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"Mad Men" Gets Abortion Right

We're closer to 1965 than we care to admit, where women with resources still have access to abortions, but women without face a gauntlet of obstacles.

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Unfortunately, the steady drip-drip of harassment, terrorism, stigmatization and legal restrictions on abortion gets us closer every day to a situation much like the days when abortion was illegal.  All while maintaining the legal right to an abortion, anti-choicers could very well get us into a situation like the sixties, where only women with resources (like the character Joan on “Mad Men”) can get safe abortions, and other women find themselves desperately turning to coathangers and throwing themselves down stairs. 

This is why we must view abortion rights less as a thing in and of themselves, and more as a means to the end of access.  Sometimes the pro-choice movement fails to do this, putting the war on restrictions on the right over the war on other restrictions to access.  Take, for instance, how most major pro-choice organizations formally oppose the Hyde Amendment but don’t put much of their resources towards fighting it.  Instead of using health care reform as an opportunity to mount a movement that would repeal the Hyde Amendment, we started from a position of compromise, and ended up seeing already-existing access given away as a bargaining chip.

Imagine if we really did focus on access, particularly ensuring it for those who are most likely to lose it, poor women and very young women!  Of course, this is what reproductive justice groups have always advocated, arguing that movements are most effective if they use this strategy.  If you fight for the most vulnerable among you, the logic goes, everyone else benefits as a matter of course.  It’s the method that does the most good for the most people. 

We’re closer to the world of 1965 portrayed on “Mad Men” than we care to admit, where women with resources like Joan still have access to abortions, but women without those resources face a gauntlet of obstacles.  Joan even has a privilege that most women who have abortions nowadays don’t have, which is the ability to have her regular doctor she knows and trusts providing the service.  Not to suggest that abortion access isn’t significantly better than in 1965, but just to point out that we’re backsliding to that level of access all the time.

Luckily, a newer movement that prioritizes access over just rights has emerged, and its leaders and foot soldiers are heavy with the young women we’re often told don’t care about choice. Emily Bazelon wrote about the movement afoot in medical schools to get more doctors trained to provide abortions, and to get the procedure provided by a woman’s regular doctor instead of only by specialists.   Reproductive justice groups like SisterSong are working harder than ever, and youth-oriented groups like Advocates for Youth are concentrating many of their resources on abortion access.  They’re  all fighting to make sure that we don’t have 1965 sneak back up on us, even if Roe stays nominally in place.

Amanda Marcotte co-writes the popular blog Pandagon. She is the author of It's a Jungle Out There: The Feminist Survival Guide to Politically Inhospitable Environments .

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