Pro-choice means pro-female, regardless of identity. #profemaleprochoice
Huffington Post and Autostraddle both ran articles on January 27th, 2014 about the hashtag #protransprochoice and a petition started by three young adults: Beck Martens, Alice Wilder, and Calliope Wong–a transwoman who caused a media flurry in 2013 about being denied application for enrollment at a female-only college while Wong was still legally and anatomically male. The Autostraddle article is entitled #ProTransProChoice: Launching A New Reproductive Rights Movement. That’s right, a whole New Movement to accommodate gender identities! I consider this a particularly disturbing example of conflating ‘gender identity’ with physical sex and a stark reminder of what “sex not gender” means.
The #protransprochoice call for a New Reproductive Rights Movement demands that NARAL and Planned Parenthood spend their precious, limited funds on media campaigns that explicitly cater to the gender identities of trans* people:
The rhetoric of the pro-choice movement is typically based around the assumption that only folks who identify as women are hurt by restrictions on reproductive health care – such as abortion and contraception. #StandWithTexasWomen took the stage in 2013; “Trust Women” has been the mantra of this movement for decades. This language excludes trans* and gender non-conforming (GNC) people and thus, the movement has failed to address our reproductive and sexual health needs.
The offense is that speaking of “women” generally does not affirm or validate the identities of trans* people. Referring to abortion as a “woman’s” issue is unacceptable because, one, it does not include reference to female-born transmen who might need abortions and, two, not all “women” have vaginas. It makes trans* people feel unimportant and left out of the conversation. The #protransprochoice hashtag is just the latest iteration of on-going attempts from the pro-trans lobby to de-sex the way we speak about reproductive rights.
Now, for the sake of preempting any false assumptions: I agree that all people deserve safe and affordable access to all necessary healthcare. That is not under debate. If you need a mammogram, you need a mammogram. If you need an abortion, you need an abortion. I don’t care who you are. Or what you call yourself.
However. If you need an abortion then you have a vagina. And a uterus. Because you are female bodied.
Identity politics cannot change the fact that reproductive rights are an not issue of identity, but one of biological sex.
While transmen may live as “men,” they retain their female genetic and hormonal systems. If transmen require abortions, it is because they have not surgically removed the uterus they were born with. On the other hand, while transwomen may live as “women,” they will never be impregnable because they were not born with female reproductive systems. Transwomen will never need abortions.
Reproductive sex is the relevant factor here, not identity.
To say this and to know this–that transwomen will never need abortions– is not carefully calculated social exclusion, cissexism, or genital essentialism. It is simply a fact: only female bodied people need abortions. Further, to say and to know that transmen need abortions because they are female bodied people is not transphobia. It is simply a fact.
Male and female bodies have completely different reproductive organs and systems; these organs and systems have completely different reproductive functions. Males have penises and testes. Male reproductive rights and services include vasectomies, viagra, and sperm storage. Females, on the other hand, have uteruses and vaginas and fallopian tubes. Female reproductive rights and medical needs include abortions, birth control, and maternity services.
The kind of reproductive services you need depends entirely on your body’s sexual organs, not your mind’s gender identity. Everyone who needs an abortion has a female reproductive system. Being pro-(abortion)-choice means being pro-female regardless of (the female’s) gender identity.
Another sticking point in the rhetoric of abortion and reporductive rights revolves around the ability to name female body parts. Any attempt to further limit the already restrained space allowed for political and social discussion of female reproductive organs is unacceptable.
This is especially important in the context of a political climate where, as incisively noted by transsexual blogger Snowflake Especial, you’re not allowed to say “vagina” during certain congressional debates about abortion.  Whether it is misogynistic revulsion for female bodies or the fragility of the trans ego, we must not sacrifice or silence the ability of females to talk about female body parts and how they relate to reproduction. Especially abortion.
This is not genital or vaginal essentialism. It does not mean that all females are is their vaginas. It simply means that we recognize the undeniable relationship between sex-specific (reproductive) organs and their (reproductive) functions.
If there is a necessary adjustment to terminology regarding abortion and reproductive rights, I suggest that we sharpen the focus from “women” to females— this constitutes a much more accurate description of the subject of our concerns. More importantly, it would avoid the elephant in the room: widening the scope of abortion rights to include people who should not be included.
Men matter too!
