Rally Remarks by Aspen Ruhlin (they,them)
I want to thank everyone for being here with us today to rally and fight for abortion access. While the looming loss of Roe is devastating, it is important to remember that Roe was never enough. Roe is the floor, and it is a rickety floor that has failed many people. Marginalized people especially–poor people, Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, trans people, and people in rural communities–have fallen through the cracks of the protections to abortion provided by Roe. When it comes to abortion access and Reproductive Justice as a whole, we deserve a house where people have stability, protection, and support to make decisions around reproductive health.
SisterSong Women of Color Collective defines the Reproductive Justice framework as the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities. Abortion access is one vital piece of that. We do not have Reproductive Justice when children are unjustly removed from loving homes by a foster system built on white supremacy. We do not have Reproductive Justice when the nearest abortion clinic is hours away and you can’t get a ride. We do not have Reproductive Justice when Black women are three times as likely to die in pregnancy, birth, and postpartum as white women because of racism at the hands of healthcare providers that are supposed to be caring for them. We do not have Reproductive Justice when trans people like myself are excluded from conversations around pregnancy, abortion, and birth. We certainly do not have Reproductive Justice when there is a formula shortage and no support for people to feed the babies they have.
I want to talk about trans people and abortions. Trans people, binary and nonbinary alike, have abortions. We also continue pregnancies and parent. Framing abortion access and everything around pregnancy and birth as only being for women is both inaccurate and harmful. We lose nothing by being inclusive, and in fact gain so much by honestly representing these issues. I have had people argue with me, “But Aspen, the anti-abortion people are targeting women, that’s why we need to focus on only cis women!” I have a couple problems with this. People who oppose abortion access aren’t fine with trans people having abortions, they just don’t see us as we are. They see people who can get pregnant as women. Why would you want to join them in their transphobia? Further, why would you let those who do not see pregnant people as people decide how you talk about abortion? Whether or not anti-abortion politicians consider the impact of abortion bans and barriers on trans people, we are still impacted, and we deserve to be a part of the conversation as people who have abortions.
You will notice that I do not call people who oppose abortion access “pro life.” This is because it is a misnomer. You can not be pro-life while devaluing the lives of pregnant people and people who have, had, and will have abortions. People who are pregnant are not walking incubators. They are people. Regardless of whether they are terminating or continuing a pregnancy, they deserve autonomy and control over their bodies. If you do not support abortion access, then you do not see pregnant people as people. In the words of Viva Ruiz of Thank God for Abortion, “We are already the miracle of life.”
We have to fight abortion stigma. No more shaming people who have abortions. No more shaming people who have multiple abortions. No more shaming people for not doing what you would do to prevent pregnancy. When we’re talking about abortion, we need to say abortion. It’s not a bad word, because it’s not a bad thing. Abortions are normal, essential healthcare.
Speaking of stigma, we have to stop insisting that no one is pro abortion. I am pro abortion! I am pro abortion the same way I am pro home birth, pro hospital birth, pro gender-affirming care, pro thyroidectomy, and pro insulin. I am pro people getting the healthcare they need.
We need to guarantee access to abortion for everyone who needs it without barriers. We need to challenge any and everyone who opposes abortion access. Look at their actions, not just their words, and make them uncomfortable. We need to challenge ourselves to grow and learn. We need to help people get to clinics to get the care they need, or support them in accessing safe self-managed abortion with medication abortion if that is what they need.
Abortion is our right. Let’s act like it.