Our Bodies are Not Our Own

by Celeste Garrett

The above statement can be used to describe many groups of people, but I’m going to discuss in particular how this applies to women in America, because that is my personal experience. While I provide statistics from various sources for context, the anecdotal evidence comes from personal experiences that I have had or witnessed, or personal experiences revealed to me by friends. All of the types of abuse described are linked in that women and our bodies are treated as property rather than individuals with minds of our own.

Domestic Assault

According to the National Institutes of Health, domestic violence affects approximately 10 million people in the United States each year, and is responsible for 1500 deaths annually. This translates to more than four deaths each day in the United States alone. Of female victims killed, 44% of those killed by their abuser were hospitalized within the two years prior to their murder. This social epidemic of violence against women affects 1 in 3 adult women, and 1 in 4 adult women have experienced intimate partner violence (IPV). IPV can be categorized as sexual violence including rape, physical violence, and / or stalking by an intimate partner. It is important to note that the NIH only has data on acts of violence that have been reported, either by the victim or (more often than not) by medical or public safety professionals who identify the problem upon encountering a victim due to a hospital admission or police interaction. Often when the police are called in these situations, it is not by the actual victim herself but by a neighbor or other outside observer who hears something concerning. 

It is estimated that 40% of instances of domestic violence are never reported. So as startling as these statistics are, they only represent the bare minimum of what is actually occurring and do not include those instances of violence where the victims are too scared or demoralized to ask for help. There are a number of reasons why a person being abused chooses not to report domestic violence, including: 

  • The victim may believe that she deserves the abuse – this belief is typically introduced and enforced by the abuser, who usually gives his reason for abusing her WHILE he is doing it. It is always somehow her fault that she is being hurt.
  • The victim may believe that the abuse is normal, and that she is tough and can “take it”. This usually is a result of past abuse from family of origin or previous relationships. 
  • The victim may believe that if she does report the abuse, nothing will be done to protect her and she will have to still go home and live with her abuser, who is now angry for having the light shone on what he has been doing to her. This is a reasonable assumption given that only 30% of domestic abuse police reports result in criminal prosecution. Further, the penalties for a domestic assault conviction are often minimal – starting with a fine of $250 and a maximum jail sentence of 15 days.
  • There are very few resources available for victims of abuse. Often a victim has been isolated by her abuser from friends or other support systems that she may have had prior to becoming entangled with the abuser, and she feels that she has nowhere to go.
  • The victim may also be experiencing economic abuse, which is when an abuser restricts access to financial resources or prevents a victim from working in an attempt to create financial dependence as a means of control.
  • Especially in cases where there are children, the victim may feel obligated to stay in the situation either to shield the children from the abuse that she believes will fall to them if she were not there, or to provide stability to the children and ensure that they are able to stay in their homes.

Even in cases when a woman is pregnant, their condition often does not provide any protection from abuse. Domestic violence during pregnancy is more common than preeclampsia and gestational diabetes. Approximately 325,000 pregnant women are abused by their partners each year, and as much as 10% of pregnant hospital admissions are the result of abuse. In addition to assault against pregnant women, how they became pregnant can also be a result of abuse. 

Sexual Assault

Physical assault is not limited to hitting or kicking. Approximately 1.5 million intimate partner female rapes and physical assaults are perpetrated annually, and about 1 in 5 women have experienced completed or attempted rape at some point in their lives. Again, these statistics are only based on the crimes that have been reported. Since experts estimate at least 40% of assault cases are never reported, it is reasonable to assume that these numbers are nowhere representative of the actual violence against women – these numbers are much higher in reality. Intimate partner sexual assault is far more common than stranger rape. Reproductive abuse can include impregnating a woman against her wishes by denying her access to birth control, as well as forcing her to have unprotected intercourse against her will. 

Up until the passing of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, domestic partner sexual assault wasn’t even considered a crime. Even now, fear of retaliation, belief that having sex with their spouses whether they want to or not is their “duty”, lack of faith in the justice system, or fear of being shamed while testifying in court are just a few reasons that a woman may not report sexual assault that occurs. Thanks to the Harvey Weinstein case, we as a culture are just now coming to understand that any coercion into having sex, even with our marital partner, is indeed sexual assault. Contrary to what we have been raised to believe, it is not our “wifely duty” to perform sexual acts simply because our spouses require them.

