Until women can control their own fertility, we will not be an equal part of our society [societies].
This means women need to be in control of when they have sex and with whom, in control of contraception (but not bear the entire burden of it), in control of the choice to terminate a pregnancy as well as in control of the choice to continue one even if she is poor, ill, or the father does not want a baby.
The right to all kinds of reproductive health care, and make no mistake, medical and surgical abortions are HEALTH CARE - whatever you think of abortion, is a moral right for both women and men.
For too long women (and women of the African diaspora [in particular]) have not had implicit or explicit control of our bodies. Moralizing abortion, considering it outside of health care, and stigmatizing women who make the choice to end a pregnancy are parts of the problem.
Yes, we can all agree that abortion should be rare, but it will NEVER, EVER be non-existent. We may disagree as to when a new life truly takes hold, and we may mourn those lives which never come to fruition, but the real, tangible lives of women must be put first.
Women are not merely vessels through which more life comes. We are mothers, sisters, wives, friends, lovers, workers, bosses, politicians, teachers…PEOPLE. People upon whom society rests its collective head, from whom we get our food, our companionship, our values, our consumer goods. They deserve, WE deserve to have control over what happens to our bodies.
Anything less is immoral.
Right now I'm working on a research paper about how gender inequity is negatively effecting women's reproductive health across the globe, and how a "gender equality" approach to reproductive health is a tool to make positive changes for women.
The gender equality approach to reproductive health care has the potential to make an enormous difference in the lives of women around the world. For over 30 years (not coincidentally along the same time lines of the mass marketing of hormonal contraceptives and population concerns) the focus of reproductive health care has been on women. Women's health clinics, female contraception methods, and a focus on what women can do to prevent pregnancy have been paramount. Let me make clear that this has not been a bad thing - controlling ones body is the essence of freedom, and I am glad for progress that has been made this way. What is troubling, however, is how the process of providing options has been turned around to make women solely responsible for conception and pregnancy (and childrearing) in many people's eyes.
What is exciting about the gender equality approach to these issues is that they don't start with a western notion of what poor women of colour need, but instead they look at the society and culture is and use that knowledge to create programs which will actively engage both men and women.
Strengthening the position of women in our global society will strengthen the family, help in the lives of children, and create stronger, sustainable economies. This is not a "feel good" idea, this is a powerful way to create change.
And for my part, I have become personally dedicated to furthering the idea that medical and surgical abortions are not a moral issue, but as part of reproductive health care options, a moral right.