20-something women face restricted reproductive rights
The United States often prides itself on the notion that women have full, legal rights — to education, to employment and to make their own choices. But those legal rights face significant roadblocks when it comes to the doctor’s office; there, the country’s assurance of reproductive rights falls terribly short.
In November, a bill known as the Personhood Amendment, which would deem a fertilized egg a human being under the law, came to a vote in Mississippi. Similar initiatives are being pushed for 2012 in at least six other states. The Personhood Amendment campaign, an anti-abortion movement spearheaded by the Colorado-based umbrella organization Personhood U.S.A., has drawn parallels between abortion, eugenics, genocide and the Holocaust. Personhood U.S.A. is supported by a number of state-level organizations with similar missions.
One of the primary arguments of these organizations is that abortion is causing a genocide of black children, since black women are statistically the highest demographic of women who get abortions. The campaign also argues abortion is a form of eugenics and the 50 million abortions performed in the United States since the Roe v. Wade ruling signify a new type of Holocaust.
Ultimately, the Personhood Amendment was voted down in Mississippi, but the fact that it came up for a vote at all — and that similar votes are planned for next year — signifies the reemergence of the debate for women’s reproductive rights.
The debate has raged for years, but it arrived at something of a conclusion in 1973, when Roe v. Wade declared that all U.S. women had the right to have safe abortions during the first trimester, and that abortions in the second and third trimester were to be determined by individual states.
However, access to abortions, even in the first trimester, has been slowly chipped away in recent years, and the new healthcare bill has sparked discussion of limiting elective abortions even more in some states. Many political and social groups argue against the morality of abortion, but across the country, it remains medically and legally justified.
Suzanne Ward is an anti-abortion activist who works as the Education & Public Relations Director for Georgia Right to Life, a state-level version of the National Right to Life Committee.
“The young women that I see are very smart and very savvy,” she said. “They are knowledgeable about birth control and the side effects. The thing that they are not knowledgeable about is their actions. Young women are knowledgeable about certain things but do not act appropriately. Their physical, spiritual and mental health is important. And sometimes they have to take a break from sex.”
In a generation that, for the most part, tries to shy away from commitment in relationships, balancing emotions and sexual activity safely can be challenging. Twenty-somethings now struggle to face their peers and their families when it comes to the discussion of their choices about birth control and abortion. Options are often a taboo subject, especially since many young adults are still under their parents’ health insurance coverage.
With the enactment of President Obama’s health insurance plan, many women’s groups have been speaking out about the importance of reproductive rights.
In a March 21, 2010 statement, National Organization for Women president Terry O’Neill said the national healthcare bill will cause “the likely elimination of all private as well as public insurance coverage for abortion.” This is because the majority of abortions, even for those who have insurance, will have to be paid for by the women out-of-pocket.
In 1992, author Susan Faludi published Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women, in which she wrote, in part, about the dysfunction of American women’s rights in the medical sphere, especially in relation to abortion and birth control.
In a Q&A with Buzzsaw earlier this year, Faludi addressed her concerns.
“Even the so-called liberal politicians in Washington have caved,” she said. “So now we have a healthcare bill in which the one goodie the Democrats signed off on to appease the Right was abortion.”
Rhonda Mapes is the executive director of the Ithaca Pregnancy Center, where she talks to women with unwanted pregnancies every day.
According to Mapes, the 2011 census reported that the number of unmarried adults over the age of 18 has increased dramatically since 1970, from more than 37 million to more than 106 million. Mapes cited a Guttmacher study, which explains that 70 percent of single women of childbearing age — about 25 million women — are sexually active.
“These days, fewer adults are married, and many more single people are sexually active than before the birth control pill,” Mapes said. “With this many people having sex, there will be lots of unwanted pregnancy.”
In the midst of a what seems to be a progressive generation, 30 years of legislation is being overturned by conservative policy. As the pressure to restrict abortions increases, women must continue speaking out to ensure the freedom to their own body.
Kaley Belval is a freshman documentary studies and production major hatin’ on the backlash. Email her at kbelval1[at]ithaca[dot]edu.