The Coat Hanger Project: The Fight For Reproductive Rights
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Politics and Activism

The Coat Hanger Project: The Fight For Reproductive Rights

"We ask justice, we ask equality, we ask that all the civil and political rights that belong to [male] citizens of the United States, be guaranteed to us and our daughters forever." —Susan B. Anthony, Declaration of Rights for Women, July 1876

The Coat Hanger Project: The Fight For Reproductive Rights
The Harnisch Foundation

I was scrolling through my Instagram feed one morning, casually enjoying some hot tea and slowly making my way into becoming a functional member of society when I saw a post that hit me. It hit me and it made me angry, and then it just made me downright concerned and horrified. The picture was of a girl with red tape over her mouth, the word “Life” written in sharpie displayed on the tape, and a caption that ended with the sentence “My generation will end abortion.” I was shocked, especially to see a woman supporting the abolition of the right to have an abortion, a right that people fought for in order to keep women from continuing to face the challenge of keeping the baby, or having an illegal, unsafe abortion.

This debate should not be about whether or not the fetus is “alive” or a person at a certain time in the pregnancy, the debate shouldn’t be about “well you could just give the baby up for adoption”; quite frankly there shouldn’t even be a debate. It is 2015, why are we still trying to control what women do with their own goddamn bodies? It’s horrifying to feel like you do not have control over your own reproductive system, and a lot of people do not see this because they will never be in this position. Our government is still mostly made up of men, men who will never have to decide whether or not to get an abortion. So why are they the ones who control what women do with their bodies? Of course I am well aware that people are entitled to their opinions and do think differently than me, but an opinion that supports taking away a person’s basic human right is not okay. Women should have the right to control their own bodies, and when I say this I mean all women.

In 1973 Roe vs Wade made abortion legal in the United States, but there have been many forces working against this since then, as well as before, to limit this right. And a right is not truly a right if not all citizens can carry it out. Especially today, with Planned Parenthood under attack and talk about possible defunding, we need to come together and take a stand against the people who are trying to limit our rights as women- our autonomy to control our bodies. Every human deserves the right to do what they want with their bodies, regardless what the government or any other person thinks. And also with the presidential election coming up, we need to elect a president that will stand by women and their rights, that will not make it harder to get an abortion because of factors such as income or health insurance.

The Hyde Amendment, passed by Congress in 1976, limits women’s access to abortion by barring the use of specific federal funds to pay for abortion, or rather banned Medicaid coverage of abortion. Abortion is the only medical procedure banned from Medicaid. This makes it that much harder for low-income women to obtain an abortion. Henry Hyde, the author of the Hyde Amendment said, "I would certainly like to prevent, if I could legally, anybody having an abortion: a rich woman, a middle class woman, or a poor woman. Unfortunately, the only vehicle available is the [Medicaid] bill." This is just one way the government controls who can and cannot get an abortion. Other ways include creating waiting periods for women to get an abortion (27 states have laws enabling a waiting period ranging from 24 hours to 72 hours), and the limited number of clinics in certain counties and states (as of 2012, 87 percent of U.S. counties exist without an abortion provider).

People fighting to take away the right to an abortion do not see that abortion stigma is poison; it’s harmful to women. Taking away the right that women fought hard for, women lost their lives for, would be a complete step back for our country. So, we continue the fight today, and we remember these women, lost but sure as hell not forgotten, because they are our sisters. They lived in a part of history that wanted to silence their voices, but here we are now, here I am now, saying that we are thankful for the fight the women before us had to engage in order to get us here now.

But there are activists and people who will not let us forget the time before abortions were legal. The Coat Hanger Project acknowledges the women who did not have the chance to obtain a safe and legal abortion. Come hangout with UMass Vox on Wednesday (10/28) in the campus center to remember and honor the women who lost their lives because they did not have the right to an abortion. There will be numerous facts about abortion displayed on hangers, representing the violent and unsafe illegal abortions women had before legalization. This is a safe space for people to support women’s reproductive rights. Co-President of UMass Vox, Maria Joao Bastos-Stanek said, “The coat hanger project is a visual display that honors the lives of women lost to unsafe abortions and makes known the reality of illegal abortions.”

Understanding what it was like for women before the passing of Roe vs. Wade in 1973 is crucial in the consistent fight for women to control their own bodies, own decisions, and own lives. We do not only need to fight for abortion rights, but enable ourselves to think critically enough to see that reproductive justice is the only way that women, all women, will have true control over their own bodies. The reality is that we need the right for women to have safe, legal abortion access. The Coat Hanger Project pays tribute to these women, gives them a voice, and supports a perspective to demonstrate to the world that despite the passing of Roe vs. Wade, there are still political, economic, and social forces that need to be addressed in order for all women to obtain safe, legal abortions. A woman deserves control over her own body; it is as simple as that.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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