I’ve been gardening a lot in the month of May. And pulling weeds.
So. Many. Weeds. And none of them the fun kind.
I was struck by how suddenly they appeared. In the space of a few days, my empty flower bed was suddenly full of wild violets, dandelion, creeping charlie, and worse things. Prickly things. Toxic things. Deeply rooted things. Weeds that can grow so powerfully they rip apart concrete.
… also whatever that one plant is that smells like old cum. Ugh. Weeds.
The thing is, they didn’t really appear out of nowhere.
I knew they were coming.
They left their seeds and their taproots behind last autumn. Their seeds stayed quiet and waited for conditions to be right. When the planet tilted in their favor, and the sun shone warmly down on them, and the snowmelt watered them, they began to unfurl, out of sight, under the crust of the earth.
I’ve felt the warm air and stomped through the puddles left by the rain. Even though I can’t see them, I have always known that they were there. I’ve watched my flower beds like one watches a door they know is about to open.
When they finally make their move and show themselves, I am ready.
The recent changes to the state laws of Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Ohio, and Utah regarding abortion and reproductive rights shocked a lot of people. Suddenly, everything was happening everywhere, all at once.
But these new laws didn’t appear out of nowhere.
I knew they were coming. And so did a lot of other people.
A long time coming
The election of Donald Trump in 2016 hit a lot of people as a gut-rending feeling of despair. And there were a smorgasbord of reasons for that, but today we’re going to focus on just one of them: a lot of people with uteruses (uteri?) got really scared about the future of their autonomy.
Demand for IUDs (a long-term birth control) rose by 22% in the weeks following the 2016 presidential election. It’s probably spiking again right now.
Those people know that we are standing on soil that is richly sown with countless evil weeds. Scientific illiteracy—that superstition and misinformation be allowed equal seats at the table with logic and reason. Paternalism—that limiting another person’s choices is benevolent. A strange form of ageism—that idealized hypothetical children deserve priority over living, complicated adults. Moral imperialism—that some feel entitled to impose their personal opinions on others. Erotophobia—that sex merits punishment.
And of course misogyny, that old chestnut.
Criminalizing abortions today requires a conservative Supreme Court. It’s the sunlight and the water that will make these weeds rise and bear fruit:
- People dying from botched abortions
- People dying from pregnancy complications
- Rape victims incubating their trauma
- Children with bellies swollen with responsibilities they aren’t prepared for
- People who’ve miscarried met with criminal suspicion rather than compassion
- Babies dying from medical conditions incompatible with life
- Families bankrupting themselves on ill-timed children
- Children who aren’t given the resources they need and deserve
- Human beings used like livestock for breeding
The worst part is that none of this suffering even accomplishes the stated goal. Legal or not, the abortion rate stays flat regardless.
Wealthy women will be able to dodge this by traveling or choosing to relocate to a friendlier state. Poor women will not. And it will lead to wider wealth gaps, higher crime rates, greater reliance on social safety nets, and the continued degradation ofwages and workers’ rights.
The average American child costs a quarter million dollars before age eighteen. The idea that any person or family should be forced to make such a financial commitment—or several such commitments—for something they don’t passionately want is fundamentally repugnant to us.
We mostly write about money and careers on Bitches Get Riches. It’s not because we love them so much we wanna kiss ‘em on the mouth. It’s because in the society that we have today, money and careers are the best tools we have to attain complete independence and autonomy.
We believe that each individual is an expert in their own happiness. And given a modest level of financial stability, people will have the freedom to make the choices that make their lives feel deliciously worth living.
Limiting abortion access—much less criminalizing it—stands in direct opposition to these values.
So what do we do? How do we stop this endless cycle? We propose two things.
The short term
We’re proceeding with the understanding that limiting reproductive rights—particularly access to safe and legal abortion—is not only bad for individual people, but bad for public health and gender equality. These things are not up for debate. (Literally, we will not debate you. Because you are wrong. See McFall v. Shimp and Planned Parenthood v. Casey if you’re curious as to why.)
What’s left to discuss is how best to protect reproductive rights and their access for all Americans.
In the short term, we must weed. Anyone who values the dignity of human life, of happiness, of personal sovereignty needs to get down on their hands and knees and rip this shit up root and stem. Here’s how.