The broader implications of including “men” and “people without vaginas” in the language of “women’s” reproductive rights is that male bodied people are also included. It eliminates any difference between male and female interests in reproductive rights and, specifically, access to abortion. It moves the focus from female bodily autonomy back to the general audience of “all people.” Including male people.
Instead of “it’s her decision,” now it’s “his and/or her decision.” Instead of “women’s bodies are impregnable,” it becomes “all bodies might be impregnable.” This is patently false. Further, it plays right into the hands of MRAs like Greg Fultz. Click the infamous billboard image to read the back story on this charmer.
The autonomy to choose whether or not one will bear children is a human right. It is a human right that all males have always enjoyed. It is a human right that all females are also entitled to. Yet for as long as patriarchy has reigned, females have fought– and died– for the right to reproductive control over our own bodies. The “right to choose” is already on tenuous legal and social ground in the US; we are already battling males in power who deludedly imagine that females have special ways of “shutting down” unwanted pregnancy. I wish I was making this up, but I’m not. A recent Atlantic article details our pervasive cultural ignorance about female sexuality, including basic biology:
…myths about virginity, sex, and basic biology still pervade even among sexually active adults, and when those myths get reinforced by vacuums of reliable information and sexist messages ingrained in popular culture, they can have serious consequences for women’s health.
The suggestion that females should include men or males of any kind in the rhetoric of reproductive rights and abortion “choice” is ultimately a very privileged one. Feminist writer Glosswitch expressed similar concerns in an article exploring the intersection of gender identity and sex at The New Statesman (bold not in original):
The current drive towards de-gendering [sic] references to pregnancy and abortion thus strikes me as fundamentally anti-feminist. Anti-choicers do not seek to deny people abortions; they seek to deny women abortions. The needs of these women are dismissed not simply due to some abstract expectation of what people with wombs do, but due to an enormous matrix of highly gendered expectations. … For the sake of both cis women and trans men it is important to identify the contested ground and to hone in on where the dehumanising impulses come from. This requires an understanding of intersectionality as contextualisation rather than a shifting of hierarchies, something which is essential if we are not to mask structures of oppression in a desperate attempt to be non-specific.
Identity politics is a distraction, not a clarification, to reproductive politics and abortion rights. I refuse to “mask structures of oppression in a desperate attempt to be non-specific,” nor in a desperate attempt to avoid triggering people whose social identities do not match their genitals. I will not talk about reproductive rights as if impregnation affects all bodies equally. The fact that some females wish they were not female and some males wish they were female does not require the rest of us to pretend that abortion is anything but a female-specific medical procedure that only female bodied people have a right to request or refuse.
It’s one thing that some people identify with the opposite sex and wish to socially pass as such. Fine. It’s quite another thing to demand that gender identity displace accurate terminology about “sex” and “vaginas” in law and public policy. Not fine. And it is yet another thing to demand that organizations like NARAL and Planned Parenthood reframe their entire public discourse about reproductive rights to include “men” and “people without vaginas.” Completely asinine and unacceptable.
The call for a New Movement centered around the politically correct terminology of identity theory is a deliberate diversion from sex-based reproductive difference and the politics of control. It is also a diversion of funds from the provision of abortions and other vital reproductive services to feel-good rhetoric that has nothing to do with the social mechanics of reproductive exploitation.
Being pro-choice means being pro-female. You can be pro-trans or pro-identity-politics too. But in the context of reproductive rights and access to abortion, being female is what really matters– regardless of identity.
No uterus, no opinion.
 Remember that whole Susan G. Koman mammogram funding scandal? Reproductive rights organizations are constantly under attack from conservatives, they should not also be under attack from pro-choice people demanding a diversion of funds to accommodate subjective “gender identities.” See http://www.plannedparenthood.org/about-us/newsroom/press-releases/alarmed-saddened-komen-foundation-succumbing-political-pressure-planned-parenthood-launches-fun-38629.htm
 I’m using the asterisk here for the sake of brevity, not as a matter of political correctness. It refers to any and all people who self-I-dentity as “trans,” whatever that label means to the user.
 For another instance, please see this article from July 2013: http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/17888-not-everyone-who-has-an-abortion-is-a-woman-how-to-frame-the-abortion-rights-issue
 Snowflake Especial’s coverage of the #protransprochoice issue should not be missed. Bookmark this blog! http://snowflakeespecial.tumblr.com/post/74963151096/more-trans-activism-derailing-female-reproductive
Hi, Elizabeth, you are doing yeoperson work. It is so appreciated. Thank you!
