In ways not anticipated by the coalition of physicians and feminist health activists who fought to legalize abortion in the years leading up to Roe, the abortion conflict remains the most divisive issue in American domestic politics. More than any other issue, the abortion war symbolizes the still contested concerns originally brought forward by second-wave feminists in the late 1960s—the changing relationship between the genders, the place of women in the public sphere, the legitimacy of sexual activity separated from procreation.
We’ve asked for comments on Joffe’s article, along with Akiba Solomon’s essay on race and reproductive rights. Click on the authors’ names to read their full comments.
The choice slogan was not a great comeback. For most women who have abortions, and their partners, it’s not a choice but a necessity. “Choice” is plentiful among prosperous people (who are now becoming fewer and fewer), although even for them choice applies mainly to consumer products. Choice is not so common among those whose resources must be spent entirely on necessities.
As a child, every day I witnessed the struggles around issues that determine family formation for so many people, such as finding a job that provides enough to afford the expenses that come with having children. Reproduction and the rest of life were not separate in my household, and we know for many women they never were, even though some pro-choice activists organized that way.
Some may argue that abortion has consumed much of the energy that might have gone into the struggle for child care or equal pay. But that’s ahistorical and unrealistic thinking. The reality is that the women’s movement has had to defend at the one right we won during out earliest years. And given the limited access to abortion providers, we haven’t really won reproductive rights for all women, especially for those in the middle of the country and for low-income and minority women.