Thursday, November 17, 2005

reproductive justice for all the privileged

Via my favourite blog (well, one of 'em), mediagirl, I found this account of reproductive INjustice, posted to Revolution Online a few months ago.

It's a perfect example of how, even in a country where abortion is still technically legal, where all citizens theoretically have equal reproductive rights, there are still huge, huge disparities exist between the opportunities of a middle/upper class white woman to terminate her pregnancy and the opportunities of a lower-income and/or minority woman to terminate her pregnancy.

In this specific case:
"Last October, Gabriela Flores [a young immigrant woman working for $150/week in the fields in South Carolina] ended her 16-week pregnancy by taking misoprostol pills sent by her sister from Mexico. She had no choice but to risk her life by taking illegally imported drugs, without any doctor's supervision, because although abortion is technically legal in South Carolina, in Gabriela's situation it may as well have been illegal."

The reasons for this de facto illegality?
Why, every little thing the anti-choice movement has been pushing onto and through the agenda for years.
"South Carolina laws force women to get permission from their husbands, listen to biased anti-abortion "counseling" riddled with misinformation, and to undergo a mandatory waiting period. And abortions after 13 weeks are so restricted that no provider in the state will offer them."

You'd think this would be bad enough. This woman having to perform a dangerous abortion on herself -- a punishable offense in South Carolina -- and deal with the emotional realities of burying the dead fetus she expelled from her body in her backyard. That would be punishment enough for a woman so fucked by the patriarchy, no?

No. Not quite.

Somebody tipped off the police that she'd birthed a live fetus (she hadn't, nor could a 16-wk-old fetus live outside the mother's womb) and buried it in her backyard. They dug up the fetus and wanted to charge Flores with murder. Had they been able to prove (or manufacture proof) that the fetus was alive when it exited her body, or that it was even viable outside her womb, this would have easily made it through the courts.
Since they couldn't do this, they had to charge her with a self-performed abortion. Because, obviously, she had the choice and privilege to travel 3 hours and spend 2 days getting the abortion that isn't provided anywhere in the state of South Carolina.

She was sentenced to 4 months in jail, and could receive up to 2 more years, and is facing deportation.

Why, you ask?

Because reproductive rights may exist, legal access to reproductive technologies may exist...
but reproductive justice does not exist.
And it needs to.

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