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Women must have rights over their own bodies

To the Editor:

Let us deny any woman the right and the responsibility of control over her body. Let us deny this right even when the woman is in danger of losing her life, let us deny it when the woman has been subjugated to the ultimate degradation of her body and her sexuality, let us deny her the right to her body. Chris Papineau '90, in his column ["Abortion is not the answer", Feb. 14], suggests that abortion should be illegal under all circumstances, even when the woman became pregnant as the result of rape, even when the mother might die if the child is born, even when the mother doesn't have the means to take care of the child once born.

In short, what he suggests is a return to a society in which a woman does not have the means to take care of the child once born. In short, what he suggests is a return to a society in which a woman does not have the right to her own body, does not have the right to eradicate the result of a forced violation of her body by a rapist, and furthermore is denied the right to abort a child that she is unable -- either financially or emotionally -- to care for.

Short of murder, rape is the ultimate violation against a woman, her body, and her sexuality. The emotional and physical scars of such an act often plague the victim for the rest of her life. While Papineau conceded that "rape is a horrible and ugly evil" he went on to suggest that "when rape occurs, the damage has been done." Since, in his mind, the damage has been done, it will not hurt the woman to bear the child to term and then put it up for adoption. What if the victim is a thirteen-year-old girl? What if the victim is a college freshman, your friend, your sister, your girlfriend, your co-worker, your mother? Should she be subjugated to nine months of daily reminders that she was raped? External reminders -- because it will certainly be longer than nine months before a day goes by without her thinking about it -- such as people staring at her on the T, coworkers whispering behind her back, denial of opportunity on the job? Should a victim of rape also be required to explain what happened to her, to be denied that right of privacy, too? Should the physical effects of pregnancy and the danger it brings be forced upon her, merely because a man forced himself on her?

Once the child is born, the woman faces yet another decision, to keep the child or to put it up for adoption. This decision, one Papineau breezes over, is never an easy one to make. Who is ever sure the baby, the toddler, the child, the teenager, the young adult, will have food, water, shelter, let alone love. In short, rape victims, and all women, should be allowed the right to decide, in consultation with a doctor, whether to abort a fetus.

Another concession Papineau makes, this time to women whose lives are endangered by the fetus, is that "the situation can only be solved by making the best possible effort to save the live of both patients." Should this require court injunctions? The opinion of ten doctors? If the woman is in danger of losing her life, the option that is most likely to save her life should be executed as quickly as possible. The woman, unless she chooses otherwise, should be given first priority.

Finally, a woman has the right to her own body. As any human being does, she has the right to determine how to treat her body, what to feed herself, how to comfort her body. If she feels sexual intercourse is an option and she has a consenting partner, she has that right, too. While strongly advocating birth control, I am also realistic enough to know that there will always be the possibility of the unforeseen. A woman cannot walk away from pregnancy. While I certainly do not condone abortion as a method of birth control, every woman faced with an unwanted pregnancy has the right to legalized abortion.

Taking away the legal right to abortion does not mean taking away the right to abortion. Abortion has existed and will always exist: on the street, in back rooms, with coat hangers, under unsanitary conditions. Taking away the right of legalized abortion means one thing for a woman who is carrying a child she does not want. It means that, unless she has the money to get to another state or country where abortion is legal, a woman would have either to carry an unwanted child to term or to subjugate herself to the dangers of a backroom abortion. In other words, a woman would be denied the right of her body.

Lindsay Haugland '89->