Interview of Rachel Ivey ― Resistance Radio

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Derrick Jensen: Hi. This is Derrick Jensen. This is Resistance Radio on PRN. Today my guest is Rachel Ivey. We will be talking about reproductive rights. Rachel, you recently gave a presentation that was entitled ”Tactics and Talking Points: Re-Radicalizing the fight for abortion access. It contained a history that I didn’t know. I’m wondering if we can talk about the notion of being pro-choice, and give your own personal history and how you became politicized in this. And, then talk about some of the fallacies with choice.

Rachel Ivey: Yeah, absolutely.

DJ: Okay.

RI: It’s interesting that you said you didn’t know any of this history. Because I think that is really common. And, that’s true of me as well. I got the opportunity to do that talk at the Stop Foreign Culture Conference in Boston. And, before I started doing research for that talk, I didn’t really know the history of the reproductive rights movement or the history of the reproductive control in the United States, or anywhere.

DJ: And, you’re saying this as someone who is a long-time activist for this.

RI: Yeah. I think that’s what made that realization significant for me. I’ve been doing this about five years; I’ve considered myself a reproductive rights advocate. It’s kind of where I cut my teeth on basic organizing, public education campaigns, lobbying, petitions, and phone banks. This is where I got started learning how to organize.

I got started becoming a feminist around 18 or 19. So, I thought at that point, and even up until very recently that I was pretty well versed in how reproductive rights have progressed at least in recent times and the basics of strategies surrounding that issue. It turns out I was completely wrong. There’s lot of history that is just not talked about. A lot of premises that reproductive rights advocates are acting on that are largely unspoken. And when they are spoken, they are largely unexamined.

In January of 2013, Planned Parenthood, which is one of the major reproductive rights advocate, a non-profit, stopped using the term pro-choice in their outreach material and in their educational campaigns, in the talking points that they send for their training of activists. And this was very puzzling to me at the time. I had been heavily involved with Planned Parenthood, both as an employee, as a community health educator and also before that, as a campus organizer. I could not figure out, at first, why that would be a smart move. I think my confusion stemmed from the fact that the term pro-choice, for me and for a lot of other activists like me- young, white, college educated, activist- pro-choice was kind of the rallying cry, or the ground that we sit on that got us started in activism. We felt it gave us a unifying point or something to build on. So, their abandonment of that, while they did do a lot towards justifying that and contextualizing it, was really new to me.

So, I started looking into critiques of the term pro-choice. And I found that while critiques of choice were new to me, they were not actually new. Many activists, most notably, activists who were women of color had critiqued choice for a multitude of reasons. One of the main ones being that it trivializes the extensiveness and the diversity of the reality of the reproductive control, in the U.S. specifically. When we look at the reproductive issues that affect all women, not just women like me, we find that access to abortions is only one small part of the ways that reproductive control is leveraged against women.

Very recently, in the last few weeks it came out that at least 148 women were sterilized, coercively, without true consent in the California penitentiary system. The last admitted forced sterilization in North Carolina, was 1974. In June of last year, a class action suit by the victims of that forced sterilization, they were denied any compensation.

So, it’s not something that is over. It’s not something that is ancient history. This more expansive view of reproductive control and the reality of it is still going on today.

DJ: So, can you go through the existing narrative of Roe vs Wade. Before you talk about what is inaccurate about that narrative, can you describe the current narrative surrounding Roe vs Wade. I mean, I know that so many of us were thrilled when the woman – I can’t remember her name, I’m sorry-in Texas did the filibuster and were appalled, of course, with what the state of Texas had done. We’ve heard of other states doing the similar things. And, Roe vs Wade has sort of been this rallying cry. So, can you talk first about the narrative that we’re all familiar with, and then talk about some of the things that are inaccurate about that narrative?

RI: Right. Well, first I’d just like to talk about why I think understanding this is so important. The reality is that 87% of counties in the U.S. have no abortion provider. These restrictions are ramping up. Every legislative session in 2012 alone, 43 abortion restrictions were enacted in 19 states. There’s a wide diversity of the way that these restrictions have been happening. From outright bans which are technically unconstitutional, but the point is to challenge Roe and to try and push it to the Supreme Court. Insurance bans, (@ 6:30) like the hide limit and the defunding of Planned Parenthood that was huge a few years ago. Forty five states have TRAP laws, which is the part of the Texas legislation that you were referring to that a lot of it was very insidious, but the TRAP laws were what closed down or what will be closing down most of the clinics in Texas.

