Jason Merritt Shares His Thoughts on Last Night's Screening of JANE: AN ABORTION SERVICE
Last night, I got a chance to see JANE: AN ABORTION SERVICE at the Clinton Street Theater, which was being screened as a part of their ongoing reproductive justice film series.
The film itself is a documentary from the mid 90s focusing on a group of young women in Chicago who formed a feminist collective that helped women, particularly poor women with limited options, get abortions before Roe v. Wade legalized the procedure. Women who, for whatever reason, weren't ready to have a child were desperate for help. They were being pushed by social pressures to have children when they weren't ready and to marry people they didn't necessarily want to be with all because they got pregnant. They were treated like pariahs and had few places to turn.
Jane, a collective of young women in Chicago, saw the need for these women to have access to safe abortions and created a service that (illegally) met this need from 1968-73. The movie, while a bit dated, was extremely moving and educational. Parts of it made me uncomfortable, while others made me appreciate anew the struggles of women and the many ways they've met these challenges head-on, tying into broader struggles against things like racism and economic inequality.
As an added bonus, Judith Arcana, a writer and 'Jane' featured in the documentary, was there for a Q&A at the end.
While many people have moral objections to abortion, especially at later stages of pregnancy, I believe in a woman's right to choose when to have a child. A fertilized egg/embryo is, for all intents and purposes, a part of a woman's body, and no one should have the right to tell another person what to do with their own body.
Also, having abortion be legally available and easily accessible makes it safer for women. Without it being so, women who aren't ready to have children, are impregnated against their will, etc. will either be forced to have unwanted children, which isn't good for them or the child, or else have to rely on alternative and often unsafe methods of terminating pregnancies, e.g., herbal abortifacients that may be toxic; illegal and unsafe 'back-alley' abortions (which result in an estimated 70,000 deaths per year worldwide); etc.
Another major reason I support a woman's right to choose is that, for centuries, the dominant ideology has been that a woman is essentially a walking womb and her place is the home, and anything that gives women the ability to share equally in public life and pursue things like education and careers is anathema to that. It's no surprise, then, that the majority of those who are against these things are the ones who have the most to lose, older white men.
Ultimately, it's about power. Allowing women (and men) to use contraception and decide whether they want to have a child if pregnant, not to mention having those things be safe, easily accessible, and covered by insurance, takes away what little power patriarchal institutions still have over women, which is why I fully support women's reproductive rights, as well as anything that gives women an equal share in the sphere of public life.
Although this 'right' was recognized in 1973, there has been a great deal of pushback erodding access. From the Hyde Amendment to the numerous state laws restricting providers and forcing women to endure unnecessary and even humiliating treatment/procedures (e.g., mandatory waiting periods, sonograms, and counselling that's often biased and designed to frighten women from having an abortion), women are finding themselves in a similar position as they were pre-1973. As of today, about 88% of all US counties have no identifiable abortion provider.
As a man, I don't have to worry about becoming pregnant before I'm ready and having to make such a difficult decision, which is a relatively privileged position. But as a person committed to gender equality, I feel it's my duty to listen to women about what they want and need and give them the space to make their own decisions about their own lives.