clearly depicts the power behind feminism. Threats and pressures on women can be viewed as a way in which the patriarchal society attempts to keep women submissive and in traditional environments.[4] This is why feminism and the women’s right to choose is crucial.

Through the development and legalization of technologies such as birth control and other contraceptive methods, the idea of choice became more prominent than ever. Despite this, birth control and abortion rights were (and still are) debated. Moreover, it is necessary to assess the political and religious views behind the pro-life movement. The fight for women’s reproductive rights ebbs and flows, and is not over by far. However, by exploring both the pro-life and the pro-choice stances, we can gain a more holistic knowledge of abortion.

A Different Perspective on Men’s Role in Abortion Rights

Do men have a role in abortion rights? Should they?
Men have always had an immense influence on abortion rights because the majority of the political field is dominated by men. Therefore, men have largely made the sweeping decisions about women’s reproductive rights. This image relates to the theme of choice through a unique lens by turning the tables on men in the most striking manner.[5] By suggesting men take a physical responsibility for abortion, it allows them to gain a new perspective and insight into the personal experiences of women.

Similar to the primary object, the text of this object is bold and thought-provoking. The purpose of this object was definitely to stand out. The overall theme of this picture is responsibility and choice. Although a woman’s body is the one that becomes pregnant and therefore is the one that has to undergo the abortion, that does not exclude the male counterpart from moral responsibility. Men are, in fact, crucial for fertilization, and therefore half of the responsibility should be on them. Why must women be solely shamed and labeled murderers? By undergoing surgery, men are able to control the chance of pregnancy and thus the rate of abortion. Instead of creating more laws that restrict what women can do with their bodies, men have the right to choose to take preventative measures into their own hands.

This picture also plays with the power structure within the patriarchy. Due to the tradition of men having more power, both in politics and society, they have been in the prime position to control women’s reproductive rights. This picture flips the issue of choice onto men. Despite this, it is important to note that men do truly have a choice in controlling what happens to their bodies. However, this picture ultimately takes the way in which women are told what to do with their bodies and makes a statement just as assertive in the other direction. By analyzing abortion rights through this alternative lens, we can see the many roles that men may embody within the abortion debate. Yet this viewpoint is not a popularized option, and thus many pro-life men exist in a political role to regulate abortion rights.

Your body is a battleground

Artwork by Barbara Kruger

Produced in 1989, this artwork clearly makes a statement about abortion rights.[6] This connects to the primary object by being an additional response to the Missouri anti-abortion laws that threatened Roe v. Wade. Artwork was another medium in which women expressed power and unification in standing up for reproductive rights. This artwork is both something women can relate to as well as a statement of protest. The juxtaposition of the woman’s face illustrates the multiple dimensions of women. The text overlaying her face is bold and eye-catching.  Also, by using a non-gendered determiner, this text jumps out and has the potential of reaching out to both men and women personally.

Although this artwork could appeal to both men and women, it is important to recognize how it is centered on a woman. The female gaze is evident through the photography by focusing on a woman’s face. Despite the text concentrating on “the body,” the photograph is solely of a woman’s face. This highlights the strength and determination shown through the woman’s facial expression. Also, by excluding the body from the photograph, it does not objectify or sexualize the woman’s body. By referring to the body as a “battleground,” there is a sense that a woman’s body is the center of political discourse. However, this could also be a statement to a woman’s ability to fight against restrictive laws, take control, and fight for her rights.

Planned Parenthood Ad: 1964

This controversial Planned Parenthood ad for birth control circulated in 1964.[7]  This ad became prevalent in the pro-life movement because of the distinction Planned Parenthood made between abortion and birth control. The ad specifically states, “abortion kills the life of a baby after it has begun.” [8] This statement reflects the pro-life stance Planned Parenthood once held. Beginning as the National Birth Control League, Planned Parenthood began with the first opening of a birth control clinic by Margaret Sanger in 1916.[9] Moreover, clinics originally were to provide women with information on birth control, not providing abortion services. Planned Parenthood’s early stance on abortion is important because it demonstrates the progression of the organization and how the views on abortion evolved within society.

This relates to the primary object because the development and legalization of birth control gave women choice over their bodies. This ad also reflects the increased popularity of women gaining more control of their bodies, their sex lives, and their families. The theme of choice is evident in the statement, “family planning also means being able to have your baby when you do want it.”[10] Birth control was instrumental in helping women take an active role in their lives and gain control over their bodies.

