When I wrote my master’s thesis, I took a lot of heat for not being feminist enough.  In fact I was charged with having “misplaced priorities,” by the then director of the program.  At the time, this was incredibly painful to me.  I’ve mentioned before that this charge felt like such a betrayal to my activist and very feminist roots beyond academia.   And while I was writing my mater’s thesis I was newly re-married, struggling through the nightmare of a ridiculous custody battle for the ePrince, and at the end of my studies learned that I was pregnant with my second child.  I was writing about Roe v. Wade and experiencing a high-risk gestation.

There is little doubt that my body experiences informed the structure of my argumentation about the feminist movement’s failure to maintain strong ties with women about abortion rights throughout women’s reproductive cycles.  Though this was not the sole argument in my work, it was the most controversial and hotly debated component.  Which to me is so damn unfortunate.  I had hoped to discuss the issue because I think it is a source for invigorated examination and possible cohesion amongst women, like myself, who birth very much wanted babies and the larger activist community addressing reproductive rights.  
In my thesis, I evaluated the paradigm I felt in being pregnant with the ePrince while being a prominent reproductive rights activist.  Those two situations seem to be at odds, but I was very interested in exposing the decisions one makes about having a baby on their own terms and abortion provision while I was embodying the conflict in persona at the same time.  When I was very heavy in pregnancy with the ePrince I continued my volunteer work in escorting patients into abortion clinics past angry protesters.  And again, while nursing the lilEinstein, I was writing about these experiences and defending my position as a feminist scholar.  
I never did get the feeling that my graduate diploma was willingly delivered to me.  And I do not work in the area of reproductive rights now – though the subject and advocacy of women’s reproductive choices continues to be very important to me.  After becoming a mother, there did not seem to be a place for me outside of the medical/clinic environment of reproductive rights work – and I didn’t want to be a doctor/nurse.  More than once in activist circles, I’ve been told that this is “a young woman’s issue.”  I can appreciate that sentiment because the statistics mete a largely young demographic faced with the consequences of an unintended pregnancy, but I think I might have something to bring to the table in regards to the history and experience of feminist activism around reproductive rights concerns.  I was aiming to provide, in my thesis, a more nuanced experientially informed perspective on the topic of abortion.

from NYTMagazine

And then I read this article last week in the New York Times Magazine.  It seems that the first wave of female doctors, providing abortion procedures and reproductive rights services to their patients, are also dealing with the embodiment of the reproductive rights argument themselves.  One doctor has been widely criticized for expressing her feelings in providing an abortion to a woman with the same gestational timeframe of the fetus she was also pregnant with and very much wanted.  The doctor, described the experience as being, “… an overwhelming feeeling – a brutally visceral response – heartfelt and and unmediated by my training and pro-choice politics.”  My point in writing about my personal experiences through my thesis work, was to expose the fallacy that there is no conflict in abortion provisions, even for the very people who strongly believe that abortions should be safe, legal, and available to women who feel that they need them.  Like the conclusion that the doctor and many of her colleagues have come to, I myself continued my activist and academic work in the area of reproductive rights to ensure that women who wanted babies could have them and that women who did not want to rear children could make their own choice.

Many of the initial comments to the NYTimes Magazine story reflected the same sentiments from other mothers, like the following:

July 15th, 2010
1:49 pm
After I had my first child, a friend asked me if my support
for abortion rights has changed. I answered, “absolutely not.” 
The fact that I had the material and emotional means to care
for and love my child is irrelevant to the principle of abortion
rights–that the individuals whose bodies and lives are on the
line should be the ones to determine the course of their
bodies and lives. Now I am expecting my second child,
and that belief stands firm.

Like Sue, the writer of the comment above, I really think we need to expose the material and emotional concerns of would-be mothers to care for and love their children so that those individuals whose bodies and lives are on the line can make fair and informed decisions about whether or not to proceed with a pregnancy.  The division of resources is a factor here, but also the psychological, emotional, and social toll of raising children is a difficult prospect for some women, at some points in their lives.  The parties responsible for the consequences of their decisions to carry a pregnancy to term should be the very parties who are deemed responsible enough to make that decision.  I believe that if more pro-choice mothers, like myself, are given a voice in the feminist or the reproductive rights activist community, the overall societal concern about abortion might be somewhat assuaged.

In addition to mollifying some of the hostility around the issue of abortion, pro-choice mothers have something in common with mothers on the other side of this issue – mothering.  It’s a radical idea that shared burdens/joys of mothering might bring some (though definitely not all!) people together to address best policy practices for the society of young people facing the dilemma of an unintended pregnancy.  This is not a clean solution, or an easy one.  And I am NOT advocating that it be the only source of advocacy around reproductive rights concerns.  However, it might just be one small way in which the pro-choice movement can utilize the resources of women, who also happen to be mothers, in the advocacy community.  In my own advocacy, I had the privilege to lobby for the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances bill because the activists in charge of the lobbying effort with national legislators took one look at my big, fat pregnant belly and thought that my embodiment of wanted-motherhood was a strong image to see.  I had many discussions, late into the night of the bill-vote, with several congressional leaders and feel that I was instrumental in persuading some of them to re-think their positions on the bill after meeting with me and hearing about my advocacy work.  That was a powerful experience and one I think could be re-invigorated within the activist community.
I have a whole slew of related arguments in my master’s thesis, but suffice to say, I’m pretty pleased to see the NYTimes Magazine article.  I also feel somewhat vindicated in my thesis work – as radical as it was 7 years ago!

a bitchin feminista mama at the intersection of political quagmire and real life.

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