TRAP stands for Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers. And, its red tape. (@7:20) They do things like, the Texas cell, for instance, makes it so that hallways in abortion clinics have to be a certain width required for emergency facilities. Which abortion clinics do not practically need to be emergency facilities. That is one way to shut them down. It also requires that abortion practitioners have admitting privileges at the nearest hospital, which are very difficult to get for any doctor, especially if you’re an abortion provider.

So, the extremity and the severity of the trends of reproductive control in the U.S. is only going in one direction. And the opponents of reproductive justice are very creative and very diligent in their attempts to cut off all access and reproductive control by women.

DJ: The word I would use is insatiable.

RI: Yeah, definitely. And I think that this is understood by reproductive rights advocates. I know that when I was engaged in this work as a campus organizer, there was a culpable kind of urgency among young reproductive rights organizes: That we will not be forced back to the illegal era, the pre-Roe era.

So, that’s kind of the narrative that we tell ourselves. The story that informs our strategy begins. So, before Roe vs Wade, we say abortion was illegal. That’s a half truth. I think a lot of the elements of this narrative are kind of half-truths. (@8:45) Unfortunately, the states will kind of follow our logic half-way through its conclusion.

And it’s true that Roe vs Wade federally ended the outright criminalization of abortion. But it isn’t as widely acknowledged that the criminalization of abortion has a beginning as well as an end.

In the early 1800’s, abortion was just beginning to be legislated. These were, as now, couched in religious language a lot of the time. It also mirrored rising fears that a white Protestant majority would become a minority. And this is still an idea that sends shivers down the spine of our white male political bodies.

So, we have quotes from people like Horatio Storer who was one of the leading anti-abortion crusaders of this time. He says, “Will the left be filled by our own children or by those of aliens? This is a question women must answer. Upon their loins depends the future destiny of the nation.” Storer was also a physician.

Today we have this commonly used talking point that we want abortions to be safe and legal. But when we put that talking point in the context of the hostile takeover of abortion provisions by the medical industry, it becomes a lot more sinister. In the late 1800’s, the AMA, the American Medical Association, became one of the leading lobbyists for abortion restrictions. This was a bid for control. They wanted to be the only body that was granted the authority to perform abortion and they wanted to control the knowledge of how abortion is performed. One of the briefs that they put out during that time says that the frightful extent of abortion in the U.S. is found in the grave defects of our laws, with regards to the actual existence of the child before birth. These errors are sufficient in most instances to prevent conviction and are based and only based upon mistaken and exploited medical dogmas.

Conveniently, since the need for abortion isn’t based on the needs of women or on the realities of living in patriarchy, it’s actually just medical misunderstanding. As the newly united medical elites in the just born commercial medical industry, they conveniently are the only people with the necessary knowledge and expertise to correct these grave defects in our understanding. What we saw was (@11:30) susenation of abortion provisions from a community structure with midwives and unlicensed practitioners using traditional knowledge, using largely non-industrial types of medicine in order to perform abortions into what we have now which is abortion being tightly controlled by both the government, in terms of regulating it, and also the medical industry in terms of practicing it.

This narrative of abortion being illegal in the time before where we don’t really specify what happened, or how it became illegal, leaves us with a strategy that takes for granted the control of abortion access by the medical industry. I think this is really destructive and we’ve left no room for actual change or any way forward.

DJ: Let’s back up a second. You were talking about the criminalization and medicalization in the 19th century. But, can you talk about both pre-conquest indigenous reproductive rights in the United States? I don’t even know if you can use the term reproductive rights. Contraception, I guess is the better word. And also, the abilities of women to have abortions, and who made those choices, pre-1830’s, say, and talk a little bit about those and also the word quickening. I just wanted to mention that from the talk that I read of yours.

