Public rights over private parts


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Category: Women Date: 14 Jul 02

This week my attention and that of scores of other people no doubt has been reluctantly drawn towards the female reproductive organs on a poster for an anti-abortion march.


I respect the right of all people, men and women, to have an opinion about the female reproductive organs, but I don’t expect when I enter the women’s locker room in the gym to be assaulted with a decree over not only my womb but that of every child-bearing womb in the world.


That’s private stuff, as private as it gets, up there with what goes on behind your closed bedroom door, journals, contents of your safe, and a visit to your gynecologist.


I don’t need a poster telling me (and every woman who walks in to use the facilities) to go on an anti-abortion march where women who have had abortions will be called ‘murderer’ (that’s millions and millions of women worldwide, thousands here at home).


Women are called too many names too often to cover up for some kind of male insecurity, (bitch, slut, whore) to promote demeaning stereotypes that will ensure they stay in their place, to promulgate hypocritical attitudes towards them. Now they’ve added ‘murderess’.


The female reproductive organs - women’s wombs, are the centre of the abortion issue, attacked by religious righteousness on one side, and defended on the other by women who feel their very human rights are being threatened by people who want to tell them what to do with their bodies.


For now, we will eschew the moral, ethical and scientific argument of whether or not we are talking about a child’s life as opposed to a fertilised egg’s life because an argument based on religious belief or blind faith is pointless.


I don’t want to get into the argument on whose life we are talking about here - the woman who is carrying the foetus in her womb in her own body and will be responsible for a human being for the rest of her life, the owner of the sperm that gave it life, or the foetus’ life, or the anti- abortionists salvation.



We know anti-abortionists are willing to give their lives for foetuses. They are even willing to kill to defend a foetus. Their intentions are honourable. Their hearts are in the right place and I commend them for being ‘pro-life’, because as we all know, life is precious.


But I need to be sure that this isn’t just another way of controlling women by using subjective criteria based on blind faith created by various religions (most of whom invest in male clerics the power of spiritual and moral authority; a supreme irony, since men by their own admission, tend to be the ones to start wars, and commit 99 per cent of violent crimes in all societies), to pass judgment on women who choose to have abortions and doctors who are willing to give them.


I need to be sure the anti-abortionists (who have been passionate enough about their cause in some cases to kill and even die for foetuses) are driven by compassion towards women, rather than a need to berate, judge or convert those who think differently to themselves.


I need to be sure the ‘pro-life’ marchers will empathise with a woman who has conceived by being raped. Would they understand this woman destroyed by the fear and violence of the act of rape would not want to bear the child of her rapist?


Would they understand, too, that young women of childbearing age, even in this era, tend to be at the bottom of the economic heap?


Will the pro-lifer support her child financially, adopt the child if necessary so this victim has a chance at a real lifelong relationship, be there for her when the nightmares strike at 3 am, pay for counselling and help her through the searing lifelong wounds of this experience?


I need to be sure that the ‘pro-life’ marchers will financially support the seventh child of a poor woman whose husband does not have a steady job.  I need to be sure that the ‘pro-life’ marchers will pick up the pieces after a single woman already supporting five children gets pregnant because her birth control device failed.


I want to be sure that ‘pro-lifers’ are tackling the other half of the problem of the pregnant woman who doesn’t want to have a child.


Will they put up posters against men who don’t take precautions, against men who impregnate and run away? Will they call them murderers? The decision to have an abortion is probably the most hauntingly difficult one a woman will ever make in her life. It’s not even a question of being pro-choice, because most women who have abortions feel backed into a corner and don’t have a choice.


If doctors, for whatever reason refused to do abortions there would probably be a lot more dead women from bungled coat hanger attempts.


Until the pro-lifers convince me they are about compassion rather than judgmental, self-righteousness, I will continue to believe every woman has the right to make a decision about her body and her life with her doctor’s help and promulgate the view that women’s wombs are private, and should be left alone.


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur