When Stephen R. Shalom, director of the Gandhian Forum for Peace and Justice, introduced the award-winning writer, poet and columnist Katha Pollitt, the crowd – filled with students and professors alike – cheered.
Pollitt visited William Paterson University on April 9 to share her views on abortion rights and showcase her new book “Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights.”
“What does a writer always think? There needs to be a book! That really tries to get back to basics about what abortion is all about and how we’ve gotten off the track, both the people who oppose abortion and some of the organizations that favor it,” she said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2011 – the last year for which statistics are available – there were 730,322 legally induced abortions.
“The abortion rate was 13.9 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years and the abortion ratio was 219 abortions per 1,000 live births,” according to the agency’s web site.
She said there have been increased restrictions on abortion access and rights in the country and noted that many states, including, Kansas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Missouri have reduced the number of abortion clinics to only one.
Missouri has also enacted a three-day restriction, or 72-hour waiting period, for women seeking abortions. This means the women have to travel to St. Louis, where the only clinic is located, and stay there for three days, in which they have to find a place to stay, take time off from work, pay for childcare, if necessary, and visit the clinic several times, said Pollitt.
In Texas, many women choose to go to Mexico for a quick fix and take abortion pills, she said. These pills are sold as an ulcer medication so doctors do not know the right dosage or how to take it to ensure a successful abortion.
“This is not good medicine,” Pollitt said. “So why do they do it? They want to put out in the world the idea that women don’t know what they’re doing when they get an abortion. Women really don’t want to do it, they’re just being pushed into it by someone else.”
Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey cut off $7.5 million in public funding to Planned Parenthood in the state, leading to the closure of several clinics.
California is one of the few states where access to abortion has become easier. According to Pollitt, the state has added more abortion clinics.
During her lecture, Pollitt referenced President Bill Clinton and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s views on abortion that they should be safe, legal and rare. Pollitt argues that abortions should be safe, legal, accessible and even free, claiming free abortion would be a good thing for society.
Pollitt thinks instead of putting the accent on the number of abortions, we should be focusing on what women and families need to have a good life.
Another thing she says she tries to do in her book is to change the stigma of abortion and connect abortion with motherhood. Although the stereotype of women who have abortions is young and promiscuous, 61 percent of women who have abortions are mothers.
“She knows what it means to have a baby and she is making a decision based on the real life circumstances that she faces,” said Pollitt. “If people are really upset about women having abortions they should do so much more for mothers, family and children than they do in this country, but that’s not going to happen.”
She said she means the government would have to change many of its policies such as having paid maternity leave and bringing back welfare and food stamps.
“What I say is abortion is an aspect of motherhood, it’s an aspect of family planning,” she said. “It’s an aspect of having your children at the right time when you can be a good mother and women know when that is and if you never want to have kids, which some women do not, then that’s an aspect of motherhood too because that’s saying motherhood isn’t for me.”