"Fatherhood" & Control over the Female Body (was re: Yoshie'ssacred

Michael Hoover hoov at freenet.tlh.fl.us
Tue Aug 24 17:50:24 PDT 1999

> It seems this debate has run its course. Perhaps it would be useful,
> however, to recollect what for non-misognynists is the starting point
> of discussion -- that is the strategies and tactics to be followed by
> the left to eliminate all legal, social, and ideological barriers to
> women's access to abortion. Steve's posts might be worthwhile
> to examine over on m-fem as a specimen of the sort of thing that
> makes an independent women's movement necessary, but it
> hardly seems worthwhile to reply to them.
> (The leadership of FLOC may be right-to-life --
> but I doubt they will refuse the support of those who differ --
> and no one asks FLOC to enter pro-abortion coalitions.)
> Carrol

Abortion is an eternal return (maybe that should be infernal return) topic for these e-lists so debate may subside but only for awhile. Reminds of a dog returning to its own vomit. Perhaps people should just compose a message that they can periodically post. Maybe I'll use below:

As Yoshie mentioned on pen-l, _Roe_ was a compromise - one in which Blackmun's majority opinion attempted to balance a woman's right to control her reproduction with the state's *alleged* interest in limiting access to abortion. Anti-abortionists accused Blackmun (who received numerous death threats for the remainder of his life) and the Supremes of creating 'abortion on demand' by enabling a woman to control her pregnancy for 3 months before allowing the state to impose limits. But Blackmun and Court even restricted a woman's access to abortion during the first trimester by proclaiming until viability, 'the abortion decision in all its aspects is inherently, and primarily, a medical decison, and basic responsibility for it must rest with the physician.' By superimposing a legal grid on contiuum of pregnancy and casting a constitutional right in medical terms, Supremes located decision-making responsibility in the doctor rather than in the woman.

Court's conservative approach in _Roe_ notwithstanding, anti-abortionists introduced almost 200 state legislative bills within 2 years, over 60 were enacted into law in 32 states. For a time, a 'pro-choice' majority on the Court found most of these laws restricted a woman's right to privacy established in _Roe_, but many of its decisions were multi-part rulings that accepted state definitions of viability, allowed states to prescribe how many doctors must be present at post-viability abortions (beyond setting initial licensing standards, states usually entrust regulation of procedures and practices to medical profession - how many state require X number of doctors be present at a tonsillectomy?), approved parental consent, upheld certain second trimester hospital regulations, and allowed prohibitions on government funding.

In other words, the pre-_Webster_ decision Court accepted the principle of inequality of abortion rights. _Webster_ potentially paves way for the state to subordinate a woman's right of procreational privacy to a 'compelling interest' in the fetus and under this interpretation, a state could criminalize abortion. Also, _Wesbter_ conceivably could be used to outlaw contraceptive devices that 'kill' fertilized eggs by threatening implantation after conception.

Flo Kennedy had it correct 30 years ago: if men could get pregnant, abortion would be sacred (I don't recall if she had any comments about sperm being sacred). Rarely in the still-male dominant (cyber)space of lists like this one, for example, is male vasectomy (a minor procedure that is easily reversible) mentioned.

While Shulamith Firestone's techno-feminism was fraught with certain dangers, maybe her suggestion that advances in medical science could make it possible for men to carry a fetus in implanted wombs and possibly eventually lactate should be reconsidered. Males could have the 'right to choose' pregnancy rather than promote a conservative pro-family perspective that drives women back into the home.

For what it's worth, I've been working with FLOC folks for almost twenty years. Michael Hoover

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