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Does Each Woman's Uterus Belong to Us All? The Limits of Sisterhood

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Those who have been following this debate for a while must be thinking, "What took so long?" But the question of who on the political ideological spectrum "owns feminism" has finally broken into the mainstream. Columnist Ross Douthat has an opinion of record on the state of political womanhood in Monday's New York Times, writing that "The question of whether conservative women get to be feminists" or not, may be unresolved but "their rise is a testament to the overall triumph of the women's movement."

No kidding. When the men weigh in on feminism you know something significant is happening.
The uppity women in the blogosphere have been trading observations for several weeks on this debate and Frankie Tobin summed a lot of them up last week in her post wondering whether Mrs. Palin of Alaska has stolen the charred brassiere of feminism for conservative womanhood, particularly where abortion rights are concerned. Objecting to Frankie's post, abortion rights opponent and Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser sent in a heartfelt defense of her organization's identification with suffragette Anthony, concluding that "abortion rights advocates should stop insisting on their ever more tenuous claim on the term 'feminism' and applaud their pro-life sisters' efforts to move feminism in a more diverse, popular and traditional direction."

No matter how you perceived the awkward political handling of John McCain's theretofore relatively unknown northern governor running mate in the 2008 presidential election, no one who has followed her transformation from Wasilla ex-mayor to mega-fund-raising endorsement genie, pundit and Tea Party guest, can deny Sarah Palin is this year's political savant and supernova. But the question of abortion rights and the fruits of feminism is not just one regarding Sexy Sarah (who, to clear up an earlier thread here at WomanUP, has not had breast implants . . . ). Although Susan B. Anthony struggled to achieve the woman's right to vote in the 1800s, and we've been permitted a ballot since the 19th Amendment passed in 1920, each generation of women has struggled over the political issues of our uteri.
Feminism's current cultural revolution began in the early 1970s and though I was already an adult in my 20s, I was not on the front brigades. The 60's had been politically transformative toward ending the Vietnam war and passing civil rights reforms, but I liked old-fashioned musicals as much as protest songs and enjoyed being a girl. I'd been a fashion model in the Minneapolis clothing market whose boring job nevertheless paid far better than actual labor -- which was fine with me because I was also a bit lazy. Though I would soon have a baby daughter who would grow up in a much more enlightened world, I still believed then each girl needed to marshal her own assets.

Injustices in the workplace, wealth inequities, and other forms of subtle and unsubtle sexism were still a bit over my head while the vanguard of change was led by feminist fighters Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan and Germaine Greer. As "Our Bodies, Ourselves", Title IX and Roe v. Wade all added to a liberated social and economic environment, I raised my daughter to live in a world where, even to my callow perspective, the impact of feminism was undeniable. By 1992, the so-called Year of the Woman, I had become far more alert to the value of woman's rights and had had a front-row seat to the drama that triggered the ascent of female political powers from Washington housewife Pattie Murray to Congresswoman Barbara Boxer as they were sworn into their new Senate offices.

Sixteen months earlier, from my staffer's chair behind 14 male U.S. senators on the Judiciary Committee, I passed notes to my boss as Anita Hill testified about being sexually harassed by Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. Justice Thomas was confirmed, but all over the country women decided to run for congressional office. Though they captured only a few dozen seats, the quaint paternalistic guardianship of a mostly male Congress had left the building.
Whether we identify as liberal or conservative, the nomenclature of feminism is important to all of us now. The early liberationists were liberal, but conservatively inclined women have come to appreciate the benefits of feminism, too. What we are allowed to do with our wombs is still a very controversial topic. Please read what Sandra Fish thinks of the political efforts in Colorado to legislatively assign "personhood" to unborn babies, Sarah Wildman's disquisition on the funding of reproductive rights in the developing world and Eleanor Clift on the sisterhood of abortion politics through the lens of the current California Senate contest between Barbara Boxer and Carly Fiorina. Coming up, watch for the thoughtful posts WomanUP writers are polishing springing from an e-mail exchange among several of us over the weekend.