Despite the multiple uses for the pill and the positive impact it has had on so many women’s lives, birth control has not always been accepted in society, and is still widely debated today. According to Planned Parenthood, as of 1968, “only 40 percent of the states have no laws limiting the distribution or display of contraceptives.”[11] The gradual legalization of birth control demonstrates the resistance to women having control over their bodies. Also, as recent as this year, “President Donald Trump’s pick for Department of Health and Human Services secretary agrees that employers should be able to block access to birth control for the sake of protecting their personal views…”[12] Moreover, the goal of the current president is that employers can deny employees birth control on whatever grounds they choose. Although this hasn’t had luck in court, with federal judges blocking the rollback, birth control is still under fire politically.[13] However, like feminists during the Second Wave, feminists today are taking a stand against powerful men controlling their bodies.

Abortion as a Religious Issue

END ABORTION NOW: About The Movement

End Abortion Now is a group of churches that have united to spread the message to end abortion. According to the website, the message of the community has five components: 1. Abortion is MURDER, 2. An issue of national sin, 3. Repent and believe the Gospel, 4. Rescue babies and parents, 5. We want justice.[14]

Pro-life Christians strongly believe that life begins at conception. Therefore, by terminating a pregnancy, a life is lost. By focusing the fight for abortion on religion, the issue becomes the loss of a child made by God. This relates to the primary object through an opposite, pro-life stance. Also, instead of including women, this video contained only two white men.

These men firmly believe in the life of all children, and want to promote their cause through love for everyone. By legalizing abortion, this allows for a legal death of a baby. Therefore, this group hopes to unify churches to help spread the negative aspects of abortion. Through a religious lens, abortion can be considered as murder and thus is a sin in the eyes of God. Moreover, if the pro-life churches and individuals band together to reduce the number of abortions, more lives would be saved.

Oral Arguments from Attorney Sarah Weddington in the Supreme Court Case, Roe v. Wade

When Jane Roe had trouble getting an abortion, she recognized that abortion rights were necessary. The primary issue discussed in Roe v. Wade was on the fourteenth amendment. This amendment states that any person born or naturalized in the United States cannot be deprived of privileges by laws enforced by the State.[15] Moreover, “Roe contended that the statute violated her right to privacy and personal liberty”.[16] This recording stood out because the attorney stressed the importance of a woman’s right to choose what happens to her body. Additionally, Weddington made the distinction between promoting abortions and allowing for a woman’s right to choose.[17] Moreover, the focus was not on advocating for abortion, but instead to allow women fundamental rights. Roe vs. Wade was a landmark decision and an important step forward for the feminist movement. This case put women’s rights at the head of politics. Abortions were prevalent before Roe v. Wade, yet were extremely dangerous for women or punishable by law if secretly performed by doctors. Through the legalization of abortion, women are now able to get safe and effective abortions.

This connects to the primary object in the theme of choice and as being the subject of the rally in 1989. Jane Roe represents powerful women who take control of their bodies and face the harsh reality of the patriarchy. This demonstrates how despite the inferior status and lack of opportunities, women still manage to break boundaries.

Mike Pence Speech at Pro-Life Rally

Start: 2:46, End: 5:44

This clip is of Vice President Mike Pence speaking at the March for Life Rally on January 27th, 2017.[18] This post relates to the primary object in the argument of pro-choice vs. pro-life. Both at rallies, it is evident that there are strong emotions and opinions on each side. Therefore, this was an important object to include as it shed light on the pro-life ideas alive in the political field today.

The most prominent part of Pence’s speech was his comments on the Mexico City Policy. This policy, first introduced by President Ronald Reagan, “bans overseas [non-governmental] groups that receive U.S. aid from providing abortions or information about the procedure.”[19] This globally restricts access to safe abortions. Trump has reinstated this policy as well as expanded upon it, “beyond U.S. family planning funds to all U.S. global health assistance, which totals $10 billion.”[20] This is extremely important when analyzed through a intersectional feminist lens because all women should have equal rights around the world.

Also, this speech made it evident as to why pro-life individuals are in favor of defunding abortion clinics. If abortion strongly clashes with their religious or moral beliefs, it is clear as to why pro-life individuals would oppose their tax money going to fund abortion clinics.

Endnotes & Bibliography

Endnotes

[1] 1989, D.417, 7.9. Rare Books Special Collections & Preservation Department, University of Rochester.

[2] National Organization for Women, "History of Marches and Mass Actions," National Organization for Women.

[3] Garlock, Christopher, "Hundreds of Thousands Hold March for Choice," Democrat and Chronicle. April 13 1989. D.417, 7.5. Rare Books Special Collections & Preservation Department, University of Rochester.

[4] Jessica Valenti. Full Frontal Feminism. (Emeryville, California: Seal Press, 2007)

[5] D.417, 7.5. Rare Books Special Collections & Preservation Department, University of Rochester.

