A Vindication of Human Rights

I do not know how anyone can be against providing women with a law that upholds her right to decide for herself how she wishes to use her body, that is, if she wants to continue with her pregnancy until term or if she wants to have an abortion and thus terminate the pregnancy. Termination is the word we use, and I am not going to discuss the word or what the connotations are, or what the effects on our thinking from using the words terminate and termination might be–termination, extermination, what we do to roaches, mice and certain groups of people in one or another outcroppings of ethnic cleansing. I am not going to raise the specter of rape chambers for Bosnian Muslim women, the gasing of Kurds by Iraqi military, Nazis Death Camps for Gypsies, Jews and Slavs, nor any of the other killing fields of the world where extermination of human-beings en-masse, systematically or not. In a world that still remembers, or at least masquerades at remembering, the Holocaust, using the word ‘terminating’ for a pregnancy has horrid echoes.

Moreover, I cannot imagine what I would have to be able to think if I were someone who easily opposed  laws that ensure medicine is practiced when a woman chooses to have an abortion, and not something out of a chamber of horrors when electing to induce miscarriage is a woman’s decision. Abortion, before the law got behind women and their right to choose in the 1970s, was horrible, was grotesque, was something out of a chamber of horrors nightmare. There is no other way to express what illegal abortion represented then, nor what all of the ramifications were or are still. Illegal and unsafe abortions, nonetheless, are still performed everywhere in the world where abortion is not available, or access to medical facilities is unavailable for one or another reasons due to immigration status.

There was something inquisitional about abortion before Roe versus Wade, curtain rods and all that went along with back alley surgery. There is still something inquisitional about it today. It seems absurd to have to say, but pro-choice is all about getting behind for Human Rights. How is it that anyone doubts that woman’s rights are human rights? Okay–perhaps that is easy enough for everyone to say, a little more difficult for everyone to believe, proportionately more difficult for many to understand when a woman’s rights extend to choosing to have an abortion that is medical practice and not something out of a meat market.–

Where a woman’s right to choose is pandered by the media to sell products that sponsors want to sell, how are we expected to understand that these rights are unalienable, that they are non-negotiable. Where a woman’s right to choose is made into the subject of a debate, where credence is given to the notion that a woman must barter for privileges instead of standing up for her rights as unalienable and non-negotiable, is in itself a giant step backward. If we do endlessly debate this issue, we are at best never achieving a foothold anyplace where rights can stand and be stood up for–we are reverting to a world view where a woman must negotiate her rights because she is still a modified person defined and limited as a being by her role as a breeder–and not even a role, but a nature that excludes any other development by civilization.

Yes, there are still nearly a hundred thousand women worldwide who die in the process of having an illegal and/or an unsafe abortion worldwide. Nearly half of all abortions worldwide are not safe medical procedures and this has to stop–but it is not likely when virtually enforced poverty seems to be the standard, and where the Monied elite become more powerful and the persons of power become more monied, each of course the other as well.

There is, though, something uncivilized about a society that cannot protect a woman’s right to choose, and that is to choose to have an abortion or to choose to have the baby. This right to choose works both ways–forced abortions in China when the fetus is female is as much an affront to a woman’s right to choose as is standing in the way of her choice for an abortion. This right, we must remember, as I reiterate here, is something that precedes any law getting behind women in the assertion of this right. It is not the law that gives a woman her right to choose; it is the law that supports her right or not. The Emancipation Proclamation did not give the slaves the right to be free–a slave had an unalienable human right to be free that was blocked by slavery laws.

The right to choose is a fundamental human right. I hold this truth to be self-evident. It must be understood to be such and must be protected and defended as such. There is self-evidence in this assertion of a woman’s right to choose.

The Pro-Choice argument is a self-evident argument on the nature of freedom and basic human rights.

Now, if there is any pressure exerted on a woman from either side of the pro-choice issue, any extreme in the diametric of the abortion debate, then this is unacceptable in a civilized society. “Tough luck” or “too bad” might be what some of us would like to say to women who have transgressed some imagined moral law that insists sex out-of-wedlock must be punished, but it cannot be part of any social discourse on sane and ethical treatment of every individual in a society.

Women have always been and remain today the Second Sex–and I defer to Simone De Beauvoir, whose seminal (no irony intended) feminist text, The Second Sex, is the most important work in feminology since A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. (I have relished in hyperbole for a long time.)

In The Second Sex, Simone addresses the ways in which a woman’s status was defined–and by defined we must read limited; that is, to be made finite in ways that amounted to a woman being always treated other than a man, other in a way that amounted to less, when rights were concerned, often having her human rights doled out as privileges; or, other as in excessive when the codes of behavior were concerned, most specifically in how to curtail a woman’s sexuality, how to restrict her nature, or how to define her nature, itself a limitation added to limitations.

The second sex–second-place in a race between two is also last. A woman’s second-ness has only ever meant what last means for horses or swimmers in the Olympics. Yes, of course we say that just getting to the Olympics should be something to be proud of, but what are we saying–just being alive is what a woman should accept as the prime directive in her life–well, that is true for men, too, in the sense that for all people everywhere, life is the gift, but this is not the point, nor is it the end of a defense of the rights of woman.

A modified or flawed human? This has been, and remains inherent, in the status accorded to women. And don’t think that somehow, somewhere, the idea that a woman is a flawed man is not still present in the backs of people’s minds because it does persist around the world and even here in the United States. De Beauvoir addresses in a highly delineated fashion how woman has been defined and categorized by her physiology and biology more than her personhood–something I have turned to expressing in essays addressing the language of roles in the marriage ceremony, rooted in the etymology of the terms we still use, those right out of medieval agrarian animal husbandry; moreover, what their echoes are–and there are echoes–the reverberations are felt.

To oppose pro-choice is to support pro-horror, whether one supplies the curtain rods or not. There is no room in a civilized society for backward thrusts to darker ages when women were the second sex or lesser, when an inquisition was even thought to be appropriate by the sanest and most rational minds. Witch hunts and Witch Trials were as much a means to manage or control a woman’s personhood as much as it was to curtail or chastise her sexuality.

No amount of respect for cultural diversity or religious freedom can accept as appropriate a role secured for a woman that does support her basic human rights. A society that does not fully respect and defend her basic human rights is an uncivilized society. Yes, my friends, this is a crisis i civilization that must be settled once and for all–but please, let it not be settled by tragic and gross ignorance, narrow and dim minded semi-literacy, a base alphabetics masquerading as literacy. Not nearly intelligent or educated or literate has paraded as good enough for too long. Media manipulation of issues targets only the sensational, only what will increase sales or maximize profits. Quantity trumps quality in every board room and every stock holder meeting. At the risk of venturing a tangent–the Orwellian Nightmare is now. How can we hope to mange a civilized society that respects a woman’s rights, when human rights have to be bartered for by the People facing Power or Money. [See “The People versus The Public” in the pages.]


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