Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke on the 15th anniversary of the International Conference of Population and Development, reminding us all, choice is not just one issue. (More quotes from her at http://feministing.com/)
Here is what I think– totally obvious– but maybe not: reproductive rights do not exist in isoaltion. They have everything to do with women’s economic and political power, women’s access to education and health care, women’s status in societies, and women’s abilities to take care of themselves and their children.
Years ago, Professor Jean Schroedel of Claremont College came out with a survey examining the relationship between state abortion laws and spending on children. Her research revealed that the states that most severely limit abortion are the same ones that spend the least on foster care, parents who adopt special needs children, and poor women with dependent children. States with strict abortion laws consistently accorded lower political, economic and social status to women. For example, Louisianna had some of the tougest abortion laws and spent $602 per child. Hawaii had some of the most liberal laws and spent $4,648 per child.
Schroedel’s finding suport the work of Nafis Sadik as Executive Director of the United Nations World poplaution Fund. Sadik was instrumental in turning the debate over how tolimit population growth into a campaign for womens’ rights. She is widely credited with bringing attention to the correclation between over population and the status of women (finally a more widely publicized correlation in the book: Half the Sky) When women are educated, when they achieve ecomomic independence, when they have access to good health care, when they are valued in society for their intellect and their accomplishments, they have fewer babies.
Unfortunately, pro-life politicians still don’t get it. They don’t seem at all concerned with improving the status of women and benefiting the entire world. George Bush’s record as governor of Texas remains the classic model for Republican leadership on these issues. When Bush was Governor, Texas women had a higher than average chance of living in poverty, the state minimum wage, earned by he female dominated service workers and domestic workers industries was $3.35 per hour, totalling $6,700 annually for full time employment. The perecentage of women and children without health insurance was the second highest in the country. Bush made it more difficult for women to obtain abortions in times of crisis, but offered no preventative policy initiatives to reduce unintended pregnancy, no expansion of family planning or fundng services, no comprehensive sexuality education program and no insurance coverage for contraceptives.
Under his leaership, Texas had the second highest rate of teen pregnancy in the nation.
Comapre that to France where mandatory sexuality education begins when students are 13. France’s teenage birthrate is approximately 6 times lower that the rate in the US; its teen abortion rate more than 2x lower, and overall AIDS rate, more than 3x lower.
Conservatives like to say,”The government that governs best, governs least.” What happened to this party? Now, they sound so much more like big government believers. Many Amercans wonder how they came to intrude so much into our private lives, legislating personal choices like whom who should sleep with or pray to.
The reason is because if politicians aren’t going to help to provide access to health care, contraception, STD prevention, access to child care and sex education, and economic autonomy there is nowhere to go but blame pregnancies on loose morals and loose women. If Republicans acknowledge that women have reproductive rights, they’ll have to acknowledge that women have other rights as well: reasonable funding for family planning, a higher minum wage, insurance to cover contraceptives, real sex education and access to heath care.
Pro choice isn’t one issue and it isn’t one choice. Pro-choice means women have the choice to graduate from college, the choice to borrow money to start a business, the choice to get a good job with a fair wage, the choice not live in poverty and keep ther kids out of poverty. Choice means that women get to be autonomous citizens, just like men do– with the power to determnine their own destinies.
As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was trying to tell the world– Don’t you get it? When women don’t have choice and healthcare and economic autonomy, the whole world suffers.