Mouse rant blog vent mouse.

Friday, July 30, 2004

Putting on a show

   Apparently, the discussion at Feministing about Amy Richards' story is still going on--it's very interesting.  I was particularly interested in what Katha Pollitt had to say about past laws that required women to put on a song and dance to get an abortion:

   Back in the 1960s, before Roe v Wade, some states experimented with partial legalization. There were hospital panels, and pregnant women made their case. it was a very humiliating experience. For example, sane women had to say they were insane. Sometimes women who got their abortions had to consent to be sterilized--there were male doctors on those panels who really enjoyed their power over women. --Katha Pollitt
 
   I have pointed out before, I but I guess it bears repeating, that the issue at hand is enforcing proper female behavior.  As Pollitt points out in this thread, there is a standard abortion story where a woman makes her case as "deserving" an abortion because she still lives up to the proper standard--self-effacing, wanting motherhood above all, self-sacrificing and a victim of forces beyond her control.  Richards is in charge of her life, see motherhood as just part, not all of her life, and isn't going to apologize for it.  If you force some kind of self-sacrficing statements by law or by social custom, you'll get a bunch of lies.
   Of course, some people push for the lies and some are pushing for female silence:

   Again, if this is so problematic and complicated and the choice should be left up to a woman, why write about this? We wouldn't even be debating about this if it weren't being offered up for public inspection. I agree motivations are none of our business, or the state's business, so why explain about them?...I don't wonder about her motivation for the abortions, I wonder why she thought writing about this would help the majority of women. Especially when she immediately put down large numbers of women who have chosen to stay home and raise their children, shop at Costco, and even buy -god forbid- mayonaise. She made a mistake using sarcasm on such a serious subject matter.  --Lisa
 
   The only acceptable reasons for speaking out are to praise others or portray yourself as self-sacrificing, apparently.  Otherwise, the proper feminine stance is silence.   If your story cannot function to either praise others or help others, there is no reason to tell it.  I can only imagine how many stories by male writers would be shut down if that was the standard.  Goodness, magazines would have no text at all.
   Some people keep working the assumption that mandatory counseling could be a positive thing, if run properly. 

   If mandatory counseling weren't run by those opposed to abortion, would you see some value in it? I am reading more and more about women who do regret their abortions. If mandatory counseling, again, by those who are not opposed to abortion, were to run it, could you see that as at least lessening those who later come to rue their decision (and in some cases turn into solid pro-lifers, not like me, sort of quasi where the heck am I people?) --Rachel Ann

   I think that's a good idea. i also think group discussion among patients is a good idea -- a lot of women think their abortion is justified but other women are just sluts. I think it's good for women to articulate to themselves what they are doing -- that way, they will be less likely later to deny their agency. --Katha Pollitt
 
   I find it interesting that people only cough up the idea of mandatory counseling when the decision is outside the preferred female mode of behavior (in this case, welcoming all pregnancies with open arms).  No one will ever suggest that women who want their babies go into immediate counseling so they also know what they are signing up for--though that's not a bad idea, really.  But since counseling is still tied to the notion that there's something wrong with you mentally in this country, it's not realistic to expect that forced counseling will come off as anything but demanding that women justify themselves when they want an abortion.  I know how I would feel if I was forced into counseling to get an abortion.  I'd be angry that they thought that I was some dumb bitch who couldn't think through things for myself.  Pollitt addresses that, too, that it's just a way to infantilize women.

   Read the whole thing, it's interesting.

   Feministe has some great thoughts on the discussion well worth reading, too. 

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