November 16, 2007
In a shameless act of self-promotion, and because I can’t go more than a few weeks without writing about reproductive rights, I want to encourage everyone to set aside one night this weekend to see Vox: Voices for Planned Parenthood’s fall play, “Jane: Abortion and the Underground.”
p. If you are not aware, Vox is the College’s reproductive rights organization. We’re officially affiliated with Planned Parenthood, and we exist to raise awareness about sexual health, birth control and politics surrounding reproductive rights. With ‘Jane,’ we’re attempting to raise historical awareness about a woman’s right to choose in hopes that it will provoke others to join our fight.
p. ‘Jane’ is a student-run theatrical production that details the story of a secret abortion collective in Chicago. The group was active during the late 1960s and early 1970s, before the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade made abortion services legal in the United States. The women of Jane (the name of their underground group) were a mix of students, housewives, mothers and feminist activists, and members of the Chicago Police Department, medical community and clergy helped promote its services.
p. Danielle Garrett ’08 and Morgan Berman ’08, the two student directors for ‘Jane,’ explained that the main goal of production was to simultaneously celebrate the bravery and compassion these women illustrated, while remembering how limited women’s health options were only several decades ago. Essentially, we admire what they did for women desperately seeking abortion services, and we never want to return to a time in which this type of basic health care is not legal or accessible.
p. Just last month, a World Health Organization/Guttmacher Institute study was released showing that abortion rates are not actually lower in countries where abortion is illegal, but the procedure is simply more dangerous.
p. It showed that about 20 million of the abortions performed each year are considered “unsafe” and about 67,000 women die as a result of complications from these abortions. The study also found that in Uganda (where abortion is outlawed and sexual education only teaches abstinence), the estimated abortion rate was 54 per 1,000 in 2003. In contrast, the abortion rate in the United States was 21 per 1,000 that year, and in Western European countries (where abortion laws are less restrictive and contraception is more widely available), the rate was only 12 per 1,000.
p. While these statistics cannot prove the need for legal abortion alone, they indicate that the more options women have in terms of information, available contraception and abortion services, the less women will feel the need to obtain unsafe abortions.
p. Facts like this remind us that women don’t choose abortion because it is convenient, but because it often seems to be the only option. Moreover, making abortion illegal will only make it unsafe. To reduce abortions, we can work to make birth control more accessible, ensure public schools teach comprehensive sexual education so teens know the consequences of their actions and support adequate pregnancy and child care leaves for both women and men.
p. In the end, ‘Jane’ is not necessarily about being “pro-choice,” but about supporting sound public policy and health care for women. Through ‘Jane,’ Vox hopes to show the horrible repercussions involved in outlawing abortion — we want to steer the abortion debate toward ways to reduce its prevalence, rather than its safety or accessibility.
p. Devan Barber is a senior at the College.