A friend of mine got pregnant a while ago. Nothing special about that, women get pregnant all the time. But in this case it wasn’t planned nor was it desired. Also happens all the time. All part of life. Reproduction. A fact of life. But mainly for women. And don’t get me wrong, I know the XY people also have to relate to the reproductive issue. For instance the almost complete lack of control in relation to your own reproductive contributions. A woman always knows if it’s her baby, a man doesn’t. Being pregnant and giving birth is an exclusively female activity. Something that doesn’t actually have anything to do with men. Men are only in on the actual conception, beyond that point they really have nothing to do with it. In fact, they don’t even have to be there in person, a sperm donation will do just as fine. The manufacturing of babies is something that takes minimal male involvement, but requires a tremendous investment for a woman. In a lot of parts of the world it can even be lethal. As ‘natural’ as it may be, giving birth is a dangerous activity. According to the WHO 1500 women die every day due to pregnancy or childbirth. That’s more than half a million women a year. Of course the danger is greater in the so-called ‘developing countries’ but women actually die of pregnancy related issue even in the ‘developed regions’ of the world. Baby manufacturing isn’t without risk. But we don’t really like to think about this here in our part of the world, we like to think that having babies is all about happiness and anticipation. Of course we are at some level aware of the fact that it’s not all fun and games, but we prefer to actually not think about the risk it poses to women’s health. And if we add abortions in the equation the situation becomes even grimmer. Because when the anti-abortion crowd, the so-called ‘pro-life’ band of idiots, are getting louder and gaining more influence, the dangers of abortion increase for the simple reason that the medical supervision and assistance for these procedures are decreasing.
That friend of mine was fortunate enough to live in a part of the world where abortion is accurately seen as a basic human right so she had the pregnancy terminated fairly hassle free. Of course the decision was preceded by quite a substantial amount of thinking and soul-searching, these things usually are, but the outcome was that she didn’t actually want to become a mother. And that is a basic human right. To actually get to decide if you want to take on the responsibility of giving birth to a human being. Contrary to what the whole band of misogynist, conservative, ‘pro-life’, fundamentalist, religious morons like to claim, it’s actually not about the life of the unborn fetus, it’s about the life of the already existing woman and her right to decide for herself if she wants to be a mother or not. A basic human right. And again, just to make it clear, I’m not talking about babies as in actual living children, I’m talking about pregnancy and fetuses, because there is actually a difference. A huge difference. A fetus isn’t the same thing as a child. It’s not. And being pregnant is not the same as being some sort of incubator for a new human being. A woman doesn’t cease to be an individual just because she’s pregnant. Her life and freedom are just as important. And if she wants to be a mother is her choice. No one else has a say in that. No one. Not the father, not her family, not society. No one but her. Her body, her life, her choice. It’s a basic human right to get to make that choice, to have control over your own body and your own life. Like I said, a woman doesn’t cease to be an individual when she’s pregnant, nor does she cease to be a human being. She also not “fulfilling her life’s purpose”. Women aren’t baby machines, they are actually human beings, and as such they are free, or should be free, to make what they want of their lives. Being a mother isn’t the highest goal, it’s just one amongst many. I was once told that having babies the meaning of life. Not as a response to any type of existential question, or even as part of that type of conversation, but just as a very matter of fact justification to the preceding question of why I didn’t have children yet. Yes, not if I wanted to have children, or even if I was actually trying, but why I didn’t already have any. The whole meaning of life thing was the response to my expression of hesitation to actually having children at all. Essentially I was being told that I had gotten this whole life thing all wrong, it wasn’t about anything but reproduction. I don’t remember what my response was, if I even had any, I was just completely baffled. To be fair, I’m not sure that the statement was exclusively about women, I suspect it was referring to family as being the fundament of civilization thus including women and men, but still the male involved in this situation didn’t get a similar question. Because baby manufacturing is a female thing.
And this is precisely why it should also be a female decision. Exclusively. And by that I do mean exclusively. As in I actually don’t think men even have the right to an opinion in this matter. And again, I am fully aware of the sometimes very difficult problems men are faced with in relation to their reproductive situation, not getting to see their children, having to pay child support etc, but that has absolutely no bearing in the decision making process in a pregnancy. All those things are part of the family politics of a society and has nothing to do with human rights issues. Going through a pregnancy does. And that should be a choice, not something that’s forced upon you. That’s why we have contraception, because in spite of the ridiculous claims that sex should only be used for reproduction we all actually know that’s bullshit, reproduction is only a tiny part of the whole sexual spectrum. But it is part of it, part of the calculation. The same way STDs are and that’s why we have means to minimize the risks, such as condoms and birth control pills. But if we aren’t successful, if we for some reason don’t manage to avoid impregnation, we also have medical procedures to amend this, the same way we do for most STDs. Risk management. It’s very much part of our daily lives. Cars, knives, medication, even plastic bags, we all know there are risks involved, but we have devised strategies to manage these. Just like we have with sex. And it’s not exactly a new invention. The evidence that birth control is as old as the human race is pretty overwhelming, especially considering the fact that the whole having 11 kids thing is a pretty recent development in the history of our race and that had everything to do with knowledge on how to manage the reproductive issue and nothing to do with abstinence.
Having babies should be about choices and planning, getting access to information and contraception, and if needed, abortions. It’s a human right. If women don’t have access to free abortions they don’t have full human rights. Article 3 in ‘the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ states that: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”* Unfortunately this precise statement has also been used by the ‘pro-life’ imbeciles claiming that it would refer to the fetus, or rather embryo, because that’s actually when most abortions happen, in the embryonic stage. In essence they are indeed seeing women as baby machines with no individual human value. A rather puzzling stance for a group that claims to be ‘pro-life’. Whose life? Certainly not women’s lives. And a lot of these morons are men. I.e. people who actually have nothing to with any of this in the first place. When I see these male ‘pro-life’ activists I feel an almost uncontrollable rage. Who the hell are they to say what women can do with their own bodies?! What ever gave them the idea that they even have the right to have an opinion? They don’t. It’s none of their fucking business.
Reproduction is obviously very much part of life, but it has to be a choice. A choice that you as a woman get to make without anyone threatening or accusing you. If you decide to have an abortion it’s your own business and if you decide to not have any kids at all that’s also your own business. Just because you can have babies doesn’t mean you have to. And if you can’t have babies and still want to, there are plenty of children in this world who actually don’t have parents. And maybe that would actually be the better focus here, what to do with all the already existing children, the ones that are actually already born. Instead of discussing the rights of unborn children we could start looking at the rights of the living ones. How to make sure that they actually get parents. One way would be to stop obsessing about the heterosexual norm. To accept that the nuclear family is a social experiment that’s not actually working all that well, to open our minds to other constellations. Maybe I’m very naive, but I suspect that actually being wanted is a very good foundation for any child. To actually be welcome in the world. To approach our reproduction with active choice rather than with random chance. To not confine ourselves to our biology. Because we actually don’t have to. Call it progress or going back to our roots, but there’s really no valid reason to maintain this state of affairs in our society. The nuclear family and lack of reproductive control are both new phenomena in our history on this planet, and the evidence that both are rather massive failures is pretty overwhelming. No change can happen over night, but accepting the fact that having a baby has to be an active choice would certainly be a step in the right direction. Women have a fundamental right to decide over their own bodies and children should be welcome. If we could accept and incorporate those two principles our society would probably be a lot better off.