You say: “The offense is that speaking of “women” generally does not affirm or validate the identities of trans* people. Referring to abortion as a “woman’s” issue is unacceptable because, one, it does not include reference to female-born transmen who might need abortions and, two, not all “women” have vaginas.”
Your analysis is helpful, and I have to say I’m not seeing anybody else analyze these crucial issues.
Let me try again to consider your work and respectfully differ to some extent. I hope you know by now that I do respect your analysis as a lawyer and feminist, and especially respect that you post your thoughts in the face of MRAs, apathy, and liberal responses.
Looking at the quote above, what I see is that transwomen are insisting that the usual definition of a woman does not apply any more. If I say there is a class of women with reproductive capabilities, they are “hurt” and do not want it said.
This class of women with reproductive capacities, historically discriminated-against, numbers about three and a half billion people. Can I ask that we let that sink in, for a moment?
We are here and we are a majority class which cannot be silenced. Men who wish to perform as woman are a minuscule group. Their online attacks on women are derailing and ignorant and, unfortunately, cowardly.
All of us, trans people, radfems, whatever, know it is men who harm them. Radfems are not their enemies, and it is time for them to begin addressing the men who hurt them. When transactivists figure out the real enemy is patriarchy and male prejudice, we can talk.
This is truth and I don’t mind speaking it.
Hi Dar, thank you for commenting! First comment in how many days? Haha. The silence is deafening, but not unexpected. SPEAKING THE TRUTH is why I do this regardless of the silence AND the slander it tends to evoke. It simply appalls me that this “New Movement” has a voice in likes of HuffPo, Autostraddle, and TruthOut among others. I’m not sure where we differ on this particular issue, BUT even when we may disagree, I always hope we can do so with respect. Thank you again for engaging with the post.
I will also take this opportunity to quote Glosswitch again because she is totally speaking my language, nevermind the backlash:
Hi, Elizabeth, I don’t know why this site isn’t getting a lot of comments – maybe because posts aren’t so frequent that we have to check in a lot? It isn’t that good work isn’t being done here.
Where we differ is on the “All is socialization” issue. I think we need to bring male biology back into the analysis. But that’s only one of the serious theoretical issues we need to be re-analyzing in light of recent political, legal, social, and scientific/technological developments. I think we agree on most other issues :).
It’s hard to even frame the issue you are talking about in this web post, because it requires one to discuss contradictory, whimsical, delusory arguments from the trans woman lobby as if they have some sort of substance. Their contention that they must granted the same protections and medical treatment as biological women, even when that includes somehow also at the same time treating them as the biological men they are, is like putting one more card on the teetering house of cards of the whole theory they are building. They seem impelled to get more and more extreme as they tease out weirder and weirder positions from their first set of cards.
I won’t presume to offer them any advice. I will only point out once more that they are wasting their time attacking women’s status as a well-defined class from ancient times, oppressed in very specific ways strongly related to their reproductive capacity.
At the end of the day, the only humans in the patriarchy who actually and fundamentally have “choices” in the positive sense are male humans. Because the concept of “choice” implies freedom of choosing among options based on something fundamentally hoped for or desired. Being pregnant AND wishing one wasn’t obviously means that the “choice” of abortion involves something that shouldn’t have happened/wasn’t wanted in the first place. This goes directly to your point about impregnability. It places females in a constant state of having to make the “choice” to undo what was never wished to have done. I hope people will think about that for a minute and compare it to something freely, happily chosen.
Females are always making do within this construct. Into that shitty reality barrels the trans* movement, demanding a say in what “choice” means and by damn it better include them front and center. This comes directly from male entitlement and the understanding of “choice” by males. For them, the idea that one could constantly be in a state of “choosing” between bad or worse hasn’t occurred. For them, “choice” is power and position over; they don’t have the biology that puts them at constant risk of having to make the “choice” that only mitigates risk while NO POWER ACCRUES.
“Choice” was never a good word to use for women’s decisions around abortion. We now see yet another way that the term can be used against females. I’ll say this for you, trans* activists, you never lack for ways to fuck over women and girls.
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A sane, thoughtful piece that one confirms my view that these days only the radfems have a consistent, informed position on the issue.
I would be interested to know, however, how much ACTUAL work #protransprochoice do to further women’s reproductive rights as opposed to attention seeking, trans rights, and diverting attention and funds away from the real issue- women’s lives.
