Reproductive Rights: Women vs. People with Uteruses

A quick perusal of Planned Parenthood’s website will show you a variety of healthcare services. They offer information on abortion, contraception, and various other measures for sexual health. The language gets a bit convoluted, however. A recent campaign to raise awareness about cervical cancer recommended preventative screenings for “all people with cervixes”. Other entries on the website reference “people who menstruate” and “pregnant people”. These phrases read a bit strangely, perhaps because we already have a word for people with cervixes who are capable of menstruating and becoming pregnant. In case you didn’t know, this group of people are called women. One simple word does the job.

But, transgender activism has taken its toll on the way women are allowed to discuss our bodies and our reproductive needs. This change in language isn’t some zeitgeist about anatomical specificity or a desire to bring the word cervix into casual conversation. It is a reaction to the desires of transgender activists to divorce the words “women” and “men” from specific biological realities. This is because when a male identifies as transgender and wants to be called a woman, it is inconvenient to point out that there are certain biological functions unique to women that he will never share. While not all women menstruate, become pregnant, or give birth, the only people who do experience these things are women. Every single time.

The transgender activists will point out that some of the people with cervixes who may require this screening, for instance, might be women who identify as transgender men. According to this logic, we can’t call contraception a “women’s” healthcare issue because some of the people needing access are self-identified “trans men”. On the other side of the same coin, the men who fancy that they too are women don’t want the word “woman” thrown around when they aren’t involved — if it’s something involving female anatomy, by definition it excludes their male bodies. They want “woman” to only refer to things that they can experience as biological males.

Abortion rights are women's rights.

So here we are in this linguistic cesspool. When we need to talk about things which are specifically female, such as abortion, pregnancy, or menstruation, they demand that we bumble around with clumsy phrases so that we don’t exclude men who want to be part of what “woman” means. They may want our hairstyles, our fancy underwear, and our female physiques, but they don’t want to be associated with the bloody mess of female reality.

If the word “woman” is going to mean only those things which males can experience, then we are conveniently left without a term to universally describe the people with uteruses and the problems we face. And here’s the rub: the people with testes (formerly known as men) have sought to control the reproduction of the people with ovaries (formerly known as women) for the most recent several thousand years. Today we are dealing with this legacy as Trump threatens to appoint a supreme court justice to overturn Roe v. Wade. Meanwhile, millions of women in America have effectively lost access to reproductive autonomy already as republicans conduct their war on contraception and abortion services.

This problem existed long before men got it into their heads that they could be women, and long before women decided they could try to identify their way out of female reality by calling themselves “non-binary”, “genderqueer”, or “trans”. The war on reproductive rights is fought upon female bodies, and it has no regard for gender identities. It is the rights of women, whether they want to call themselves women or not, which are under fire. We cannot afford to muddy our definition of “woman” when it is females and only females who stand to lose our bodily autonomy. The conservatives know exactly whom they are targeting when they tighten restrictions on abortion and create fake abortion clinics. We need to recognize exactly whom we are trying to save. Not uterus-havers, not menstruators, not pregnant people. Women.

Talking about reproductive rights in terms of uterus-havers rather than women conceals several realities. If we use the term “woman” to describe the people who need abortion access, it is clear whom we are not talking about — men. Men are not at risk of losing reproductive autonomy, not even those who call themselves women. Secondly, “uterus-haver” obfuscates the fact that the group of people at risk of losing abortion access are the same group of people we talk about being underrepresented in government; the same people sent to prison for “suspicious” miscarriages; the same group of people who were denied the vote for several hundred years in our republic. “Uterus-haver” conveniently fractures a cohesive picture of the female situation, as if needing to control our gestational powers only concerns members of some fringe group of walking uteruses and not 51% of the population.

Much of trans politics comes down to an effort to rewrite the dictionary. In trans-utopia, the words “woman” and “man” would not refer to our bodies, but to our supposedly gendered thoughts. If we ever have to make mention of things that affect our bodies, we would say “people with uteruses” or “people with prostates”. It is important to note that in Trans Land, the gendered identity of the mind takes precedence over the body, which is designated as unimportant. As an example, let’s look at bathrooms. Trans-utopia would not have our bathrooms divided by “uteruses” and “prostates”. This is, of course, how they are arranged now, and have been historically, for obvious reasons: our bodies function differently in this regard. But in trans ideology, it is apparently ludicrous to think of organizing spaces based on our bodies. They would prefer that all “people who mentally identify as women” pee together, regardless of anatomy, for reasons that are still unclear. Back in reality, the bathroom isn’t about identity, it’s about anatomy. Five-year-olds know this.

Simultaneously, trans activists push to redefine words and to deny the importance of our bodies by this very redefinition. Maybe this doesn’t seem concerning to you. Maybe you think, “Hey, why not? It’s just words.” But even if we took away all of the words associated with categorizing our bodies as female or male (this would please the trans activists), our bodies would remain an important factor in our own lives and in how others perceive us. Even if we had no words for it, male bodies would still grow slightly larger than female bodies, our physiologies would react differently to medications, and we would require different healthcare. To not have words to describe this fact would be inconvenient. Worse than inconvenient is what would become of the people formerly known as women. Even with no language to describe it, people with female bodies would continue to face prejudice from people who assume male bodies are more competent than female bodies, and who assume female bodies are sexually available for male bodies. We wouldn’t have words for it, but you can bet that men would still be sexually harassing women, and women would still have to work harder to be taken half as seriously as men.

What good does it do, to take away our language? To take away our tool to make sense of the world? It is no feminist agenda which seeks to render women’s experiences unnamable. Language is our means to say, “That happened to me, too.” And, “You’re not alone.” It is our means to see patterns and draw conclusions. Seeing the patterns in our lives is what brings us from isolation and frustration to collective action. Without language to describe our lives, specifically as women, we cannot name that which we are experiencing together, nor can we hope to overcome it.


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