Women remain separated from our own self-determination. After all, of a woman is supposed to have control over her body how is it that she cannot determine when and what kind of medical care she needs—including, yes, abortion. What other medical procedure is so heavily, unnecessarily restricted?
According to Michelle Oberman in the New York Times, “recent anti-abortion laws drive up the cost of abortion by closing clinics, forcing women to travel farther, and to wait longer before ending their pregnancies.” The longer women are forced to wait, the better the chance that the time-frame for a legal procedure will have expired, forcing women either to carry to term or resort to an illegal abortion. It’s clear that pregnancy termination is today’s Scarlet Letter, even after decades of activism.
It seems that women are being targeted on multiple fronts, almost as if #MeToo and its power have provoked a vicious backlash. How else to explain the misogyny underlying the made-up immigration crisis on our southern border? Women, and it’s overwhelmingly women, seeking asylum, are separated en masse from their children. Many have already been deported, only to realize too late that their family reunions may never happen.
And now, shockingly, spousal abuse and gender-based violence are no longer an accepted reason for asylum. US Attorney General Sessions recently overruled the case of Aminta Cifuentes, a Guatemalan whose decades of physical and mental abuse by her husband included repeatedly punching her stomach when she was eight months pregnant. The baby was born prematurely, with bruises. Bruises. On a newborn.
It appears that Mr. Sessions acted because once Ms. Cifuentes’ appeal was accepted, large numbers of women applied using the same argument. He refused her asylum to stem the tide.
It’s not hard to see the link between the attacks on a woman’s right to control her own medical care, the separations of asylum-seeking mothers from their children, and the dismissive attitude toward women suffering from abuse at the hands of authority figures: misogyny. The athletes celebrated at the ESPY awards were ignored, some by their own families, for decades, until one policewoman, one lawyer, and one judge – all female – listened to them, and let them share their stories with the world as well as one another.
So I’m asking: Is it time for every one of us who have had an abortion or even thought about having one (which would be lots of us) to speak out the same way victims of harassment are doing? How many of us have gotten unexpectedly pregnant, and thought long and hard about having an abortion—taking into account the total of our lives– our complicated, over-programmed, sleep-deprived lives — and trying to figure out how we would deal with the time off from work, the physical and mental changes that are part of pregnancy, and all its fears?
And which of us will put our own safety on the line to help each other? Where are the female law enforcement professionals on the local, county, and state levels ready to challenge the attacks on a woman’s right to full medical care? Which officer of the law will protect women running from gang rape, drug lords, and battering husbands?
If women’s bodies, and our ability to control them, are under full-scale attack right now, we need to think about how much we’re willing to risk for a future that looks different, and more free.