RI: That was definitely very new information for me too. That the history of reproductive control by powerful European men on this continent goes back way before the official inception of the United States as an empire.

From the very first colonization of this continent, reproductive control has been a method of colonization. Indigenous cultures, both here and elsewhere, depending on which one, there was a wide diversity of attitudes about this. Many of them had traditional methods of contraception and of abortifacients that were largely herb based that pre-dated the medical industry by thousands of years. Part of colonization and part of the genocide of indigenous people that this continent has seen has been the erasure of all traditional knowledge including medical practices like the practice of abortion.

Another part of that is the systematic rape of indigenous women as well. So, when we talk about reproductive control, we have to talk about rape at every instance. Some people have almost jokingly noted that when you ask politicians are talking about reproductive laws they seemingly can’t constrain themselves from also talking about rape and making really embarrassing and offensive statements about it. But there is a context to that and there is a history to it that goes back very far. And this was in terms of the U.S., the very beginning of it. The systematic rape of indigenous women began then and continues today, and that further deprived them of any reproductive control or bodily autonomy that they should have.

We can also look to American slavery as another instance where powerful European men used reproductive control in order to ensure colonizing control, or class control in terms of white supremacy. Enslaved African women were denied any reproductive control. They were subjected to both forced abortion and forced childbirth and systemically were a way of life for those men as well. Again, this continues today. I mentioned a bit earlier that coerced sterilization is still happening in the United States. Mainly regarding women of color within the penitentiary system. This continues today.

When reproductive activists today talk about reproductive rights, they’re mainly talking about white women. And even when we talk about the history of the criminalization of abortion, that mainly relates to white women. Because, the instatement of laws restricting reproductive control were mainly intended to ensure a white majority. They wanted to make sure that the west would be filled by their children, meaning, white children. So these were coached as xenophobic fevers. They wanted to make sure that those few outnumbered would be the ones in charge. I think that is still true today. It’s often an unspoken truth rather than politically correct within the mainstream narrative. But-

These concerns are definitely an undercurrent in abortion restrictions from the very beginning of European colonization, up until today.

DJ: We actually see this all the time. From a capitalist perspective, there are two population problems. One of them is that poor people of color around the world are having a lot of babies. The other is that whites in industrialized nations are not having babies. And capitalism requires increasing consumption, which really, in many ways requires increasing populations. So, I’ve seen Op’eds by very strong pro-capitalists who are absolutely freaking out at declining birth rates in the industrialized nations. And, in fact, Russia, a few years ago had a reproduction holiday, that everybody was supposed to go home and have sex. They got a day off of work so they could have sex so they could have more babies. So, that’s all very clear, the racism in that should be evident to anybody.

RI: And, the connection there is really completely absent from the mainstream narrative surrounding reproductive rights. I think we’ve conceded a lot of grounds mainly due to the omission of all of this history. It blew my mind to learn about the term quickening.

Today, we take for granted that even if we get some generous legislation surrounding abortion access when and why and how abortion is performed is still, it’s accepted that it’s going to be decided by male dominated institutions, whether it’s the government or the medical industry.

Up until the early days of criminalization the cutoff of when an abortion became morally inacceptable was called a quickening. That describes the woman’s experience of first feeling the fetus move within her womb. So, this is a cutoff point, which is subjective, and is also female controlled. Her reporting of that event, her perception of that event, is what dictates the moral landscape around abortion being performed. This is something we’ve totally lost touch with, today. I think that’s indicative of the degree to which we’ve lost the thread in terms of the reality of how reproductive control has come about and the implications for what it means for the future.

DJ: I don’t know if you want to go this particular direction. It’s perfectly fine if you don’t. So, women were able to determine by the quickening when it was morally or morally not acceptable for them to abort a fetus. Who were the actual practitioners at this point? Was it dudes? Was it midwives? Who was oftentimes assisting the women with the abortions?

RI: It’s an interesting question, because there isn’t one answer. I think that fact speaks to the landscape surrounding the history of reproductive control in and of itself. Today we have a very standardized, commercialized, corporatized medical industry, especially in the United States. So, things have been standardized to a large degree.

