Recent statements and counter-statements around abortion, rape, and feminism have given me pause for reflection.
I want to start today with 3 disclaimers.
#1) I consider myself a feminism and think it’s a good thing to be one.
#2) I think the movement that calls itself pro-choice and the movement that calls itself pro-life both have some severe problems.
#3) I’m betting this post is going to tick a lot of people off. But that’s not my intent.
Having said those things at the outset, the overall conclusion I want to assert is this:
Opposing the practice of abortion might turn out to be more feminist than supporting it.
Before I get to that conclusion, I feel like some explanation is in order.
First, some explanation around my issues with both the so-called “pro-life” and the “pro-choice” movements.
It would be more accurate to name the pro-life movement the pro-fetus movement. Because it does not seem that they are consistently in favor of supporting all life. It seems more like they are interested in ensuring that a fertilized egg get born.
In practice, this becomes an emphasis on the quantity of life. A desire to see the overall population increase. At best, this movement tends to be neutral around the actual quality of life. A burden I haven’t really seen met by the pro-life movement is a coherent plan for what happens if there desires are met:
Suppose they are succesful. They prevent not only legal abortions but all of them. What then? A pro-life group once cited that a number equal to the population of Texas is aborted every year. If this is true, I have not yet seen even an attempt at a plan to account for this added population.
I can accept the idea that some pro-life advocates believe strongly in lots of programs to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies. I’ll accept the idea that they might even cut the number of pregnancies in half. But even granted this success, the same question presents itself: How are you going to ensure the ongoing quality of life for the millions that you have saved?
The vast majoirty of these lives are coming into nearly impossible situations. That is why the parents sought the abortions in the first place. Dodging the responsibility for it does not do much more than ensure the next generation is going to pepetuate these problems.
Perhaps the more important question to ask is how this will play out on an individual level. Even if we are succesful in convinving just one person to not have an abortion, what then?
I guess I am saying that the term pro-life needs to be earned by taking a stance which promotes the health of families which don’t choose abortion; not just physical health, not just for the nine months of pregnancy, but every layer of health across the whole life of the family.
On the other hand, there is the pro-choice movement. These people have ironically colluded with the pro-life movement. They have expended all this energy and time resources on one important moment in a person’s life. There has been minimal work done on creating a menu of viable choices. While it is true that at this point, women can make a single choice: to abort or not abort a fetus, this choice is weighed down with the reality that they can not choose to expect to be supported by the society they live in if they are bring the pregnancy to term. They can not choose to live in a world where the father will have an equal hand in raising their children. They can not make that most fundamental choice of every parent every where: they can not choose, in many cases, a better life for their kids than they had.
I reject the labels “pro-choice” and “pro-life” because I don’t see that either side earned the name.
I recognize there is an important, perhaps fundamental question. That question is “Is it right to terminate a pregnancy/ Abort a fetus.”
I am going to side-step that question. I don’t think I’ve got anything to add that debate.
I’d like to observe though, that the knee-jerk response of feminists is to ally themselves with the pro-choice movement. I understand the arguments for this. But I think there is another argument worth considering.
As I was reflecting on this, I was thinking about every single “liberation” movement you might name.
Nearly every time, the opressed group, early in the fight, stresses the idea that they are just like the opressor. Almost with out fail, the “other” eventually comes to a different claim. The second claim is that their group has some important differences. These differences, though, are worth claiming and asserting. The group has a right to these differences and society as a whole will be pushed foreward if these are embraced by the group.
This is true of feminism. The early feminist movement made the claim that men and women are roughly the same. Later feminisms, though, focused on some inherent differences between men and women. They often (rightfully) claim that th overbalance of masculine values at the expense of feminine ones has lead to many of society’s problems.
Interestingly, the whole pro-choice movement is built on claiming pregnancy belongs in the same categories of other individual health decision. It is a move toward saying that men and women are not just equal but are in the fact the same. There is nothing unqiue about pregnancy.
The capacity to bear life might be one of the most profound differences between men and women. Rather than minimize this, I believe it should be siezed on and emphasized. The importance of the event of a human birth out to be shouted from the roof tops.
This thought is still forming itself. I’m aware that a real problem is even if the importance of child birth is asserted, if others get to control this gift, it is a false victory. If the feminists grasp on to child birth as the powerful event that it is, and then others say “It is more powerful than you have the right to control” the war was lost at the expense of winning the battle.
I guess my real conclusion, if I’ve got one, is this thing is too important not to think carefully about. It is too important to allow us to the luxury of grabbing conveninent labels, grouping ourselves like a bunch of Neanderthals in an us-vs-them mentality.