Derecho al aborto libre y seguro Monica Rivero
Ilustración: Matria.

Six distractions in the abortion debate

Women are revictimized in the debate on the voluntary interruption of pregnancy: their freedom, their voice, their will, are not usually at the center of the discussion, even when their body is the territory in dispute.

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Since the United States Supreme Court revoked the constitutional recognition of the abortion as a right on June 24, the debate has not stopped.

The half-century setback represented by the annulment of Roe v. Wade has brought back into focus the typical arguments in this discussion. The controversy in the media and social networks has religious, ethical, medical, economic, health and even philosophical approaches.

While in the United States the concern about access to contraceptives begins; while thousands of women delete their menstrual tracking apps for fear of surveillance and persecution, and others, already pregnant, saw their appointments canceled unexpectedly, again – this time in the abortion debate – women are re-victimized: their freedom, their voice, their will, are not usually at the center of the discussion. Instead, answers are sought away from women as subjects with autonomy over their bodies.

1. «Life does not begin in the womb»

Whether or not it starts at that particular time is irrelevant in the face of the pregnant’s rights.

Even among many of those who defend the right to choose, there are often attempts to establish when life begins, when individuality begins, who is and who is not a bearer of rights, what is developed in the womb from the point of view of law, politics, medicine, faith… But the question of life supposes an unstable ground in which firm consensus is hardly reached.

Except for medical and legal purposes, it is useless to try to establish the relevance of each phase of embryonic development; nor at what point the combination of cells is an individual, a life, a soul, a spirit or any other of the definitions that are being heard and read. It is a doomed attempt; it depends on each one’s morality, religion, cosmovision; it is not useful to policy making or legislation. And there is a way out: it is enough to focus on the woman instead of insisting on defining what is that she carries.

The legitimacy of abortion is not subject to whether we are talking about a baby or not, a fetus, an embryo, X, the new Messiah… Life and the rights of women precede. There is no such thing as a life more sacred or important than others. If a child depends on an organ to live, no one will be forced to donate theirs, regardless of any moral pressure: they will not be forced, there is no ethical basis to do so. No one can be forced to even donate blood. Why do so many believe a woman can be forced to have a child, an extreme change in her body, her psyche and her life; that entails risks that she alone must assume in absolute freedom to choose?

The body is the territory in dispute. Canceling the right to abort is a matter of control, it’s an invasion, it’s denying the other person. Women are taken as containers, incubators, just like any object deprived of voice and autonomy. Women are being given less prerogatives than those given to a minor, or a corpse! (not even post-mortem is it possible to use a person’s organs without explicitly stated permission given in life).

2. «Abortion is justified in case of health issues»

It is a matter of health, but not only physical but also mental; and above all, it is about autonomy. Reproductive health complications are not a condition for abortion to be legitimate. Even if a woman has a perfectly viable pregnancy, she has the right to interrupt it if it is her will. It is not necessary for the pregnancy to be unviable or for the person to have a disease for an abortion to be permissible or more legitimate. Nor is it necessary to have suffered abuse or rape, have financial problems, have other children or any other reason. It is enough that there is a pregnancy. The will is enough. From that point, the circumstances in each case may add urgency or obligation but they are never sine qua non.

No one should have to explain their decision to abort. It is always a private, unquestionable choice that deserves respect and discretion.

3. «My body, my decision» in the face of COVID-19

The forced comparison between the right to interrupt a pregnancy and the need to apply anti-COVID vaccines reemerges. Anti-vax groups stole the slogan of the pro-choice campaign. But having a child is not comparable to being immunized against a disease. In addition, abortion has individual and family private effects. The contagion of a disease does not, especially if it has become a pandemic as is the case.

4. «If your mom had aborted you, you wouldn’t be here.»

It is the preferred «argument» of the pro-birth, who mistakenly called themselves pro-life (the life of the pregnant person is irrelevant to them and the child is only of interest while it is in the womb) against anyone who defends the guarantees to decide. They say that those of us who were born enjoyed the right to be born. Just that being born is not a right.

No life (certainly that of any of us either) deserves the sacrifice of the autonomy of anyone over their bodies and their own lives. Let only those who want to be a mother be a mother. Forced motherhood is a crime; it appears on the United Nations list of «crimes against humanity» in the sexual violence section. Other international protocols also recognize it as such.

How can you be pro-choice as a mother? Having chosen to be a mother and wishing that everyone enjoys the same right.

5. «A pregnancy can always be prevented»

Pro-choice detractos consider this among their Aces: «pregnancy is not inevitable.» Fake. They suggest that every pregnancy is caused whether voluntarily or irresponsibly, when there’s more to that. With a stroke of the pen they get rid of:

  • rapes, inside and outside the couple;
  • the fact that there is no infallible contraceptive method;
  • the fact that contraceptives are not universally accessible;
  • the fact that sex education is not available to each and every girl and woman in the world; probably not even for the most part of them;
  • the high number of men who reject contraceptives;
  • the accidents; the number of situations in which you can get pregnant despite having tried to prevent it.

The conditions mentioned, separately or in convergence, do not imply isolated or minority cases; they affect millions of people around the world. Just to talk about rape in one country, let’s review the United States: the average is one episode every 1-2 minutes.

6. «What about the father’s right to decide?»

The father does not get pregnant, does not give birth, does not breastfeed. His life is not put at risk in any way. He can materially have dozens of children at a time; he can have children even after death or while he is literally off planet. Just as no one should be forced to be a father, who does want to, depends on the desire of who should become pregnant, give birth, breastfeed and raise a child. His voice is not above or even on par in this regard.

«My body, my decision» is the argument, and it’s very simple.

Mónica Rivero

Fundadora y editora en Matria. Licenciada en Periodismo por la Universidad de La Habana (2012). Editora de OnCuba News (2016-2019) y elTOQUE (2021-2022). Fundadora de Revista Late. Humphrey Fellow en la Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications, ASU. Autora del libro "Por todo espacio, por este tiempo. Con Silvio Rodríguez en barrios de La Habana" (2014).

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