Friday, December 30, 2011

The Duplicity of the Women's Reproductive Rights Movement

Is it desirable that the unhealthy, the unfit, the feeble members of the community propagate their kind and fill the world with their children? Is it right for these to populate the world, as has been done, or shall some stringent measure be taken to stop this if we are to survive.  
- Margaret Sanger

Obviously, I am quite liberal-minded. I am for women who choose to remain single to achieve their career goals. I am all for women who raise their children on their own. I am for homosexuality, bisexuality, and transgender individuals. I am for interracial relationships/marriages and same-sex marriages. I am all for the liberation of the oppressed no matter what form they come in. As long as you are not causing harm to anyone (or animal) or the environment then you should be able to do as you please.

Margaret Sanger
(1879-1966)
So, obviously I am going to be for women’s reproductive rights. Duh! Women’s access to reliable birth control and safe abortions has given them renewed control over their bodies and their lifestyles. Safe abortions have given women the choice to terminate unwanted pregnancies resulting from abuse, such as rape and incest, or because they were simply not ready for children. With birth control, women can now dictate the number of children that they desire or whether they want children to begin with. Not to mention the added bonus of enjoying their sexual freedom as much as men. Every woman who makes use of birth control products need to give a personal salute to Mrs. Margaret Sanger who fought to bring birth control awareness to the mainstream and chaired the First American Birth Control Conference (FABCC) in New York in 1921.

Now there is no doubt that I agree wholeheartedly with the central belief of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF): A woman’s fundamental right to decide whether and when to have a child is at the core of sexual and reproductive rights. I cannot even begin to fathom the audacity of the state to decide what a woman can or cannot do with her own body. But that is to be expected when state legislation is introduced into the arena of women’s reproductive/sexual rights. It was inevitable that a debate would ensue when the state is being asked to provide medical provisions for things like hormonal birth control on top of standard medical care.

Although I still believe that a woman has natural rights to her own body (without interjection from the state), my views have been changing slowly. There is a bigger picture that none of us are seeing and it has nothing to do with feminist ideals or conservative religious thoughts. It seems to me that because women are the ones who are most impacted by pregnancies and because they have had little decision-making when it came to their bodies they jumped on the birth control/abortion wagon rather quickly (I almost sound like an antifeminist! Yikes!). In reality, the fight for making birth control accessible to women had nothing to do with giving them back possession of their bodies. Rather, it was all about population control (that sounds like some “New World Order” type ish to me).

