October 9, 2013

40 Days for Reproductive Justice

Susan Harper of Third Wave Witch (which is not a blog I actually read, but I might start now) has declared 40 Days of Ritual to Keep Abortion Legal to parallel the 40 Days of Prayer to Keep Abortion Legal some liberal Christian groups are doing. I am all in favor of this.

Reproductive justice is absolutely essential to human rights and social justice. In fact, integration with the latter is where the term comes from. To be pro-choice is a much more limited thing than to work for reproductive justice. Pro-choice means being in favor of a person's choice to bear or not bear a child. It's a fairly simple thing. But it doesn't take into account the immense complexity of the lives of people who are or might become pregnant. Things like having the resources to do either one, having the care available to do either, the social pressures involved, having the support to do either. If you want to have a child, but you don't have health insurance to get prenatal care, won't have childcare available once the child is born, don't have the money to pay for a (extremely expensive) hospital birth, or a safe place to have a home birth, are in danger from a partner or family member if they discover you're pregnant, and on and on, then people vaguely wanting you to have the choice to have the child doesn't mean much. If you want to have an abortion, but you don't have the money to pay for one, are hours from the nearest clinic, don't have transportation to get there, don't have someone who will care for you afterwards, can't get the time off to go, will be in danger from a partner or family member if they find out you want or have had an abortion, then people vaguely wanting you to have the choice to have the abortion doesn't mean much.

Working for reproductive justice, on the other hand, means not just working to keep abortion and birth control legal and accessible, but supporting the general and reproductive health and choices of people who might become pregnant, acknowledging how race, gender (including that of trans and genderqueer people), sexuality, social and economic class, language, religion, incarceration, and many more issues and identities affect these questions. It means fighting the forced sterilization of incarcerated women, especially women of color, and also making sterilization available to anyone who wants it.

For me, all of it goes back to two things, which I consider to be inextricably linked: basic human equality, and bodily autonomy. All human being are equal, and the law must protect that equality, serve to counteract historical injustice, and encourage future social equality; socially, we all have a responsibility to work for those same goals. Bodily autonomy is essential to equality: every human being absolutely must have final authority over their body. This means far more than reproductive choices, although is certainly includes it -- no one should be forced to remain pregnant, give birth, remain fertile, have an abortion, cease to be fertile, or any other damn thing -- and must include things like the right to donate organs or refuse to do so, get surgical ender reassignment without the interference of gatekeepers, eat the diet they choose, do the work they choose (such as sex work), and far more. Without absolute body autonomy, especially if it's just for certain classes of people, we are not equal.

The legality of abortion is not the be-all, end-all of reproductive justice, but it is an essential component. Without legal and accessible abortion, without restrictions, people who are or may become pregnant are absolutely not equal, either de facto or de jure. Our bodies are not our own if we can be forced to be pregnant and give birth, or if we can be punished for living a certain way when we are pregnant, and if our bodies are not our own, then we are chattel to the government.

Our bodies don't just belong to us, they are us, and our selves cannot belong to someone else. If we give ourselves to someone else, or to our gods, by our own choice, then that is our right, but it is also our right to take ourselves back when we choose. Period.

This is a simple moral truth. For me, it is also a religious commandment: I am a dedicant of Hecate, and she commands me always to make my own choices. I choose to give myself to her and to my other gods, but I am free to take myself back, or to refuse their orders, if I choose.

I also, incidentally, believe as a religious position that human life begins at birth, and a fetus is not morally, ethically or practically a human being, although of course any pregnant person or their partner who thinks and feels that their fetus is already their baby gets to do that. No law should be based on that, though, anymore than laws should be based on people thinking and feeling that their pets are their children. But even if I did not believe that personhood begins at birth, I would support abortion -- at any point in pregnancy, for any reason -- based solely on bodily autonomy.

Wow, I wrote a whole position paper there, didn't I? All I meant to do was give a little background. This next part was supposed to be the body of this post.

The 40 days is supposed to run October 7-November 16. Obviously, I'm getting on board a couple days late, but I only just heard about it. Ms. Harper didn't make her post until the 7th, even. That's ok, I'll just start now.

Figuring out what to do is difficult. I'll start with candles, I suppose. Lighting a candle, or candle spells, have become sort of the default minimum unit of energy expended on a goal in Wiccan circles, and much of the wider pagan circle. I'm good with that.

I'd like to put some more work into it than that, though. And, of course, as I'm slowly twitching fiber arts and magical practice closer together, I'd like to find some way to use fiber arts in this. I'm thinking that this would be a good use for a small square or triangle peg loom (like a <a href=https://www.etsy.com/listing/155401980/17-peg-craftsanity-potholder-loom?ref=sr_gallery_12&ga_search_query=peg+loom&ga_search_type=all&ga_facet=peg+loom&ga_view_type=gallery>potholder loom or this set, or even the little plastic looper looms for kids, not the "knitting looms," which hold no interest for me; oooo, look at these, they've got all kinds of cool toys, um, tools), which would enable me to complete one small project for every day of the ritual project. It gives me a distinct starting and stopping point for each day, which I find very helpful for something like spellwork. I can pour a lot of energy into a weaving project, and it's a great way for me to focus. Then at the end, I could stitch together all the pieces.

Actually, I could make it a regular part of my magical practice, weaving spell squares, if not daily, then at least regularly, each with its own intent and purpose. Indicate different purposes with different colors, and when I get a whole stack of squares of one purpose, or a few related purposes, stitch them together into a pattern to build a greater spell. I like this idea.

The problem is, of course, that I have no money at all to buy such a thing, or the materials to build one, or the skills to build one. I mean, if I had a square of wood, I could pound nails into it, and go with that, but I don't have a square of wood. I've got some 2x2s, but as an earlier attempt to build a triangle loom proved, I don't have the skill to even cut those straight, much less at right angles to build a damn square. So that won't work, at least right now.

Spinning doesn't seem right for this, either, since it's making material which then gets turned into something else. Dyeing a small thing daily is impractical, that's more of a large-scale, do-a-bunch-at-once sort of thing. So I'm sort of stuck.

For now, I'll start with candles, and see what else I come up with later.