Abortion Rights & Women’s History Month
Women’s History Month is a great time to reflect on all the achievements women have made throughout human history, as well as remember the battles for equality won over the last century. Now, as legislation across the country seeks to limit or remove reproductive rights for people with uteruses of any gender, it is more important than ever to educate ourselves about why these rights exist and how to protect them.
Understanding Reproductive Rights and Abortion
This article is written by historian of gender Hail Groo. It will help you draw a brief connection between power structures in a capitalist patriarchal society like the United States and the attack on reproductive rights in the 2020s. You’ll also find resources below to further educate yourself and support educators/activists fighting for reproductive rights.
First, it is important to remember that gender roles, patriarchal power in society, and access to reproductive care for people isn’t one linear story to tell. Over thousands of years and around the world, gender equality and concepts of reproductive rights have varied widely.
Why White Men are Afraid of Abortion
To simplify a really large concept, most of what the United States and Europe considers “traditional” ideas of gender, sexuality, and morality were defined by a bunch of rich, Christian, white men in the 1700s and 1800s. These men were “discovering” (aka colonizing) and settling new places in the Americas, Africa, and Asia, at the same time the numbers of literate and middle class people were growing in their home societies.
In a nutshell, these factors created a need to create strict control in society so that wealthy, Christian, white, landowning, elite men could maintain their power in the modern world. When someone refers to “traditional family values,” they are often referring to this type of society.
A country where people with uteruses have full reproductive rights as well as social and legal equity is a threat to the current power and class structure. Therefore, people of any gender, race, or income who identify with and benefit from this type of society will often seek to enforce it.
Why Abortion is Important
So, now you know why people had to fight for centuries to have unrestricted legal access to reproductive health care. As many of you know, in 1973 Roe v. Wade codified the legal access to abortion as federal law in the United States. We won’t go into all the reasons it is important for a person with a uterus to have access to abortions, for that you can see this article by the International Rescue Committee.
The important thing to know is that a person’s right to choose what to do with their internal organs, personal health and safety, and freedom to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” should be universal. Anti-abortion legislation takes personal freedom and autonomy out of the hands of women, often low-income, people of color, and puts it in the hands of random (often white cis men) legislators enforcing morality codes for personal or political reasons.
Why Things are so Messed up Right Now
There are a lot of recent events and reasons the United States is seeing a rise in legislation and attacks on the rights of people with uteruses, people of color, and LGBTQIA2+ people. After decades of improvements in rights, equity, and access to healthcare for all genders, there is a small group of people taking advantage of current unrest to enact legislation that will have permanent and devastating effects on the progress achieved over the last century.
How to Protect Abortion Rights
We are fortunate to still live in a society where the majority believes that people with uteruses should have full and equal access to healthcare, including reproductive healthcare and abortions. However, it is important to actively educate yourself and become involved where you can, even if you live in a state where access to abortion is currently protected.
Please check out these organizations and educators to become more involved in protecting reproductive rights for people with uteruses.
- Buckle Bunnies Fund
- Savannah Sly
- Planned Parenthood
- National Women’s Law Center
- Center for Reproductive Rights
- National Abortion Federation
About The Author:
Hail Groo (they/them) has a M.A. in United States History specializing in the history of gender. Their work focuses on the juxtaposition of environmental history and social structures. You can find more of their work here.
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