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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Early Feminists & Reducing Abortion Today

A contribution to the new On Common Ground section of RHRealityCheck:


What the First Wave of Feminism Can Teach the First Wave of Common Ground

6 comments:

ockraz said...

I just found your article on RHRC. I'm a bit surprised that they let you put it there (even if it was on Common Ground). I wasn't surprised that the womensenews link got thrown up there pretty quickly in comments. I have a question for you. Do you know if there are clinics which provide reproductive health care to the poor but do not provide abortion? When my pro-choice friends defend public funding for Planned Parenthood because of the work which it does that I approve of, I always wonder if there are other alternatives.

Marysia said...

You are talking about alternatives in the US? Many Catholic facilities provide excellent reproductive health services *after* conception has occurred.

They also offer instruction in fertility awareness/natural family planning for those who are interested.

A good crisis pregnancy center can help pregnant women find good, free-to-affordable health services in or near her community.

For people in the US who want the full range of prevention methods, you can search here for health facilities that receive Title X funding (the federal program to help low income people access family planning:

http://www.opaclearinghouse.org/search/index.asp


Some criticize Title X for funding Planned Parenthood clinics. However, by law, Title X funds cannot be used for abortion.

Fully 86% of facilities receiving Title X money are *not* Planned Parenthood affiliates. Many are state and local health departments, or tribal health clinics.

In other countries, especially the poorer countries, UNFPA is a large provider of family planning. By policy it does not promote abortion.

http://www.unfpa.org

ockraz said...

I just saw that you're linked to (and from) Turn the Clock Forward. Are you a friend of Jen's?

The reason that I asked about non-PP reproductive health services was that I think that there is some merit to the 'fungibility' argument that pro-lifers use about funding groups that perform abortion. Unless the funds pay ONLY for contraception (rather than excluding funding of abortion) then the money can be used for "infrastructure" costs which support both providing contraception and providing abortion. That is an indirect way of supporting the latter, and arguably not all that significant, but it can be a legitimate ethical concern, IMO.

I was wondering what would have happened if Mike Pence had been successful in 'de-funding' PP. Would other groups have been able to take up the slack in providing contraceptives to the poor?

Also, I was speculating with a friend of mine about something that I'd like to hear your thoughts on (since you've done so much research on the first wave and abortion). My thought was that prior to the time when "the pill" became available, control over pregnancy was mostly just a matter of abstaining from sex, contraception that required the cooperation of men, or abortion.

Now, I may be wrong- I don't know when diaphragms became easy to get, and I may be overestimating men's reticence to cooperate.

If I'm not wrong, then I wonder how much the link between ideologies focusing on 'empowering women' and 'abortion rights' are merely a historical accident. In other words, if women could have had the ability to control conception long ago, then perhaps the first wave attitude about abortion would have become dominant. Roe came along (from a historical perspective) not too long after Griswold and U.S. approval of oral contraceptives. ('73, '68, '60) It all occurred under the leadership (more or less) of a single generation of women over the feminist movement.

What I speculated was this: if there had been a generation which had the benefits of Griswold and oral contraception, but which had not established a constitutional right to abortion, then the abortion rights movement might have lost much of its momentum. If a generation of women who had control of contraception continued to debate over abortion, then pro-life views could have had the time to flourish within a feminist community that had not come of age associating a lack of abortion access with an inability to control pregnancy. I'm not saying that the pro-life side would have overtaken the pro-choice side, of course- but to me it seems quite possible that those who associated being pro-life with the values of compassion, non-violence, the dignity of human life, etc. could have become powerful enough to keep the pro-choice position from being inextricably linked with 2nd wave feminism (and being almost the the sine qua non of 3rd wave feminism).

I'd very eager to know what you think as you obviously have greater insight than I into the history of feminism (and what it means to be a feminist), and I'm just speculating wildly.

Marysia said...

Yes, Jen & I go way back.

As for the "fungibility" argument, here is a prochoice response that, I think, has merit. Especially since many of the antiabortionists who cry "fungible!" also oppose contraception.

http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/tgr/01/3/gr010301.html

Planned Parenthood is indeed one of the largest providers of contraception in the US & I wonder how many abortions would be caused by its total defunding,instead of simply defunding its abortion component, which, however troubling, is actually a quite small portion of its operations.

After all when the US government defunded UNFPA (an organization that does *not* offer or promote abortion by the way) look how many millions of abortions *that* caused.

Your speculations about history are very interesting. It is true that people in the US became very conscious of effective contraception & gained easier access to it with the advent of the Pill.

But if people had listened more to early feminists & taken their views to heart, I suspect this shift in conaciousness probably would have happened much sooner, as early as the 19th century. And it would have remained tied to an antiabortion ethos.

Early feminists argued for fertility control & abortion prevention through abstinence, which was quite the radical demand in an era that did not recognize marital rape as wrongdoing.

But some also argued for the available methods of contraception, such as condoms & early versions of diaphragms, which could be effective.

Condoms were invented in the 1600s & their mass production was made possible in the 19th century by the invention of vulcanized rubber. Diaphraghms were used in the world's 1st birth control clinic, run in Holland by Dr. Aletta Jacobs. Margaret Sanger observed & adopted this approach, with accompanying spermicides, in her own chain of clinics, which became Planned Parenthood.

But there's no telling what might have been. The task now is to transform feminism to include the last group of human beings it often leaves out, contrary to its ever improving record of inclusion.

ockraz said...

Jen seems really cool :) I found her when I went to the Pro-Life Non-Believers forum at Atheist Nexus.

I hadn't realized that diaphragms had been around for so long. That certainly undercuts my hypothesis that being pro-life might have spread if women hadn't been dependent upon men's cooperation for birth control.

Incidentally, is it true that Sanger was pro-life? I've heard that she was, but it struck me as unlikely. If it was just worry over the safety of abortion before they were done with suction, then I'd believe that- but that wouldn't really count be 'pro-life'.

PS: I'm wondering how big a story the Puillon killing will be.

Marysia said...

Jen is one of my favorite prolifers.

Sanger was indeed concerned about the dangers that abortion oprocedures posed to women, including trauma. But she also expressed an awareness of abortion as prenatal lifetaking.

She was propelled into birth control activism because she saw women suffer and die needlessly from abortion for lack of basic prevention means. However, she never advocated a right to abortion as such except for in one pamphlet, early in her career, & then only very early procedures. She later changed her mind on this.

Haven't heard much about the Puillon killing. I hope this doesn't become a petty shouting match over whose martyrs get the most attention. I hope it becomes a reciprocal awareness that killing solves nothing.