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Thoughts from a Pro-life Birth Control Activist


devilsadvocate

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This [link=http://www.allourlives.org/an-interview-with-mary-krane-derr/]commentary from Mary Krane Derr, a pro-life feminist and birth control advocate who unfortunately recently died[/link] gives some interesting perspective that I think is seldom considered in mainstream pro-life OR pro-choice circles. I thought this part in particular was interesting:

Two years ago Jennifer Roth and I co-founded a group called All Our Lives; we very consciously take a reproductive justice approach. Reproductive justice is a movement that arose from women of color, people with disabilities, people with a working-class perspective. Reproductive justice involves having not only the right to have a child but the social power to exercise that right, to raise the children we have in safety, and it also includes the right not to have a child.

Many people who identify with reproductive justice take a pro-choice stand on abortion, but there are many of us who don’t. Loretta Ross, the head of SisterSong, a very influential reproductive justice organization, talks about “perfect choice.†If everyone had the means to do what they wanted to do reproductively and sexually, that would be the state of perfect choice. Some people believe that in that state there would still be abortions, and others of us think that it would be rare to nonexistent.

So that’s why we started All Our Lives, and we’ve had very interesting dialogues, mostly behind the scenes, with both pro-life and pro-choice people. One thing that we’re finding is a niche that nobody’s taken up is that a lot of scientific research now suggests that methods that were considered abortifacient really aren’t—there is so much resistance to hearing that perspective. We also have on our website a PowerPoint presentation called “Family Planning Freedom is Prolife.†It gives 10 reasons, many backed up with scientific studies. It addresses a lot of myths that both pro-life and pro-choice people have.

“As many as God sends us†is a family planning choice, and natural family planning is one, but the important thing is I don’t think “choice†is an empty word. Some people think it’s a cover for all abortion all the time, but I think it’s very real. You can’t just talk about choice in a vacuum; you have to talk about how it’s compromised by issues of race, gender, disability, class, sexual orientation. Environmental justice is one; a lot of women are losing their ability to conceive when they want to because of environmental toxins.

Believing that all life is sacred, that means women’s lives too, and that means we do have a right over our own bodies. Pro-lifers often interpret that as a selfish demand, but I [don’t.] I remember Muhammad Ali, when I was a little kid, boasting about how great he was; a lot of white people were saying, “God, this man has an ego!†But after living in a black community for a long time and having an interracial family, I realized that that’s not egotism—that’s saying, “I’m somebody, I have value.†That’s what women are saying when they say, “We have a right over our own bodies.â€

Now with pregnancy, it’s a matter of two bodies, two lives. Our responsibility has two sides: one is responsibility for pregnant women and their children, and the other side is the responsibility to respect women’s right to prevent conception when they want to. That is a difficult thing to write in the pro-life movement. Some Catholics have objections; the other thing is the belief in something called the “contra- ceptive mentality,†that if your contraception fails, that you automatically have an abortion—that doesn’t explain millions of pregnancy outcomes. It certainly doesn’t explain why I had my daughter and why she had her son. I know lots of women who use contraception in the knowledge that it doesn’t always work as intended. But if it doesn’t work as intended, then you and your child have a right to everything that will help you both survive.

I personally find her views a refreshing break from the way abortion and contraception are normally discussed. I wish she was still around to advocate for these views.

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Well, she still seems to be okay with taking away a woman's right over her body the second she gets pregnant. If your birth control fails, well, she seems to feel like the woman just needs to suck it up and have a baby, screw if it might kill her or mess up her life.

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Hmm...wasn't there a devilsadvocate before who was a troll?

Anyway, her positions are nothing new. And I believe the majority of pro-choicers believe that if I woman wants to be pregnant, she has the right to do so and the right to anything necessary to help her stay healthy and allow the fetus to grow into a healthy human.

I don’t think “choice†is an empty word. Some people think it’s a cover for all abortion all the time, but I think it’s very real. You can’t just talk about choice in a vacuum; you have to talk about how it’s compromised by issues of race, gender, disability, class, sexual orientation. Environmental justice is one; a lot of women are losing their ability to conceive when they want to because of environmental toxins.

Yea, just no. Zero proof of this and no citations.

the other thing is the belief in something called the “contra- ceptive mentality,†that if your contraception fails, that you automatically have an abortion

Who believes this? I don't know anyone who believes this. In my experience most people actually do decide to keep their pregnancy after contraception fails. Some people decide not to for various reasons, but it's her decision regardless.

Edit: I do know how to spell believe.

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I don't know if I read "once she gets pregnant she has to have the baby" into the above statement. It seems more like she is saying "if a woman gets pregnant we can reduce the likelihood of abortion by making pregnancy and child-rearing much financially and emotionally easier" and that "some pro-lifers think that giving people contraception would increase sex and therefore abortions would increase too. I think this is false". In general she seems reasonable.

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I think when it comes down to it, though she would still deny a woman an abortion.

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I think when it comes down to it, though she would still deny a woman an abortion.

I agree, she sounds like she would deny a woman her right to her own choice.

BUT there is a lot of middle ground here. She is pro BC and a lot of anti-choice people are for BC. Also, she is for supporting women who do choose to continue their pregnancies. If we could find this middle ground with people who really are pro-life (meaning they REALLY DO CARE about children after they are born and have realistic views on BC) we could weild enough power to shut down the anti's. JM2cents.

edited: autocorrect snafu

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I think it is great that she wants to help people who want to continue the pregnancies and prevent unwanted pregnancies, but I don't ever think that there is going to be anyway that anti-choicers and pro-choicers will be able to meet in the middle, because anti-choicers, no matter how much they want to help pregnant women, babies and children, will do whatever they can to deny women the right to choose what to do with their bodies. These are pro-fetus/baby/children people, they aren't pro-woman. Well, they will be pro-woman as long as the woman doens't want an abortion.

She is less harmful than the anti-birth control, welfare is evil people, but when it comes to abortion, she isn't any different than they are.

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Devilsadvocate, I'm curious which parts you think are seldom considered in mainstream pro-choice circles. Because if you ignore her beating around the bush as to whether people have the right to an abortion, and if you take away the very specific language of Reproductive Justice, you get the exact position that most pro-choice organizations seem to take. Even mainstream pro-choice groups are beginning to work from a Reproductive Justice framework (even though some do it badly, if you ask me).

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I think in the search for common ground, there' s some to be found here. I welcome antI- choicers admitting that oral contraceptives such as birth control pills and emergency contraception are not abortion, at least.

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We also have on our website a PowerPoint presentation called “Family Planning Freedom is Prolife.†It gives 10 reasons, many backed up with scientific studies.

Assuming she is being truthful about this, I like the sentiment. I wish it would spread to militant anti-choicers like the brain trust over at Life Begins at Conception.

Otherwise, I am cautious. That type of mentatlity seems similar to people who believe in "complementarian" relationships rather than egalitarian. Yes, it's fine to think that both husband and wife bring certain strengths to a relationship, but when push comes to shove, who gets to be right? If the man gets the final say every time there's friction, complementarian is the same as patriarchal. If reproductive justice advocates will deny abortion access even when the woman makes a free and final choice, they're still anti-choice.

This is the link to the webpage containing the PP presentation mentioned in the article (it is the first link). Can't look at it at work, but I'm interested to take a look later on.

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In a non-welfare state like the US, the choice is not a free one. I hate the idea of women ending pregnancies for any other reason than their desire or ability to parent. Economic factors have to be a big component for a lot of women, and it sucks for them.

But it's delusional to claim that everyone in the world will be super careful about contraception 100% of the time. People just aren't like that.

We also have on our website a PowerPoint presentation called “Family Planning Freedom is Prolife.†It gives 10 reasons, many backed up with scientific studies.

This part is true. It makes me so angry that people who are anti-choice campaign against the #1 and 2 things that will reduce unwanted pregnancies (sex ed and contraception).

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I think that it is good that she is for birth control as having access to birth control reduces abortions way more than abstinence....but I think it is unfair on women who get raped, or their birth control fails, as they should be able to choose whether they want to keep the fetus.

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I think it is great that she wants to help people who want to continue the pregnancies and prevent unwanted pregnancies, but I don't ever think that there is going to be anyway that anti-choicers and pro-choicers will be able to meet in the middle, because anti-choicers, no matter how much they want to help pregnant women, babies and children, will do whatever they can to deny women the right to choose what to do with their bodies. These are pro-fetus/baby/children people, they aren't pro-woman. Well, they will be pro-woman as long as the woman doens't want an abortion.

She is less harmful than the anti-birth control, welfare is evil people, but when it comes to abortion, she isn't any different than they are.

QFT. Sometimes, it doesn't matter how much "help" there is out there to raise a child if flat out don't want to be pregnant. And those women deserve the right to make the choice to be not pregnant. Story, end of.

Oh, and the brain trust over at LBAC (and some of their sister pages) is my nightly entertainment, as well as my constant motivation to not drop out of my graduate program so I can be a reproductive health advocate.

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Yeah, okay. This bothers me something vicious.

This is a shittier rhetoric to peddle then the average anti-choice bullshit. It's a soft sell. She's basically saying, "Hey ladies, we aren't complete nutjobs, we know that oral contraceptives aren't really tantamount to surgical or medical abortion, but, yeah, still no abortion for you." It's the same argument revised so that you feel better about it. Don't like abortion? Don't like the idea of women making healthcare decisions without your blessing? Don't like the idea of standing in front of planned parenthood waving vulgar signs? Think all those rape and incest survivors are just big whiners? It's cool as long as you hypothetically think social programs and birth control are okay. It's rational!

Bottom line, it's none of your business. Or mine. In fact, I'm comfortable not being privy to the goings on in anyone's uterus but my own. You wanna be pro abortion prevention? That's awesome. But you don't take other peoples choices off of the table to make yourself feel better. It's immoral.

Wanna hear something that really isn't often said about abortion? Here's my take. It's mothering, and it's damn good mothering. A first act of parenting is saying NO. No, you can't lick your fingers and stick them into electrical outlets, no, you can't eat the things you find under the kitchen sink, no, you cant start fires, even small ones, and sometimes, on the basest of levels, no, you may not come into being right now because I cannot mother you. No woman chooses abortion capriciously, it is a weighed and thoughtful act of mothering. We must stop vilifying women for making women's choices, for making mother's choices. The women who choose abortion are mothers too.

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Yeah, okay. This bothers me something vicious.

This is a shittier rhetoric to peddle then the average anti-choice bullshit. It's a soft sell. She's basically saying, "Hey ladies, we aren't complete nutjobs, we know that oral contraceptives aren't really tantamount to surgical or medical abortion, but, yeah, still no abortion for you." It's the same argument revised so that you feel better about it. Don't like abortion? Don't like the idea of women making healthcare decisions without your blessing? Don't like the idea of standing in front of planned parenthood waving vulgar signs? Think all those rape and incest survivors are just big whiners? It's cool as long as you hypothetically think social programs and birth control are okay. It's rational!

Bottom line, it's none of your business. Or mine. In fact, I'm comfortable not being privy to the goings on in anyone's uterus but my own. You wanna be pro abortion prevention? That's awesome. But you don't take other peoples choices off of the table to make yourself feel better. It's immoral.

Wanna hear something that really isn't often said about abortion? Here's my take. It's mothering, and it's damn good mothering. A first act of parenting is saying NO. No, you can't lick your fingers and stick them into electrical outlets, no, you can't eat the things you find under the kitchen sink, no, you cant start fires, even small ones, and sometimes, on the basest of levels, no, you may not come into being right now because I cannot mother you. No woman chooses abortion capriciously, it is a weighed and thoughtful act of mothering. We must stop vilifying women for making women's choices, for making mother's choices. The women who choose abortion are mothers too.

QFT

and welcome to Free Jinger. :clap: :clap:

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Assuming she is being truthful about this, I like the sentiment. I wish it would spread to militant anti-choicers like the brain trust over at Life Begins at Conception.

Otherwise, I am cautious. That type of mentatlity seems similar to people who believe in "complementarian" relationships rather than egalitarian. Yes, it's fine to think that both husband and wife bring certain strengths to a relationship, but when push comes to shove, who gets to be right? If the man gets the final say every time there's friction, complementarian is the same as patriarchal. If reproductive justice advocates will deny abortion access even when the woman makes a free and final choice, they're still anti-choice.

This is the link to the webpage containing the PP presentation mentioned in the article (it is the first link). Can't look at it at work, but I'm interested to take a look later on.

Just to make it clear, the reproductive justice movement is not anti-choice. The woman quoted by the OP is just an anti-choicer who happens to agree with the parts of RJ that don't pertain to abortion.

I think it makes a ton of sense for someone who's anti-abortion to be a birth control activist. I also think you can be a feminist and be against abortion, as long as you don't think it should be made illegal or inaccessible. Problem is, the woman in question seems to have carefully side-stepped that matter.

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Yeah, it's a short step from what this lady is saying to women being told "but there's a social safety net. There is care for you and your fetus. Why on earth would you want an abortion? If you still want an abortion when all this support is offered you must be inhumane or crazy, so we'll just choose for you and deny you access to an abortion".

I'm all for support to allow women to proceed with their pregnancy if that's what they choose, but economic concerns are not the only reason women choose abortion.

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Hmm...wasn't there a devilsadvocate before who was a troll?

Anyway, her positions are nothing new. And I believe the majority of pro-choicers believe that if I woman wants to be pregnant, she has the right to do so and the right to anything necessary to help her stay healthy and allow the fetus to grow into a healthy human.