Whereas before the industrialization of that practice, before it became an institution, there was a wide diversity of how and by whom medicine was practiced. So, we can see a parallel between the institutionalization and the corporatization of the medical industry as you can with every other aspect of human society. As we became more civilized, we became more industrialized. Before this standardization occurred, in some places it was performed by local doctors who were often male, but there was also was also a very strong – there still exists today but it’s been rather anemic in the aftermath of this industrialization. A midwife infrastructure and especially in medicine regarding reproduction and regarding female anatomy being passed down from woman to woman. It used to be that it wasn’t taboo for men to have knowledge about the mechanics of birth and of reproduction. And, that again, is something that we totally lost and most women do not give birth with the help of women in their families, or women in their communities that they look up to and have knowledge about it. They are under the total control; they are often drugged and unconscious; having birth through surgery, where a surgeon or an obstetrician is making decisions for them. And, they are not even technically present for them.

There were colonial home medicine guides in the 1700 and 1800’s often contained guides of common herbs that could be grown easily or gathered that could produce an abortion. Now, let’s not sugar-coat it, these are not always safe, especially as a more commercial society began to – (@22:30); they were often traveling salesman that ran around with various concoctions that could produce an abortion. And, some of these were safer than others. The main contrast that I would draw from that, is that there was a diversity of ways that this was performed.

White women – because when we talk about colonial society, that’s really who we are talking about in these types of societies- thinking of women that were largely controlled on an individual basis by their husbands or fathers, and that did extend to reproductive control in a lot of cases. But, in terms of institutionalized legal control of reproductive, that was unheard of until the beginning of and culminating in the 1900’s by which time every state had abortion regulations on the books thanks to the AMA.

DJ: I remember reading –that there were hundreds of herbs that were used by indigenous women in North America for contraceptives. I never understood celery until I read about it in some feminist book. Celery, it doesn’t give you actual calories. It takes more calories to chew than you actually get from it.

RI: (Laugh)

DJ: I wondered why celery had been around for so long. As it turns out it had its uses in medieval Europe as inducing abortions.

RI: Wow, I didn’t know that.

DJ: Yeah, it’s pretty – I finally understood celery. And that’s the thing I wanted to know. You don’t have to go here if you don’t want. But this whole thing is reminding me of the witch trials. That was part of the European transition from women’s control of women’s health over to a medicalized industry. It reminds me of how, at the frontier, capitalism is often more –I was talking to a friend of mine yesterday who, a friend of hers grew up in Bangladesh, and he just went back there for a visit, he hadn’t been back there for a few years. And he said that they are doing things. Everything is incredibly expensive. The environment is completely getting trashed very quickly. He said that people spray paint fruits and vegetables to make them a better ( ) (@25:30) – They use spray paint on them.

RI: Wow.

DJ: The point is that this is what happens when capitalism first really hits hard in an area and it’s not yet regulated,which is not to say that regulation is the answer to everything. One of the things that’s really clear to me is that if you have some impulse – like misogyny – if you have some overwhelming – or racism, it doesn’t matter what we’re talking about – hatred of nature, it’s going to come out in different ways in different times in society. Once again, we don’t have to go here if you don’t want to, and we can just drop it, but if you want to go here we can. It seems to me that this is a continuation and a sort of industrialization of the removal of control of women’s health but was certainly happening as a part of the witch trials. The so-called witches were actually non-medical healers, herbal healers.

RI: Right.

DJ: Is that a direction you want to go? Or do you want to head back to where we were going before.

RI: No, I think that’s a really important connection to make. And that was also a new connection for me. A woman who attended the first time I actually did this talk pointed that out. That was something I had never thought of before. And, I think that kind of stunted history – the witch trials – that comes through to the present day is indicative of sort of the whitewashing of the reality of the motivation behind reproductive control. You mentioned that this is one way that misogyny and racism come out in every day society and the different ways that that becomes exposed, and I definitely think that is part of it.

But I think that something else that is a myth with the mainstream reproductive rights narrative of today is that reproductive rights activists and advocates are taking and running with this stated motivation of politicians who are enacting these regulations, and they’re not questioning it very far. So the line today of conservative politicians are restricting abortion access in a variety of ways due to religious convictions of the sanctity of life beginning at conception; Or out of a misguided and antiquated regressive view of women’s role in society.

