Female autonomy key issue in debate on abortion access


Each week, we explore both sides of a current issue through opposing Viewpoints. The alternate editorial for this week’s Face Off can be found here: “Abortion difficult to legislate yet victimizes unborn children.”

You should never be told that the medical facility nearest you is not allowed to help you recover from trauma. You should never be told that you cannot have surgery until your government has had its say. You should never be judged for wanting to make a decision that affects every aspect of your day-to-day life. You should have a right to rule your body.

When I say I am pro-choice people begin to leap to assumptions. Assumptions are also made when a person says he or she is pro-life. The way that we talk about abortion in the United States is filled to the brim with rhetoric to wade through. Our language about abortion is hidden behind self-congratulating terms on all sides (I would argue there are more than two). Language is talked about so much that the discussion requires the Associated Press to label stances taken as either anti-abortion or pro-abortion rights.

In 2013, Planned Parenthood, perhaps the most recognized name in abortion rights advocacy, opened notinhershoes.org. The website focuses on addressing every woman’s situation as a unique case and argues that labels like “pro-life” and “pro-choice” only muddy the waters when addressing issues of pregnancy and abortion.

I wholeheartedly agree with the stance that making abortion an “us versus them” fight misses the intricacies of each medical situation and of each woman. We live in a society that celebrates the individual on so many other issues, but autonomy of a woman’s body seems to be one our country is still debating.

I do not see it in the state’s purview to advocate through the use of legislation for one medical practice over another ever; not when someone selects radiation over chemotherapy or even decides to live with the diagnosis their doctor gave them and not when a woman wants to have an abortion.

The issue of access to abortion ties to whether or not women are considered full-fledged citizens with their own capacity to make decisions. It ties to the reality that women and their reproductive systems, even after the passage of Roe v. Wade, are considered to be something that the state can reasonably have a vested interested in.

When Rep. Senfronia Thompson chose to bring a coat hanger to her testimony on the floor of the Texas Senate in 2013, while then senator Wendy Davis filibustered, the coat hanger served as a symbol of an unfortunate truth. Women dying from unsafe abortions worldwide make up 13 percent of maternal deaths – or approximately 47,000 deaths annually, according to the 2008 World Health Organization’s report titled “Unsafe abortion.”

Choice is an uncomfortable thing to discuss, perhaps because we are frightened that one person’s choice will limit our own. Despite the dangers of rhetoric, if you ask me to pick one side of the debate I am pro-choice because it leaves space for the sorts of complications related to pregnancy. It creates a space for each individual story that a woman and her doctor may share.