During the First Session of the FABCC, Chairman of Sessions, Edith H. Hooker (what kind of last name...?), had this to say in her opening address:
The time has come, I think, when Americans and the people of all the world must realize that the most important problem on earth is the problem of population [italics added]. After all, it matters little what we do in after life if we are not born right in the beginning, and the purpose of this conference, as I take it, is to discuss ways and means of bringing reason into the realm of reproduction.  
All of us must agree that the most important institution in any community is monogamous marriage; that after all the home is the backbone of the state, and that unless the home is properly safeguarded by all rational means, we cannot hope to build as good a nation, or as good a world as we could if reason did dominate there.  
I think that as the background of monogamous marriage, Birth Control is an absolute essential. Because now we see homes upon homes broken up, wrecked and ruined as the result of unthoughtful reproduction [italics added]. If we wish to build our nation right, we must first set our own homes in order, and the purpose of this conference is to begin at the beginning, and to set about the task in the right way.
After Mrs. Hooker finished her address, our heroine, Mrs. Sanger, took the podium. She had this to say within her welcome:
The idea in calling this Conference was to bring together not our old friends, the advocates of Birth Control, whose worth we know and whose courage has stood the test of opposition; but rather to bring together new people, with other ideas, the people who have been working in social agencies and in other groups for the same results as we, namely a better nation and the banishment of disease, misery, poverty, delinquency and crime [italics added]. The time has come to cease propagating these evils, if our civilization is to survive. Everywhere we are confronted by the fact that poverty and large families go hand in hand [italics added]. We see the healthy and fit elements of the nation carrying the burden of the unfit who are increasing in numbers—an increase which threatens to wipe out fit and healthy population of our land...  
We are in a condition of society today, not only here, but practically in every country of the world, where the masses of the unfit have propagated to such an extent that our intelligence is not able to grasp or cope with the conditions so created. We have been putting the energy and efforts of our healthy and fit into bricks and mortar. We have erected palatial residences for the unfit, for the insane, for the feeble-minded,—for those who should never have been born, to say nothing of their being permitted to carry on the next generation [italics added]. Now the time has come when we must all join together in stopping at its source misery, ignorance, delinquency and crime. This is the program of the Birth Control movement [italics added]. This is what the Birth Control advocates intend to do—to stop at its source those processes which are making for a weakened and deteriorated race.
If I did not know any better, I would think that the “unthoughtful reproduction” and “those who should never have been born” were references to those who were impoverished and disabled (*casts a sideways glance at Mrs. Sanger*). It sounded like they were on the verge of proposing a form of...eugenics. The birth control movement along with accessibility to abortions arose from a need to control the rising population (like our food, which is meant to make us sick) not for the purpose of women’s self-determination. Additionally, the uproar over women’s reproductive rights could very well be the result of social engineering (look it up) meant to alarm women—and women’s rights groups—that reproductive rights are in jeopardy. After all, the idea of birth control is nothing new. Women have been using a wide array of creative contraceptives since pre-Biblical times, from the use of a spongy substance that was placed inside the vagina to rubbing tar on the penis before sex, to prevent pregnancies (Kass-Annese & Danzer, 2003). Women have always had reasons to keep themselves from getting pregnant.

The idea that today’s birth control methods and abortions are for population control would seem a bit crazy if the evidence did not speak for itself. Initial funding for contraceptive research was minimal during the 1930s to 1940s, but funding grew when overpopulation was seen as a societal problem in the 1950s (Schoen, 2005). The National Committee for Maternal Health (NCMH), established by Robert Latou Dickinson and Margaret Sanger (!!), helped to create birth control programs in some of the U.S.’s most poorest regions where contraceptives and birth control pills could be tested on impoverished women (Schoen, 2005). The research would help in creating newer, cheaper, and simpler forms of contraceptives (because poor women are too stupid to use complex birth control). “Researchers’ zeal to develop simpler contraceptives was driven by the desire to help solve problems of poverty and poor health rather than the wish to provide women with greater self-determination” [italics added] (Schoen, 2005, p. 15-16).

Clarence J. Gamble
(1894-1966)
Black women did not constitute a large portion of the women who were used as test subjects for contraceptives and birth control pills. If health officials held the stereotype that poor, white women could not handle advanced forms of contraception then black women possessed no intellectual capacities to use even the simplest forms (Schoen, 2005). Attempting to educate black women about family planning or providing them with contraceptives was considered to be a waste of time. It was Mrs. Sanger (!!) who established the Division of Negro Services (DNS) under the NCMH in 1938 which was supposed to have been under the control of blacks who would launch educational health campaigns in their communities (Schoen, 2005). Of course, once Mrs. Sanders was out of the picture the DNS became a mode to control the reproduction rates of blacks. According to eugenics advocate, Clarence J. Gamble, “The mass of Negroes, particularly in the South, still breed carelessly and disastrously, with the result that the increase among Negroes, even more than among whites, is from that portion of the population least intelligent and fit, and least able to rear children properly” [italics added] (Schoen, 2005, p. 42-43).

