Choice: A Brief 37 Year Retrospective

This post is part of our "What Does Choice Mean to You?" series commemorating the 37th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

In the ideal, the concept of choice for American women would
be the inalienable right to the full array of life opportunities and the right
to bodily autonomy. In other words, American women would be full citizens with
the entitlements of all rights and responsibilities. But, I’m not deluding
myself. While many American women enjoy this notion of choice, many do not.
Barriers of gender, class, race, ethnicity, education, and sexual orientation
(to list a few) prevent less fortunate women from determining their own life
path. Even corporate conglomerates’ mass media and legislative bodies maintain
narrow definitions of women’s roles and worth. Just read the news to learn how
important Hilary Clinton’s cleavage is or to learn about the incarceration of
pregnant Amber Lovill to ensure the safety of her fetus. And it is to these
powerful entities, media and government, that I point a finger for women’s lack
of bodily autonomy.

Between media representations of stock characters for
women, especially women of color, and our legislators’ patriarchal and, often,
misogynist governance, women don’t stand a chance for bodily autonomy. A poor
woman of color suffers the whims and vagaries of media images of welfare,
drug-addicted single mothers. Women who do not conform to the heteronormative
construct of our society often incur the wrath of the bigoted and hateful. A
report of lesbians being beaten on a New York City street barely deserves a 15 second spot in the news. And in films, when a woman finds herself with an
unintended pregnancy, the fairy tale always ends with carrying the fetus to
term. Abortion is almost always viewed as a non-viable option. Yet, in the real
world since 1973, 45 million good women have chosen abortion as the best option
for them. And in response, since 1973, both the media and our legislators have
done everything they can imagine to remove women’s inalienable right to bodily
autonomy. So, on this 37th anniversary of Roe v Wade, I call on the
spirit of sisterhood to invoke the ideal of choice for all women, to demand
women be restored to full citizens with the entitlements of all rights and

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  • embell

    The failure of law enforcement to protect women as well as men is glaringly obvious in the case of women who attempt to enter a facility where abortions are available. If anti-choice protesters demonstrated against condoms outside of a Wal-Mart, they would be carted off immediately, no First Amendment defense would be seen as credible. Roe v. Wade is under constant assault by well-funded organizations which often also set up fake "crisis pregnancy" centers and rake in a bundle from adoption fees. The continuing shaming of women who choose abortion intimidates many women from speaking out and finding the sisterhood that can sustain them. Thank you for your words, Kate.