Justin Bieber is on the cover of Rolling Stone - set to hit stands and online on February 18th (for all of you RH Reality Check/Justin Bieber fans!). The 15-year-old pop mega-star is asked about the usual RS star-topics: music, movies, politics and sex. But Bieber is also questioned about his positions on more controversial issues; namely abortion and rape. Since the issue isn't available yet, I'm only going on what's been teased on the web site:
He does have a solid opinion on abortion. "I really don't believe in abortion," Bieber says. "It's like killing a baby?" How about in cases of rape? "Um. Well, I think that's really sad, but everything happens for a reason. I don't know how that would be a reason. I guess I haven't been in that position, so I wouldn't be able to judge that."
Despite what you may think, I'm actually not bothered by his position on abortion (other than the fact that he seems to question what it even is). I think his thoughts on abortion and rape are the thoughts of a sheltered 15-year-old pop star who hasn't been taught to think about women or women's health in a mature or nuanced way. I think it's frightening that his opinions will obviously affect many of his fans thoughts on the issue. Honestly, though, I don't feel like Justin Bieber needs to expound upon women's health and rights from a place of expertise (someone needs to teach him the "no comment" rule though if he hasn't bothered to construct a coherent opinion, though).
The more interesting question to ponder here is:
Just why in the name of conservative, Christian, teen-stars do we need to know Justin Bieber's "opinion on abortion" in the first place? Why do Bieber fans care what his personal feelings are about whether women, young women or older women, "should" be able to have an abortion? Or whether a girl or woman who has been raped and impregnated by her attacker should have the right to an abortion? Why should anyone care?
Yes, he's got the squeaky-clean pop star thing going on. And you might answer that fans want to know, given his conservative, religious background. But I'm asking why the interviewer thought to even ask the abortion and rape question in the first place; why does she even believe it's okay to ask a 15-year-old about what are some of the most personal experiences imaginable?
Oh, right. Because we've arrived at a place in time where women's and girls' health and lives are up for public debate and dialogue everywhere we turn. The GOP has turned, with the passive help of the Democrats, women and girls into political issues.
We are no longer allowed to make our own personal decisions about our health and lives, from the privacy of our homes, or in our doctor's offices. We're no longer allowed the autonomy to chose safe, legal abortion or to decide, if we are raped, what to do. Not only have our bodies become a political "issue" to be picked apart on the public stage, but our actual right-to-live is up for political debate?
There is a beautiful video that's gone viral in response to Iowa's same-sex marriage fight. An 80-year-old white-haired outspoken grandmother to whom I may have built a shrine to in my living room last night, a third-generation Iowan, speaks to her legislators in a homemade video about her gay son and his partner. She discusses the multi-year process through which she struggled to accept her son and his sexuality. Towards the end, she looks directly into the camera and says, "My son is not an issue. He's a person." It's like opening a valve - you just want to sob with joy.
This is the way I feel. Women and girls are not issues. We're human beings. I'm so tired of seeing male legislators use my own personal, private decisions whether or not to continue a pregnancy as a political tool. I want to be able to go to a hospital - yes, any hospital if my insurance or geographical region does not give me options - and have my life saved like anyone else. I want to be able to be treated for a rape or access an abortion if I'm pregnant from a rape without needing to prove that the rape was "forcible enough" for the male legislators who constructed the bill. Telling young girls who become pregnant as a result of rape or incest that it's not a good enough reason to terminate a pregnancy - is not inherently a political issue that needs to be debated by the entirety of society. We're allowing all of society to have a say in how individuals handle their own personal, private health and medical decisions?
Asking a 15-year-old male pop star what his "opinion" is about whether I or any other woman should be able to make the best decisions and choices for myself and my family is a consequence of where we are right now in regards to the politics of reproductive justice in this country. I'm sort of glad Justin Bieber seemed so shaky in his answer. it shows how uncomfortable he clearly was with the question. And why not? As Bieber says, "I guess I haven't been in that position, so I wouldn't be able to judge that." The fact is, he'll never be in the position of needing or wanting an abortion or having been impregnated as the result of a rape - as the majority of the rash of anti-choice bills' sponsors never will either. It hasn't stopped our political culture from presiding over these decisions for all women and girls.