Where are the trans women pushing all of those “check your prostate!” guys to include trans women in their literature? NOT ONLY MEN HAVE PROSTATES! TRANS WOMEN DIE OF PROSTATE CANCER EVERY YEAR. And just because trans men don’t have to worry about prostate cancer doesn’t mean they should be left out of the conversation! Slap a trans guy on the brochure, he’s supportive of your struggle! Enough with the prostate essentialism, guys! I would assume prostate cancer affects plenty of trans women, certainly more trans women than abortion does. And I can easily imagine that trans women would ignore their prostate health because it does not affirm their gender identity and/or is no longer covered by their insurance post-transition. The non-controversial nature of anti-cancer campaigns makes this a much better starting point for trans activists who want to open up the public conversation about trans people’s health concerns.
Funny, though…prostate cancer isn’t a political issue affecting men, and certainly not one that has been one of the central struggles of an oppressed sex class. I don’t believe anyone in the world is working to deny men specifically access to health care related to the prostate. It’s almost like this has nothing to do with making public health campaigns more inclusive of trans people and everything to do with attacking women and derailing feminism.
‘I will not talk about reproductive rights as if impregnation affects all bodies equally.’
I suggest further research on legal consequences of sex reassignment with special attention to females who legally became males and retained their female reproductive systems. I also suggest further research on medical law and medical procedures regarding abortion, just to confirm, that no medical professional would perform abortion on a patient who is not, at this point, legally female.
‘If you need an abortion, you need an abortion. I don’t care who you are. Or what you call yourself.’
You may not care, but person who safely performs abortion, performs it legally as a legally trained professional with a license. Would you deny right to safety to females who retained female reproductive systems and now are legally males?
Lisa, are you saying that you would not perform an abortion on a person who is legally male? Even if that person were physically female?
This article is critical of the legal fiction of sex that allows female people to be classified as legally male. It is also critical of the ideology that creates this legal (and social) fiction, better known as trans ideology.
Your articles may be critical of anything, however, you realize your critical article does not exist in vacuum. It exists within social, medical, and legal boundaries. With court order, in circumstances described by you, abortion would be possible.
Look at the sentences you wrote:
‘This article is critical of the legal fiction of sex that allows female people to be classified as legally male.’ You have ‘sex’, ‘female people’ and ‘male’.
‘It is also critical of the ideology that creates this legal (and social) fiction, better known as trans ideology.’
You have ‘fiction’ and ‘trans ideology’.
My question is what would you want to achieve by ridding of ‘legal and social fiction’ of sex. Elizabeth, what would you be writing your critical articles on?
Lisa, I do not understand what you intend to point out to me. 🙂 I meant exactly what I said. It is possible to change the legal designation of ‘sex’ on one’s governent issued documents, but this does change the body’s reproductive function. In fact, nothing does. The functions can be interrupted, but they cannot be transformed in the way that the legal change implies. Thus, it is a fiction.
If this were not the case, I might have a fashion or lifestyle blog. Or I might exercise a lot. Or write articles about crocheting. I’m not sure.
🙂 I’m not saying you didn’t mean exactly what you said.
Elizabeth, people who claim they need body transformations need only as little as possible. It’s their reality and they aren’t living in vacuum either.
I used to have blogs that were exactly garbage collectors. Never I had been convinced I actually wanted them, so I kept deleting 🙂 Readers still disagree with my actions 🙂
Lisa, are you a robot? My writing is not garbage, and this site is not a collection of garbage, but if that is your opinion, you are wasting your time trying to convince me that it is. Thanks but no thanks to your insults.
Ps. People who claim they need body trabsformations are extremely diverse in terms of needs and wants. To pretend that you can accurately generalize about the extent of transformation they desire is just false.
Well argued. Recently, I got into a discussion with a transwoman who insisted that a lack of access to sex reassignment surgery was EXACTLY THE SAME as a lack of access to abortion. When I argued that women die from childbirth or botched illicit abortions, he said that trans people commit suicide due to a lack of access to gender confirming surgery. And he used obnoxious post-modernist terminology like, he was “coercively assigned male at birth.” (I repeated that to my husband who said, “What? He was coerced into having a dick attached to his body?” LOL!)
This piggybacking of trans activism onto women’s reproductive choices smacks not only of male privilege, but also of the sort of mens’ rights activist “me-too” ism that you see, for instance, with the guys who equate male circumcision with female genital mutilation.
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