Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Women Need Choice by C.K. Kelly Martin

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When Reviewer X asked if I’d be interested in writing about reproductive choice as a human right I was glad for the chance to revisit the topic on her blog. Below is a revised version of my Blog For Choice Day 2008 entry. Thanks, Steph, for giving me the forum to address this very important issue.

Steph: Um, C.K.? You're the one who did me the favor :) For those interested, here's a link to C.K.'s archived entry.

Women Need Choice
by C.K. Kelly Martin, author of I Know It's Over

My young adult novel, I Know It’s Over, tells the story of sixteen-year-old Nick, who learns on Christmas Eve that his ex-girlfriend Sasha is pregnant. He’s panicked and has certain feelings about how they should react to the situation. Those feelings evolve during the course of the novel but when it comes down to it, the choice isn’t his to make – it’s Sasha’s.

This is a choice that women in many countries don’t legally hold but a choice they insist on exercising regardless. Legally or illegally. Safely or unsafely. Their bodies. Their choice. A report by the Guttmacher Institute and World Health Organization published in 2007 studied worldwide abortion trends from 1995 to 2003. It found that abortion rates are almost identical in developed and developing regions of the world, but that “abortion is generally safe where it is broadly legal and mostly unsafe where restricted.” Globally almost half of abortions are unsafe, resulting in the deaths of 70,000 women each year. A further five million suffer permanent or temporary injury.

With a lack of options at hand, women will do their best to create them, despite the risks. Don’t they deserve choice without risking personal harm?

According to Guttmacher Institute data the majority of American women (61%) who have abortions already have children (1). Almost half of pregnancies among U.S. women are unintended and four out of ten choose not to continue the pregnancy (2). One in three American women will have had an abortion by the age of forty-five (3).

Unwanted pregnancy isn’t rare. It’s something that touches all of our lives, whether we’re aware of it or not. It happens to our friends, our mothers, ourselves, and I have faith in women and girls to know what's best for them, whether that's terminating an unplanned pregnancy, raising a child or giving a baby up for adoption. Anyone who thinks the choice is easy hasn't sat with an anguished friend (or daughter, sister, wife or girlfriend) as they struggled to make that decision.

Who are you or I to tell any woman what's in her best interest? What freedom does she have without the core right of bodily integrity? Yet many governments feel this most personal decision isn't one a woman should have. Several countries that consider themselves democracies have tried to curtail choice or cut if off completely. In the United States many individual states have severely restricted access to abortion procedures. In Canada, a country which currently has no criminal law restricting abortion, the province of Prince Edward Island refuses to provide any abortion services, meaning women must travel to neighboring provinces for procedures. Abortion is legal in New Zealand, but only if two certifying consultants agree that a pregnancy will either physically or psychologically endanger a woman's health.

Ireland has even less regard for its female citizens' ability to make decisions about their own bodies. Abortion is illegal even in cases of threatened suicide and only permitted when a woman's life is threatened by grievous medical risk. This has resulted in a steady stream of Irish women (approximately 7,000 a year, the majority of whom are married and already have children) traveling to Great Britain for abortions.

I believe Irish women shouldn't have to travel to exercise choice. I don't believe women anywhere should be subjected to unsafe, possibly fatal abortions because you or I may not agree with their choice to terminate. On this side of the Atlantic, I hope we never see Roe v. Wade overturned or watch Canada abolish legal abortion but we can't afford to be complacent and assume this will never happen. We saw how reproductive health options in the United States narrowed under George Bush’s government as he loaded the supreme court with anti-choice judges; championed abstinence only education which keeps young people in the dark concerning accurate information about preventing pregnancy and avoiding sexually transmitted infections; and reinstated the Global Gag Rule which blocks access to birth control to thousands of women around the world. At home 87% of all U.S. counties have no identifiable abortion provider.

But choice isn’t just about access to safe, legal abortions. It’s about health, information and real options, and it’s of the utmost importance that we vote in governments that support all of these and that we continue to call attention to these issues and don’t allow them to fall through the cracks. We need to vote for and hold to account governments that will support the wide availability of emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy, comprehensive sex education (we already know the abstinence only variety doesn't work!), committed anti-violence (a 2007 study found that that a quarter of teenage girls with histories of abusive relationships said that their abusive partners had “tried to get them pregnant by manipulating condom use, sabotaging birth control, and making explicit statements about wanting them to become pregnant.”) and anti-poverty strategies and access to affordable contraception and medical treatment for all women. We need to lobby for changes that will ensure the minimum amount of women possible suffer unwanted pregnancies and that every woman who wishes to keep her baby will be assured of good health care and not be condemned to poverty by her choice.

And in the inevitable event that women suffer unwanted pregnancies despite the implementation of the above safeguards (because the reproductive years are long, mistakes happen and sometimes sexual assault denies women a choice) we need to allow women access to safe abortions, not punish them by forcing them to have unwanted children or in effect push them into back alley procedures.

Criminalizing abortion doesn’t stop it but it does place women’s well-being – and sometimes their very lives – at risk. We don’t have to feel that we’d make the same choice about a pregnancy as someone else to support a woman’s right to choose. With what’s at stake how can we possibly afford not to support choice?

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Thanks, C.K.! To find out more about C.K. Kelly Martin, visit http://CKKellyMartin.com. To find out more about I Know It's Over, go to its page on C.K.'s site or view my (very, very bad) review. (For those interested in politics, check out C.K.'s blog. She's awesome that way.)

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Girl Week is a week-long event here on the blog celebrating strong YA heroines and feminism. Find out more about it here.

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31 comments:

A.S. King said...

This is phenomenal. Kudos for every word of this piece, CK.

Liv said...

This is put beautifully. I have a very strong stance on abortion; pro-choice. I don't think anyone has the authority to judge a woman's motives or choices for having an abortion. I believe it should be legal everywhere so we don't subject women to harmful illegal operations or unwanted pregnancies. We NEED to have choice.
Thanks so much CK!

ali :) said...

This was amazing! I don't necessarily agree with abortion in all cases, but, the right to choose is so very important. It's such a shame that we have societies which continue to undermine or devalue/disrespect this basic right to choose. Amazing post, CK, and thanks for sharing your thoughts here!

Sarahbear9789 said...

Great piece, It was written very well.

Vanessa (whatvanessareads.wordpress.com) said...

This is pretty darn amazing. Thanks for putting in your opinion. I believe in pro-choice also (what Liv said is pretty much what went through my mind).

Alea said...

It irkes me to the extreme when anyone things they should be able to make a choice for someone else- it's not their business. Great information in this post!

Diana Dang said...

That is a great topic. Abortion is one of the most controversially debated topics ever since it came to view.

carmen alexis said...

I think you raise great perspective into this really controversial subject. The matter of choices is only the beginning to the actual health and lives of the woman involved. This has made me more curious about the novel.
Thanks for this great guest blog. =)

jocelyn said...

FANTASTIC post. Important issue specifically, and choice is always important in general.

Kimberly Derting said...

As the mother of two daughters, I wouldn't want anyone making that kind of personal decision for them. That's why it's called a "personal decision".

girljordyn said...

I respectfully yet wholeheartedly disagree.

Reader Rabbit said...

Great post, I think it's an really important choice that should be available for all women no matter where they are or how they got into that situation.

Girljordyn: Why do you feel that way?

Rowena said...

Interesting post, it's made me really curious to read the book. Great guest blog, especially since it covers such a controversial topic.

ali said...

I don't mean to start any large discussion on the topic, but, girljordyn, what do you disagree with and why? It's just always so great to hear other opinions. :)

girljordyn said...

I'm (strongly) pro-life and I don't believe that any person, male or female, should have the right to take the life of another. A fetus is still a life and is still human even though it is not yet born, and we should NOT have the choice to take their right to life away and call it "reproductive rights." Though I personally believe in abstaining from sex until marriage I realize that the grand majority of people do not and I believe that young women and men should be well-informed about sex (abstinence-only education does NOT work because it's unrealistic and idealistic in today's society) and that birth control should be available and used.

ali said...

Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, girljordyn! I really do appreciate it! I'm pro-life as well (and agree with a lot of what you said), but, at the same time, I've very pro-choice, as I know that my opinions and decisions may not be the ones that others may necessarily agree with or make. Thank you again for answering! :)

Madison said...

Agreed agreed agreed and it scares me that people don't.

I'm pro-life technically. I mean, who isn't? I'm certainly not pro-death and far from being pro-abortion. But like I can't imagine abortion being illegal.

I like having the choice. Just because I wouldn't have an abortion doesn't mean that I want that freedom to be taken away. Because I wholeheartedly believe that as long as the fetus cannot survive outside the mother's womb, it is part of the mother's body.

And it's just not my decision to regulate what another woman can do with her life.

I don't like abortion. I really don't see how anyone can. But I believe that it should always be an option. I think that making it illegal would be much much worse. Abortion will still happen, and I do believe that the mother's life is more important than the unwanted fetus's.

Alea said...

Well put Madison!

girljordyn said...

I think... I THINK.. if you're pro-life but you still think we should have the option or choice of abortion.... then you're actually pro-choice. This doesn't mean you're pro-death or pro-abortion, of course, but it DOES mean that you're not on the pro-life side of the issue.

Steph said...

Technicality. I think we all understood what Madison meant :)

girljordyn said...

Okay, true, it's just a technicality. But it's also an important distinction, I think, if you're going to have a discussion about abortion and choice.

Steph said...

Touché. (But still - technicality :P)

I'm curious though. Say the woman was raped and doesn't want the baby? Or if it was a high-risk pregnancy?

Steph

Alea said...

There is a great episode of the show, 30 Days in Season 2 where a pro-choice woman visits a pro-life place where people life. Bad description on my part but the episode is really great! Ok this is what imdb.com says "A pro-choice woman lives in a pro-life maternity home run by a pastor and his wife." It's on dvd if anyone is interested!

Saundra Mitchell said...

Thank you for this. Beautifully put.

girljordyn said...

I would go so far as to say that the only time abortion would be acceptable is if you have to make a choice between the mother's life and the child's life. That may be extreme to some people, but taking the life of another IS extreme, and has to be considered as such.

Anonymous said...

i'm very pro-life but you did a very good job on this post and raised some interesting points. but i still say that abortion is wrong, unless it puts the womens life in SERIOUS risk (like going to positivly apsolutly die because of the pregnacy), because if you think about it every pregnacy is a risk for the women's health. and because taking a life, even a unborn baby's life is murder

Alea said...

You know, I don't even know where i stand on this issue completely since I've never had to make that choice myself. My whole thing is, no matter the issue, each person should be able to make their own choices based on their own values. People shouldn't have their choices taken away from them just because someone else believes differently than them.

Shooting Stars Mag said...

I don't know what you'd say I am...I guess for ME, I'm pro-life. I couldn't have an abortion. I do believe it's a child and it's not their fault if your pregnancy was a mistake.

however, it is a girls' body and I won't condemnt them or look down on them if they DO have one. everyone has a different reason.

-Lauren

Shalonda said...

I totally agree with CK on this one. While I don't think I could ever have an abortion, I can't imagine carrying the child of a rapist for nine months. I can't imagine finding out that my child and I could die if I carry a pregnancy out to term. That's why I agree that every woman should be given a choice.

Just Listen said...

I had to do a debate about abortions earlier in the year (I was pro-choice). I really wish that I could have read this because it had LOTS of information that would have been very useful.

I agree with C.K about this. Every woman deserves the right to choose whether they have a child or not. Not allowing a woman to choose takes away one of her rights. If I were to be put in this particular situation, I don't know what I'd do. I would like all the options availiable to me so that I could make the right choice for me, the baby and the people around me.

:)

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Hey! For some reason, this embedded comment form makes most people click twice before the comment is processed and published. It's not you - it's just that it's a new Blogger feature with kinks and all that. (But I adore it and don't wanna get rid of it!) I removed Captcha to make the process easier. You don't have to rewrite the comments twice; just click on SUBMIT twice and it should work. If not, email me. Thanks! -Steph