Filed Under: Woman Up, Abortion

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Bonnie Goldstein, do what you want with "your body" and "your uterus", pro-life conservatives don’t care what you do to "yourself". However, when you "choose" to create another human person and place that person in your uterus and provide life support for that person, then you have a legal obligation to continue life support for that person until natural death of that person, consent of that person, birth of that person or serious health threat. "My body my choice"? Please, go back to school! The zygote has it's own genetic personhood---it is another human life, it is not your body nor is it your choice to determine when another human dies! Choice ends when life begins! If you don't like being a fertile woman then get sterilized. If you don’t like pregnancy or motherhood then “choose” not to get pregnant. Now that’s real choice!

February 05 2011 at 1:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


I guess you could be anti-abortion and anti-birth control because birth control is preventing life.

June 16 2010 at 9:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

There are two kinds of "feminism". Real feminism, where a woman has choice and freedom coupled with accountability and morality, and Faux feminism where women as a class are flattered by progressive liberalism into believing they can have choice without accountability and freedom without morality. And morality need not be thought of as religious dogma, because it is not limited to that, but rather simply the consequences of our actions which cannot be avoided.

As it applies to abortion, a woman should be able to choose her health, both physical and mental in the balance with the new life in her womb, but without checking her morals at the door, nor casting aside common sense, armed with a knowledge of the consequences, confront the reality that needless abortions end as a bad choice that festers for a lifetime.

We don't need a political wedge to see it as such, it just is, the mother in each of us (a critical component in feminism, at least REAL feminism which engenders the "right to be a mother or whatever you choose"), will never stop wondering what the life might have become, what kind of person she rashly dismissed, what relationship might have enriched her life and the life of others. So, the faux feminists, rather than just face the tangible, but painful consequences, flatter themselves and others so that they can dull the pain, but thereby only postponing it, frittering away their life on the wrong side of a wedge issue.

So, what should we do as a society? Well, I believe a woman's uterus belongs just to her and she's the one that will ultimately live or die (it would be interesting to see how many botched abortions, incomplete D & Cs, surgical nicks, etc., have resulted in either Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, Cancer of the Cervix, or the led to a mandatory Hysterectomy versus those that were necessary to save the life of the mother) with the choice. I also believe we have good doctors that can provide sound counsel. Like any surgical procedure, an abortion should be reviewed with a second opinion, and parents should be the last word, being both notified and their consent required. The individual states should decide on the legality and procedure and Roe v Wade should be recognized for what it really is, the trampling of States' Rights as afforded and required by the Constitution.

I know my words won't please the "feminists" out there (at least the faux feminists), but the truth never has been easy to hear.

June 15 2010 at 8:08 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

the title of the article "Does each woman's uterus belong to us all?" poses and interesting question...far more interesting than the content of the article which focuses more on "does the word feminism belong to us all regardless of the side of pro-choice/choice one comes down on? " these are two entirely different questions as I read them...

the first, is the most dangerous of the even consider the notion that a woman's uterus and therefore what it produces (egg and subsequent fetus/child) belongs to ANYONE other than the person bearing the uterus is to invite violations of the most heinous nature...

Suppose the prevailing view becomes "Each woman's uterus DOES belong to us all" a de facto conclusion when considering that one could legislate what happens with it's use...then, the extrapolations of abuse begin to expand out in horrific scenarios.
1. Well, if her uterus belongs "to us all" then the same "all" could feel entitled to access and employ use of it in a self justifying men could believe they have the right to have sex with ANY woman simply on the basis of the uterus and its purpose being public property. (if you think that's too far fetched you haven't been watching male/female relations for the past millenia and the law against what to do with whatever happens to what's in the uterus is simply an extension of that principle)
2. And equally disturbing is the notion that the "all" can now tell people how to raise their kid since the "uterus belongs to us all"...therefore the offspring from it belongs to us as well
3. Even further...the govt. can begin to step in and dictate what happens with the child based on the "community standard" that is exemplified in the "all" aspect of who the uterus belongs to.

Are these possibilities far fetched? No more far fetched than it must have seemed to landed gentry to consider women voting or their indentured servants and slaves....and we know how that went...

