Editor's Note: We received quite a number of responses to Mary Rider's First Person article "I'm against war, the death penalty--and abortion" in our Feb. 23 issue.
Health issues misleading
I am disappointed that the Independent chose to run an article so riddled with false statements as Mary Rider's First Person column.
Rider states that abortion is bad for women and that clinical studies show "all kinds of health risks for women who have abortions."
According to the World Health Organization, abortion performed by a trained provider is one of the safest medical procedures available--as safe as an injection of penicillin. Claims of health risks for women who have abortions are unfounded. So-called "research" by pro-life pundits that abortion increases a woman's risk of breast cancer has been refuted by the National Cancer Institute.
When abortion is illegal, however, women experience increased risks to their health and lives. The procedure goes underground and becomes unsafe, placing women's lives in danger. Prior to Roe, thousands of women in the U.S. died from unsafe abortions every year. And as abortion services continue to be marginalized and stigmatized, women suffer. In 2003, for example, Holly Patterson died from complications of medication abortion because she was afraid to tell the emergency-room personnel that she'd taken an abortifacient.
Contrary to Rider's belief, abortion on demand in the U.S. is a myth. Eighty-seven percent of counties do not have an abortion provider. And many states have placed restrictions on abortions that severely limit access to services.
Around the world more than 19 million unsafe abortions take place every year, resulting in the deaths of more than 70,000 women and injuries to countless more. It is incumbent upon us to protect a woman's right to safe, legal abortion services and to recognize that the "web of life" that Ms. Rider embraces does not exclude or discount the lives of women. It is also incumbent upon the Independent to speak responsibly as a voice of the progressive community and to refrain from printing misinformation.
Anu Kumar, Ph.D, MPh.
Executive Vice President, Ipas
We were encouraged by Howard Dean's quote in Front Porch: "We cannot win by being Republican-lite. We've tried it, it does not work." We were also inspired by the article in the Citizen section about Sen. Julia Boseman, the first "out" lesbian member of the N.C. General Assembly.
Then came the incongruous headline of First Person: "I'm against war, the death penalty--and abortion." What was this? Had the Independent Women's Forum slipped an insert into the Independent Weekly?
Just as the IWF masks its anti-women agenda behind a vaguely feminist-sounding name, Mary Rider, behind her faux progressive credentials, opposes women's equality and autonomy.
Rider echoes the discredited and disingenuous anti-choice claim that abortion "hurts women." So, being forced into premature motherhood does not? Being denied control of one's body and life does not? Dying from an unsafe abortion does not?
The Independent identifies itself as "progressive." If this doesn't mean taking as axiomatic a woman's right to control her body and life, it doesn't mean much at all.
A personal essay is surely an appropriate place to reflect on the moral dimensions of women's reproductive freedom. But please take Howard Dean's advice and spare us the Republican-lite (and old-fashioned sexism) masquerading as progressive thought.
Sherryl Kleinman and Michael Schwalbe
Religious views missing
It was disappointing that Mary Rider's anti-abortion First Person column did not acknowledge that her position is largely informed by her committed Catholicism. Rider is a founder of the Charlie Mulholland Catholic Workers House. While she has been a valuable activist on a range of peace and social justice concerns, her activism, including her anti-abortion position, is based on religious conviction.
It is telling that Rider feels the need to trot out a list of primarily-male religious leaders who oppose abortion. Her notion that "abortion kills babies" is itself based on a religious definition of human personhood (when Rider wrote "abortion is not good for babies," I thought "but babies don't have abortions").
Had Rider been forthright in acknowledging her religious views, one could then point out the unacknowledged problem of anti-abortion theology: With only around 30 percent of conceptions surviving the first two weeks of gestation, almighty god clearly does not place much emphasis on the survival of the human fetus.
Most women never even know that they have conceived and thus are unable to develop the squishy feelings and years of regret touted by Rider and her right-wing allies. Yet the anti-abortion crowd remains strangely silent about the phenomena of failure of implantation and early spontaneous abortion. These would be seen as a global public health crisis if they took their rhetoric seriously (and then all women, in shades of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, would be attached to conception monitors 24/7 to ensure that any zygote failing to implant receives a name, social security death benefits and a proper burial).
Rider may well love her children, but there are many women who want few children or none at all. All women have the right to control their own reproduction and to have access to safe, legal and affordable abortion, reproductive health and contraceptive services without interference from either reactionary zealots or well-meaning pacifists.
Send no more than 300 words to firstname.lastname@example.org; to P.O. Box 2690, Durham 27715; or fax 286-4274. Include name, phone number and mailing address for verification.