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January 30, 1989 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1989-01-30

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Page 4

Monday, January 30, 1989
Free feminism from the ideology of population control

The Michigan daily





By Camille Colatosi
This is the first of a two-part article.
Along with many other feminists last
fall, I tried to defeat Proposal A, a
proposition that stopped the medicaid
funding of abortions in Michigan. Though
I was uncomfortable with much of the
campaign's message, I felt that the issue
was important enough to work on despite
my objections.
Like many liberals in the 1980s, the
People's Campaign for Choice allowed the
tight to set the terms of the debate. While
proponents of the proposal emphasized the
savings taxpayers could expect once medi-
caid funding of abortions ceased, oppo-
nents argued that ending benefits would
actually increase taxpayers' costs. The
price of carrying a baby to term, our
literature and advertising argued, and then
supporting that child on welfare for eigh-
teen years, greatly outweighed that of a
two or three hundred dollar abortion.
This unfortunate racist and sexist mes-
sage implied that continued medicaid
funding of abortions would slow down the
breeding of the poor and eventually would
d crease the number of people in need of
public assistance. Contrary to the rhetoric
6f the Vote No on A campaign, however,
miost welfare families do not remain on
rlhe rolls for eighteen years, the entire mi-
nority of a child, but for only two years
before the head of the household - usu-
Ally a single mother - finds another
neans of support either through marriage
or low-paying employment. The majority
of the poor in Michigan, and throughout
the United States, are women and children.
Over half of all female-headed households
in this country live in poverty; and three-
quarters of all families headed by women
,of color live below the poverty line. One-
Camille Colatosi is a doctoral candidate
T English and a member of Solidarity.

quarter of all U.S. children are poor and for
minority children, statistics are one in
two. Simply put, the majority of those on
welfare are single mothers of color and
their children.
The language of the pro-choice cam-
paign illustrates a confusion between
feminist goals and racist, classist eugen-
ics. Rather than emphasize women's need
for autonomy over reproduction, bodily
self-determination, expanded options and
improved social conditions, the People's
Campaign for Choice aligned itself with
racists concerned about the "population
explosion" of people of color. As the
Dukakis campaign took for granted the
votes of the poor and courted the Reagan
democrats, so feminists assumed the sup-
port of liberals and tried, along with the
right, to win votes from the fiscally and
socially conservative. Playing on the fears
of middle-and upper-class whites, the
campaign suggested a portentous future. If
we end medicaid funding of abortions, the
ads implied, we may have more poor chil-
dren of color than we'll be able to afford or
control-- and then what?
In order to find language and feminist
politics that address the concerns of all
women - and not only those of white,
middle-and upper-class women - we need
to understand that this confusion between
feminist aims and racist, populationist
ideology has plagued the reproductive
rights movement since its inception in the
United States in the nineteenth century.
The recorded history of the reproductive
rights movement in this country is rela-
tively short. Until the post-Civil War era,
abortion was not criminalized and
women's control over reproduction was

not really questioned. Before the profes-
sionalization of medicine in the nineteenth
century, most abortions either were self-
induced or were administered by midwives.
Societies where women's kinship relations
and female networks were strong experi-
enced a high incidence of abortion and
contraception. Contrary to what the media
suggests, control over reproduction de-
pends more on social relations than on
medical technology. Until the attack
against abortion waged by the medical
profession in the 1860s and 70s, most
people did not regard the voluntary early
termination of pregnancy as a sin. Abor-
tion was seen as "morally neutral" prior to
"quickening" - the stage of pregnancy
when fetal movements are noticed, usually
between the twenty-fourth and twenty-
eighth week.
In order to establish economic and ideo-
logical hegemony over their principle
clientele - upper- and middle-class, mar-
ried white women - the medical profes-
sion sought to centralize and monopolize
women's health care. But the politics of
those who oppose women's reproductive
freedom have never been monolithic or
without contradiction. While the medical
profession emphasized the importance of
maternal duty for its wealthy female pa-
tients, it simultaneously urged the steril-
ization of the criminal, the insane, and the
poor. From 1907-1945, 45,000 people
were involuntarily sterilized in U.S. hos-
pitals; half of the victims were termed
mentally ill, and the other half were poor
The weakness of the first wave of U.S.
feminism, the 1920s to the 40s, a weak-
ness that continues to plague the women's
movement, involved its support of forced
sterilization and its belief that birth con-
trol should take different forms for poor
women than for the wealthy. In 1920,
Margaret Sanger sought the legitimacy of
birth control by soliciting endorsements
from influential doctors. By opposing the
work of midwives and supporting "doctors
only" bills that gave the predominantly

male medical profession absolute charge of
women's health care, she effectively
worked to end women's control of the
technologies of reproduction. This shift
from midwives' control to doctors' control
of women's health care increased the cost
of reproductive services and widened the
gap between the type of care middle- and
upper-class women received versus that
given to poor women. The professional-
ization of medicine drove inexpensive al-
ternatives underground, decreasing their
availability and increasing their danger.

fewer health risks than does carrying a
pregnancy to full term; in fact , an early
abortion is seven times safer than natural
childbirth. This fact the surgeon general
- and many other members of the new
right - would like to ignore. Dr. C. Ev-
erett Koop has been working busily and
unsuccessfully to prove that women suffer
long-term psychological trauma as a result
of abortion. For if anti-choice activists
could support this claim, they could argue
that, in the interests of protecting
women's health, abortion should be pro-

'The language of the pro-choice campaign illustrates a
confusion between feminist goals and racist, classist eugenics.'

