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of unplanned pregnancies and thus, abortions. By addressing issues of systemic poverty and racism, we can create an environment that values life by providing everyone an equal ability to maximize the quality of life of their children, families, and communities. HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVES The lack of intersectionality within the debate over women’s reproductive rights is not exclusive to the present. Throughout the history of the fight for reproductive rights, issues pertinent to women of color and women in poverty have been ignored, politicized, and abused. In the article “Contested Terrain,” author Susan Davis brings to light the efforts of the United States’ second wave of feminism, mainly led by white middle-class women, to reform and repeal laws that limited abortions.¹³ These efforts proved successful in 1973 with the decision in Roe v. Wade. However, with the right to abortion came the “the price of an abortion” for women of color and women in poverty.¹⁴ Prevalent sterilization abuse emerged because most women of color could not afford the price of an abortion and the government began to offer the option of subsidized sterilization.¹⁵ In addition, women of color unknowingly underwent forced sterilization, often performed at the time of delivery of their babies. The populations of African Americans, Puerto Ricans, and Native Americans declined in size as the government used sterilization to further eugenic goals in America. Granting reproductive rights to women also allowed the government to decrease the populations of non-white races under the premise of reducing poverty and furthering the white middle class. For this reason, to women of color, reproductive rights did not entail the same rights and freedom that the mainly white members of the second feminist wave associated with the birth control pill and abortion. Due to this historical context, the concept of abortion differs greatly between communities of women of color and communities of white women, making women of color wary of progress towards reproductive freedom. The racist values ingrained in Western 44

history that used birth control and compulsory sterilization to try and diminish these minority communities remain influential when they consider what reproductive freedom could entail today. A Native American woman, when asked whether she was pro-choice or pro-life said, “Well, I would say that I am pro-choice, but the most important thing to me is promoting life in Native communities.”¹⁶ Based on her response, we can

the concept of abortion differs greatly between communities of women of color and communities of white women, making women of color wary of progress towards reproductive freedom. see how, even though women of color want and need reproductive freedom, they fear that it will entail a risk to their communities. The focus of this Native American woman on her community as her primary consideration can help show how abortion is not a single issue but instead a complex topic that is influenced by the harmful history of reproductive rights and multiple sociocultural factors, including systemic racism and the poverty level. THE INTERSECTIONAL IMPERATIVE Following this historical context, the current abortion debate does not reflect an understanding that systemic oppression has caused a lack of access to abortion for women of color. Second wave feminists made a mistake in not considering how access to reproductive healthcare manifested differently for women of color and of lower socioeconomic status. An investigation of this historical context further pushes us to engage critically with an intersectional understanding of reproductive justice, instead of focusing on the pro-choice versus pro-life debate which fails to incorporate this historical context. Instead of discussing the single issue of the right to an abortion, we should also consider the issues related to valuing and caring for the lives of women who engage in the “false choice” of abortion as a means of sur-

Profile for Rebuttal

Spring 2019  

We proudly present our first issue! The topics include abortion, the Iran deal, voter ID laws, targeted killings by governments, Hamilton: A...

Spring 2019  

We proudly present our first issue! The topics include abortion, the Iran deal, voter ID laws, targeted killings by governments, Hamilton: A...

Profile for rebuttal