If you’re a firm believer in people’s right to determine their own reproductive destiny and find yourself extra-angry these days, you’re not alone. The recent backsliding on women’s rights we’ve witnessed in Alabama and seven other U.S. states, has many of us reeling. This strict new legislation basically criminalizes the procedure and treats anyone seeking an abortion or attempting to administer one as a criminal who could face life in prison. But this didn't just happen. The groundwork for this gigantic step backwards for reproductive freedom was initially taken two years ago.
After Donald Trump won the U.S. presidency, I vividly remember waking up the next day in a bit of an exhausted daze. I had stayed up late, watching the results trickle in, desperately hoping that what was materializing before my eyes would turn out to be a bad dream.
A man who had been recorded bragging about sexually assaulting women, “because they let you do it when you’re famous”, had just been declared the next president of the United States. Trump’s electoral campaign — replete with misogyny and dangerous messages against religious and racial minorities, transgender communities and immigrants — breathed new life into conservative political platforms and right-wing organizations, and normalized a war on progressive values, which usually go hand in hand with women’s rights.
We suddenly had a sitting U.S. president who believed that there should be some form of punishment for those who seek out an abortion, and a vice president who had stated that he intended to “consign Roe v. Wade to the ash heap of history.” We had a current U.S. administration that was about to reinstate the global gag rule on abortions and was working hard to de-fund Planned Parenthood — a major source of affordable healthcare for millions of American women.
As someone who diligently documented the relentlessly misogynistic attacks (by Trump and his supporters) on the first female candidate for a major political party, I cringed at what this all meant. The backlash against feminism and the advancement of women’s rights — particularly of female reproductive rights, which have long been attacked by the fiercely anti-abortion Republican Party and Religious Right — was now happening in real time and I feared the toxic braggadocio in his speeches revealed the worst was yet to come.
I see people and politicians around me galvanized by what’s happening in the US, quietly promising partisans they would reopen the abortion debate if enough people wanted it — @ToulasTake
While not solely responsible, his rhetoric helped burst a dam, emboldening misogynists and sexists and those who want to curtail women’s rights to feel that they can do and say what they want with impunity.
Two years later and I’m so damn tired.
Constantly defending your right to self-determination is exhausting
I’m tired of having to watching women reveal in #MeToo detail how their rapes happened so all the perpetually questioning or incredulous #NotAllMen can start to believe them. I’m tired of watching strangers and friends alike sharing their deeply personal abortion stories, in order to convince strangers, whose opinions and input should be utterly irrelevant to their day-to-day lives, that they are entitled to their own reproductive decisions about their own bodies and their own futures.
I’m tired of watching old white men who barely understand female anatomy legislate what my uterus can or cannot do as they attempt to make what should be a normal medical procedure as traumatic and painful an experience as possible. I’m tired of legislators debating the terms and scope of my own freedom, and what exceptions (Rape? Danger to my life? Incest? Fetal abnormalities?) justify abortion and what don’t. I’m tired of “pro-lifers” threatening those who have an abortion with the death penalty without even seeing what a laughable oxymoron that is.
I’m tired of our physical and emotional health being treated, once again, as an afterthought and as collateral damage, as we helplessly watch our bodies be treated as human incubators and temporary hosts, and a fetus treated as a person with more rights than we have.
I’m tired of misogynistic, “God-fearing” domestic abusers co-sponsoring some of the strictest abortion laws in the country and then going home to punch their wife in the face because she wouldn’t undress quickly enough for them to have sex with her — which I would more accurately describe as rape. I’m tired of people not seeing the clear-as-day, direct line between misogyny and a desire to control women’s choices and freedom.
I’m tired of watching “pro-lifers” do absolutely nothing to increase access to birth control or sex ed, the two factors that have irrefutably shown to decrease conception and, therefore, abortion rates. I’m tired of the forced birth crowd conveniently ignoring research that shows how states with stricter abortion laws have the highest incidence of both maternal and neonatal mortality in the U.S. Instead, they choose to focus on punitive legislation solely for women, while conveniently ignoring the number one cause of 100 per cent of all conceptions: men. Because, let’s face it, it’s never been about the “sanctity of life”, but about punishing and restricting women from having and enjoying sex without consequence. Because, if there are no consequences, how will these Jezebels ever learn?
Like writer and feminist Laurie Penny recently wrote, “We live in a society that is comfortable letting men get away with sexual violence but determined not to let women get away with consensual sex.”
I’m tired of living in a world where a woman simply wanting an abortion isn’t all the reason that she needs in order to get one.
For Canadian women, it’s our fight, too
By the way, I’m also damn tired of well-meaning Canadian men — columnists or otherwise — dispassionately telling us that this isn’t our fight and that Canada would never re-open the debate on abortion, as if to mockingly chastise us for expending all that girlish energy and anger on something so “meaningless.”
I’m tired of having men treat this as a moot point, not understanding that it’s not even about the remote legislative possibilities or whether it's a credible threat (we understand how governments work, too, thanks) but about the dehumanization and belittling that occurs when we’re forced to debate it at all. Calm and slightly patronizing assurances mean very little to me when I see people (and certain politicians like Maxime Bernier) around me galvanized by what’s happening in the U.S., quietly promising partisans they would reopen the debate if enough people wanted it. I'm tired of politicians like Conservative leader, Andrew Scheer talking from both sides of their mouth on this issue, both assuring us he won't reopen the debate and telling anti-abortion groups the opposite. And if you think he's just pandering to his conservative base, you're right. Forty-seven per cent of Conservative members voted against women's reproductive rights at the 2018 Conservative Convention. The resolution to support legislation regulating abortion may have been defeated, but by too narrow a margin for any of us to ignore it.
My body is not a political playground, my rights are not bargaining chips, and I don’t appreciate them being used to pander to those who would have them mean significantly less. Forgive me for allowing rage to overtake me when I see a 21-year-old homeschooled political novice like Sam Oosterhoff, who is half my age, proudly proclaiming he wants to make abortion “unthinkable in our lifetime.” Sit down with your bad self, kid! I am done pretending this conversation has to even happen and that I have to indulge your arrogance.
I’m done justifying my agency and my choices
Much of what’s involved in raising awareness about women’s issues is thankless, exasperating and exhausting work. It requires repetition, emotional labour, and facing the denial and dismissal of people who very often don’t want to see what’s in front of their faces because it ultimately threatens their own social status and privilege in this world.
This world is at a crossroads and a climate emergency is upon us. We have colossal, future-impacting decisions to make collectively and global issues to tackle. I no longer want to expend any of my finite energy having a debate on abortion. This should have been settled ages ago and I have no desire to see my generation or future generations revisit it. I no longer want to feel compelled (whether on social media or in real life) to converse with someone who feels I owe it to them to actually prove that my bodily autonomy means more than their personal beliefs. You don’t want an abortion? Great, don’t get one! But I’ll be damned if I’m forced to spend one more second of this too-short a glorious and busy life having to convince you of my personhood.