- Stop framing this fight a women’s issue. It reinforces the idea that women are solely responsible for sex, pregnancy, and childrearing. Twice as many sterilizations are performed on women as vasectomies are on men, even though the vasectomy is less invasive, dangerous, and costly. Issues exclusive to women are easy for men to tune out—and this conversation most definitely includes them and needs them.
- Don’t leave people out. Abortion access touches race, class, and gender. Avoid reinforcing a gender binary that excludes trans and nonbinary folks. (Although I’ll still use the terms women and men sometimes, just “people” is better.) Remember that poverty and systemic racism make abortion access more difficult for some people than others, and give space for those voices. You may be “safe” for now based on your circumstances, but that doesn’t mean you get to sit on the sidelines.
- Don’t replicate efforts. Abortion is still legal in all fifty states, and that is solely due to the efforts of persistent people with serious expertise, dedication, and resources. Don’t go out and try to start your own thing—be humble and join up.
- Don’t spread hysteria or misinformation. Science always matters, but in issues related to the intersection of anatomy and ethics, it’s especially important to be accurate. Hold yourself to a high standard. Don’t waste time honoring bad faith arguments. Don’t share shit that’s not accurate and helpful.
- Donate time and money to established organizations that are already doing good work. These are the ones I’ve heard good things about (please add more in the comments):
- Planned Parenthood (although not present in all states, it has incredible reach)
- Abortion Care Network (helps independent clinic providers in all fifty states)
- National Network of Abortion Funds (removes financial and logistical barriers to abortion access)
- SisterSong (a reproductive justice collective for women of color)
- Emily’s List (a national political action committee that works to elect pro-choice, female, Democratic candidates for every level of government)
- Fucking vote. Presidential elections are important—but if it’s the only one you vote in, you’re part of the problem.
This list was greatly informed by several excellent reproductive justice advocates on social media. The comments section is wide open for more thoughts, suggestions, and resources.
The long term
Allow me to return to my tortured seed metaphor. The long game is to get those seeds out of the ground, ya? Crises like this come from hatred, disrespect, misunderstanding, and ignorance. Systemic inequality supports those evils and lengthens their lifespan in our culture.
So many issues touch reproductive freedom. If you’re passionate or knowledgeable about some interrelated issue, keep at it. You are working to positively change the culture, and that is the ultimate long-term goal.
Henry VIII chopped off six wife heads to get the male heir he wanted in the fifteenth century. (I know he didn’t behead them all, don’t @ me.) It’s only as of 2013 that Britain changed their laws to do away with this preference for male heirs. It wasn’t the arbitrary, altruistic epiphany of one powerful person. The change was made necessary when the culture around the law had transformed to the point of demanding it. Scientists and artists and educators and economists changed the culture, piece by piece, until the shitty idea just didn’t fit anywhere anymore.
(Just don’t ask me why they’ve still got a monarchy at all. As far as I can tell, it’s to give tabloids something to do. But my president was elected by the Electoral College, so who am I to throw stones at the glass houses of the good people of Britain? Love your clotted cream, it definitely goes on top, Cornish ’til I die.)
Issues like healthcare, housing, childcare, schools, pay gaps, workers’ rights, and representation all touch issues related to reproductive justice. Make progress in any one of them, and you erode the space left for sexist, racist, classist ideas to grow.
That’s why we run this blog! We want to share the wisdom that makes lives better. The choice of what to do with that life is yours and yours alone.
We really haven’t written much about the intersection of money and reproductive health (well, there is our classic Blood Money: Surviving Your Period While Poor). We’re gonna fix that! So please expect more in the future.
We would love to hear some future topic requests. And if you have additional resources that might be helpful to our readers, especially those in affected states, please leave them in the comments below! We’re always blown away by the collective knowledge of the Bitch Nation.
If you’re a hater, move the fuck along.
This is our website, not a public fucking square. We do not have a quota of man on the street interviews to fill. We moderate comments with shameless despotic glee. So if you came here to sprinkle some “different perspective” fairy dust, save your eBreath. We will trundle your comment into a mine cart and send it flying into the darkest chasm of Khazad-dûm.
This blog is a resource for people who need more stability, confidence, freedom, and choices in their lives. To that end, safe, local, legal, affordable abortions and contraception are a non-negotiable cornerstone.