• Beyond the Canvas

The day Gilead came to Texas

Earlier this week, a near-total ban on abortions has come into effect in the state of Texas. This means that after six weeks of pregnancy, when many women don't even know they are expecting, it will be impossible to legally terminate a pregnancy. And no, there will be no exceptions in case of rape or incest. What's more, this new law allows citizens to sue abortions providers as well as anyone helping a woman to have an abortion. Say a friend is driving you to the clinic, yes they're also liable. To top it all off, the State of Texas has set up a website where people can anonymously blow the whistle on women they believe to be in violation of this law. Hang on, it gets better: if you win the lawsuit against the providers, you're in line to pocket $10,000. A genuine bonanza for bounty-hunters.


As a woman, I am thinking and feeling MANY things right now, none of them good, certainly none that I can calmly articulate. As it happens, I am effing livid, so I am once again turning to art to channel my thoughts. Barbara Kruger's work needs no introduction. Her iconic black and white imagery overlaid with text in Futura bold addresses politics, gender equality and is instantly recognisable. This piece was made in 1989, that's 32 years ago, for the Women’s March on Washington in response to anti-abortion laws that were undermining Roe v. Wade (the 1973 ruling that grants legal rights to abortions nationwide).


Thirty-two years later, the tragedy of this work is its continued relevance, the way it reminds us of the fragility of the female condition, whether in Afghanistan or in the United States. A woman's body was, still is and remains a battleground. There will always be someone who has the power to make choices for us, deciding what's best for us and for our bodies. And I bet you these are the same pro-lifers advocating 'medical freedom' and a ban on masks.


This law sets an incredibly dangerous precedent and poses a real threat to Roe v Wade. It also makes it very hard for women with lower income to access safe abortions. This legalised social warfare is about privilege, class and race. There is so much that goes into it. Lastly, the Supreme Court ignored an emergency petition and opted not to block this law, which of course it could have done. Do you see now why those rushed appointments at the tailend of the Trump presidency mattered so much?


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Barbara Kruger

Untitled (Your body is a battleground), 1989

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