Many of you will reject my stance, you may patronisingly pigeon hole me at best as a poor unenlightened female brainwashed by the patriarchy and at worse as an oppressive, medieval misogynist that hates my own sex. You will ask, “how can you be both pro-life and pro-women?” To you my position appears irreconcilable. But I ask you, how can you be both pro-choice and pro-women? To me this is the false dichotomy.
Abortion is a tool of male oppression. These words are not my own but I do subscribe to them when abortion is used not to save women’s lives but to control them. These words were penned by our feminist foremothers, Susan B. Antony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton who put it quite eloquently when they said, when women have been treated for so long as property it is degrading that they should treat their own children as chattels. First wave feminists were adamantly opposed to abortion, it was perceived as the ultimate exploitation of women. The very roots of the feminist movement are indeed pro-life. Abortion enables men who disrespect women to continue their objectification, to see them as play things that they can use and discard at their leisure without any accountability on the man’s part. There are women worldwide owed billions in unpaid child support as fatherhood is becoming more and more disconnected. Women pay the price when men are not taught, or do not face up to, their responsibilities.
Moreover, when the Women’s Liberation Movement emerged in the 1960s abortion was not a demand. It was not until two men, Larry Lader and Dr. Bernard Nathanson proposed the idea to Betty Friedan, that abortion became one of the movement’s four key demands. So you see, instead of fighting for equality on our own terms we must sacrifice our femininity and become like the womb-less man in order to be seen, heard and known.
When we fetishize this demand for abortion we continue to prop up a patriarchal society. The political reality is that our governments continue to be dominated by men and have been for centuries. Is it a surprise then that our societies are set up in such a way that the needs of women are widely neglected? Childcare costs are rising, so much so that it does not pay for many UK families to work and in Northern Ireland only one University has childcare on site. The second University, which has four campuses, offers no childcare services. Due to structural and systematic inequities and the failure to adequately address the gender pay gap, many poorer women feel that they simply cannot afford to raise a child. Sex education in schools remains focused on the women’s responsibility to access contraception, whilst there is lack of teaching around consent. Not to mention that pornography is one of the fastest growing industries in the world, with rape porn increasing in popularity. Pregnant women are continually made to feel like an inconvenience. As women and advocates for women we must be outraged and turn our outrage towards positive transformation. In 1970 Wade attorney Sarah Weddington spoke out about the aforementioned discrimination against women, yet instead of demanding these injustices be remedied she advocated for a woman’s right to an abortion. Pregnancy is not a disease but injustice is and we must be unapologetic in our demand for a remedy to an unjust, unfair and male-dominated societal structure.
To accept the pro-choice stance and feminism as a truism is a dangerous myth. Traditionally feminism has lent its voice to the oppressed and marginalised in society, obviously including but not confined to women, and rejects the use of force to control or destroy another human being. Feminism appeals for peace and speaks out against violence, yet abortion is a violent act. In order to terminate a pregnancy a heartbeat must be stopped, bones must be broken and organs must be ruptured. These uncomfortable and hard truths are contradictory to the feminist philosophy. Given that for so long women were dehumanised, seen as inferior and oppressed it seems bizarre that
women should dehumanise the unborn. The oppressed should never become the oppressor. Our stance on abortion continues to be used as a litmus test for one’s leftist-feminist credentials. The pro-choice movement, which focuses on ‘my body, my life, my choice’ seems to have more in common with the Libertarian ultra-right-wing ideology of individualism, autonomy and free choice than it does with feminism which grew from a ideology which emphasises the protection of the weak, solidarity and community.
As a philosophy feminism has always prided itself on diversity, wide ranging views and truth. Yet abortion has become a shibboleth that must be obeyed in order to participate. Feminists with a pro-life posture have been rendered silent or invisible throughout mainstream feminist media, which has refused to publish an anthology of works by pro-life feminists. Further events of discrimination have been evident in politics such as the exclusion of pro-life women from Emily’s List, the all-woman shortlist for labour MP’s. Actress and Feminists For Life spokesperson, Patricia Heaton has been denied roles due to her views on abortion. January this year saw five million women worldwide march on the streets in celebration of all women and advocating on behalf of all women, yet pro-life women’s groups were marginalised. The mainstream feminist movement cannot claim to speak for all women when only the voices of certain women are designated a platform.
I will end inspired by one of my favourite women, authors and personal heroines, Louisa May Alcott.
“To say that pro-life feminists do not care about women or children once they are born is fully contradicted by advocates of the movement who are trying to make the world a better place for both women and children. Having spent my own life campaigning, championing and caring for both women and children, I know whereof I speak.”