By Carol Downer
09 January, 2015
A radical feminist group's goal is reproductive sovereignty.
Sovereignty means being independent or autonomous. A nation is sovereign when it has its own set of laws that it can enforce within its boundaries without interference. A woman is sovereign when she can decide her own destiny without State interference.
The Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 did not give women reproductive sovereignty; it gave us the right to an abortion, but States can regulate if, how and when we get abortion. For example, some State legislatures require minors to get parental consent, and now some States are closing down abortion clinics through oppressive regulations.
Unless a substantial number of us learn how to reliably and safely prevent or terminate pregnancy ourselves, reproductive rights activists' strategies will be limited to demanding, begging, petitioning, voting, and/or, lobbying, suing, or rabble-rousing whenever the political climate changes worsens.
Yes, gaining sovereignty necessitated us doing more than reading books and attending sex education classes (as valuable as books and classes are). Women researched existing medical literature and made the basic information available to all. In self-examination groups and in running women-controlled clinics, we learned about most of women's gynecological and obstetrical needs. Today, when this knowledge is shared with small groups by peer facilitators, large numbers of women could learn how to incorporate it into their own health care. In these peer-conducted groups, women would learn directly by actually seeing other women's cervixes, thus learning what our bodies look like and how they function.
A robust network of women's health centers throughout the nation, staffed by women trained through self-help, would make it possible for any woman to use safer methods of birth control, or terminate an early pregnancy without having to go to a clinic. And when a significant number of women have access to this body of knowledge and use it, the State would be deterred from arbitrarily depriving women of access to health care. There would be general outrage, and the State would know that large numbers of women could defy it successfully.
We see our reproductive rights shrinking. The Courts are not supporting us, and the State legislatures are gutting our reproductive rights, so isn't this a good time to start playing a new game?
Would the State attack women learning to take charge of our health care? Probably. We will need to support midwives and alternative providers when that happens. However, isn't it time to stop putting all of our radical feminist energies into political agitation to fight for access to medical services that can be regulated away. Isn't it time to exert our collective efforts to independently provide those services to ourselves?
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