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Female Reproductive Rights:
The Cornerstone of Liberty

by Dennis Rahkonen
October 9-10, 2004

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Abortion isn’t pretty, but it’s frequently necessary, and only each individual female in her specific, unique circumstance has the ultimate right to determine what constitutes a legitimate abortion need.

It simply isn’t permissible for rightwing moral imperialists to thwart anyone’s abortion choice by alleging that “irresponsibility” or “selfishness” are the motives involved, rather than desperation arising from objective conditions impinging intolerably and even dangerously on women’s (and young girls’) lives.

Religious or political biases, no matter how strongly felt, are NOT a valid basis for zealots keeping others from exercising control over their own bodies.

The idea that church or state should interfere with our sisters’ reproductive lives must be resisted as strongly as free people are obligated to resist all blatant attempts at imposing authoritarianism.

However, we don’t disrespect the heartfelt views of those who sincerely feel abortion is wrong. May their convictions never be put to an excruciating, personal test.

Nobody can quarrel with someone who says: “I don’t believe in abortion, and I like to think I’d never get one myself. But it would be wrong to force my view on others.”

We hope such good people will also promote measures that would lessen the prevalence of unacceptable pregnancies in society.

That includes favoring enlightened sex education and the ready availability of inexpensive birth control for all.

It also entails dismantling outrageously sexist notions, girded by age-old conservative assumptions, which enforce the stereotype that females exist primarily as desirable outlets for male libido and that it’s a woman’s “place” to bear however many babies a husband may...make.

Let’s remember that feminist sensibility arose primarily because of a proper unwillingness among women to perpetually be fated to stay barefoot and pregnant.

As parents, our chief role in this regard is to raise our boys to treat girls in an appropriate manner. Dramatically reducing (if not eliminating) teenage date rape will do much to lessen the need for abortion.

As rational souls, we’re also duty-bound to challenge certain absurdities raised as debating points by anti-choice extremists.

Primary among these is the calculated calumny that abortion, even in the initial stages of pregnancy, “murders” a human being as certainly as shooting a clerk in the face during a convenience store robbery.

Sensational sophistry is the anti-choice movement’s stock in trade. We’ve all seen their billboards which feature cute pictures of born babies wearing bonnets or playing with balls, suggesting that early fetuses are no different.

Embryos don’t say “Goo, Goo” or shake rattles, and it’s ridiculous to grant them imagined rights that supercede the definite, inalienable rights of the already-born, living, breathing, socially functioning females in whose wombs those embryos reside.

Not as “children,” but as developing entities in the first stages of human gestation.

Aborting fetuses definitely does prevent them from finally becoming babies, but it’s medical, scientific, and legal hokum to spread the “murder” assertion to manipulate this issue for argumentative gain.

Here are some key aspects about abortion we should all bear in mind:

1) Males are generally the sexual aggressor, but they get left off the hook (and vital remedial measures are chronically deferred), when the onus for abortion is always placed on females.

2) As a cornerstone of liberty, abortion and general reproductive health must remain

the dominion of private, personal choice, not the wielded bludgeon of sanctimonious, hypocritical ultra-conservatives. They profess to venerate life, except in their vociferous support for capital punishment and aggressive, unprovoked wars that kill countless innocents, including pregnant Third World women.

3) It’s bigoted misogyny to outrageously devalue living females by building a fraudulent philosophy that they should have less say-so than zygotes.

4) Outlawing abortion wouldn’t prevent it. It would simply be driven underground.

Many of us have older female relatives who relate shocking stories of how horribly women and girls died at the bloody hands of back-alley butchers before Roe v. Wade legalized a practice as old as history itself.

5) Zealotry and freedom are incompatible. “Christian” equivalents of Afghanistan’s Taliban fanatics mustn’t determine American women’s destinies.

6) “Partial Birth Abortion,” which can’t be found in any reputable medical journal, is a made-up name for a procedure very rarely carried out, to protect the life of the prospective mother. Through vague legislation barring this practice, the anti-choice movement hopes to outlaw all abortion. It’s tyranny’s foot in the door; it’s dictatorial dogma in our bedrooms.

7) Tremendous superprofits are realized by reactionary corporate interests that promote gender inequality and hire women at much lower cost than men. Keeping females economically and socially second-class citizens begins with beating back their hard-won reproductive rights. Women who resist abortion are unwittingly facilitating their own overall exploitation.

Finally, to show just how harmful the rigid anti-choice stance can be, consider the following:

Immediately after taking office, George Bush initiated a global prohibition of U.S. governmental aid to reproductive health providers overseas that mention abortion while serving their clients. Writing in the Baltimore Sun, women’s advocate Carmen Borroso explains:

“The rule also prohibits any advocacy for legal abortion, even if made without the organization's own funds. When the International Planned Parenthood Federation's Western Hemisphere region refused to accept those unethical restrictions on its freedom of speech, it was denied $12 million of critical support by the U.S. Agency for International Development in 2001. The people affected by the gag rule: poor women in Latin America and the Caribbean who rely on family planning clinics for basic medical as well as reproductive health services.”

Do conservatives feel the injury their outlook brings multitudes? Do they weep over preventable funerals?

No, they do not.

In addition, their outlandish fetus worship throws up obstacles to human advancement, via the cure for a multitude of dreaded diseases, through their resistance to stem cell research.

For reasons cited earlier, we know the Right’s ballyhooed reverence for “life” is selective and bogus.

Republicans in Congress, for instance, will champion “unborn babies”. But where does their compassion go after birth?

Over the years, they’ve fought tooth and nail against key social programs designed to give kids better beginnings in actual life. Everything from WIC to Head Start. Likewise, they’re always thwarting minimum-wage hikes or meaningful healthcare and daycare proposals that would go a long way toward mitigating the urgency for abortion when new additions suddenly come into families already pressed to the limit.

Divorced from rightwing rhetoric, choice reveals itself as the only credibly defensible position on this question.

Telling free American women what to do about abortion (and striving to legislate an actual prohibition) is the cutting edge of an entire, intolerant agenda that would take away basic rights from not just females, but racial and sexual-orientation minorities, workers, dissenters, etc.

If you’re unhappy about how government of, by, and for the people has been replaced with self-serving rule by conservative, white, male corporatists engaged in Enron-like crime in the suites and imperial wars, stand up for abortion rights. Abraham Lincoln’s vision of what America should be will indeed “perish” from this earth if the anti-choice lynchpin of abysmally backward politics is locked into place.

Let’s get conservative noses out of other people’s affairs, and instead unite with all threatened constituencies to jointly struggle for full realization of what no conservative or Republican will ever advocate.


There is so much inequity stemming from rightwing sources that they dare not mention the one word that carries with it a crying demand for corrective change.

Defend choice.

Its absence would be lethally intolerable for millions, and would definitely foreshadow an eventual, wholesale loss of elemental freedom in the United States.

And let’s not forget that defeating George Bush on November 2 is the pivotally important first step to firmly securing our precious liberty.

Dennis Rahkonen, from Superior, WI, has been writing progressive commentary and verse for various outlets since the ‘60s. He can be reached at

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