And I think that these are part of it. I think that religion and misogyny are definitely big justifiers of why this is happening.

But it seems like an inconsistency when reproductive rights advocates or when activists or thinking people hear the men in power say something like new greenhouse gas regulations will harm the nation’s economy and threaten a million jobs in the next quarter century. That’s from the Republican party’s official platform. We can see through that. We don’t take it seriously, necessarily, and we can figure out that they are actually saying new greenhouse gas regulations will harm the ruling class’s power to extract resources and threaten their profit and dominance. It’s hard for me to figure out Why, when politicians say something like, I’m strongly pro-life and I’ve fought to protect the rights of the unborn for my entire career, why can’t we see through that rhetoric to what they are actually which is that he’s strongly pro-control and has fought to protect the rights of the ruling class to extract resources for his entire career. So I

think that it’s important to talk about the ideologies behind

the justifications of these laws.

RI: But I also don’t want to lose the material resource extraction that at the heart of it- drives forward these restrictions, no matter what their stated motivations are.

DJ: Let’s go back to what the politician would say about defending the right to life of the unborn, and I’ve done that my whole career. Let’s be really explicit and take people through it step by step. Because a lot of people aren’t questioning it. Make it clear the relationship between what that politician said, and the resource extraction.

RI: Right. So, I think we have to go back a little bit to Horatio Storer, and to be talking about “Will the left be filled by our own children or by those of aliens?” And also to talk about the connection between reproduction and capitalism, that you mentioned.

I am a firm believer that the men in power and the institutions of control, that they don’t really do anything without the motivation of wanting to increase their control and their ability to extract resources. And, I think that this is no different.

So, the practical effect of abortion being restricted in terms of white women means that there will be more white children. There will be a larger white ruling class. In terms of women of color, it means that resources can be extracted in a different way. There will be a larger class in poverty. Look at the privatized prison system. More non-white children mean more per head in the privatized penitentiary system.

So, it’s both kind of soft extraction, in terms of wanting to be a ruling class, and it’s also a very concrete monetary extraction, both in terms of birth, forced or not, resulting in higher monetary extraction for the ruling class white men, and also entrenches females as an underclass in a variety of ways. Women that are tied down into being responsible for a number of children that they did not intend to have – three out of five births are unintended – and I think that when we look at the practical effects of what that does, women are economically, psychologically, ideologically but materially as well, subjugated in the economic realm. And I think that’s not the explicit motivation for the men that are making these restrictions. I can’t imagine them ever explicitly saying that that’s the reason for these restrictions. And, I think that people get really tied up in their religious motivation.

But, when I look at the practical effect of these restrictions and the way they are enacted, they facilitate the extraction of monetary resources, and they also entrench women’s second class status. Which contributes to them being seen as resources themselves to the male ruling class, and also, facilitating the economic dominance of men. I think that reproductive rights advocates 32:50() and focus on that all the time. If they are so pro-life, why do they send drones after children? Why do they cut food stamps programs? Why do they sentence children and families to poverty? Why do they outlaw birth control, if they want abortion to go away? And they’re right, that this is inconsistent. But they don’t follow their logic to its conclusion. If it doesn’t make sense for that to be their reasoning, then what is their actual reasoning?

And I think that based on things we’ve said, earlier in this conversation. The only way I can make it make sense; the only way that I can get a coherent motivation out of them is to look at the material extraction of resources and the preservation of white men as the ruling class, as the only motivation that makes sense.

DJ: I’m thinking also there was a female activist, a woman, who during WWI who was arrested for saying that women not be considered brood mares, raising children to be sent out to slaughter in wars.

Ri: Um hm.

DJ: And, she was arrested and might have been sentenced for that. Which seems part of it, too.

RI: Definitely.

DJ: We have about 10 minutes left. What I’d like to end with, is having done this analysis, what do you propose? Is there something else you want to talk about with this, before we get to your actual proposal?

