‘Menopausal Militia’ to Young Women: It’s Your Body!

EDITOR’S NOTE:  This post first appeared on RH Reality Check.  We wanted to post it here not only for its value but also because we are very aware of generational stresses in the women’s movement and felt this cast light as well as heat.  Because of that, you will also find a response by our own Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux here.  Please read both and let us know what you think.

I write as a member of the “menopausal militia,” as the New York Times [1], quoting NARAL’s President, Nancy Keenan this weekend, characterized those of us, “of a certain age,” who have led America’s decades’-long fight for reproductive rights [2].

But, on this day after the National Day of Action (to stop Stupak), I feel like I’m still 18, in the fall of 1968, gathering nickels, dimes and dollars for a friend to take the bus to Rapid City, South Dakota to get an (illegal) abortion.

On other recent days, I’ve felt like the newly married 23-year-old I was, living in Chicago the year abortion because legal, realizing that the fight was onl that I needed to make this fight a part of my life’s work, for my personal sake.

And on this day after, though still a married woman living in Chicago, things are very different for me. Today, it doesn’t matter to me, for me, whether abortion remains legal or not. It doesn’t even matter to me for my immediate family: I don’t have children or grandchildren. Even so, I know, with every bone in my body, that this is still a fight worth fighting.

So, it still feels like a day in 1968. For if abortion becomes illegal again, or impossible to obtain in a conventional medical setting–because the Stupak Amendment has become law–it will be 1968 all over again.

For sure, it will be 1968 all over again if America’s young women don’t wake up and realize that women’s reproductive rights can only be secured by battling to secure this human right, the right to control one’s own body.

In 1968, as we looked towards adulthood, we knew that the threshold determinant of women’s equality was the capacity to control one’s reproductive destiny. We recognized that, absent that capacity, the rest just isn’t possible; nope, and hear me clearly on this one: none of it: not that cuddly family, not that nice home, not that non-sexist husband, not that good job, not the ability to choose when to have children, or how many to have, for the capacity to determine one’s own reproductive life is what makes all the rest of this achievable.

So, yes, we’ve battled ever since, and in the process we’ve become a (menopausal) militia.

And because we have, we’re here to tell you to stop talking about personal choice, as though it could be the basis of the strategy to win this fight (to stop Stupak) to keep abortion safe and legal. It isn’t.

Time to leave the talk to the (male) academics, pollsters and journalists. And while you’re at it, time to leave to the big-time male executives at the big-time ad agencies (they can waste their time) the business of proposing new taglines and “softer” messages: “If you just try this one, ma’am, you’re sure to get those middle-of-the-road moms on your side”…as though selling a permanent commitment to women’s reproductive choice were like selling perfume. 

Listen to us, us members of the menopausal militia. We know, from direct and repeated experience for decades, that there just isn’t any “nice” way to convince politicians to keep abortion safe and legal. This one is “hard time,” not in prison, but certainly in a war zone. 

Time to get real–you (younger) women who are wishing it were otherwise: This fight is about your body, and who controls it.

Why in the world do you think that it was only women’s reproductive healthcare that got exempted from a reasonable and comprehensive approach to providing Americans with access to healthcare? Was this just the luck-of-the-draw, just Congressional business as usual?

Hell, no.

There have been numerous other issues facing Congress on which the Blue Dogs said they’d hold out.  But, when it came down to it, they didn’t. Yet, when it came to legislation that would guarantee women’s autonomy, they did, and then, to add insult to injury, they convinced others to join them in their war against American women.

Why were these Members of Congress able to do this?  Because women’s autonomy–remember: it took women almost 150 years to get the right to vote in this country–isn’t what the men who (still) rule America want for us. Why? Because our gaining our autonomy is about their giving up their power.

If I cede the basic position from whence my power stems–in the case of a male legislator, that’s being male–what might I have left?

Forget the catchy slogans and friendly messages. Forget the pretty pink websites. Forget the pollsters. Forget trying to make deals with legislators fundamentally unsympathetic to the cause of women’s autonomy. Forget trying to make ever-so-reasonable arguments about reducing the cost of health care, or about the benefits of health care, if we just have reproductive coverage for those mothers who love their children just so much.

Instead, recognize that today’s fight is a defining battle for American women.

Today, and on every day to come, be battle-ready: be prepared to tell your legislators they’ve crossed the line. In fact, tell them they need to step back. Tell them you will lie down on the steps of the Capitol, so they can’t get in to vote; tell them you will picket the White House, so they can’t meet with the President; tell them you will ruin their family’s Christmas, and oh, by the way, while you’re at it, remind them you birthed the children now going to Afghanistan to fight, and because you did, you know every child should be a loved and wanted child; tell them you know that the America your children now fight for, and die for, is one which should give you equal rights, in all matters, and that means the right to control your own body. Tell them nothing less will do.

Young women of America: Fail to understand this at your peril. Take this lesson from the menopausal militia to heart.

Young women of America: Prepare for many, many more national days of action. And know that we’ll be right there with you.

Again, the response to this post appears here.

Alexandralee via Flickr/Creative Commons

By Rebecca Sive


Jewels S.
Jewels S8 years ago

I agree with you 120% Sarah D. There has been a culture created that gives men no accountability for their actions. When are we going to teach our men and boys to "keep their pants zipped?" I am a psychology major for the reason that I want to teach young girls how to get past that age that they are highly impressionable by young men, hopefully pregnancy free. I know for a fact that if young men stopped their singleminded mission teen pregnancy would decrease at an amazing rate. Young girls are not the initiators.

