Trigger warning: abortion, emergency medical treatment, life-threatening medical issues
So, I started to read this article from Feministe that a friend of mine posted, which is about how Virginia might try to pull the same shit Kansas did with unrealistic regulations that are impossible to meet by the deadline given, resulting in abortion clinics being shut down for not meeting the regulations. But then I got to this section:
Although I never performed an abortion, when I was a young physician in Cincinnati and Atlanta in the 1950s, I helped women who needed emergency medical care following either self-performed or “back alley” abortions. Later, in practice, one memorable case was a mature, educated mother of two whose spouse had recently survived a brain hemorrhage. Pregnant some 20 years before the Supreme Court legalized abortions and with nowhere to turn, she desperately tried to self-abort with a hat pin.
Now, I am glad that the OP (Dr. James Kenley, the former Commissioner of Health in VA from 1976-1986 and the Clinical Instructor in Preventive Medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University from 1986-1992) is drawing attention to the fact that abortion being illegal led women to attempt dangerous medical procedures. But the description of his “memorable case” made my blood boil. This “mature, educated mother of two” is held up in contrast to the other women that Dr. Kenley treated, and with the implication that her decision to terminate her pregnancy was nobler than that of the other women. Because she was older, better educated, and had already fulfilled the imperative to reproduce, because she terminated her pregnancy out of fear that her spouse might not be able to support another child, she is held aloft as one of the “real” tragedies of the years before Roe v. Wade. This is bullshit. A woman’s age, education, family, or reason(s) for getting an abortion are irrelevant. What’s relevant is that all the women Dr. Kenley treated were unlucky enough to have a dangerous procedure go wrong, in part because that procedure was illegal when they needed it. And let’s not pretend that Roe v. Wade means that every woman who needs an abortion has access to one.
Holding up a model victim, a palatable, respectable face for the diverse multitudes of women she represents, is a political tool. It fosters sympathy where there was none before: a victim who reminds respectable people of their respectable selves or their respectable friends and family. But the model victim also reinforces the idea that all those less-perfect women she represents maybe didn’t deserve reproductive rights (or any other rights) quite as much as the model victim did. And that pisses me off. Model victims need to go, and instead we need to start respecting everyone’s rights, no matter how imperfect they are, no matter what rights they’re fighting for.