RI: I think the one big thing left to talk about is Roe vs. Wade in the way that we regard it. Cecil Richards is the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. She’s quoted as saying things like Roe vs. Wade gives American women the right and the opportunity to plan for their families and control their reproductive health. To begin being realistic about Roe actually does. And Cecil Richards is wrong on both accounts. Roe vs Wade does not give America’s women the right or the opportunities to plan for their families or control their reproductive health. What Roe actually does is codify medical control of reproductive processes into law. Nowhere in the actual text of Roe does it talk about a woman making a decision on her own. Every time it talks about a woman’s decision it says a woman and her physician. Which, if you don’t know the history sounds rather innocuous. But once you do know the history of the hostile takeover of abortion access and the performance of abortion as a procedure by the medical industry, it becomes a lot more sinister.

So I think we need to look at how Roe is actually being used and some of the major loopholes that Roe left, and how those loopholes have directed the actions of those who want to restrict women’s autonomy. The text of Roe states very explicitly that if the personhood of an unborn fetus could ever be proved in a court of law, if there could ever be precedence for the fetus as a person, Roe’s case would collapse. And, there would be no Roe vs. Wade. If that could be proven. And, unfortunately, that has already been proven. Fetal personhood passed in North Dakota and it’s been attempted to pass in a lot of other places. It’s been very close in a lot of those places.

When we talk about the actual effect of Roe, what we are seeing is that hundreds of women have been arrested or detained for supposedly endangering their pregnancies. So basically, any pregnancy that does not result in a live birth has the potential of being criminalized, today.

In 2009, Nina Buckhalter was indicted by a grand jury in Mississippi for manslaughter. They claimed that she did willfully, unlawfully, feloniously kill Haley Jade Buckhalter, a human being, by culpable negligence and this is after Nina had a stillbirth at 31 weeks.

The National Organization for Pregnant Women has documented more than 400 cases across the country in which these laws have been used to jail or detain pregnant women. Unsurprisingly, 71% of these are likely to be low income women. So, I think that what we see today is a lot of otherwise dedicated, enthusiastic, intelligent activists hanging their hat on Roe, and thinking if we can just preserve it, if we can just keep it alive, it will all be okay. And I think that is a comforting thought, but it’s not one that matches up with the reality of the situation. So, I think that an effective strategy begins with realizing the legal ground that we stand on and right now there isn’t a lot of that left.

DJ: Okay. That’s great. Everything you are saying is really very important. And, also I think it would be new to a lot of people. And, so what are you actually suggesting?

RI: I’m suggesting that lay people begin to learn how to perform abortions. It is not a complicated procedure. I think that the history we have of abortion regulation erases non-institutional practitioners that have been very successful. People that performed in the illegal era that were not the boogey man suggested by mainstream reproductive rights activists of the Beth Ella Butcherly, like Rudis Arnette, who for many years performed abortions illegally in Portland. We have women like the Jane Collective who operated a floating abortion clinic in Chicago in the years directly preceding Roe, and they had a rate of complication equal to the institutional practitioners at that time.

I think that my worst fear is that total inaccessibility of abortion will sneak up on us. That the last doctor will stop performing abortions and we won’t have a backup plan. Or, as has already happened, most women cannot access abortion. If you are not economically privileged, if you don’t happen to live in one of the 13% of, usually the urban counties that has abortion providers, in a lot of ways you are effectively cut off from having access to that right.

I think it’s long past time that we stopped accepting the total control of abortion access by the government, by the medical industry. I think that as long as we accept the total institutional control of abortion by those major institutions we accept failure.

It hasn’t always been this way. NARAL stands for National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League. But they used to be called the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, not the reform abortion laws, but the repeal of abortion laws. So they understood that as long as the men in power had access to that supposed right under their institutional thumb, they would never be safe. And as long as they had them under their control, (40:40) they could use that to control us, which is exactly what is happening now.

I think we need to think bigger. I think that we need to get to a place where we’re willing to act to actual reproductive control. Where we are not accepting the false choice of, Would you rather have an abortion from the exploitive man in the back alley, or the exploitive man in a white coat. I don’t want either of those. And, I think that most women, once they know this history come to a similar conclusion. And, I think it’s a matter of being realistic about what’s happened in the past, where we are now, and what we actually hope for in the future.

