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March 3, 2016

Women are More than Vessels.

author's photo - not for re-use (Ari Weaver)

“Well maybe the child shouldn’t have had sex.”

A woman, younger than I, glared and sneered at my sign that read: “TRAP laws have sentenced children to motherhood.”

“Many are cases where the child was sexually assaulted,” I reply to her anger, noting the oxymoron on her sign reading, “Pro-Woman, Pro-Life.” The young woman just looks away.

At the Supreme Court the morning of March 2nd, I joined several hundred pro-choice demonstrators to show our outrage and disbelief against TRAP laws—laws that claim to be “protecting” women but have only just restricted women’s health options and made it much more dangerous to be a woman in certain states.

TRAP laws are Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers, and they include such medically unnecessary laws that the the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) have publicly spoken out about—about how pointless these laws are and how dangerous they are for women seeking health care.

Speaking of the Texas law that imposes impossible building restrictions on many of the clinics in the state, the AMA and ACOG said this law “does not serve the health of women in Texas, but instead jeopardizes women’s health by restricting access to abortion providers.”

One such law was taken to the Supreme Court—HB2—which will close nearly all the health clinics in Texas and has notably forced many women into unsafe situations, humiliation and forced motherhood. In a land where abortion is a legal right to women, how legal is it if women have virtually no access to exercise that right?

The anti-choice lawmakers behind such laws claim that they are “protecting women’s health and safety,” while systematically cutting off said women from access to health care, clinics, and the dignity of their own choices.

As Emily Brazelon stated in her New York Times article last month:

The brief from the medical groups argues damningly that far from protecting women, the Texas law endangers them. By causing clinics to close, and thus forcing women to travel longer distances to have abortions, the law ‘‘has delayed, and in some cases blocked,’’ women’s access to the procedure. ‘‘Both outcomes jeopardize women’s health.’’

This decoy reasoning that women need special protection is merely a paternalistic and condescending guise. Instead of saying, “We don’t like abortion, and we don’t like women having control over their bodies and life decisions”—using the label of “protecting women” sounds a lot better when introducing some highly invasive and medically inaccurate legislation.

After signing Mississippi’s Admitting Privileges Bill in 2013, Governor Phil Bryant said, “Today you see the first step in a movement to […] try and end abortion in Mississippi.” At least he was upfront and honest about the intentions of these laws.

Women have abortions for many different reasons. A woman speaking at the rally at the Supreme Court told the crowd that because there was no way her child would survive the pregnancy, she made the painful decision to end the pregnancy that she had longed wished for. There are various reasons and life situations that women have where abortion is not only the right decision, but it’s also the safest.

When the younger woman sneered at my sign, it demonstrated to me the single-mindedness that permeates the so called “pro-life” movement. Instead of understanding that there are countless different scenarios and situations in which women chose to terminate their pregnancies—reasons that are not any of their business, let alone the state’s—they write off abortion as an absolute evil. Instead of listening to the religious leaders who express support for the right to choose—even citing bible verses for the right to choose—they claim to have the moral high ground.

Forcing women to be humiliated, harassed and coerced is not the moral high ground.

Reducing women to vessels is not the moral high ground.

Denying women bodily autonomy and liberty is not the moral high ground.

It comes down to this—can we respect women as human beings?

Rebecca Gomperts, an extraordinary doctor, helps women across the world find the healthcare and abortion access they need.  In her film, “Vessel,” she states: “It’s about taking…power over one’s life. I don’t think women are so scared to do that actually. It might be that the world is scared of women doing that.”

I must say—I strongly agree.

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Author: Ari Weaver

Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

Photo: Author’s own.

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