Manley: We won’t stay silent on a right to choose

Kate Manley
Valley Voices

As embarrassing as it is to be the only one to show up to a rally you’ve organized, I’m reminded of the immortal words of writer and civil rights activist Audre Lorde: “When we speak, we are afraid our words will not be heard nor welcomed, but when we are silent we are still afraid, so it is better to speak. Your silence will not protect you.”

Norma McCorvey, better known as Jane Roe, became, in her own words, the most famous cleaning woman in America. She is an example of how average, everyday people make history and save lives. It is in times like these that we must take solace in our community, friends and family, and the people who show up and provide health care even in the most hostile environments.

Kate Manley

It is the everyday people who prove that, even in the darkest of times, there are light workers making the world a better place. Count yourself among them. We will not go back. The future belongs to us — to our power, to our choice. A future where women’s rights are human rights. Where mothers and people who give birth are protected. Where children are protected and wanted. Where the well-being of the family and family planning are put into the forefront, with all their nuances.

We know statistically that banning abortion does not stop abortion, it only stops safe abortions. Banning abortion is to force birth. It’s forced birth in a country with the highest maternal mortality rate among other developed nations, no federally-mandated paid maternity leave, no universal or standardized child care, no continued birth parent care, and frequent, inaccessible mental health care.

Researchers from the American Journal of Public Health reported that being forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term means families are four times more likely to live below the poverty line. Abortion bans are not pro-life, they are pro-poverty. They disproportionately affect marginalized communities and low income communities, especially people of color.

Support Local Journalism

Forcing someone to carry an unwanted pregnancy, or forcing them to seek out an unsafe abortion, is a violation of their human rights, including the rights to privacy and bodily autonomy. The majority of Americans believe that the decision of whether a person should have an abortion should be left to the patient and their doctor, and less than 30% support overturning Roe v. Wade. Yet a panel of nine people, seven of whom are men, have the power to make a decision that will impact millions of people, and they don’t hold the majority support of the American people on the issue. Politics and religion need to be left out of reproductive health care.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, a U.S.-based reproductive health nonprofit, the abortion rate is 37 per 1,000 people in countries that prohibit abortion or allow it in only a few instances to save a woman’s life, versus 34 per 1,000 in countries that broadly allow for abortion. When governments restrict access to safe abortions, women die — so much so that unsafe abortions are the third-leading cause of maternal deaths worldwide and lead to an additional 5 million largely preventable disabilities, according to the World Health Organization.

This is just a brief overview of the danger of abortion bans, but to strip away the right to privacy and bodily autonomy has even more broad and terrifying implications. Because if we are deprived of the self determination to give birth, who makes this decision for us? More dangerously, who makes the decision of who is allowed to give birth?

In 1961, the famous voting rights activist Fannie Lou Hammer was the victim of what was commonly known as a “Mississippi Appendectomy” — an experience shared by too many women of a certain class and color who would go in for routine procedures and leave without the ability to conceive a child. They were mutilated without informed consent or knowledge of having been sterilized. This practice has not disappeared, with reports coming from the Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia of abuse and coerced, unnecessary hysterectomies being performed on the Immigrant detainees as recently as 2020. Sterilization is a form of genocide.

It was to be expected that a last-minute attempt to organize a rally for Roe in a small town would be less than fruitful, but unfortunately the Supreme Court didn’t give us much of a heads up. There is another opportunity to rally on Saturday, May 14, at 1 p.m. at the main Edwards roundabout organized by local activists.

As author Kristen McGuiness states, “Overturning Roe v. Wade isn’t just about forced birth, it’s about forced labor. Pro choice is ultimately not about the choice to keep the fetus but about the significant choice of motherhood. The choice to birth, feed, clean, protect and raise the next generation. A job so big, they refuse to pay us for it. To force a woman into motherhood would be akin to forcing her into involuntary servitude.”

Support Local Journalism