No Kidding: Do Women Have the Right to Sterility?
A fairly obvious question that I haven't addressed during this series is whether women have the right to be sterile. It seems like sort of an obvious one (if not with just one obvious answer) until you consider how we frame other discussions about women's health.
Abortions rights advocates (a heterogeneous group, to be sure) sometimes argue that women have a right to abortions in the same way that women have a right to contraception, safety, and a whole host of other rights that are not as universal as we'd like to believe. But between reading some of the comments here and employing a bit of feminist common sense, it's obvious that many women do not have access to the health care that they want and need. Should intentionally childless women who suffer from contraceptive-related side effects be stuck with a bunch of sub-par alternatives for the entirety of their fertile years? Should they have to rely on their male partner's desire for and access to permanent sterilization options? Why isn't more of this stuff routinely covered by health insurance, private and public alike?
It's obviously different, but I was thinking about all of this when I read "Ask an Abortion Provider" on The Hairpin yesterday. The article's author talks about the disconnect many people have about abortion—arguably relevant to issues of childfreedom. She writes, "At the core of it, there's a huge gap between saying 'I had one' and saying 'I do them.' I don't want to alienate people."
Now, I'm not saying having an abortion and not having a child are the same thing; not by a long shot. But both decisions are very much about agency and control over one's own body, the right to make decisions that are best for your life. Both bring up questions of access, financial and logistical. Both can be emotionally fraught under the best of circumstances. In the same way, do you think it all boils down to the same sort of idea, that people say, "I support abortion but I don't want to have one & neither should you," or, "I support women's choices to not have children, but I think you're [insert personal insult related to selfishness or intelligence]"? Both are condescending and use personal judgment as evidence of right and wrong. Neither seems particularly fair or just to me.
For me, this all comes back to that old slogan, "Trust Women." Because if you don't trust women to make up their own minds about their own bodies—to have children, to not have children, to do whatever is necessary to achieve either of those objectives, and to handle the consequences if their choices turned out to be less than ideal later on—then we aren't talking about choice, or rights, or justice, anymore.
Photo via internets_dairy on Flickr
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