Sarah D.
Sarah D8 years ago

"Close your legs."

When are the pro-lifers going to say "keep your pants zipped"? Why is sex always the women's responsibility? Does having a penis give men immunity?

Jewels S.
Jewels S8 years ago

Had to comment because of post talking about banning pregnant mothers from smoking. This gets us back to the article: Government should not decide what we do with our body. You should not decide how your neighbor runs their life. If I was pregnant I would not smoke but my mother did through out 4 pregnancies and had and raised 4 healthy children. Stay out of others business. Let others live their lives as they choose and worry about your own backyard. Reminds me of an Eric Clapton song lyric "before you accuse me, take a look at yourself"

Rachel H.
Rachel H8 years ago

Eve, I finally had a chance to respond. In regard to your questions and comments, "we wait until they call for help" Yes, you are correct, however a "fetus" cannot call for help, and say "please don't kill me". As far as, should pregnant women smoke, and should we regulate that, and how? There is a big difference between smoking or doing something dangerous while pregnant, and killing someone. There is no "commandment" that states, "thou shalt not smoke while pregnant" But there is one that says "thou shalt not kill" That's the way I see it. As far as me being "deeply unhappy", no actually I am not unhappy at all, I am simply voicing my opinion, like everyone else. I was referring to a medical reason for abortion, not using abortion as birth control. Also, I do not have the "inability to articulate" anything, and no, it doesn't scare me. Government regulates basically everything we do now anyhow, why should abortion be any different?

Bruce D.
Bruce C D8 years ago

Eve M. says Dec 12, 2009 3:23 PM (cont.)
(“no, it did not. it held that the birth mother had no right to force the disclosure of his identity and it only declined to hear the case. did you read your own link? more importantly, did you read the actual case it was relating? did you know that she's actually continued to appeal?”)
You couldn’t have used the link I gave. Here is the link again below, which states in the first sentence she lost her bid to get child support. The second link describes the background, arguments and rulings from the case. The appeal was dismissed because the judgment is not final. (Final judgment is postponed while the donor voluntarily provides genetic and medical information through an intermediary, which is being done at the donor’s own behest.) The court did hear the case. If it hadn’t it couldn’t have made the ruling that protected the donor’s privacy in regards to her paternity suit, because the law states he didn’t intend to be responsible, which effectively prevents any paternity suit.


Bruce D.
Bruce C D8 years ago

Eve M. says Dec 12, 2009 3:23 PM
("If YOU had Googled...")
You left off the last part, which is misleading. The point was that when Googled, the majority of links had to do with upholding the rights of the donor, not the child.

(“did you not notice that people said it was precedent-setting?”)
Yes, but the plaintiff who won the case, as quoted in my response, seemed to feel this was a unique case and set a very narrow precedent. "It wasn't that he went to the (sperm) bank and that was it. They called him Papa."

Bruce D.
Bruce C D8 years ago

Eve (cont.)-
Stating a possibility helps to elicit a response clarifying another's position—it doesn't define it.

(Argh! Comments get cut off even when showing characters remaining. Sorry.)

Bruce D.
Bruce C D8 years ago

Eve says @ Dec 13, 2009 8:07 PM-
(“i'm not promoting changes in law, i am trying to get you to examine the state of our laws today with regard to what you are pitching.”)

But I am promoting changes in law. And this had already been addressed in a previous response to you: Bruce D. says Dec 13, 2009 2:51 PM “…whereas it was already a given that existing law would need modification to allow more equitable reproductive choice for men, and for a new way to think critically about sexuality and reproductive habits in our society.” “…I am not as concerned here about rehashing what exists as I am interested in exploring how things could be improved.”

( “this is something that the courts are sorting out right now. where are you trying to fit in?”)
I’m not trying to fit in anywhere. Your question is vague, but I think you’re talking about child rights in relation to my idea of child contracts. I think this has already been answered in several different ways. But if you care to be more explicit...

(“i never said they were "inviolable".”)
I didn’t say you did; what I said was: “are not quite as inviolable as you might think.” There is a critical difference between stating a possibility and certain attribution. At the time, your belief about the matter could not be ascertained, but the indication seemed to be there was a chance you thought they were (inviolable, that is). Stating a possibilit

Moertl M.
Martha M8 years ago

Sorry, I am fed up with this constant harassing theme women's rights against persons who unfortunately have a masculin sex. What's going on ? We are all humans and should work hand in hand. And men should also (I say also) be allowed to have an opinion where a child life is on stake. We all are the fruit of union beween male and female. I start to believe for many people abortion (killing) is more important than bearth (life giving). I admit that rape cases for example should get special treatment but still human treatment.

Bruce D.
Bruce C D8 years ago

said "but it troubles me that you don't think it's a significant issue. you have been belittling and dismissive about all of these concerns, and that does bother me"

There you go, making those erroneous assumptions and wild accusations again. Where have I said child's rights aren't a significant issue? And your depiction of belittling and dismissive isn't accurate, either.

You recognize yourself that reconciling your support of abortion and child rights is difficult. I understand that, and would never associate that support with not caring about children. So it seems more than a bit unfair of you to start judging my concern.

The problem here, I think, is you don't want to specify what child's rights you are talking about. When I ask what rights you think they should have when it comes to the natural parents in adoptions or where a donor is used, you say you don't know. Well, if you don't know your own, how can you judge anybody else's views on child's rights? And if you won't specify which children's rights you are concerned about, you are depriving others of the chance to address those concerns.