Antoinette Konikow, a socialist doctor
who lived in the early part of the twentieth
century, accused Sanger of transforming
birth control from a popular women s is-
sue into a medical interest. There was
nothing inherently unsafe about the meth-
ods used by midwives as compared with
those employed by doctors until the medi-
cal profession, consolidating its control
over women, denied midwives and lay
health practitioners access to antiseptics
and other safety devices. Sanger did not
advocate the legalization of abortion, and
she accepted without opposition the medi-
cal profession's insistence that abortions
were in themselves dangerous. Yet, as
Stella Browne, another early twentieth-
century socialist-feminist and activist
wrote in 1922, "It is open, perhaps, to
question whether the effects of abortion
itself have been sufficiently separated from
the appalling bad conditions of nervous
terror, lack of rest and lack of surgical
cleanliness in which it is generally per-
Since the legalization of abortion in
1973, abortion related death has decreased
by 73 per cent. A first term aspiration
abortion exposes a woman to significantly

hibited. But, unfortunately for the new
right and fortunately for women, over 250
studies conducted by right-wing and gov-
ernment organizations seeking to prove
the negative psychological consequences
of abortions have again and again revealed
the safety of early abortions.
Still, the fact that the abortion debate
continues to be focused upon safety rather
than on women's right to control our own
bodies, is in part a consequence of the
mistakes of early reproductive rights ac-
tivists. The strategy of early feminists
such as Sanger, a strategy that became that
of Planned Parenthood, was to sacrifice
female control for the rhetoric of medical
safety, and to oppose abortion in favor of
contraception without recognizing the
connections between these two methods of
reproductive control. After all, no contra-
ceptive device is foolproof, and history has
shown that control over reproduction
means more to most women than safety
does. In order to maintain control of our
bodies, women rely on birth control
methods known to be dangerous, such as
the Pill, and seek abortions even when
such procedures are illegal and, as a result,
often unsafe.


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Edited and managed by students at The University of Michican
420 Maynard St.
Vol. IC, No. 85 Ann Arbor MI 48109
Unsigned editorials represent a majority of the Daily's Editorial Board. All other
cartoons, signed articles, and letters do not necessarily represent the opinion
of the Daily.
I4Set aiethe Court
THE ECHO of Ronald Reagan's atic bias. As a result of this narrowly
,whitewashing, see-no-racism, hear-no- focused ruling, 33 states (including
racism philosophy resounds loudly Michigan) and almost 200 municipali-
:through the halls of American Justice. ties could be challenged to defend their
"set-aside" laws by proving that they
Last week the Supreme Court struck are designed to redress specific prob-
down Richmond, Virginia's require- lems of discrimination.
ment that 30 percent of construction
sub-contracts be "set-aside" for firms The Supreme Court's lack of vision
controlled by minorities. The court de- does deliberate disservice to all minori-
lared that this requirement was not ties who encounter discrimination and
justified by the fact that less than one bigotry in all aspects of their lives. This
percent of city projects were being kind of decision negates the progress
,,warded to such firms, even though the made by civil rights advocates over the
population of that the city is half Black. last three decades expressed in legisla-
- ichmond city officials, the court de- tion mandating affirmative action and
blared, did not show specific evidence equal opportunity. Contrary to rulings
that the imbalance occurred as a result that promoted civil rights during the
of racial discrimination, and thus their Warren Court era, the present court is
'set-aside" law was unconstitutional. embarking on a reactionary path. As a
result, the court stands to lose the
The ruling amounts to a formal judi- minimal credibility it has in the eyes of
vcial confirmation of the Reagan admin- minorities.
istration's assertions that systematic
racism in this country is a relic of the
past. Minorities everywhere can easily Justice O'Connor saw special
:disprove such distorted history significance in the fact that the law was
;lessons. The residents of Richmond are passed by a Black majority on the
:among them. Richmond city council, This is espe-
cially disturbing. It serves only to rein-
Before the city passed the "set-aside" force Reagan's peculiar accusation that
law, two-thirds of one percent of sub- Black leaders opportunistically perpet-
contracts were awarded to minority uate the illusion of prejudice in order to
firms. During the time that the law was secure higher status positions and thus
n effect the number jumped to almost somehow undermine the capitalist
forty percent, more consistent with lo- virtue of competition Such accusations
cal demographics. Since 1987, when a frumn privilcged whites are absurd.
state court ruled against the city, the

