Disclaimer: The following blog post focuses on topics such as pro-choice and pro-life. It is mostly research-based with my stance on reproductive rights at the end. Please read at your own discretion.
Women’s reproductive rights have been a battle in society that has gained widespread support in only the last couple of decades. According to The CUT magazine, “In the 18th and early-19th centuries, abortion was legal before “quickening,” the point at which a woman could feel her fetus move… abortion after that was considered a common-law misdemeanor.” From that point on in the United States, there have been battles and negotiations over women’s reproductive lives. Below is a timeline of the history regarding reproductive rights, that have helped me educate myself on this topic.
1820s-1830s: Abortifacient herbs and fungi such as savin, pennyroyal, and ergot often kill the women who use them. So states begin to pass poison-control measures. This was considered the country’s first abortion-regulated law.
1857: The new American Medical Association begins a campaign to criminalize abortion.
1873: Congress passes the Comstock Law, which bans information about and distribution of contraceptives. Twenty-four states subsequently pass similar laws regulating the sale and use of contraceptives.
1880s: Almost all states have laws criminalizing abortion.
1960: The FDA approves its first oral contraceptive known as Enovid.
1965: The Supreme Court rules that an 1879 law criminalizing contraception violates a married couple’s right to privacy. This served as an essential piece of evidence for Roe v. Wade.
1970: Hawaii is the first state to legalize abortion. New York repeals its law criminalizing abortion soon after.
1973: In a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court grants women the right to terminate pregnancies under the 17th Amendment with Roe v. Wade.
1976: Congress passes the Hyde Amendment, barring the use of Medicaid and other federal funding for abortion.
1994: Congress passes the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE), which makes it a federal crime to block access to reproductive health care.
2000: In September, the FDA approves the abortion pill mifepristone (RU-486) after a decade-long campaign by activists and health-care providers.
2016: States have enacted 1,074 abortion restrictions since Roe v. Wade, more than a quarter of them since 2010.
I decided to include the timeline above as a way to understand something that got me thinking in The Fifth Season. On page 422, Jemisin writes “Syenite shakes her head but she’s thinking about the little pessary the island women have shown her how to use. Thinking maybe she will stop using it. But she says: “Freedom means we get to control what we do now. No one else.” I believe that Jemisin included this line to allude to the various forms of oppression marginalized groups in the U.S. have to overcome specifically women. She finds a way to refer to real world issues through the lens of literature by constructing the storylines of characters to connect with our view on society. I connected this to reproductive rights in the United States because even with all the resources available to women in the states, there are still factors such as social stigma, culture, religion, etc. that make it difficult for women to make an informed and respected decision. Current events, such as the election of 2016 where the fate of women’s reproductive rights were heavily in the public’s eye, have significantly influenced the society women have to face when challenged with an unplanned pregnancy. As a result, campaigns such as Draw the Line from the Center for Reproductive Rights, Our Bodies Ourselves, Act for Women, I decide launched by the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) are aimed to end stigma towards sexual and reproductive health and rights concerning women’s everyday lives. So in terms of “freedom”, we are yet to accomplish that but I do believe that we, as women and advocaters, are and will put up a hell of a fight until freedom is obtained. Authors such as N.K. Jemisin contribute to making these issues public and known of, through literature and text.