You don’t have to make up your mind

By Kimberly Ovitz

Opinions regarding reproductive rights, contraceptive policies and the abortion debate have become a widespread phenomenon. Upcoming political elections and increasing reproductive technologies have resulted in a hostile climate for women’s reproductive rights. While many opinions project a facade of concern for women’s health, there are clear underlying reasons for the focus on the problematic uterus. Every political candidate, contraceptive representative, and local pastor is likely to express opinions congruent with their institution’s initiatives. While expressing personal opinions is a valid method of self-expression, I find the demographics behind these media representations slightly startling. Political, religious, and economic initiatives all have a stake in the debate, yet the majority of these institutions are disproportionately male and disproportionately white. Why are so many male-dominated institutions this concerned with an exclusively female organ?

Reading anti-abortion media makes women who support abortion rights appear almost sinister. It’s juxtaposed as if there’s an exclusivy female conspiracy to eliminate future generations – though the scenario is not nearly as simple as ‘good versus evil’. The anti-abortion side of the debate can appear just as terrifying – rooted in conservative religious ideology, infringing upon an intended secular society. Either way, headlines are starting to read like thr editors have mistaken articles with Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

With divergent opinions represented in the media, the matter of reproductive rights is a challenging one to come to a consensus on, and even more challenging to formulate personal decisions for. Between religious influence on politics and economic interest in developing contraceptive and reproductive technologies, there exists a clear affiliation between power, profits, and reproductive policies. It is clear that such interest in the uterus is not coincidental or haphazard, but instead a strategic maneuver from which to maintain religious and political power, or economic profit, at the expense of the women to whom these body parts and rights belong. Abortion has become important both politically and religiously in deciding which candidates to support. Steven Erlelt from reports that Catholic Bishops have released a statement encouraging voters to make anti-abortion initiatives the centrifuge of their political priorities. A little research returns other vocal attacks against abortion rights, initiatives, making ridiculous statements harmful to reproductive rights: Armstrong Williams from The Hill advises, ‘women need to think about the consequences before having an abortion.’

According to Right Wing Watch, anti-abortion activist Lila Rose suggested in 2009 that if they’re legal, “abortions would be performed in the public square.” Both comments set women’s rights back generations. In a Reuters article by Corrie MacLaggan, he reports that last May Texas Gov. Rick Perry was‘pleased’ to put in place a law that forces women to undergo a pre-abortion sonogram before they finalize a decision. With such misinformed, draconia and aggressive opinions in the media, it’s indeed challenging not to make a dystopian fiction analogy.

From an economic perspective, fertility treatments and contraceptive medications are expanding markets in which extensive profits are to be incurred. News stations describe “wombs for rent” and other egg donation services as examples of solidarity amongst women – experiences with positive results for everyone involved. Fertility procedures and contraceptive medication, however, have very harmful potential affects, that too frequently go miscommunicated. Both the medical discourse on the back of my birth control medication, and the attacking political debates making me, as a reproductive rights supporter, responsible for baby killing mayhem, have disenfranchised both myself and other women. If products and procedures are intended for our use, their harmful effects and economic incentives should be more clearly communicated.

Debates over women’s reproductive organs have a unique characteristic: they exclusively affect women. These policies and technologies do not affect the entire society, as they do women and their bodies, yet the most vocal institutions are not reflective of the population that their opinions and policies are meant to represent. A democracy is supposed to be characteristic of its constituents, but in regards to reproductive debate and policies, opinions are often male-dominated. While women and their partners are both affected by personal reproductive choices, it is ultimately the women’s body and rights that are at risk. With so many divergent opinions and misinformation, it’s hard to navigate reproductive rights media – from my perspective, these are crucial times in which people in cohorts for profit and power are trying to influence you and your healthcare decisions; if you examine the debate from a different angle it sounds even more ominous, doesn’t it?

Kimberly Ovitz is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected].