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The following is an exclusive excerpt from the "Abortion" chapter of Our Bodies, Ourselves for the New Century. For complete information and resources, we recommend that you consult the chapter and the book in its entirety.


Introduction: Deciding Whether to Have Children
By Joan Ditzion
With special thanks to Merryl Pisha (Resources) and Denise Bergman

Our ability to protect our reproductive and sexual health, and to control whether and when we have children, is critical to our freedom--both to shape our lives and to express and enjoy our sexuality. This unit starts off with some basic tools for knowing our bodies better: It explains our sexual anatomy and the reproductive life span, the hormones of the menstrual cycle, and ways to deal with problems in menstruation. The unit discusses birth control and abortion: the two major tools available to women who have sex with men and do not want to have children right now. It describes how we can be sexually active and stay healthy--whether we are sexually active with men or with women--and offers ways to prevent sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including AIDS. (For those who want to get pregnant someday, the information on STDs has extra meaning, as untreated STDs can cause infertility.) The unit offers guidance for making the difficult decisions surrounding an unexpected pregnancy. Finally, it addresses assisted reproductive technologies, looking at the latest scientific developments with a critical eye to both their positive and their negative impacts on women.

To know about the tools presented in this unit is not enough; we also need to develop the self-esteem and self-respect that allow us to feel we are worth caring for and worth protecting; the economic opportunities that empower us to plan our life choices; access to good health care; safety in our homes; and respect from our partners. There is work to be done in our society--on sexism, racism, and economic injustice, for example--before all women, including teenagers, women living in poverty, women of color, and women without health insurance, have equal access to the tools we need in order to protect our sexual health and decision making.

The following ``Principles of Unity'' from the former Reproductive Rights National Network (R2N2) express the many facets of complete reproductive freedom:

We believe that as women we have a right to control our own bodies and that we must organize to secure that right in the face of attacks by church, state, and the organized right wing. Therefore,

1. We support the right and access of all women, regardless of age or income, to abortion. We oppose...any attempt to cut off or restrict Medicaid funds for abortion, any legislation requiring parental or spousal notification, slanted ``informed consent'' ordinances and all other forms of restricting access to abortion.

2. We oppose all forms of sterilization abuse, including lack of informed consent, abuse of disabled persons, abuse in prisons and mental hospitals...and abuse resulting from the denial of abortion rights and the lack of safe, accessible forms of birth control.

3. We stand for reproductive freedom, including not only abortion rights and freedom from sterilization abuse but also good, safe birth control, sex education in the schools, the right to conduct one's sex life as one chooses, and an end to nuclear, chemical, and occupational hazards to our reproductive systems.

4. We support each person's right to determine his/her own personal and sexual relationships regardless of the sex of the people involved. We oppose the breaking up of families by the state in order to punish a parent for his/her sexual or political beliefs. We support the struggle for legislation guaranteeing civil rights to homosexuals.

5. Reproductive freedom depends on economics: equal wages for women, sufficient to support a family alone; a decent public health system; adequate welfare benefits; good housing; quality child care; and a public school system that meets children's needs.

6. We see our struggle for reproductive freedom as a worldwide one. We do not believe that overpopulation is a primary source of the world's problems. We oppose the racist population control policies of the U.S. government and agencies aimed at Third World peoples that limit their populations through forced sterilization and the distribution of dangerous drugs.


Copyright 1984, 1992, 1998 by the Boston Women's Health Book Collective. All rights reserved. Published by Touchstone, a division of Simon & Schuster Inc.

To order Our Bodies, Ourselves for the New Century


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