Fifty years ago, Santa Cruz was at the center of a stormy debate about women’s right to bodily autonomy. In this case, the fight was over midwifery and home birth, both of which were illegal in California at the time. Dedicated young women including Kate Bowland and Raven Lang risked their own bodily autonomy—and were arrested—for practicing their vision of reclaiming birth as a joyous event.
Fast forward to today, and women’s bodily autonomy is once again in question, this time after the Supreme Court decision that triggered laws across the country taking away women’s right to choose when to bear children. But Kate and Raven haven’t gone away—they’re still working for women’s rights, now as elders who share their long view of the struggle for women to own their own bodies and make their own decisions.
One of the most striking moments in our conversation takes place with a simple definition: What is women’s bodily autonomy? Kate answered, “I would have control over who touches me, how they touch me, who goes into me, and who goes out of me.” Kate and Raven offer a vision of the past which may be a blueprint for our future, one in which young women stop worrying about being arrested and start doing what they need to do to support each other in their bodies and their lives.
Links to more information:
- Raven Lang’s website includes her writing and information about childbirth
- Birth Happens: A Brief History of Santa Cruz Midwives from the San Lorenzo Valley Museum
- “Jailed for Being a Midwife” by Lisa Robinson
- “For Her Own Good: Two Centuries of the Experts’ Advice to Women” by Barbara Ehrenreich and Dierdre English
KSQD’s collection of podcasts covering the abortion debate: