Look, I’m about as pro-choice as you can get without actually being an abortion doctor or having an abortion. (Thankfully, I’ve never been pregnant.) I support totally unrestricted access to abortion for people of all ages. I support unrestricted access to contraception for people of all ages and believe that it should be covered at the same rates as other forms of prescription medication or other minor surgeries under all insurance plans. (I also support single-payer health care, but that’s really neither here nor there at this time.) As a 25-year-old sexually active cis woman with no plans to have children who has used hormonal birth control and currently uses a more long-term method for which I paid out of pocket, I am the target of all the recent Republican rhetoric around birth control access. And I am completely sick of hearing about Sandra Fluke.
Of course I think it’s appalling that the right refused to allow any women to testify in the recent hearings on birth control. Of course I find Rush Limbaugh’s statements about Ms. Fluke disgusting (though not quite as disgusting as his ignorance of how birth control works). But I just can’t get excited about this particular woman’s manufactured plight. This was a Congressional hearing. That is a pretty serious matter! The Democrats could have found any number of female reproductive health experts, female physicians, or female religious authorities (if we’re going to accept the rules of the right’s game and beat them at it) to testify on the importance of free access to birth control for cis women’s (and many trans men’s) health, and women’s liberation. But they didn’t. They found a law student with a compelling story.
We are living in a time when states are trying to define a fertilized egg as a person, in a move that could criminalize in vitro fertilization treatments and many forms of hormonal birth control. States are trying to legislate arbitrary and arduous waiting periods before people can obtain abortion care; many already have. OB-GYNs who perform abortions often have to go to their clinics in bulletproof vests, and after the murder of Dr. George Tiller, late-term abortion services are functionally impossible to obtain for most people. And the state of Virginia is trying to make an unnecessary and physically invasive procedure that many are equating to medical rape a requirement to receive abortion services. (I’ve had a transvaginal ultrasound and it was not a big deal, but I am not a rape or sexual abuse survivor, nor am I squeamish or modest in general. Not that any of those things are necessary to not want to undergo an uncomfortable and unpleasant procedure.) This is not the time to be making ideological gestures or scoring rhetorical points by using a law student to demonstrate that even she has more weight to talk about reproductive health than the old men on the panel, or something. And this certainly isn’t a time to be calling on my legislators to condemn Rush Limbaugh in yet another rhetorical move that has little on-the-ground impact on my bodily autonomy or access to health care. I want my legislators to get their asses in gear and, through their actions, condemn and demolish the staggeringly sexist and dangerous legislation coming out of the right wing. And I want them to realize that this is not a political game in which they can score points by being more clever than the other guys. This is real life. This is my body as a bargaining chip. This is Sandra Fluke’s body as a bargaining chip, and she deserves better. We all do.