Years later, in 1997, Barbara Harris founded an organization known as Project CRACK (Children Requiring A Caring Kommunity), now known as Project Prevention, which aimed to sterilize undesirable parents (Rousseau, 2009). They pay their “clients” (mainly women), who are drug addicts, up to $500 to volunteer to undergo surgical or chemical sterilization (Rousseau, 2009). If you do not probe deep enough you could be duped into thinking that Project CRACK is actually providing a decent social service. No one wants to see a drug-addicted mother with a child or for them to give birth to an infant that is already addicted to a drug (like...um...CRACK-cocaine!). But once you get past the “cover up” you begin to wonder if this is not another form of eugenics. Only allow the women who are deemed as desirable mothers (preferably ones who are married, middle class or above, and not addicted to CRACK—I mean drugs) to have children and keep all the undesirable ones from breeding. (I think Hitler had a similar agenda).

Much like the DNS, Project CRACK was targeting black women to keep them from reproducing even though they claim the opposite. But crack-cocaine is a drug that severely impacts black communities so it is rather difficult not to see a hidden agenda (Rousseau, 2009). This is along the lines of coercing minority women to have abortions for a safer society: “Research suggests that encouraging poor, minority women to have abortions may be a successful crime prevention strategy” (Russel-Brown, 2004, p. 112). Birth control and abortions also seem to be the answer for women living in developing countries. On their website, IPPF mentions how women in developing countries suffer from high rates of maternal and infant mortality. They infer that access to birth control and abortions are feasible solutions to this delicate problem. I suppose that poverty and the lack of prenatal/postnatal medical care has nothing to do with it. (Did I forget to mention that Mrs. Sanger was the founder of Planned Parenthood?).

With the same eugenics mentality, John Labruzzo, Louisiana state representative, planned to start a program that would offer poor women $1000 if they volunteered for surgical sterilization and would give tax incentives to wealthier families who chose to have children (Rousseau, 2009). According to Labruzzo, poor white families worked hard maintain two-parent households and to teach their children proper morals and values while poor black families did not (Rousseau, 2009). The man did not even make any attempts at political correctness. He clearly intended to sterilize all the poor black women he could get his hands on. Luckily, his plans never became a reality.

I realize that today, women from all socioeconomic backgrounds use birth control and available abortion services if they can afford it. It is also apparent that no one considers the historical implications of the women’s reproductive rights movement. Advocates of women’s reproductive rights are only fighting for women to have access to safe and proper contraceptives and abortions so that they can have greater “control” over their lives. Call it overreacting (or paranoia) but I think that certain forms of birth control are deliberate attacks upon the most sacred vessel on earth: The Womb. Women are made to believe that birth control gives them a measure of freedom or that abortions prevents them from having unwanted pregnancies but the real goal is the control of reproduction—control of the Womb (cue creepy background music).

Where are the advocates for natural family planning (NFP) or fertility awareness methods (FAM)? Why is fertility awareness (FA) education not included with sex education? NFP methods includes monitoring fertility signs of women’s bodies and abstaining from sexual intercourse during fertile days while FAM incorporates the use of contraceptives, like condoms or diaphragms, during fertile days instead of abstinence (Kass-Annese & Danzer, 2003). Women who use these methods chart their menstrual cycles. They are in tune with their bodies. This is the real birth control—it is literally in the hands of women.

We need to reconfigure this fight for women’s reproductive rights. I think the fight for women’s reproductive rights is actually a fight against women’s control over their bodies. (*Awaits arrest by the Feminist Police*).


References

Kass-Annese, B., & Danzer, H. C. (2003). Natural birth control made simple. Alameda, CA: Hunter House Publishers.

Rousseau, N. (2009). Getting your tubes tied: Coercive, reproductive policies. In Black women’s burden: Commodifying black reproduction (pp. 141-154). New York, NY: Palgrave MacMillan.

Russel-Brown, K. (2004). In the crosshairs: Racial profiling and living while black. In Underground codes: Race, crime, and related fires (pp. 97-118). New York, NY: New York University Press.

Schoen, J. (2005). Choice & coercion: Birth control, sterilization, and abortion in public health and welfare. Chapter Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press.

0 comments:

Post a Comment