Excerpt from my presentation, Tactics and Talking Points: Re-Radicalizing the Fight for Abortion Access, given today at the Radfem RiseUp conference in Toronto, ON:
Mainstream reproductive rights activists in the United States are currently accepting a fictional story about why abortion restrictions are being enacted. A recent article by Andrea Ayres-Deets on the popular liberal website Policy Mic contained a common assumption:
“To Republicans, abortion is about a deeply held moral belief concerning the sanctity of life which propels them to legislate against half of the U.S. Population.”
I think we’re giving politicians way too much credit when we take their word on this.
So when the men in power say something like “new greenhouse gas regulations will harm the nation’s economy and threaten millions of jobs over the next quarter century,” as it says in the Republican Party’s official platform, thinking people can look at that, recognize the hypocrisy, and see through it to what they’re actually saying: “New greenhouse gas regulations will harm the ruling class’s power to extract resources and threaten our profit and dominance.”
When George Bush says something like “confronting the threat posed by Iraq is crucial to winning the war on terror,” again, we can all see through it and call bullshit. He means that “confronting the threat posed by Iraq is crucial to maintaining the ruling class’s power to extract resources and to ensuring our profit and dominance.”
I’m a firm believer that the men in power and institutions they control – the judiciary, legislature, military, industry – they rarely, if ever, take any action that doesn’t directly or indirectly facilitate resource extraction for the purpose of generating profit, and preserving their power.
So, when the men in power say something like…”I am strongly pro-life, and have fought to protect the rights of the unborn my entire career. I will continue to fight for this cause because I value the sanctity of all human life, which was said by Utah congress member Rob Bishop, why do so many advocates for reproductive rights take him at his word? Why do we accept his supposed altruism as legitimate? Why can’t we see through his rhetoric to what he’s really saying?
He means, “I am strongly pro-control and have fought to protect the rights of the ruling class to extract resources for my entire career. I will continue to fight for this cause because I value our profit and dominance.”
The pundits point out the hypocrisy all the time – if they’re so pro-life, why do they cut so many aid programs,sentence children and families to hunger and homelessness, bomb so many children, execute so many prisoners, outlaw birth control, if they’re focused on the sanctity of life?
“Still, GOP bigwigs get furious when they are accused of conducting a war on women. But what else is it? It’s clearly not a great moral crusade to save children,” writes Cynthia Tucker, in The GOP’s War on Women Continues. Pundits and activists ask the question, the question of why, as though it were rhetorical. Why can’t we follow our logic to it’s conclusion? The answer is staring us in the face.
Liberal pundits and activists have taken to calling the escalating surge of reproductive restrictions a “war on women,” yet they seem to forget what war is actually for. War is hateful, but it’s not just about hate. It’s violent, but it’s not just about violence. It’s goal is control, but not control for the sake of control. The hate and violence of war are used to achieve control over resources. This is as true for the war on women as it is for the war on Iraq, the war on indigenous cultures, the war on the fabric of life that makes up the living planet. The ideologies of colonial cultures – race, class, gender – all serve the purpose of normalizing and rendering invisible the mechanics of resource extraction.
Oppression is always tied to resource extraction. Abortion restrictions in the US, from the very beginning, were intended to ensure the dominance of white settlers and the dominance of the medical industry. Since the very beginning of patriarchy, the reproductive capacity of women has been regarded by the men in power as a resource, and controlling women is not just a hobby, or a religious directive – it’s a way to control and facilitate the extraction of resources from female bodies.
Politicians are restricting abortion access in order to more effectively extract human resources from female bodies, with the added benefit of forced pregnancy further entrenching women’s second class status. We’re not doing ourselves any favors by taking politicians at their word with regard to their motivations. In fact, by doing so, we’re throwing the fight, playing by their rules, and dooming ourselves to failure by accepting their terms.