THE IRISH TIMES SATURDAY OCTOBER 17TH 2009
THE PRO-CHOICE lobby must progress its argument beyond abortion rights to include the rights of marginalised women to have children and keep them, a leading US campaigner on the issue has said.
Loretta Ross, founding member of the SisterSong organisation based in Atlanta, said there were disabled, poor, homeless and ethnic minority women whom wider society often judged “unfit to have a child and if she has one, to parent that child”.
Addressing a conference on reproductive justice, hosted by the Irish Family Planning Association and the UCD Women’s Studies Centre in Dublin yesterday, she said: “We need a new framework beyond the abortion arguments”.
“The saddest thing I think is when a woman chooses abortion for a child she really wanted to have, but couldn’t have because she doesn’t have healthcare, or she’s in poverty, or homeless, or she’d be kicked out of school, or she’d face violence from her family or the father.
“Women are blamed and while we have to fight for the right to abortion and family planning many women have to fight for the right to parent.”
She said if there was adequate support for mothers contending with disability, poverty, ethnic minority status, “many wouldn’t need to fight for abortions anyway”.
Aoife Dermody, co-founder of feminist group Lash Back, said that for many marginalised women the pro-choice campaign was irrelevant “luxury”. Their concerns were around “fears their kids might be taken into care, around housing, or childcare”.
Rosaleen McDonagh, Traveller and disability rights campaigner, said there was an assumption Traveller women were sexually repressed.
She said disabled women were mothers, carers, lovers and yet were viewed as dependent and were infantilised by wider society, and often judged as asexual. This was wrong.