It’s been an intense couple of weeks, from the feminist-activist perspective. Since the April 18th Supreme Court ruling (Gonzalez v. Carhart) upholding–with a 5-4 majority–the 2003 “partial birth” abortion ban, I’ve been giving myself a crash refresher course in the theory and politics of women’s right to reproductive choice–including the “basic human right to decide what to do about a pregnancy” (see “Is There Life After Roe?” by Frances Kissling).
The ruling, while not unexpected, still felt like a punch in the gut when it came down. It is dismissive of scientific evidence, medical consensus, women’s right to bodily integrity, and the centrality of family planning in women’s equal participation in society. It upholds a shoddy law that is constitutionally vague (there is no medical procedure known as “partial birth abortion”) and based on congressional “findings” with which the majority of the governments own expert witnessess disagreed. The anti-feminism, implicit and explicit, in the majority opinion made me (and many of my friends) feel almost personally physically violated.
The one bright spot, legally and morally speaking, was Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s powerful dissent, which rooted its argument in a feminist ethic of women’s right to participate in the right “to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation.” Check out this awesome article describing how it could become the basis for future pro-choice law.
Serendipitously, a couple of weeks before the ruling was handed down, I got involved in the on-line community around feministing, a feminist blog. It’s been my first experience actively participating in on-line discussions (and at times the learning curve has been a little steep!), and it was incredibly helpful for my continued sanity that I was connected to the people who read and wrote on Feministing as the news was breaking. They have helped me to channel my rage into small, daily acts of useful protest. They even convinced me to phone my congressional representatives and ask them to support the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), now pending in both houses, which would protect women’s legal right to abortion. Those of you who know how much I hate/am terrified by the telephone will understand what a step that was!
All this political activity and feminist discussion has been a good reminder that, as I am sorting through career possibilities in the next few years, I need to be conscious about integrating my love of books and scholarship with my passion for feminist activism. Political involvement, and the community of (at least partially) like-minded individuals I become closer to as a result of being politically engaged, are necessary for my sanity and help me stay excited and hopeful about the future.
*and many thanks to all the Feministing bloggers and readers for pointing me toward most of the articles linked to this post.