DJ: So, a couple of things. One of them is that when you say that you want lay people to do it, the first thing is like, Oh my God, but it is a medical procedure, it’s scary. Which is pointing out the degree to which I, and by extension, many of us, have bought into the medicalization. And, the second thing is I have Crohn’s Disease and I’ve dealt with a ton of doctors over the years. And, some of them have been fabulous, and there have been medical procedures that have saved my life that were done in hospitals. And, at the same time, I’ve had some doctors who were just terrible.

RI: Right.

DJ: And, my point is that medicalization is no guarantee of safety anyway.

RI: Right.

DJ: I had a guy doing a colonoscopy on me one time, this is 25 years ago, but the first thing he said to me is, “Man, I really got hammered last night. I have a terrible hangover, but that shouldn’t effect what I do here.” Seriously? You want this guy putting something inside of you that could perforate your intestines? And that was within a medical school hospital. I just wanted to say that. And, I also wanted to say that – so there’s immediately, when you say that, there’s a little bit that’s scary. But then I also think about, it sounds to me like what you’re saying is that you’re wanting for this, and let me know if I’m way off base with this, or if this is a lot of what it is. That you’re wanting for this process to be not only – you not only want the control to go away, but you want the process to be demystified just like it was not yet mystified in the 1820’s. And, yes, there have been advances in science. And you didn’t say they were all rosy back then. But you want for it to be demystified and to return really to be something that you don’t have to go to the Wizard of Oz to get it done, but instead you recognize – Oh my God, this is such a terrible metaphor – you don’t need the man behind the curtain. Is that what you’re getting at?

RI: Yeah. I think that sums it up very well. I think that there is a lot of information out there about the medicalization of birth. There is a great movie out there, a documentary, called the Business of Being Born that taught me and I think a lot of women of my generation about that. There has been a strong movement by women and by midwives to reclaim the process of birth. (44:00) And, it’s the same case here, some women thinking, this is scary. This is something that has been totally (44:20)(sustained?) by the medical industry. There are risks to taking that into your own hands.

And I think the same is true of abortion. We’ve seen the medicalization of abortion concurrently with the medicalization of birth. I think we need to take a similar attitude with it. Which is I think it’s absolutely right, and I think it’s very reasonable. I feel some of that, a lot of that same apprehension in advocating this. And, I didn’t come to that conclusion lightly. I’ve come to it because I think that we don’t have any choice at this point. I think that unless we look past the legal and medical regulation of it as the best we can do, then we are going to lose that control altogether. So, I think that’s very valid. And, I think that’s a conversation that needs to keep happening. And I think that when I talk about the medicalization of abortion being a bad thing, I don’t mean that all medical abortion providers are bad at it, or bad people, or are consciously representing that. I think that there are probably as many good and competent and understanding abortion practitioners as there are callous and cavalier ones.

One of my heroes, and I think a lot of abortion advocates heroes is Dr. George Tiller who was killed in Kansas in 2009 in his church by Scott Roder. I think that we need to look to practitioners like him as trailblazers in terms of being unapologetic about the need for women to control that right.

So when I talk about resisting the medicalization of that procedure, I don’t mean we should reject a practitioner just because they have a medical degree. I think that practitioners that have medical degrees can participate in getting back this control to women by teaching them about the process and by training them. What’s happened is that medical industry and the cultural guerilla warfare against abortion and the government have collaborated to condense knowledge of abortion and the authority to perform it into just a few people. And what’s happening know is those people are being taken out by means of intimidation or red tape or bullets. The effect is the same. And, I think that we need to look past this kind of anemic legal defense. I think we need a diversity of tactics in terms of attacking this fight. Our opponents are not restricting themselves to legal tactics. They are not restricting themselves to trying to convince politicians to not obliterate women’s bodily control. They are using direct action, and we are not. And I think that’s why we are losing. And I would like to see that change.

DJ: Well, thank you so much Rachel, and thank you for listening and this has been fabulous and this is Rachel Ivey with Derrick Jensen on Progressive Radio Network for Resistance Radio. Thank you very much.

Filed in Interviews by Derrick Jensen
No Responses — Written on December 3rd — Filed in Interviews by Derrick Jensen

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