Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Other Motherhood- When Reproductive Rights Mean More Than Not Wanting To Be Pregnant

There's a post up at Jezebel about a woman who was sterilized against her will when she was 14, after being raped and delivering a child that was conceived during that rape, who is now waiting to find out if the state of North Carolina will finally give her financial compensation for having invaded her body in the most atrocious way possible.

As feminists, we talk a whole hell of a lot about choice, the choice to have an abortion, the choice to use birth control. But there is a huge portion of the feminist community that can't see the otherside of choice. I have heard from declared feminists that "poor women shouldn't have babies they can't afford". Well there goes a majority of the world's population. And the racism, oh the fucking racism. Think about the people who spout "we'll we know the world has too many people". They usually mean too many (brown) people having too many (brown) babies in countries where the resources footprint per capita could fit an entire village into the footprint of one single North American.

While pregnancy doesn't always come at the most opportune times to the most "deserving" (read white, married, educated, employed, insured, middle-class or better straight folks), choosing to parent is a profound act of hope. You have to believe that even if things aren't ideal now, they will get better. You have to take a leap of faith that your own strength will pull you and your child(ren) through. It's not always true that they do get better, but you have to believe it just a little bit to have a wanted child.

And to be one of the undeserving, you have to believe it even harder. No one is running around nagging poor women "when are you gonna start a family?" Instead, as soon as the stick turns blue, people start telling you about your options, abortion or adoption. "Are you going to keep it?" is asked with the slight sneer of condescension, much the same way as someone saying "are you going to eat THAT?" if you were to order a chocolate cake covered in anchovy paste. It is an impossible thing. Can't actually be true. Why would you, oh undeserving woman, think you are capable of motherhood? You, woman with a disability, can't possibly be considering motherhood. You, poor Latina with no real education, can't possibly be considering motherhood. You, 19 year old with a meth junkie boyfriend who refuses to work and just got the car repo'd to buy more drugs, can't possibly be considering motherhood.*

But choose motherhood we do. It's a radical act to choose motherhood when the whole world** wants to spit on you for it. But we make the choice to be hopeful for our own future and the future of our children.

Elaine Riddick was never given that choice. Not when she was raped, not when she was sterilized.

*That'd be me. BTW.

** Whole world meaning the "well meaning" sorts of faux feminists and straight up conservative asshats.

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