Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Blog for Choice 2013: Rabble-Rousing

Alice Buttrick, Guest Blogger (Harvard Law School '15, Law Students for Reproductive Justice)
This post is part of Blog for Choice 2013, launched by Boston Students for Sexual and Reproductive Justice (BSSRJ).

As many advocates well know, success can be paradoxically frustrating. In Massachusetts, and especially in Cambridge, we are very fortunate to have found real success around many of the issues championed by the reproductive justice movement. This state has universal health care and excellent access to family planning and contraceptive services. In my community, these things are sometimes regarded almost as a bygone victory, something like a woman’s right to vote – of course, we are very grateful, but the barbarians are hardly battering at those gates anymore. 

On the 40th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade, however, I will personally be making an effort to do a little rabble-rousing. The United States before Roe was a much more dangerous place for women. It was certainly not equally dangerous for all women – wealthy ones could usually make arrangements, and I know that universities like Yale, my alma mater, were helping its students discretely obtain abortions, as needed. The risks that women without those privileges routinely had to take are unacceptable, and the very real injuries and deaths that resulted on a daily basis are unthinkable. The fact that any woman would wager, and frequently lose, her life for an unsafe abortion should make it clear why making abortions illegal, or impossible to get, never makes them go away.

Because the victories of the pro-choice movement in Massachusetts are hardly representative of this country, much less of this world. In Massachusetts, only 10% of women live in counties without an abortion provider; in the United States at large, that number is more than tripled, and some states are battling to keep just one facility alive; and globally, approximately 47,000 women die annually from complications after unsafe abortions. This hardly means that women don’t still need care. Instead, women are increasingly turning to dangerous, untested, and unsupervised methods as restrictions on safe and legal abortions attempt to force us back into the pre-Roe world. Now, as before, rich women are not really at risk, and women in elite institutions will continue to find support. Happily, states like Massachusetts have seen fit to expand the privilege of safe care, ensuring that the personal and medical decision to have an abortion will not be made more difficult or more dangerous by a lack of access. We need to keep fighting to ensure that every woman in the world is lucky enough to feel as secure as we do in her dignity, her family, and her choice.

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