November 4, 2008

Prof Stresses Importance Of Reproductive Justice

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Yesterday, feminist author and activist Roslyn Petchesky spoke about the changing rhetoric of choice, specifically in regards to reproductive justice.
Throughout her speech, which was attended by approximately 50 women and less than 10 men, Petchesky related the rhetoric of choice and reproductive justice to economics, healthcare, racial equality, the environment and the upcoming political election. [img_assist|nid=33269|title=Choices|desc=Prof. Roslyn Petchesky of CUNY-Hunter, gives a lecture in Myron Taylor about reproductive justsice yesterday.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
The author of numerous books and articles on health, sexuality and human rights, she opened by showing a clip of The Daily Show’s Samantha Bee mocking conservative Americans’ hypocritical views on choice, abortion, contraceptives and Sarah Palin.
Petchesky stated that the clips’ use of the word “choice” by conservatives demonstrated “the entire lexicon of the classical liberal vocabulary.”
She continued to explain, “classical liberalism, the idea that one should be left alone in what one does with their money and in private, has become the bastion of conservatism.”
Petchesky highlighted the hypocrisy present in the fact that while the current Republican campaign aims to cut taxes, privatize social security and health insurance so that people can do what they want with their money, the Republican ticket will not allow women to manage their own bodies.
Next, she explained that, “the rhetoric of choice must be altered, expanded and clarified.” First, she urged feminists [to] “rethink their language.” She argued that the use of the word “choice” and of the term “pro-choice” by feminists must be altered.
She deems these terms inadequate because “the rhetoric of choice and pro-choice are the same” and because “the use of the word “choice” and the term “pro-choice” were born out of the “contamination of liberal abortion politics with pro-life suspicion and guilt,” and that they do not fully cover the issues.
Instead of choice, the term “reproductive freedom and justice” should be used to describe the movement. She believes that this phrase “will open up conversations and make people wonder what the movement really means.”
Continuing to express her view that the rhetoric of choice must be altered, expanded and clarified, Petchesky argued that “advocates of reproductive rights need to recall the ways that choice and privacy are deeply connected to the economic model.”
Without money and therefore, adequate healthcare, women do not have the opportunity to make choices about their sexual health and bodies. “Choice and privacy are useless if you lack the necessary goods and power.”
Petchesky attacked the neo-liberal economic doctrine that McCain and Palin would like to implement. She believes that this privatization of resources will further deplete the reproductive justice of women, making it more difficult for them to receive abortions and contraceptives.
Petchesky cited the highly available healthcare in Scandinavian nations, Western European countries and Canada as a direct result of their nations’ lower frequencies of teenage and unplanned pregnancy. “The accessibility of healthcare and the occurrence of teenage and unplanned pregnancy tend to go together.”
While more critical of McCain and Palin, Petchesky was troubled by Obama’s defense of Roe v. Wade in the last presidential debate. She feels that Obama does not understand that abortion is not just an issue of choice, but also an issue of healthcare, socio-economic and racial equality. While Obama firmly believes that healthcare is a right, Petchesky wonders what this means in terms of reproductive and sexual health.
She urged that health rights, reproductive and sexual rights, economic, political and social rights are all part of a single, indivisible matrix. Petchesky says that “when healthcare is right at the top of the debates we need to be talking about abortion in this much broader context and taking it to the Obama campaign.”
In response to Petchesky, Nina Coveney ’11 said, “This is an issue that affects our whole lives, even though it is generally compartmentalized as only a woman’s issue.”
Petchesky ended by asserting that while every democratic government regulates to make certain conditions of life possible, the importance lies on who regulates, how they regulate and for whom they regulate.
On that note, Petchesky pleaded her audience to “please go vote tomorrow as if actual millions of lives depend on it, because they actually do.”