Wednesday, February 15, 2012

reproductive rights ARE human rights

I am generally very reluctant to drag religion into polite conversation; I find that the conversation quickly becomes un-polite.  I'm making exceptions today - because SFP asked, and because my personal faith makes it important.

I considered digging up statistics and citing lots of research to try to make an argument here.  The statistics and research are out there, and frankly, the big picture is bleak, which drove home to me exactly why the topic of women's reproductive rights is so important.

I was raised Catholic: the doctrine on birth control and abortion were made pretty clear.  To a young girl - it was simple to accept.  Even as a teen, sex was something i wanted but still viewed as sinful - I was weak, contraception was necessary, but a defeat, a giving in to my weakness.

But the flavor of Catholic i was raised with also taught me to question and follow my conscience, not blindly follow doctrine. Eventually that helped inform my thinking about sex and sexuality as well.  Like an awful lot of other people, i recognized that i believed the church was just plain wrong on this one.  Over time, i saw that the church wasn't just wrong, it was also oppressive and causing harm.

I have relatives who were crushed under the imperative of having children when they weren't ready, only to be abandoned by their husbands, the childrens' father.   My mother has a very serious condition.  Each pregnancy and delivery became more dangerous for her, yet the church  encouraged her to continue to accept "God's will."   My grandmother was eventually able to convince her to use birth control, to take that step to preserve her own life, but i'm not entirely sure my mom ever forgave herself for it.

It's about much more than an individual woman's freedom to chart the course of her own life by giving her the ability to have children or not have children with intention and thought.  Taking that freedom from all women collectively damages the whole society deeply, just as systematically denying any portion of a group the rights of the whole damages the whole.  

It is also incredibly naive to think that the reality of access to birth control, like access to all forms of health care, applies evenly across our society, or much of the world for that matter.  It doesn't.  The disparities are enormous, and that becomes a powerful force, a powerful weapon in some cases.  Women struggle to raise children, often in poverty, and those children grow up with very different opportunities than others.  The disparities become perpetuated across generations and the divisions among the groups that make up the society as a whole become deeper.  This is played out across the globe.

In the end, whether reproductive rights for women are denied through religion, legislation, systematic inequality of access - or a toxic combination  - it is a dangerous thing for women, and thus for all of us.


  1. Rights to reproduction have been a hot potatoe for decades and eons. Our social security system is filled with persons who have become a burden for someone else. In our field of work we see entire families that are in the system for generations. But they have the right to reproduce, and as taxpayers our money gall goes out to them . The most difficult part is we are helping them, knowing that there won't be any funds by the time we may need them, nor will old age pensions. The unfit do not contribute.

    I understand both sides of the issue. I also agree that churches have no business dictating the private affairs of people. The entire purpose of the exercise of bearing children was that eventually church people would govern. But most don't stay in the churches anyway after they grow up. I believe that people have responsibility in determining the timing and the care for their off-spring. It's all about choosing.

  2. It is a completely toxic situation! Gosh soooo well said!


  3. I am all for birth control, with the exception of religion. Religion is a CHOICE. No one has the right to demand that a religious organization MUST change their beliefs. For the government to demand that religious organizations provide birth control coverage to employees is doing exactly what everyone always panics about: mixing government with religion. It is a policy that is clearly against the U.S. Constitution.

    I always found it ridiculous that medicaid (government sponsored health care for lower income) doesn't pay for birth control. Who would be most affected by another baby? Obviously someone who already needs government support, eh? Most private health care already covers birth control.

    One other issue which always makes me grind my teeth: it takes two to make a baby. Where is the male responsibility in all this? Many men believe that their responsibility begins with an erection and ends at ejaculation.

    I wonder if I should mention that those men are generally raised by women?

    Just something to think about.

    Great post and very well written!
    Thank you,

  4. Very well said.
    I had a coworker who's sister had ten children because her religious upbringing and husband's beliefs were so strong. The last pregnancy almost killed her.

  5. Thank you for breaking your rule -- I love that your wrote this and shared it with us.

    I'm literally in tears at how many chose to blog today


  6. Beautifully said - as always. you bring your own wisdom to the table.

    Thank you.


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