January 22, 2006

Where are the women?

I am Blogging for Choice today, the 33rd anniversary of Roe v Wade.

Last Fall, an array of twelve-inch crosses was set up for about 48 hours in the South Quad, one of the frequently-trafficked green areas in the middle of Notre Dame's campus. The array was accompanied by a large painted piece of board, explaining that each cross represented so many thousand abortions performed in the US in the last thirty years -- however many 'babies murdered' since the landmark decision was announced. (It's likely to be up now; check this webcam if it's daytime, and I'll try to get a photo tomorrow.)

But there was no mention of the women who chose to undergo those abortions. Whether you want to think of them as naifs, tragically brainwashed by liberals (that's a third of all American women; no wonder anti-choice types think us feminists have such a stranglehold on the minds of women!), degenerate whores cackling maliciously as the flush away this gift from God, or moral agents who, after weighing their options carefully, are exercising their inherent right to reproductive autonomy, there was at least one full person involved who felt this invasive surgical procedure was for the best. And they simply weren't there, in this faux graveyard. It was as though the crosses mourned children who, magically forming out of midair, were immediately executed.

This isn't surprising, of course. Opponents of choice are precisely that -- opponents of choice. They refuse to admit any sort of moral ambiguity here, the possibility of particular circumstances that require someone intimately involved -- indeed, the only person intimately involved -- to weigh all factors and make up their own mind as responsible individuals.

Behind each cross is so many thousands of stories, intimate little dramas of shame, guilt, love and dreams for the future. Maybe there's a scared teenage girl; or a mother, with three children already, who just can't start over with one more; or a twenty-five-year-old and her husband, anxiously awaiting their new baby until the sonogram turns up debilitating and undescribably painful neurological defects. Stories that vanish twice over: once into two pieces of white wood, stapled together and shoved into the ground by a member of Notre Dame Right to Life as he trades stories of Saturday night conquests with his friends in the chill of a January night; and secondly into the foetus, the bundle of cells given status as the sole object of value whenever it appears as a possibility.

The debate over choice is a debate over the status of women as moral agents, as I've argued before. This is a debate most anti-choice rhetoric refuses to engage in, preferring to disappear the woman and establish a junta of the foetus in her place.

For more Blogging for Choice, I recommend perusing feministblogs.org.

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