When Abortion Rights and Birth Rights Intersect

For a little more than a year, I’ve periodically broached the topic of the interrelatedness between all aspects of reproductive healthcare and birthing rights. Specifically the biggest divide on the issue comes when I bring up the intersectionality of a woman’s right to access abortion and a woman’s right to choose how to birth her baby.

Courtesy of ACLU

Courtesy of ACLU

This is a touchy subject for a lot of people. And for a really long time, we’ve been able to maintain a disconnect between the two sides of reproductive health – leaving preconception, birth control and abortion over there, and pregnancy and birth over here. But with the increasing formation of special interest groups and their proposed and all too often implemented Personhood measures, it is becoming near impossible to maintain the position that the two issues can exist in polarity.

It’s important to understand, fully, the implications that come along with granting fetuses born person rights – which is what personhood measures do. Under the guise of restricting and limiting abortion, these measures have been used to criminally charge pregnant women with bad outcomes, to force treatment on pregnant women against their will, and to enforce a certain kind of birth on a woman against her will. I’ve written quite a bit about the examples – frequently referencing a nearly 3 decade long study by National Advocates for Pregnant Women – so I won’t carry on about the examples. You can look here, here, here, here, and here, to read more if you’d like.

Restrictions to abortion are increasing

In 2013, alone, 24 U.S. states enacted 53 anti-choice measures. They included:

  • Bans ranging from an outrageous 6 week ban up to 20 week bans
  • Restrictions on state-funded coverage as well as private insurance coverage of abortion
  • Forced ultrasounds
  • Stringent restrictions on abortion care providers with the intention of making abortion care inaccessible to a good majority of women in some states
  • Mandatory waiting periods

Blocking womanAll of the anti-choice measures serve to act as road blocks to prevent women from being able to access abortion.

They are misogynistic and illogical in the same way that limiting and restricting women’s autonomy and choice surrounding birth are.

Restrictions on who may access care, when they may, or how they may strip women of power over their own bodies, infantilizes them, and furthers the common narrative that someone other than a woman knows what is best for her.

Whose job is it?

We know an average 8th grader could explain the basic stages of cell division and fetal development. Therefore, we can also assume that the average woman should not have trouble with this. When we insist that a woman look at an ultrasound as a compulsory requirement to access an abortion, we assume that she is a moron who quite literally needs a picture drawn of her situation in order to understand. It is the equivalent of rudely grabbing a small child firmly by the cheeks, and yelling, “LOOK! LISTEN UP! Make the RIGHT choice!”

Regulating the details of medical procedures is not the job of the State. Bans, restrictions, and waiting periods enforced by the state come directly between a woman and her provider. If we’re going to get all up in arms about the State legislating access to homebirth midwives – placing VBAC bans, breech bans, and supervision requirements on things they don’t even understand – then we need to also be prepared to see the correlation of the their interference in other health-related decisions.

All health care decisions are most safely evaluated between a woman and her provider when her unique and individual circumstances can be assessed, and when a woman maintains autonomy over her healthcare choices.

Abortion rights and birth rights collide when we remove the scripted rhetoric and look at the obvious commonality. We simply can’t think it’s okay to treat women like unintelligent idiots who need handholding and coercion in their decision-making processes on one end, and yet demand in the same breath that women are intelligent and entitled to full autonomy elsewhere in their pregnancies.

We either believe women are intelligent and capable
and deserve to be autonomous decision-makers
or we don’t.

We either believe women should own birth and the decisions surrounding it
or we don’t.

We either believe that a woman is the most invested person in her health
and that of her baby
or we don’t.

We either want full access to our rights and choices
or we don’t.

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