Wednesday, July 16, 2014

All the Rights I Need I Already Have

This summer I have been working in a tourist town about three miles from Mt. Rushmore. It's beautiful here and I am surrounded by awesome people and new friends as well as interesting tourists. Working in the public eye, I often start conversations up with customers who are willing to talk. It makes the day go faster and not to mention I love hearing their stories -- where they are from, where they are going, and how they ended up in the Black Hills of South Dakota. One lady and her two sons were in my gift shop the other day and one of the kids was wearing a t-shirt with the same name as an elementary school from my home in Texas. There could be plenty of elementary schools with the same name as that one, but I decided to ask her where she was from.

Lady: Te--well, I don't really want to say. I'll just say that I am moving to Tennessee.

Me: Are you from Texas?

Lady (confused): Yes.

Me: San Antonio?

Lady (shocked): Yes, how did you know?

Me (pointing to son's shirt): I go to church near that school.

The woman was surprised but also a bit excited and it got our conversation rolling. As she and her sons were checking out at the register with some souvenirs, she asked what I was doing so far from home. After explaining that I was just here for the summer and would return home in the fall she inquired about what I studied in school. I told her business. She then proceeded...

Lady: What are you going to do when you graduate?

Me: Not sure yet. 

Lady: Are you going to work for women's rights?

Me: I don't know. Should I be?

Lady (insistently): Every woman in Texas should be working for women's rights.

Me: What rights should I be working for?

Lady: Well the right to your own body and the right to healthcare! 

I knew exactly what she was talking about. Texas recently passed legislation that requires abortion clinics to be held to the same standards as hospitals. This is forcing many clinics to shut down (except maybe a few in large cities). The legislation has received some push back from people concerned for women who will no longer have easy access to an abortion clinic (which are often referred to as "women's health" clinics).

For people like this lady in my gift shop, they claim they are looking out for the best interest of the women who "need" abortions. However, my first question is that if they are concerned about these women and their health, wouldn't they want a clinic that was up to par with the standards of a hospital performing the procedure?

Besides that point, let's look at the two rights this lady suggests I fight for in Texas.

1. The right to my body.
I have never been forced to do anything physically that I did not want to do. Sure, my parents "forced" me to eat green beans on occasion growing up, but no government agency, piece of legislation, or person has forced me to do something with my body that I did not want to do. I realize this is not the case with every woman but for those who are forced to do things against their will, there are laws set up to punish the offenders. It appears to me that (in Texas, at least) I don't need to fight for that right. I already have the right to my body.

This is not a disease.
Photo credit: hin255
2. The right to healthcare.
Let's look at the definition of healthcare. According to Merriam-Webster online: "healthcare -- the maintaining and restoration of health by the treatment and prevention of disease especially by trained and licensed professionals (as in medicine, dentistry clinical psychology, and public health)".

I have a few points under this second right. First, a question: is a child a disease? If by healthcare this lady meant the ability to have an abortion, she is suggesting that a child is indeed a disease that I need to be restored of. Or perhaps an abortion is just part of my regular "health maintenance" routine. I don't know about you, but I personally do not see a child as a tumor growing in my body that I need to be restored of. Rather, I see that pregnancy as another human being -- not a disease.

Second, I have the "right" and access to all of the areas of healthcare mentioned in the definition. I have a primary care doctor (medicine), I go to a dentist every six months (dentistry), I have a counselor (clinical psychology), and heck, I even visit a chiropractor on occasion (just because; no, I don't have spinal problems, it just feels good when he pops my back). I would say that overall, I am pretty well cared for. And not once at any of these places has a government official or police officer ever attempted to keep me from entering my doctor's office and withhold my right to healthcare from me.

What this lady in my gift shop did not realize was that I have another right -- a right to practice self-control. This right means that I don't have to get pregnant before I'm ready to have a child. This right is a right no one can take away from me. And guess what? I don't have to fight for it either. Not one government official or piece of legislation is trying to take this right away from me, so there is no fight. None.

In fact, I have the rights to everything I need to stay healthy and child-free (if I so desire): the right to my body, the right to healthcare, and the right to exercise self-control.