Abortion: Injustice due to Gender & Class

Abortion: Injustice due to Gender & Class

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Abortion is a primary example of how divisions in gender and class create injustice. These divisions are due to the social stratification of power between women and men and between the bourgeois and proletariat classes. With the recent overturning of Roe V. Wade, abortion access in the United States has become more difficult and risky. Parents are being arrested for providing abortion pills to their children, and other people, such as retired doctors, are being arrested for illegal abortion practices. That said, abortions have been around for centuries and only became a criminal act starting with a law in the 1820s. With more laws coming into effect, back-alley abortions and underground abortion services rose in commonality. But, with Roe V. Wade came more medical abortion access and safer procedures. 

While abortion has been historically a women’s rights issue, recently, abortion rights have become a human rights issue, with transgender, intersex, nonbinary, and so many other queer identities standing up for their right to reproductive freedom. Alongside gender being connected to abortion, class is also a crucial component of the abortion issue because upper-class people have more accessibility. Prohibiting abortion affects lower and working-class people more significantly than the bourgeois because rich people can always pay to get abortions. Whether paying a doctor to perform an abortion and keep their mouth shut, or paying to travel to another state/country where abortion is legal, rich people will always have that power superiority over the working class. This class division marginalizes working-class non-men, who are already discriminated against in politics, work, and within the family. 

Beauvoir analyzes two common misconceptions about motherhood in her book The Second Sex. The first misconception is that “motherhood is enough in all cases to fulfill a woman” (Beauvoir, 641). Under this misconception, Beauvoir states that “many mothers are unhappy, bitter, unsatisfied” (Beauvoir, 641). This connects to women and abortions because some women know that they don’t want to bring life into the world, and rather than forcing an unwanted child into the adoption system, a mother can have an abortion to protect yet another person from the harms of the foster and adoption system. While mothers don’t need an exact reason for wanting an abortion, a key factor is happiness. Some women know that motherhood is not for them, and it’s better to make that decision before the child is born, rather than resenting their child every day. 

Beauvoir also states that mothers “deeply marked by the paternal household, … approach their own children through complexes and frustrations: and this chain of misery perpetuates itself indefinitely” (Beauvoir, 644). Similar to what was stated above, women can have an abortion rather than make an innocent future person suffer. Also, some women don’t want to pass down generational trauma that they got from their mother, who got it from their mother, and so forth. Having an abortion can prevent the continued spread of generational trauma, helping with the spread of certain mental health issues. 

One final point that Beauvoir makes regarding motherhood states, “psychoanalysts have tried to prove that the child provides the equivalent of the penis for her: but enviable as this attribute may be, no one believes that possessing one can justify an existence or that such possession can be a supreme end in itself” (Beauvoir, 646).  This point is important because psychoanalysts have tried to equate a child with a penis, which is a bizarre connection. A penis is a point of pleasure for a man, and saying that a vagina is not the point of pleasure for a woman, but rather earning the title of motherhood being her ‘point of pleasure’ is absolutely horrible. 

Adding the concept of class into the mixture, Trotsky explains reform in three levels, one of which directly pertains to the right to abortion. In his first level of reform, he discusses equality in politics, stating that “to institute the political equality of men and women in the soviet-state was one problem and the simplest” (Trotsky, 21). Political equality for women includes the right to abortion, and not with specific exceptions, and especially not under the decision of any man. If this level of reform was the simplest, why is this soviet idea still an issue in the U.S. today? This article was written in 1970, and now, over 50 years later, the abortion and women’s rights issues are still almost identical. Political equality of men and women is still an issue to this day, as the patriarchy still stands and a woman still has never been president. Even with advances in these laws, the basic principles behind gender equality remain. Connecting to class equality, the political system won’t do much about that because the bourgeois are the rich and powerful people, and if they were to give more money to the working class, they would be giving away some of their power; something they are just smart enough not to do. 

Trotsky connects motherhood and housework to fighting for their basic human rights, stating that “as long as a woman is chained to her housework, the care of the family, the cooking and sewing, all her chances of participation in social and political life are cut down in the extreme” (Trotsky, 21). A woman’s housework becomes so much more than chores in this statement but rather demotes her to a slave class because she is stuck in this cycle, with no say in social and political life. Connecting this quote back to the example of abortion, women didn’t have the time to fight for their right to abortion with such strict house and wife duties.

With Beauvoir and Trotsky’s texts on gender and class, abortion is a great example of how injustices in gender and class affect working-class women. While these texts were written in 1949 (Beauvoir) and 1970 (Trotsky), the points made within them are still applicable today. Overall, the social stratification of power between women and men and between the bourgeois and proletariat classes has created gender and class injustices, especially in the case of abortion.

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