For Women and For Life; a Better Story

Both Lives Matter | Blog | For Women and For Life; a Better Story

Pro-life feminism says, we should be able to take our place in society as women, in all our biology, fertility, pregnancy and motherhood, not like wombless men. Because in every pregnancy both lives matter; pro-life feminism is the better story.

The following is an excerpt from a conversation between our co-founder Dawn McAvoy and The Minimise project…….

– I understand that you have drawn inspiration from groups such as Feminists for Life. Could you tell me about the influence of feminism on your activism and on Both Lives Matter generally?

Our pro-both message was indeed inspired in a large part by Feminists For Life. In their advocacy and service provision they display an understanding of the breadth of the connected issues which we must speak into and address if we want to inspire and enable women to choose life.

For a long time I wouldn’t have called myself a feminist – because the one brand of feminism I knew, which dated from the 1970’s, seemed to reject and/ or disrespect the roles of wife and mother which I valued and also aspired to. As someone who has always recognised the inherent value, dignity and worth of the unborn human being I also could not align with a feminism which has increasingly over the past fifty years, become synonymous with abortion rights; defining equality, progress and freedom for women in, and dependent upon, access to abortion. That brand of feminism is inherently violent; it discards our preborn children, silences dissenters, degrades men and tragically us as women by pitting us against our own bodies and our own children.

I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that it was only a few years ago that I first learned that the foremothers of the modern feminist movement, those women who began the battle for female emancipation and equality in the 1800’s were, without exception, anti-abortion. They viewed abortion as a tragedy resulting from inequality and injustice for women. They believed that when women achieved economic and social independence and were no longer regarded in law as the property of men, they would never resort to intentionally ending their own child’s life.

“The cause of abuses such as infanticide and abortion lie in the degradation of women, and the remedy is the education and enfranchisement of women.”

“When we consider that women are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit.” (Quote Elizabeth Cady Stanton 1815-1902)

Those original core feminist values and aspirations – of political, economic, and social equality, I could align with. Most women would agree that we all, male and female, deserve to take our place in society predicated by our ability and ambition, in the context of opportunity, rather than our biology. For many, sadly, that hasn’t been their lived experience; even after over fifty years of the so called freedom of increased abortion access . Why not? That we are biologically different to men is undeniable, but those differences should not translate to being less than and therefore unequal to men in society.

It used to be that we as women were portrayed and treated as the “weaker sex”, both physically and mentally. Women have fought to gain access to university, and to prove themselves as capable of roles that were traditionally seen as suited to men only. It’s only been over the last two generations that women have been better able to, if they wish, continue in their studies or in their work when they were married, pregnant and mothers. I don’t want to discount the positives of the second wave of feminism, the struggle for living and working conditions that do not discriminate against women, and legal protections which enable them to continue to fulfil their potential and take their place in society. However the inherent message is, that it is our bodies, our biology and fertility which hold us back from taking our place in society. Of course, they don’t in and of themselves, but only when structures and systems are oriented towards the fifty per cent of the population who are male rather than female.

Unfortunately, some women in fighting for women’s rights have accepted that message and absorbed it into their feminist narrative. So in contrast to those first feminists, they too are now saying that for women to be equal to men in society we must like them, as a friend of mine would say, be womb-less.

In the name of women’s rights – some women have wrongly accepted that the female body is the problem.

To them the natural functioning of their body is the enemy; the ability to dominate, to control it and for it to submit to their will is an imperative. There is of course an element of truth to that. From the onset of puberty our monthly cycle impacts on and can limit our participation in daily life. I very well remember when I realised that this thing would be happening every month for potentially the next forty years! And I was horrified. I saw nothing positive in what was happening; but I of course learned to manage the symptoms and to deal with what was happening to my body and carry on. Improved ways of managing our monthly cycle means that rarely are we stopped from carrying on as normal because of menstruation. Thankfully in the western world at least, we are no longer hidden away or hide ourselves away, because of menstruation. Menstruation of course – is the normal hormonal process a woman’s body goes through each month to prepare for a possible pregnancy.

When we learn to appreciate our fertility and understand and the potential promise of motherhood that it brings, we can embrace being female as giving us a gift unique to us as women. But because female emancipation has become about power and control (over men and over our fertility), the control that we are told we must have over our bodies, therefore by implication, includes control over the outcome of any pregnancy.

