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Why we show up: the value of visibility
This is an op-ed that ran in last week's SF Bay Guardian
Why we show up: the value of visibility
Three years ago, the 1st annual anti-choice “Walk for Life—West Coast,” march, which is organized by the San Francisco and Oakland Archdiocese, “Feminists for Life,” and others, walked the length of the Embarcadero, near the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, armed with what they claim is the absolute “truth” about abortion: it “hurts women,” and that’s all it does. They announced their intention of coming back year after year until abortion (and contraception and queer partnerships, according to some of the signage) was a thing of the past. Speakers at the anti-choice rally decried what they saw as the ultimate sell out—abortion—which “turns women against their babies”, and is a manifestation of “sexual lawlessness.”
It’s a rich irony that the Catholic Church, with its tradition of protecting sexually lawless priests, feels entitled to anoint itself as the protectors of children. But more to the point, what you get when you prohibit abortions are illegal abortions. You do nothing to solve the problems of women who were forced to get an abortion, or who were forcibly sterilized, or who were forced to give birth, or forced in any way to act against their deepest needs. Coercion is a real problem. Simple prohibition is no solution.
The question for those committed to reproductive rights is this: how can we broaden the debate beyond abortion in the four hours that the anti-choice marchers hit the streets? How can we effectively address the fundamental right for a woman to control her body, the need for healthcare, childcare, the need for safe and accessible contraception, the discriminatory treatment of immigrant, young, queer and women of color, and the continuing onslaught of restrictions on family planning clinics nationwide?
The answer is to encourage visibility and attendance by local and national reproductive rights organizations and individuals that have done the work to provide women with healthcare options, emotional, and economic support and non-biased information about their bodies and their rights. The Bay Area Coalition for Our Reproductive Rights has put out a national call to action, that will transform January 20th from a one-sided debate, dominated by triumphalist marches and rhetoric by the anti-choice community, into a day of impassioned displays of cultural solidarity between the reproductive rights, queer and social justice organizations. It’s cultural events like these that lead to solid gains for reproductive rights—at the polls, in legislative offices and at the community level. We cannot solely depend on elected officials to secure and expand our rights. What’s needed is a inclusive movement with diverse allies like the the San Francisco Labor Council; the Green Party; Code Pink; Dr. Ahimsa Sumchai, Sister Bernie Galvin, Choice USA; San Francisco NOW; National Radical Women; California State Assemblyman Mark Leno; [Amnesty] Freedom Socialist Party; the Ruckus Society; Women's Choice Clinic; GABNet; United Auto Workers, Local 2103; San Francisco Atheists; the Coalition for a General and Unconditional Amnesty for All Now; the National Network of Abortion Funds, and others, all of whom acknowledge an existing nexus in their programs with reproductive rights work. These groups, together, illustrate the wide range of rights and options that constitute real choice.
And make no mistake, what we need are more rights, not less. We need a display of community that collectively spells out the as-yet unwritten bill of reproductive rights: the right to reproduce, or not, in safety, within responsive, accessible health care systems and under the guidance and urgings of our souls, reason and faith.
Saturday, January 20th is the opportunity to demonstrate the breadth and depth of our work and to join together in celebration of the rights we do have- as well as show our intent to secure more.
Gather with BACORR at 10:30am at Pier 5. For more information, e-mail BACORR at bacorrinfo [at] riseup.net or call 415-864-1278.
Elizabeth Creely is an organizer with the Bay Area Coalition for Our Reproductive Rights