Are we inadvertently feeding the anti-abortion monster?

Content note: this post discusses abortion, forced pregnancy and rape

As the USA slides ever-closer into fascism, states are functionally outlawing abortion. There’s resistance, thank goodness, it’s not passing by unremarked. But as with every time abortion bans rear their ugly head, many of us find ourselves falling into a trap: we begin to say “but what if someone is forced to carry an unviable pregnancy?” “But what if a woman was raped?” “But what if being pregnant causes enormous health problems?”

I’ve fallen into this trap myself, too many times.

We never say “But what if someone decided they just don’t want a kid?”

And why would we? There’s nothing emotive about someone who finds themselves knocked up and doesn’t want to spend nine months with swollen ankles only to find themselves saddled with stress incontinence, stretch marks and a screaming brat. A lot of people resent that figure. That person is a bitch. We don’t raise the example of a non-binary person or a man whose dysphoria is exacerbated by pregnancy: that shit’s too complicated. So we favour the ones who sound innocent. It feels comfier making the argument.

A lot of it is internalised patriarchal bullshit, because we’re all carrying it around with us, and we find ourselves projecting it onto those vile womb-botherers, trying to come up with examples that maybe, just maybe, they’ll relate to.

We are all missing the point entirely when we bring up our most emotive, most innocent examples to try to explain why the unforgivable things that are happening are dangerous and terrible. Our point should not be that some good people will be harmed. The only reason anyone should need to give to access an abortion is “I do not want this embryo or foetus inside me.”

It’s not an argument about whether a young rape survivor deserves to be harmed. It’s an argument about basic bodily autonomy. Should you be forced to be a meaty incubator just because you have the internal gubbins to function that way? Of course not. Some people think we should, and they’re scary as fuck, and you know what? We can’t reason with them, no matter how emotive our examples may be, because at their core, most of them believe we’re skin draped around a reproductive tract.

Perhaps some can be swayed, and that’s even scarier. Imagine, for a moment, that you hit the mark. The governor of Georgia blinks in shock and says “Shit, of course abortion should be legal if someone’s been raped!” How would that be enforced? If you can think of a not-completely-horrifying way that a rape survivor could access abortion while stopping everyone else from accessing it, you deserve a Hugo for your incredible eye for fantasy. It would require so much invasive and traumatic testing – and considering how invasive and traumatic a criminal investigation of rape is anyway, and with so little chance of a successful prosecution, functionally all you’ve gained is some additional invasion and trauma.

This is the risk we run when we begin throwing around some situations where it feels most like an exception should be made. We can’t means-test bodily autonomy, and we mustn’t.

More than five years ago, I wrote this manifesto for the demands we must be making, taking the proactive fight to the disgusting creeps who think our uteruses are their business. We need to do this. We need to look at that Overton window and chuck a fucking brick through it. We need to insist on abortion access centred around bodily autonomy: if you don’t want that embryo or foetus inside you, you must have the right to end that pregnancy safely and legally.

As well as this, we need to support those who need support to access a safe, legal abortion if they’re banned from it. In the UK, consider supporting the Abortion Support Network, who help people from Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man, Malta and Gibraltar travel to access legal abortion. Yes, a reminder that one of the countries in the UK actually has harsher abortion law than Georgia or Alabama’s. If you’re aware of groups providing support in other countries, please leave a comment.

We all need to fight this together, and we all need to support each other. Let’s not cede ground just to try to win an argument.

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