Pregnancy & motherhood appear to be the limiting conditions. Pregnancy is the problem which must be solved and it is access to termination of pregnancy -abortion, which enables us to take our place in society, equal to men. Therefore, emancipation and liberation for women, has become defined in and determined by the ability to end our pregnancy at will.

But after fifty years of accessible abortion in GB, in an era when more women are graduating with higher degrees than men from university; studies into workplace discrimination reveal that one in two women report discrimination in the workplace because they are pregnant and/or mothers.

Why? Is it because when choice is individualised, there is no need for the structural or systemic change which enables women to do life with their children rather than instead of?

So, in this space for women’s rights – defined by abortion rights, we hear pregnancy being talked about as a particular state of being, with regard to only one lifeform – the woman concerned.
The medical fact that every pregnancy means that two lives are in existence is denied or, more worryingly, ignored. According to one English dictionary the definition of the word pregnant is when; a woman has a baby or babies developing in her body. And the induced termination of a pregnancy is; the destruction of the embryo (human offspring) or fetus (developing human).

Of course, abortion advocates prefer not to talk about the destruction of a growing human – The BPAS website says that- abortion is when a pregnancy is ended so that it doesn’t result in the birth of a child. As if magically at the point of exiting the vagina a child appears who wasn’t there before. Shockingly an abortion leaflet written by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Health defines abortion as “… a way of ending a pregnancy….which removes the pregnancy from the womb.” Even the medical professionals remove any mention even of an embryo or fetus.

Ironically the loudest and most commonly heard brand of feminism today; demands an end to the violence, oppression and discrimination of women by men. But it doesn’t really offer society anything better. Rather than seek to achieve a mutually beneficial and better story for future relations between male and female, the battle between the sexes which has been going on since time began continues. But now it’s a female version, of the same flawed system, whereby one still gains at the expense of the other. This offer of liberation and progress for women is always at someone else’s expense. It puts women at war with men; at war with their own bodies; and perhaps most tragically of all at war with our own unborn children. And it brooks no argument. There is no room for a different voice.

Just before we launched the Both Lives Matter campaign we applied for a space at the Northern Ireland Human Rights festival in Belfast. We wanted to challenge the idea that there was only one way to advocate for women’s rights. Our lunchtime lecture would be given by a barrister and would discuss and present the human rights legislation that exists for the unborn human being. The Belfast Feminist Network sat on the organising committee for the festival and that year held the position of Chair. Their representative resigned in opposition to our being given a space at the festival and demanded that the invitation be revoked. She said that it was no longer contested; women’s rights were abortion rights. And there was therefore no space to talk about any supposed rights for both lives; because that was anti-woman.

The lecture went ahead. But we faced more opposition when we officially launched our campaign in January 2017. We ran a billboard campaign, advertising research that we carried out which found that over 100 thousand people are alive today in NI because of our law. We immediately faced criticism from abortion campaigners who contacted the Advertising Standards Authority saying that our claim was misleading, inaccurate and offensive. After five months of robust investigation an independent health statistician upheld our claim and all complaints against us were rejected.

We often say that facts matter because lives matter and because lives matter, laws matter. Our 100 thousand claim is hated by pro-abortion advocates because it challenges the pro-abortion myth that restricting abortion in law doesn’t stop abortion.

The pro-abortion lobby rely on misinformation and inaccurate information about the development of the unborn human being in the womb and about what abortion is and does. Pregnancy is increasingly portrayed as a disease or a sickness that women need to be spared from. That sad and cheapened version of freedom and equality for women is increasingly at odds with developments in medical science and women’s lived experience. It’s more about ideology than reality.

Even in Great Britain where abortion was legalised fifty years ago, and now there is effectively abortion on demand, two thirds of women still do not choose abortion. It is not unusual to reject this one feminist narrative. Most women simply will not accept freedom or equality that is purchased with the lives of their unborn children.

So there must be a better solution to pregnancy crisis for women than the intentional taking of the life of her unborn child. That is pro-life feminism.

Pro-life feminism rejects the message that to be equal to men and take our place in society we must fit into a world that is oriented towards and designed to suit men. Yes, we and only we as women get pregnant, give birth and breastfeed. And that’s a gift not a curse. Let’s make peace with our bodies. And make peace with men. Because male and female we make babies, male and female together we can offer a better future for us and our children.

Pro-life feminism says, we should be able to take our place in society as women, in all our biology, fertility, pregnancy and motherhood, not like wombless men. Because in every pregnancy both lives matter; pro-life feminism is the better story.