[6] Kruger, Barbara, "Untitled (Your body is a battleground)," photographic silkscreen on vinyl, JSTOR Daily, https://daily.jstor.org/the-history-your-body-is-a-battleground/

[7] Planned Parenthood, "Plan Your Children for health and happiness," newspaper advertisment, Saynsumthn's Blog, https://saynsumthn.wordpress.com/2014/03/

[8] Planned Parenthood, "Plan Your Children for health and happiness," newspaper advertisment, Saynsumthn's Blog, https://saynsumthn.wordpress.com/2014/03/

[9] Planned Parenthood, "Planned Parenthood: 100 Years," Planned Parenthood

[10] Planned Parenthood, "Plan Your Children for health and happiness," newspaper advertisment, Saynsumthn's Blog, https://saynsumthn.wordpress.com/2014/03/ 

[11] Cisler, Lucinda, "Unfinished Business: Birth Control and Women's Liberation," Sisterhood is Powerful

[12] Solis, Marie, "Women can be Blocked from Birth Control Coverage by Employers, says Trump Nominee," Newsweek. 

[13] Papenfuss, Mary, "Federal Judge Temporarily Blocks Trump from Rolling Back Birth Control Coverage," Huffpost. 

[14] Conover, Zach and Durbin, Jeff, "About the Movement," online video, END ABORTION NOW, https://endabortionnow.com/about-the-movement/

[15] Legal Information Institute, "U.S. Constitution: 14th Amendment," Legal Information Institute

[16] Kathy Grannis, "Supreme Court Has Final Word on Abortion," Her-self

[17] Planned Parenthood, "Planned Parenthood: 100 Years," Planned Parenthood

[18] CNN, "Pence's entire 'March for Life' rally speech," online video, YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lAhmu4uDOqw&t=179s

[19] Childress, Sarah and Einbinder, Nicole, "At Home and Abroad, Trump Moves to Broaden Abortion Fight," Frontline

[20] Childress, Sarah and Einbinder, Nicole, "At Home and Abroad, Trump Moves to Broaden Abortion Fight," Frontline

Bibliography

[1] 1989, D.417, 7.9. Rare Books Special Collections & Preservation Department, University of Rochester.

[2] National Organization for Women, "History of Marches and Mass Actions," National Organization for Women. n.d. https://now.org/about/history/history-of-marches-and-mass-actions/#storm

[3] Garlock, Christopher, "Hundreds of Thousands Hold March for Choice," Democrat and Chronicle. April 13 1989. D.417, 7.5. Rare Books Special Collections & Preservation Department, University of Rochester.

[4] Valenti, Jessica. Full Frontal Feminism.

[5] D.417, 7.5. Rare Books Special Collections & Preservation Department, University of Rochester.

[6] Kruger, Barbara. "Untitled (Your body is a battleground)" 

[7] Planned Parenthood. "Plan Your Children for health and happiness." 1989.

[8] Planned Parenthood. "Plan Your Children for health and happiness." 1989.

[9] Planned Parenthood. "Planned Parenthood: 100 Years." Planned Parenthood. 2017. https://100years.plannedparenthood.org/#centennial

[10] Planned Parenthood. "Plan Your Children for health and happiness." 1989.

[11] Cisler, Lucinda. "Unfinished Business: Birth Control and Women's Liberation." Sisterhood is Powerful. 248.

[12] Solis, Marie. "Women can be Blocked from Birth Control Coverage by Employers, says Trump Nominee," November 29, 2017. Newsweek. 

[13] Papenfuss, Mary. "Federal Judge Temporarily Blocks Trump from Rolling Back Birth Control Coverage," December 15, 2017. Huffpost. 

[14] Conover, Zach and Durbin, Jeff. "About the Movement." N.d. Online video. END ABORTION NOW. https://endabortionnow.com/about-the-movement/

[15] Legal Information Institute. "U.S. Constitution: 14th Amendment," Legal Information Institute. N.d. https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/amendmentxiv

[16] Grannis, Kathy. "Supreme Court Has Final Word on Abortion." Her-self. January, 1974. 11.

[17] Planned Parenthood. "Planned Parenthood: 100 Years." Planned Parenthood. 2017. https://100years.plannedparenthood.org/#centennial

[18] CNN. "Pence's entire 'March for Life' rally speech." January 27, 2017. Online video. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lAhmu4uDOqw&t=179s

[19] Childress, Sarah and Einbinder, Nicole, "At Home and Abroad, Trump Moves to Broaden Abortion Fight," Frontline

[20] Childress, Sarah and Einbinder, Nicole. "At Home and Abroad, Trump Moves to Broaden Abortion Fight" December 14, 2017. Frontline