Yea, just no. Zero proof of this and no citations.

Who believes this? I don't know anyone who believes this. In my experience most people actually do decide to keep their pregnancy after contraception fails. Some people decide not to for various reasons, but it's her decision regardless.

Edit: I do know how to spell believe.

I sort of skimmed devil's advocate's post and people called it out on being a troll from the very beginning. And really, why start a thread like this if you aren't going to even bother to come back to it?

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Slightly OT, Mary was a presenter at a conference I attended in November. Even with our differences of opinion, she was very kind and gracious, and very passionate about informing anti-abrtion folks about the importance of birth control in reducing the abortion rate, and not particularly keen on criminalizing abortion. I had no idea she passed away. I know she had a lot of health issues, but this is unexpected.

She and I participated in a day-long conversation workshop on reproductive justice. She's one of the rare anti-abortion people (I hesitate to call her anti-choice, because she didn't actually take the step of wanting to make abortion illegal) that actually walked the talk and did all those things that I, as a pro-choice person, tend to say "If you were really pro-life, you'd do XYZ."

This doesn't change the fact that she was outright against abortion, or that she and I disagreed sharply on a very basic premise of bodily autonomy, but I am sad for her daughter and grandkids. And she was one of the few anti-abortion people I could actually have a rational conversation with and who had real interest and investment in the "common ground" movement, without demanding additional restriction on abortion as a prerequisite for conversation.

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So she was pro-choice in that she didn't want to make it illegal, she just thought it was wrong?

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So she was pro-choice in that she didn't want to make it illegal, she just thought it was wrong?

I can't speak for her, since she identified herself as pro-life, but essentially that's what it boiled down to in my understanding based on my (albeit limited) interactions with her.

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I'll admit that if contraception failed for me and I ended up pregnant, I would keep the pregnancy. I feel that abortion for me is wrong. But that's just it, I don't feel it's right for me. Just me and only me. It is right for many other women. It's their body, their right to continue or not continue with a pregnancy, to sacrifice her body and even life to grow another human and give it life. My personal decision is from the fact that I personally know people who have struggled so much to have a child and cannot and even more than that is that I've been told I have only have a 50/50 chance of ever being able to have a child. In other words, there's a 50% chance I am infertile, so being pregnant will be an extra shock and I'd jump on that chance because I do want to be a mother one day and for all I know, it may be the only chance I get to have a child.

But again, it's my personal decision to keep a child. My decision is only mine and I do not speak for all women on what is right and what is wrong to do because it's their body, their choice, their decision to continue forward with the sacrifice or to remove the burden for whatever reason. Neither decision it right or wrong, but whatever decision she makes is the right decision for her and that's is good enough. That' what being pro-choice means to me.

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I'll admit that if contraception failed for me and I ended up pregnant, I would keep the pregnancy. I feel that abortion for me is wrong. But that's just it, I don't feel it's right for me. Just me and only me. It is right for many other women. It's their body, their right to continue or not continue with a pregnancy, to sacrifice her body and even life to grow another human and give it life. My personal decision is from the fact that I personally know people who have struggled so much to have a child and cannot and even more than that is that I've been told I have only have a 50/50 chance of ever being able to have a child. In other words, there's a 50% chance I am infertile, so being pregnant will be an extra shock and I'd jump on that chance because I do want to be a mother one day and for all I know, it may be the only chance I get to have a child.

But again, it's my personal decision to keep a child. My decision is only mine and I do not speak for all women on what is right and what is wrong to do because it's their body, their choice, their decision to continue forward with the sacrifice or to remove the burden for whatever reason. Neither decision it right or wrong, but whatever decision she makes is the right decision for her and that's is good enough. That' what being pro-choice means to me.

Exactly. I think many people don't understand that you can be pro-choice and choose to not have abortion.

MM, did Mary say why she was against abortion? Did she view it as killing a baby?

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I am fine with someone being anti-abortion provided they are not trying to make it illegal or more difficult to obtain, and they are not shaming women who have them. You have the right to believe that full human life begins whenever, and other people can think differently.

I appreciate the emphasis on birth control access and doing meaningful things to prevent the need for abortion. In a perfect world, all babies would be planned and wanted, and maternal/fetal health issues would not happen.

However, I am not going to wave the "Well Done, Sister Suffragette" flag for this lady because she is still choosing a fetus over a woman by being pro-life. That is not feminism. The average elective abortion happens when there is a conflict between the woman's rights and the socially perceived "rights" of the fetus. You are not a feminist if you choose the fetus over the woman--you just aren't. You are anti-woman because you want to give the fetus rights at the expense of a fully-developed human being's rights.

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