Body control

Shauna Heckert is executive director, Women’s Health Specialists in Sacramento

At least half of the American population is reeling from the ruthless actions of our government and the Bush administration. Many fair-minded and peace-loving people deplore the invasions into other countries but feel paralyzed. We have resigned ourselves to direct our energy to trying to influence U.S. policy to be more benign or more intelligent.

Being forced to collude in the colonization of our own bodies is draining our power. We must take steps to reassert this power. First, we in the United States must recognize that the real essentials of a satisfying life—health, friends, family, worthwhile work and human rights—are being denied us.

Every day, the staff at Women’s Health Specialists provides reproductive services and empowers women through education and support. Since the early 1970s, we have facilitated women getting together in groups to do consciousness raising and to demystify their bodies by looking at their own cervixes and vaginas. We believe that through this process we are strengthening our own selves and our commonality as women. These are steps to undermining those who do not want women to have true liberation.

The Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion in 1973 will be difficult for the Bush administration to completely overturn, but providers are still vulnerable to attack on many levels. Our clinics are investigated by state agencies on bogus complaints by anti-abortion groups, firebombed, and picketed during service hours to try to stop women from obtaining abortions. Our landlords are harassed to evict us, and doctors are pressured not to work with us or to learn how to do abortions.

Legislatively, abortion is more regulated, more scrutinized and more restricted than any other comparable surgical procedure, making abortion harder for women to get. Without providers and leaders in the movement for women’s liberation, our right to abortion will be rendered meaningless.

The best thing you can do to help our struggle is to support independent abortion providers. When we call for help, heed the call. Remember, when one of us is attacked, it is an attack on us all. You will be helping to preserve the basis of our existence: control over our own bodies.