TW: coercion and restrictions on bodily autonomy, mention of sexual assault
Earlier today, I posted over at Velociriot! about the return of personhood bills in the House and how they threaten the security of nearly any one who could become pregnant in terms of having a right to control biological processes occurring within their own body. I felt like it was particularly important to mention this, however: “In a nutshell, it’s a massive restriction on fertility that both prevents some people (for instance, Mitt Romney’s children) from having children just as much as it forces others (for instance, the approximately 16,000 people in the US each year who are raped and become pregnant) to have children that they do not want.”
The issue of how many people tolerate the existence of such measures is deeper than coerced pregnancy. The ability to independently choose what occurs within one’s body should be a fundamental right, irrespective of sex, gender, race, or sexuality. But almost as readily as powerful institutions restrict people’s ability to avoid pregnancy, others deny them the right alter their own biology towards the goal of creating life. The fear of what will happen if these restrictions are not applied seems more profound than simply mandating certain births, and involve fundamentally distrusting people’s (especially women’s) autonomous decisions about bringing life into this world or not.
(According to the Personhood Bills, these are three different people. So making them with the intent to get pregnant is irresponsible, and if one forms in your body against your wishes, well, get used to it. Image from here.)
Perhaps this is inopportune to say, but much of the popular animus against these provisions clearly comes from a fear that some people are refusing to acknowledge pregnancies than many people would like to terminate. But I think we likely will need a response that’s broader than that, that acknowledges how many women judged as being ethnically inferior have been restricted from bearing children. From India, to Latin America, to Europe, to the US, there’s a consistent pattern of women not only being coercively forced into pregnancy, but also forced away from it.
And while in vitro fertilization is by no means the only way that same-sex couples have children, the fact remains that these measures impact not only the security of some that they will not become pregnant but also complicate others’ desires to become pregnant. Were these bills to actually become law, which seems to be the end game the Republicans are hoping to push us towards as a country, we would face wholesale restrictions on biology that would harm and restrict people who want to control their own bodies, with the harm magnified in the lives of those who are simultaneously lower class, people of color, LGBT*, or women. And that harm comes in broader forms than only forced pregnancy. As pregnancy typically affects women, we seem to be stuck in the same old fears about women’s legitimacy as reporters of their experiences.