Judith Green, NNJ -NOW Board member, speaking at Freedom Rally in Hackensack 2/20/17.
Hello! I am happy to be here with all of you to share in this vigil by talking about women’s equality.
To paraphrase Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, there is no equality between men and women if women are denied control over their own bodies. And women’s rights to justice are, as you know, human rights.
That is why we refuse to revisit the era before Roe, a time of anguish, desperation, deaths, mutilations, distorted and ruined lives, impoverishment and loss of potential, all inflicted on us by people who believe their moral tenets give them the right to control our lives and bodies.
As Dr. Willie J. Parker, an African-American gynecologist, said on the moral issue in a recent interview for the New York Times Magazine (2/12/17):
“A fetus is not a person…I don’t hold fetal life and the life of a woman equally…I find myself unable to demote [a woman’s] aspirations because of the aspirations someone else has for the fetus she is carrying”
“Abortion is ultimately about ownership of a body…I come from a heritage of people who know what it’s like to have your life controlled by somebody else…if you don’t control your reproduction, you don’t control anything else about your life.” (Bold type added.)
In other words, women are complete, valuable human beings whose right to seek personal fulfillment is the same as men’s; we are all peers. Please note too that our whole society benefits from the increasing autonomy of women, as it does from shedding discrimination in all human spheres.
So, for sexual equality, we need reproductive justice – including
a) Accessible, affordable birth control without restrictions on the type, and regardless of the relationship status of the woman.
b) Safe, accessible, affordable abortion services.
These services are vital as we assert with pride that we are sexually functioning women who, in conjunction with a man, sometimes have pregnancies that are unfeasible - for any number of valid reasons. According to the Guttmacher Institute, four in ten women have abortions during their reproductive lives.
Abortions always have and always will occur whether or not they are accessible, safe, or affordable. Women in wealthy families generally have access to safe abortions, which highlights the hypocrisy involved in restrictions and the double discrimination: against women and against the poor.
The feminist writer Katha Pollitt points out that begging for exclusions, however important they are, such as the right to terminate a pregnancy in cases of rape, incest, or danger to the mother’s life, assumes that abortion foes have the stage, and we will gratefully settle for whatever they allow. Well, let’s take back the stage and speak out without shame!
I am speaking out now. I had sexual relationships and an abortion while in college. The decision to terminate my pregnancy was agonizing, but was right for me at that time. Unfortunately, that time was way before Roe v. Wade. The anguish I went through to obtain an abortion was more stressful in many ways than the decision and the procedure itself. And I was among the lucky ones! Convoluted and humiliating as it was, I found a route to a safe abortion, unlike many other desperate women in those days.
Today let’s emphasize that women’s sovereignty over their reproductive lives is essential for sexual equality. This sovereignty is inviolate and no government or religious body in a democracy has the right to deny it.
And that is a truth we must work to insure.
Right now, we can work at the State level by applying repeated pressure on our Legislators to protect and further women’s equality. We need carefully constructed legislation, which NJ NOW and other women’s rights groups are working toward, to shield us from the human rights destroyers currently in charge of our federal government. Although liberal minded people don’t usually invoke states’ rights, in this case we must!
In sum, let everyone whose rights are under attack, and all who understand the corrosive effects of discrimination on liberty, join together to preserve and extend America’s core democratic values.