Reproductive Rights as a Historical and Feminist Issue Essay
Reproductive Rights as a Historical and Feminist Issue
One of the biggest issues facing women in American society today has been an issue bouncing around in politics for decades: reproductive rights. Women can never have equal opportunity to men without equal opportunity to make their own decisions about their bodies. Reproductive rights for women not only include the right to abort a pregnancy, but it also involves any choice a woman may make concerning her body.
She must have the right to choose when she wants to get pregnant, choose when she wants to have sex, have easy access to information about her body and reproductive system, as well as access to contraceptives and non-stigmatized medical care. Today’s women in American society still have to battle the right to information, the right to contraceptives, and the right to abortion. Sex Education in public schools has always been a widely debated topic in American History. Determining what information to give out and how old the children need to be is constantly being argued.
However, many programs are only preaching abstinence, especially to young women. Young men on the other hand get the “condom talk. ” Very little information about female contraceptives, physical or medicinal, is ever discussed in these sex education sessions. Rebecca Walker, in 1995, wrote that young women must be treated as growing, learning, individuals, and need information concerning “sex and access to birth control and abortion” in order to nurture their self-esteem and protect them from violence.
With limited access to information, women are being denied the ability to make a fully cognitive decision about their bodies. Even women who have heard about female contraceptives tend to still only know very little about their options. Most women have only ever heard or relied on “the pill,” which during long-term use can sometimes have negative side effects on women. In its early stages of development and use, many women suffered severe side effects from the drug. The stigma against female contraceptives is very interesting. Could this be a resurgence of the idea that women should not have sexual inclinations?
Female condoms, diaphragms, and other barrier methods besides the male condom can be confusing and intimidating for a woman to seek out, and many resort to the pill or “being careful. ” In this instance both information and availability go hand-in-hand to allow women the knowledge to make an informed decision about their body. In 1891, Harriot Stanton Blatch (daughter of famous Elizabeth Cady Stanton) spoke out about a new term “Voluntary Motherhood. ” She claimed that the upheld idea of motherhood as the highest moral position woman should strive to achieve was a lie, and that women who mothered unwelcome children were scorned.
This creates another example of a double standard placed against women in society. The most notable of reproductive rights issues debated throughout history and into the present is the constitutionality of abortion. In 1973, the famous Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court case made all state laws against abortion deemed unconstitutional. However, lawmakers sought to impose regulations that still kept women from being able to control their bodies, defining who, when, and under what condition a woman could have the procedure.
Many “pro-life” activists began criminal attacks on abortion clinics, 167 were reported between 1982 and 1997.  Feminists, especially in the second-wave movement, insisted that the choice of having an abortion was not a medical or criminal debate, but a “highly personal decision that belonged only to the woman who was pregnant. ” Women of color in American society during the 1970s also faced reproductive rights issues of their own. Many women of color in low economic standing were pressured into having sterilization procedures.
These women were forced to make the life-altering decision usually while they were on the table just after delivering their child. Female sterilization of colored women at this time was equated to racial genocide, as it drastically cut down the predicted birthrate. Repugnant as this was, many states were chastised because they would fund these sterilizations but they would not support welfare programs to support these same families. Women should be able to make their own decisions about their bodies, especially when it comes to their sexual identity.
Women should be able to decide whether or not they want to carry a child, and those who argue that women who deny motherhood are not listening to the women who argue for reproductive rights. Women need the power to control their bodies because that is the epitome of owning the power to be considered an equal in society. Women would not end up in abusive situations concerning their bodies if information and prevention were more readily available. With knowledge comes power, and that is proven in every argument through history. Argument for reproductive rights becomes a national topic every time the presidential race rolls around.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 13 February 2017
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