Proj ect
To the Daily-
I am a Jew,free and well
adjusted. I have found that
the more deeply I become
identified with the values of
my own people, the closer
do I come to an under-
standing of the hopes and
desires of mankind as a
On January 17, 1989, Mitz-
vah project, a non-profit, apo-
litical, University recognized
organization of which I am a
member, made a commitment
"to be of help where help is
needed," as our slogan states.
The day was devoted toward a
solely humanitarian effort in
the hopes of reuniting the re-
maining 10,000 to 15,000
Ethiopian Jews living in a
community of "mostly
women, children, the elderly
and infir" (A report form the
Ethiopian Association for
Ethiopian Jews) with their
families already in the land of
Israel. In reference to the arti-
cle, "Ethiopians exploited,"
(Daily, 1/23/89), it is of the
utmost importance to immedi-
ately correct two blatant errors
the Daily's failuie to rec-
ognize the proper organizatiOn
responsible for this campus day
of awareness and secondly, the
group's purpose.
Upon this clarification, there
is a fact of history which was
exploited and used out of con-
text by the Daily : The Law of
Return This docur1ient was
passed unanimously by the
Knesset on July 5, 1950 and
written into the State Legisla-

Palestinian people living in the
West Bank and Gaza Strip and
settle there is totally unre-
In actuality, the Ethiopians
longing to emigrate to their
homeland, will arrive in Israel
with no knowledge of modern
society, few communicative
skills, and money barely
enough to buy food for a single
individual for one week. Not to
mention the fact that the
Ethiopian's language,
Amharic, is not widely spoken
by Israelis. While possessing
the understanding of all of
these hardships awaiting them
in Israel, the Ethiopian Jews
still find the will to leave their
country to obtain their ultimate
life goal: freedom.
This is a reality with which
we as Jews identify. But even
greater, this is a reality which
we as human beings, regardless
of political or religious beliefs,
must be aware. People need to
address issues such as this in
the present for in the future it
will only be too late. As Hil-
lel, a Jewish scholar, once said,
"If not now, when?"
-Lisa E. Jacobson
January 24
wants to
To the Daily:
Never have I been so dis-
turbed by a Daily editorial as I
was when I read the article
"Ethiopians exploited"
(1/23/89). This article is based
on untruths and misrepresenta-
tions of the plight of
Ethiopian Jews.
The article leads the reader to
believe that Ethiopian Jews
want to leave Ethiopia to es-

For 2,700 years, Ethiopians
have called their Jews
"Falashas," a derogatory term
meaning "stranger" or
"landless" in Amharic.
Throughout their history,
Ethiopian Jews have been vic-
tims of anti-Semitism, physi-
cal destruction, prohibitions
against owning land, and forced
conversions. More recently,
after the revolution of 1974,
Ethiopian Jews have been im-
prisoned without trial and
forced from their homes.
The second major problem is
family separation. The Opera-
tion Moses airlift of 1984-5
brought 7,000 Jews to Israel.
But 10-15,000 still remain in
Ethiopia. The government re-
fuses to grant these Jews exit
visas. During Operation
Moses, only young Jews were
able to make the two to three
week walk to the Sudanese
camps where the airlift took
place. They had to leave their
parents and other older relatives
in Ethiopia. Currently, 1,100
Israeli Ethiopian children are
separated from both of their
parents. No "comprehensive
plan to end the brutal civil war,
and feed and shelter its victim-
ized people" is going to reunite
these families or get rid of the
long standing anti-Semitism of
Ethiopian society. The only
solution is an increase in im-
migration to Israel.
The second premise of the
opinion page article, that
Ethiopian immigration is a
ploy to push Palestinians out
of the West Bank, is also false.
No widespread immigration has
occurred since the 1984-5 air-
lift, two to three years before
the beginning of the Intifadah.
The Israeli government could
not have forced young
Ethiopians to leave their fami-
lies and walk for weeks in the
desert This was not anv-ern.

But, for the thousands of
Ethiopian families who have
already undergone four years of
separation, each and every re-
unification is very significant.
-Debbie Bodin
January 24


attacks on *
To The Daily:
I took Reynolds Farley's
Sociology 303 class last year
and did not once see Farley ex-
hibit racist or sexist behavior. I
am extremely vigilant with re-
spect to racism and would no-
tice if Farley made any state-
ment that bordered on racism. I
believe this is perhaps an over-
reaction on the part of a couple
students and I hope that Farley
does not have to suffer through
any more attacks on his
-Alec Lenenberg
January 24


No more

To the Daily:
Your recent article enti-
tled,"Ethiopians Exploited",
causes me to questio not only
your journalistic abilities, but
your integrity and basic moral'
values as human beings. I fully
understand the outrage about
the Palestinian situation in the
West Bank. I fully appreciate
the right to express your opin-~
ions about the situation. I cer-
tainly do notappreciate the use
of unbased attacks to further

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