In her article “Beyond Pro-Choice vs. Pro-Life: Women of Color and Reproductive Justice,” Andrea Smith challenges mainstream arguments regarding pro-choice and pro-life debates in political arenas. She claims that both paradigms hurt or take away agency from Women of Color, poor women, and disabled women.
Smith connects Pro-Life policies with the larger prison industrial complex. Through a sophisticated network of policies that undermine and subjugate women, Pro-Life advocates hope to criminalize abortion, which, according to Smith, will cause a rise in the amount of people incarcerated for getting abortions. She borrows Angela Davis’ theories on the the prison system and claims that criminalization is inherently incapable of solving social problems and addressing crime because their main purposes are to control a population and profit from them (Smith 123). If abortion were criminalized, it would become a site of violence for women of color and poor women who already have an increased risk of imprisonment. Smith notes that most of this is because there are tightly woven arrangement of profit driven politicians, corporations, and media representations that systematically subjugate women of color and place a parasite (fetus) at the forefront of conversation.
Smith continues her piece by examining how pro-choice movements lack a contextual understanding of the lived experiences that lead women to abortion in the first place. She challenges the notion of a supposed free-choice by elucidating how social, political, and economic conditions frame the ‘free-choices’ women are forced to make. For example, the Hyde Amendment bars federal funding from abortion, making abortion highly inaccessible for poor women, and Native American women who depend on largely on these funds. In another example, she notes how Quinacrine – a form of contraception which irreversibly scars the fallopian tubes making it imposible to give birth – was forced onto women abroad without their informed consent. She questions if a choice among dangerous contraceptives is still a choice when millions of dollars are spent by pharmaceutical companies attempting to garner the support of consent of women. Finally, she discusses Margaret Sanger, one of Planned Parenthood’s original founders. Having close ties with the KKK, Sanger started Planned Parenthood as an early form of eugenics based on her belief that certain types of women shouldn’t have kids. Sanger blamed poor women and women of color for their inability to maintain a domestic household with the ‘right’ amount of children, social unrest in their communities, poverty, and war. To this day, Planned Parenthood invests in population control by aligning themselves with companies and groups like Population Council, Population Action International, Population Institute, and Zero Population Growth, all of which advocate for population control instead of providing social, economic, and political opportunities for women.
While the pro-life camp advocates for criminalization, which will effect women of color and poor women disproportionately, pro-choice promotors aren’t doing any better. Their histories are rife with legacies of uninformed consent that continue to effect women today. However, Smith states that by feverishly clinging to one side or the other, opportunities of community building are lost, sometimes forever. She advocates that women organize and collectively challenge politics as usual so that their agencies can be retrieved, and so that politicians decisions can be swayed.