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No Autonomy: Eugenics and Abortion

By Gabriela Godinez Feregrino

Abortion law and reproductive rights have always been a hot topic in the United States, but recently there has been a push of multiple different conservative bills around the country. On April 11, one of the most dangerously limiting abortion bills in the U.S. was passed in Ohio by governor Mike DeWine. Once a medical professional can detect a fetal heartbeat, an abortion is no longer legal. That can be around 6 weeks into a pregnancy, about the same average amount of time a person takes to realize they are pregnant.

I say person and not woman because within the rhetoric of abortion and reproductive rights many people get ignored. Non-bianary folks and trans men don’t often get a mention in this conversation, which only does the cause a disservice. There is no point in excluding people when these restrictions clearly affect them as well. Anyone who can get pregnant has to be included in the conversation.

Not only cisgendered women can get pregnant, and not all cisgendered women have the ability to get pregnant. It is not the job of anyone with a uterus to be an incubator and reproduce on command. For that and many other reasons, though this is largely a women’s rights issue, it also is an over all human rights issue.

Reproductive rights in the United States have always been used to attack and control people. Today we need to remember that reproductive issues have white supremacist roots. While there are bills trying to stop abortions, at the same time women of color are more likely to be pushed by doctors to use birth control.

This is todays residual affects from Americas racist and sexist past. In 1909, California passed eugenics laws, which would later inspire the German Nazis. According to the L.A. Times, Adolf Hitler once wrote “There is today one state in which at least weak beginnings toward a better conception [of citizenship] are noticeable. Of course, it is not our model German Republic, but the United States.” With a foundation like this, we cannot ignore how race plays a factor in reproductive rights.

According to PBS news, “used as a means of controlling “undesirable” populations – immigrants, people of color, poor people, unmarried mothers, the disabled, the mentally ill – federally-funded sterilization programs took place in 32 states throughout the 20th century.”The Huffington Post reminded us that by 1970, toward the “end” of the eugenics movement, over 60,000 U.S. citizens were sterilized. This is right around the time that abortion was made legal in 1973.

If today, those who were fighting for “the rights of unborn children” were truly pro-life, they would be fighting for the lives of the 15 million children who are experiencing poverty right now. They would be fighting for the black children who are victims of police brutality. They would be fighting for the lives of the 5,800 undocumented children who were sexually abused in U.S. immigration detention centers and under U.S. custody.

The conversation in government has always been about what uteruses are allowed to have children, and which are to be forced to have children. Over a century later after the start of the eugenics movement in the United States, citizens and residents are still fighting for the right for marginalized and oppressed bodies to have control over our own lives.

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