Did you read this week that so-called “partial birth abortions” have been banned by the US Supreme Court?
Let’s talk about this a bit. “Partial birth abortion” – sounds grotesque, right? Sounds like pulling a baby half out of the birth canal and slitting its throat or something, right? Or perhaps one might picture a baby in the womb being punctured with a sharp object until it is mutilated into a pulpy mass of half-formed flesh?
Notice the difference in how pro-life/anti-choice folks talk about pregnancy vs. how pro-choicers do. For pro-lifers, pregnant woman are carrying babies, little innocent children, people, persons. For pro-choicers, pregnant women carry fetuses – babies only exist outside the womb. This is, of course, the “medically correct” way to talk about pregnancy. Not that that matters one lick to the pro-lifers. Same goes for the actual terminology used to talk about abortion.
See, the truth is, “partial birth abortions” don’t technically exist. It’s a politically, emotionally charged term for a medically necessary procedure that quite often saves women’s lives. Who do you think came up with the term? Not the doctors who perform it, and not the women who have it done.
So, as per usual, power comes into play in the naming of things, in this case, a medical procedure typically performed on women whose lives are at risk. The religious right strikes again in its ongoing efforts to control women’s bodies and women’s rights, force women to carry fetuses that for one reason or another they do not wish to carry, to punish women for getting pregnant and being such sluts to begin with. Let me tell you, late-term abortions are typically only performed when the woman’s life is in jeopardy, and quite often these women are not aborting fetuses that they don’t want, but fetuses that they very much wish they could continue to carry and give birth to and nurture and raise. Other times, late-term abortions are performed for women who did not discover they were pregnant until very late in their pregnancies, and would have terminated earlier if they had only known.
But this is ultimately irrelevant. Women must be able to decide what to do with and what happens to their own bodies. It doesn’t really matter whether they would have aborted sooner if they could have. It doesn’t really matter if they would really rather give birth to their fetus. What matters is, women have the right to decide what happens to their own bodies, and now the options are more limited. Oh but right, “their bodies aren’t just theirs anymore, once they’re pregnant.” Um, yeah, they are. Women’s bodies are still and are always their own bodies, no matter if they are pregnant or not. Do recall, fetuses are parasites who derive all their nutrients from the bodies of their hosts, and quite often pose to their hosts serious health complications and risks. Any woman carrying a fetus is being generous.
so what we’re talking about with this ban is valuing fetal life over women’s lives. Why? Because “fetuses are innocent” and “women have to live with their decisions and be responsible.” Which translates, contra-positively, to “women are guilty and irresponsible.” Which sounds about right, from the righties. So it’s better to ignore the wishes of the women who don’t want to carry fetuses to term for whatever reason (and whatever reason is a good enough reason for me), and the professional opinions of their treating physicians. Because fetuses are innocent. Never mind the complication of original sin, that’s not important in the context of abortion. Because what we’re talking about is how guilty and sinful women are. Right, righties?
So is this all what abortion law will come down to? Who has the power to name, to define, the terms? It seems that way to me. And it comes as no surprise.
For other perspectives on this decision:
If you read any other posts or articles on this, please leave a comment and I will add the link to this list.
UPDATE: Just found this post this morning over at Huffington. By Jill of Feministe.