Thursday, May 10, 2007

Pro-Choice Birth-Activist Reproductive Freedom Fighter

Radical doula Miriam Pérez believes that pro-choice activism and birth activism go hand in hand. Those who subscribe to the beliefs of either group don’t generally agree: pro-choicers are so caught up in protecting women’s rights NOT to parent, and midwifery groups so busy diligently advocating for pregnant women, that neither has the time to examine what the other has to offer (and, of course, not all midwives and doulas are pro-choice). But, Pérez points out, “Anti-choice activism and overly-medicalized birthing practices are both based on a lack of trust in women.”

Her Campus Progress article does a great job of pointing out the ways in which the two camps compliment each other. Both movements address “the narrowing scope of women’s choices.” They attempt to offer safety and support to women as they undergo difficult procedures, too often under difficult circumstances. And in both the delivery room and right-wing politics, the woman in question is forced to take a back seat to the fetus she carries. This, to Pérez, is the strongest correlation between birth- and pro-choice activism: “Both are attempts to fight back against rhetoric that prioritizes the unborn fetus instead of the adult woman.” The article also does a great job rounding up the basic facts and figures about home and hospital births.

But oh, these divisions! Pérez is right, birth activists and pro-choice activists have a lot in common. And they have a lot in common with those who advocate for comprehensive sexuality education. All three often have a lot in common with those who lobby for universal health care and for flex-time. When we talk about all of these issues, more often than not, we’re talking about the same thing: reproductive freedom. But abortion is a divisive issue, as are comprehensive sex ed and even universal health care for some. It’s true: allying abortion rights with universal health care would probably hurt the case for universal health care. So instead of getting together and agreeing that we’re all talking about the same thing (more or less), we divide it up into bits and pieces. In the end, though, all of those things affect reproductive freedom. It’s about the right to reproduce – or not – when and how we want, the right to affordable and accessible health care, the right to the knowledge we need to make informed decisions, the ability to make motherhood a viable part of our complex lives if we choose to, and the right (and the NEED) to be heard and supported when it comes to our reproductive choices – whether that means choosing not to continue a pregnancy or choosing to give birth naturally. All the little slivers of the overarching issue, put together, could mean huge advances for women’s equality.

Check out Miriam Pérez’s blog Radical Doula for lots more information on midwifery, reproductive freedom and progressive politics – it’s good stuff!

PS - thanks to Frank for the tip!

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