Medical Assault

With the historic prevalence of domestic and sexual assault against women in this country, it is no surprise that women across the country are now experiencing an assault against their bodily autonomy. What was meant to be protected by the 14th Amendment of the Constitution is now under assault in a number of states. Although whether and when a fetus is considered a life is up for debate, there is no debate (that I’m aware of) about whether or not an adult woman is considered a life. Yet we are collectively being required to protect and house potential lives whether we choose to or not. Just as cutting into a person’s body to remove their kidney because someone else needs it in order to live is assault, so is requiring a woman to complete a pregnancy she does not want to continue a special type of assault. 

Regardless of how a woman becomes pregnant, if she is considering terminating a pregnancy prior to its completion, she is not consenting to her body being used by another entity. Just as the word “no” is valid at any point during a sexual encounter and any progression toward intercourse after that word is spoken is considered assault, forcing a woman to continue a pregnancy after she has stated she no longer wants to do it is also assault. Just as a person is not obligated to donate their organs to another person in order to save their life, nor is a woman obligated to donate use of her body to preserve that of a fetus – regardless of whether that fetus is believed to be a life yet or not.

There can be many reasons why a woman chooses to no longer continue a pregnancy, including:

  • She never wanted to be pregnant in the first place
  • There is a change in her circumstances such as loss of partner support
  • There is a newly discovered threat to her health or that of the fetus

Just as a woman should not have to justify her “no” about no longer wanting to have or continue down the path toward sex with another person, nor should she have to justify her “no” about no longer wanting to be used as an incubator. A woman has the right to withdraw her consent at any time she chooses and it should be honored. Any refusal to acknowledge her right to do so is assault.

Since the Dobbs decision in June 2022, women are no longer explicitly guaranteed the right to withdraw their consent to continuing with a pregnancy, regardless of how they got there or the level of threat that the pregnancy poses to their health and safety. They may even be expected to prove their innocence in the case of stillbirths or miscarriages, which are common, naturally occurring terminations of pregnancies prior to birth.

The fabled “late-term abortion” simply does not exist in healthy pregnancies. Even prior to the overturn of Roe, abortions were not permitted in cases of fetal viability. In this case, viability means that a fetus is able to live outside the womb without using the woman’s body. According to the CDC and as reported by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 92% of abortions in 2020 occurred in the first 13 weeks of gestation, or the first trimester. 

The Dobbs decision abdicated Federal responsibility for protecting women’s rights in this area and specifically delegated this authority to individual states, leaving it up to them to determine if a woman has the right to choose whether to continue a pregnancy. Many states had legislation written already (and sometimes approved, pending the overturn of Roe v Wade) which banned abortion. The Kaiser Family Foundation, which is a non-profit foundation that focuses on major health issues in the United States, is actively tracking legislation regarding reproductive freedom. To date, thirteen states have effectively succeeded in completely banning abortion: Idaho, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia, West Virginia. It is a dangerous time to be a woman in this country.

Bills from both sides of the issue are constantly being introduced. In most states, in order for a bill to pass and become law, it must be approved by both State houses and then signed into law by the Governor. This means that there are many opportunities to stop a bill from becoming law. In Virginia, numerous bills have been introduced that seek to prohibit abortion, regardless of the circumstances. To date, none have completely passed, but some have moved forward to committee for review. To track or look up any proposed legislation in Virginia, you can sign up for a free account at https://lis.virginia.gov/ and get notifications based on keywords or topics that you choose. 

The Classical Liberal Party of Virginia is dedicated to increasing the individual liberties of ALL people, even women who are pregnant. We affirm that individuals have autonomy over their own bodies and reject efforts by the state that infringe upon that fundamental right. Specifically, we call for:

  • No vaccine mandates
  • Codification of pre-Dobbs abortion rights in Virginia
  • Decriminalization of consumption of substances by adults
  • Decriminalization of sex work and sexual activity between consenting adults

Classical Liberal Party Platform

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