Update: I’d like to thank Dylan from The Vegan Police and their response to this article. It was brought to my attention shortly after this piece posted that Walter and I share very different economic and educational backgrounds. Certainly several things I said directed at Walter ignored the privileges I have received in these respects. For that, I apologize. I am glad to get a better picture about where Walter is coming from and how his politics have been shaped by his past, even though we at BWM disagree with his conclusions.
This much needed privilege-check also requires that I give a little more information about myself. I have worked as a rape crisis advocate and reproductive justice organizer for the past few years in my hometown, and as I’ve said in the piece, have terminated a pregnancy in my past. This might give a better picture about why my tone was so harsh, and felt defensive toward Walter personally in constructing my response. My real vitriol is directed to those who would excuse and facilitate reproductive oppression, and Hardline as political thought is certainly open to that criticism. – Jen
After reading Walter Bond’s latest “Official Statement on Abortion”, I have several responses as a fellow vegan and activist fighting for total liberation. I feel that we can have nuanced critiques of activists and their words and actions, even people whom we otherwise admire, to fight for a better and more strategic movement.
First, I think it’s helpful to define “reproductive oppression”, a concept that is glaringly absent in Walter’s discussions of the social and ecological implications of abortion. I am critiquing his words specifically from a framework of reproductive justice, which is not just concerned with legal access to abortion, but to the multitude of ways sexual expression, identity, pregnancy, and other features of reproductive life intersect with racial identity, gender identity, economic class, and ability, among other factors.
For example, if Walter were experiencing a pregnancy during his incarceration, he could be ordered by the state to be shackled to his bed during labor. If he refused a cesarean section because of concerns with health risks and sought a second opinion, the court system could deem him “non-compliant” and perform one anyway. If he was someone struggling with drug addiction, he could be denied health care, pain management drugs, and have his status as a parent called into question. Or, if a client of Indian Health Services, might be coerced into sterilization without given information about its permanancy or side effects. These are all issues of reproductive oppression that requires an intersectional framework as a response. That Walter would find it necessary to speak about abortion specifically points to his failure to see it as part of this larger issue, concerned with the concentration of power by the state into and using the reproductive organs of others.
I’m not “pro-choice”.
Since I was exposed to and am learning more about the reproductive justice framework, I can’t call myself “pro-choice” in good conscience. I am supportive of access to and acceptance of abortion for any reason, at any time, for any person. I guess this would be sufficient in calling myself “pro-choice” according to the standards of the larger community, but abortion is only a piece of the larger reproductive justice framework, developed by women of color activists at SisterSong, Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice, and other related groups (like the one I work for, Oklahomans for Reproductive Justice!).
Those working on issues related to the oppression and exploitation of nonhuman animals know the limitations of welfare and rights based critiques. We can agree it is not enough to treat some animals better before we slaughter them, or philosophize from our armchairs about the “property status of animals” within the law. As those dedicated to animal liberation know, the answer comes from recognizing how nonhumans are exploited and abused by species-privilege and attacking the specific ways capitalism and other forms of power and privilege perpetuate these social ills. A question of liberation, rather than rights, addresses this issue at its root rather than the concerns of the most privileged.
It’s not enough to talk about “right to abortion” because that only allows us to examine one fraction of one piece of the puzzle. Indeed, many people are allowed the right to an abortion under law, but income, race, gender and region (among other factors) can severely limit one’s access to abortion, which renders the right nearly meaningless as it stands on the books. With the rights of clinics and providers being whittled away, and funding stripped from organizations that would provide holistic care to underserved communities, the bigger problem begs for a much more comprehensive answer; that’s why reproductive justice as a model makes the most sense strategically and theoretically.
Because reproductive justice models surfaced from collaborative work among communities of color, it critiques the white- and ciswoman- centric policy, education, and activism that dominates the US political landscape (in addition to other regions of the world). SisterSong, a network of grassroots organizations that amplifies the voices of women of color in the US for reproductive justice education and action, outlines the specific distinctions between historically pro-choice movements and why focusing on reproductive justice is vital:
“One of the key problems addressed by Reproductive Justice is the isolation of abortion from other social justice issues that concern communities of color: issues of economic justice, the environment, immigrants’ rights, disability rights, discrimination based on race and sexual orientation, and a host of other community-centered concerns. These issues directly affect an individual woman’s decision-making process. By shifting the focus to reproductive oppression—the control and exploitation of women, girls, and individuals through our bodies, sexuality, labor, and reproduction—rather than a narrow focus on protecting the legal right to abortion, SisterSong is developing a more inclusive vision of how to build a new movement.”
-SisterSong, Why Is Reproductive Justice Important for Women of Color?
Building solidarity for an inclusive movement means something specific for nonhuman animal and earth activists. When we launch critique of human communities for abuse of the earth’s resources it’s never as simple as we would like it to be; being critical of people and the children that they choose (or choose not) to have may be ignoring and erasing systems of reproductive coercion and manipulation like state-sanctioned sterilization, environmental racism, exploitation of labor and family labor, inadequate sexual health education, physical and sexual abuse, violence against and ignorance of trans* bodies and identities, rendering queers invisible through compulsory heterosexuality and gender conformity, etc.
We all have a lot to gain from reproductive justice perspectives and de-centering whiteness in our reproductive issues activism. If an event in your area is taking action or educating about reproductive issues, like protesting the shackling and physical restraint of pregnant inmates during labor at correctional facilities, or organizing a phone tree to keep programs like WIC (Women, Infants, Children) and TANF funded, finding communal sources of funding for low-income trans* people to receive medical care, or helping groups document cases of forced or coercive sterilization of Indigenous people, then stand up! Educate yourself, show up, and become involved in a collective struggle to liberate everyone from reproductive oppression.
One month, and 5,200 miles later, we are very proud to show you our new ‘About Because We Must’ video! The individuals in this video mean the world to us and their activism was, and still very much is vital to our activism upbringing. We hope you like it, and we encourage you to take the video and embed, and post it anywhere and everywhere you can! We would like this video to be used as a tool to introduce all sorts of different folks to the idea of interconnected struggles and to show the world how connected liberation struggles really are. Porque Debemos.
We are very excited to present our newest shirt to all of you! This shirt was inspired by a picture that we saw of a woman holding a sign while at the SlutWalk in Seattle. These are women fitted and are on 100% organic cotton USA made/sweat-shop free shirts!
SlutWalk protest marches sprung up all around the world, starting in Toronto, Canada in April of 2011. The marches began when Constable Michael Sanguinetti, a cop from Toronto, Canada suggested that to remain safe, “women should avoid dressing like sluts” at a forum about crime prevention at York University. In classic cop fashion, totally ignoring the real problem (sexual assault and rape), Constable Sanguinetti blames the victim.
“Women are tired of being oppressed by slut-shaming; of being judged by our sexuality and feeling unsafe as a result. Being in charge of our sexual lives should not mean that we are opening ourselves to an expectation of violence, regardless if we participate in sex for pleasure or work.” – SlutWalk Co-founders Sonya Barnett and Heather Jarvis
We hope you like it, and you wear it with pride!
Taken from Sparrow Media
“Media outlets have attempted to dismiss Occupy Wall Street as a movement without a message. This baseless indictment falls apart once you have read their declaration, and this is why we think it is so important to publish it and distribute it widely!
We are going to need your help to reach our goal of printing and distributing 100,000 copies!
This document is the first and only official declaration to come from the New York City General Assembly at Liberty Plaza, the epicenter of the Occupy Wall Street Movement. It is a summation of the grievances expressed by the occupiers, it is a call to action, and moreover it is a historic mile marker in the global fight for social, environmental, and economic justice. The Declaration of the Occupation of New York City, as transcribed and edited by Ryan Hoffman, Lex Rendon, and the Call to Action Working Group of Occupy Wall Street is a powerful reference for blossoming social struggles everywhere. In this second printing of 100,000 copies we will be including two other texts from the New York General Assembly, The Principals of Solidarity, and OWS’Statement of Autonomy, we also will be including a letter from the activists at Tahir Square to the Occupiers at Zuccotti Park. The Declaration of the Occupation, The Statement of Autonomy, and The Principals of Solidarity, are reflections of every voice amplified by the people’s mic at the NYC General Assembly at Liberty Square. You own this document. …Everyone owns it.
Please consider donating to our printing and distribution, and please share this fundraising effort with others on facebook, twitter, tumblr, etc…We love you!
You can read the declaration in its entirety here.”