It all comes back to controlling women’s bodies

You may have already heard about the case of the woman who was abducted by her parents because they wanted to force her into having an abortion.

The case that has been called “an American family tragedy” began one morning September 2006, in North Yarmouth, Maine. Katelyn Kampf had just told her parents she was pregnant by her boyfriend, Reme Johnson, and had decided to keep the baby.

“They said, ‘it’s either abortion or adoption,'” she said.

Kampf said she got into a heated argument with her parents and contends that her mother held her down and spit on her and that her father “tackled her like a football player” when she left the house. They bound her and threw her in a car, Kampf said, in an effort to drive to New York and force her to have an abortion. She managed to escape in Salem, N.H., and call the police.

It has been sensationalized in the media, and I have done my best to ignore it. From the moment I heard the story, I knew that it was going to turn into an excuse for a manifesto by anti-choicers on the evils of abortion and how people who support the right to an abortion are immoral, bad people.

And I also knew from the moment I heard it that this is not what the story is about. It’s a story about abuse against women. It’s a story about ownership and control of women’s bodies. It is, in fact, a bizarre manifestation of anti-choice ideas, that women cannot and do not have the right to make their own reproductive decisions.  These parents are very clearly not pro-choice people.

But I didn’t want to get into any of that. What possible need could there be to spread harmful, anti-choice messages? There has been silence around the issue on other feminist blogs, too, and I imagine that the thinking was similar.

Why the change of heart? Because the parents have obtained a plea deal. They will serve no jail time.

In a plea agreement with the district attorney’s office, reached over Katelyn Kampf’s objections, her parents pled guilty to misdemeanor assault charges and disorderly conduct. Felony kidnapping charges were dropped, and the Kampfs will not serve any jail time.

In court, her father Nicholas Kampf said, “The whole experience has been a sad ordeal. We as a family have lost so much … I am sorry.”

Lola Kampf also read from a prepared statement: “We have all made some bad choices in the past, and we will have to live with them. But we must believe with our hearts and soul that time will heal the wounds they have caused.”

. . . As part of their plea agreement, the Kampfs have been ordered to undergo therapy, including sessions with their daughter. But Katelyn Kampf is adamant that will never happen.

“I can’t do it. I can’t face them,” she said.

As he read his ruling from the bench this morning, Justice William Brodrick argued that “the best outcome for this family would be to somehow get back together.”

I am utterly outraged.

What is all of this bullshit talk of a “family tragedy?” The only sense in which it’s a “family tragedy” because it is in fact tragic for two full grown adults to abuse their own, also full grown daughter. But “family tragedy” implies a sad misunderstanding, something out of everyone’s control. This wasn’t.

Why, exactly, do we accept abuse so much more readily when the abuser is related to the victim? Why, for example, does society want men who rape strangers locked away forever, but men who rape family members to go into therapy and work it out with their daughters/wives/sisters/nieces? How is it okay to put one attacker in jail, and openly encourage the victim to “get back together” with another? I imagine that if the woman’s boyfriend and father of her now-born baby had been the one abducting her in order to force her into an abortion, we would not be calling it a “tragic love story.” He would, I hope, be going to jail. Then again, the boyfriend is also black, not “nice,” white and middle-class, like the parents so clearly are. Which is, of course, why the parents tried to force their daughter into an abortion in the first place. I doubt (hope) that the judge would be saying that the best thing is to “get back together” with an abusive boyfriend. But abusive parents? Well, hey abused lady, you owe them something.

This is, of course, about ownership of women’s bodies. When related to an abuser by either blood or marriage, women are expected to suck it up, take it and forgive the perpetrator. A stranger, friend or boyfriend, though? Well, hey, they don’t have the right.

There is more than enough to be angry about, here. But as someone who spends more than what could possibly be a healthy amount of time thinking about anti-choice nuts, I also know that it’s going to be politicized. We already know that they don’t give a shit about women’s health or rights, so it’s no big deal to exploit a woman’s story of abuse to talk shit about abortion. Anti-choicers are going to use a story of how a woman’s right to reproductive choice was abused as political fodder for why we should legally restrict a woman’s right to reproductive choice — even though clearly, both come back around to controlling women’s bodies. And I know that pro-choicers are going to be forced to defend reproductive rights when they should be condemning abuse and that they’re going to be seen as condoning abuse for reaffirming a woman’s right to actually choose an abortion.

So let me say it now: Abuse of a woman, for any reason, by any person, is wrong and disgusting. Forced abortion is also wrong and disgusting — just as wrong and disgusting as forced birth. But also like birth, when done willfully, abortion is a perfectly acceptable and moral choice that should be available to all women.

I think that’s pretty clear. But I won’t hold my breath expecting to hear such a sentiment on TV.

0 thoughts on “It all comes back to controlling women’s bodies

  1. Mary Tracy9

    I’m naive enough to actually think that this works AGAINST anti-choicers. Because it makes it crystal clear that what people are after is CONTRO over the woman’s body, not, as they maintain, after eliminating the “bad option”. If a woman has an abortion, people get mad at her. If she doesn’t, people get mad at her.

    I am sure the godbags would be more than happy to support abortion if THEY were the ones deciding over who has it and who doesn’t, instead of the woman.

  2. Jay

    You go. You are absolutely right. Unfortunately, I don’t share Mary Tracy’s sense that this will work against the antis. Wish it would, though. Seems clear enough to me.

  3. Elaine Vigneault

    Sadly, this news story is not a new phenomenon. In fact, lots of teens who get abortions are pressured by their parents.

    I am pro-choice because I believe women ought to have personal autonomy over their bodies.

    But lots of people are pro-choice for selfish reasons. Many parents are pro-choice because they want their daughters to have more options in life than an early pregnancy will allow.

    Many men are pro-choice because they want a back-door safe-guard against accidental pregnancy. Many would rather coerce a woman not to use a condom and to get an abortion than promote women’s freedom and independence.

    This is one reason I think calling it a “choice” is ineffective. Those of us working on the side of women’s rights ought to make an effort to call abortion a reproductive right, not a choice, because that’s what it is, a basic human right not to be enslaved.


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