So for my vote...regardless of whether or not feminism (what does that actually mean anymore?) belongs to the Tea Party, the Independent party, dems or repubs, liberals or conservatives, I neither know nor care since I don't have to live with the constraints of that limiting defintion.

What I do care about is the notion that my wife's uterus and what to do with it or not, belongs to her and her alone...and while I expect a high degree of influence in the decision about it...when it comes to bearing the child or's up to her. And I will abide by it and support it whichever direction she choses.

And I will defend to the death her right to do so...even against the so called "moral" people who believe in a genocidal God who could condemn an entire race (see DEuteronomy and the command to Joshu to enter the land of Canaa and kill EVERY man, woman, child, ass and goat) simply because these people didn't worship this petty jealous and apparently egocentric God in the way in which his patriarchal nature demanded.

June 15 2010 at 2:17 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Love the embyro, hate the children, the fathers and the mothers of them needing your assistance to survive, then incarcerate the offspring born with underdeveloped brains due to parents who've engaged in risky and dangerous habits (drugs and alcohol abuse). Some things just don't make sense to me. It's almost as if we want some children to enjoy their hell here on Earth - and we'll gladly pay for it. Now that's cruel and inhumane.

June 15 2010 at 12:29 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

"pro-life" and anti-abortion are NOT the same. Many "pro-lifers" are in favor of the death penalty ,are pro gun and pro military. They are also anti-welfare(to pay for the kids). Nothing wrong with that but inconsistency. The "pro=lifers" should step up and pay the welfare.

June 15 2010 at 12:28 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

How can someone be anti abortion and anti birth control? it's that mentality that has the number of FETUSES being aborted so high.

June 15 2010 at 12:07 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

No one is denying that women have rights to their own body, but when they create a human being in their uterus, they have no right to kill that human because they decide they don't want it or it is an inconvenience. They may as well kill the child sitting on their lap. What about the rights of that child they are aborting, it has a right to live the same as the child sitting on a mothers lap Women should take control of their body before they create another human being.

June 15 2010 at 10:38 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to nannyfive5's comment

This is a very good letter. I used to ask" were you using any type of birth control? answer no ooo. " Do you want to be pregnant? Answer no ooo." Still doing the activity that causes pregnancy?" Answer yes. I would see these same people month after month after month. I finally started to talk to these young women about taking control of their bodies and their lives. As for the feminist thinking they own the term only if one believes in abortion is a real raspberry thought. Perhaps it women would admit to being a feminist if they believed in affordable child care, adult care for aging parents, equal pay for equal work etc. The Now meetings I attended were about abortion and abortion only.

June 15 2010 at 11:20 AM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

Do you really think it's that easy to make the decision to have an abortion? Wow, you seem to have a very low opinion of other women.

June 15 2010 at 4:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

So, ETTU only children from two parent families are worthy to live? As for "defenselss unwanted little babies" --- a modern myth--- Why are Americans traveling to China, Africa, Russia, Ukraine, etc. to adopt. -- We are murdering our "unwanteds" here. We are a compassionate society, children find homes. Life is better than death.

June 15 2010 at 10:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to repentandlive1's comment

how many have you adopted???

June 15 2010 at 12:04 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

When did the "uterus" become the political issue of the day? I suppose, if we suffered a global decimation of the human population, the uterus would gain untold importance, and women would lose their right to choose. As it stands today, a woman has sole claim on her uterus, and will determine whether it bears fruit, or not. There need not be any reason greater than the womans' desire to bear a child, or not. I consider myself a right-leaning moderate, in favor of gun rights, and in favor of PRO-CHOICE. Ultimately, I am solely responsible for proper use of my firearm, and of my uterus. MUPTHEGROV said that a baby needs only food and shelter to grow. I beg to differ. A human needs much more than that, if he, or she, is to grow into a well adjusted complement to society. It is the lack of a two parent, loving, nurturing, protective and secure environment, that is creating the decline in civility and decency in our society. A baby needs much more than food and shelter. I would not wish the abuse and neglect that gets heaped upon the defenseless unwanted little baby that the PRO-LIFE bunch advocate.

June 15 2010 at 9:33 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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