Feminism and Abortion

27 Jan

I like to think that there aren’t a lot of hard and fast rules when it comes to feminism. I think you can be married and have kids and be feminist. I think you can be single and childless and be feminist. I think you can be a stay-at-home mom and be feminist. I think you can be a working mother and be feminist. I think you can breastfeed and be feminist. I think you can formula-feed and be feminist. I think you can wear cute dresses and pretty pink lipstick and a giant fucking bow in your hair and be feminist. I think you can wear jeans and combat boots and cut your hair real short and be feminist. I think you can be a woman and be feminist. I think you can be a dude and be feminist.

I don’t, however, think that you can be anti-choice and be feminist.

This week marks the 40th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, the landmark decision by the United States Supreme court to legalize abortion (up until then, the only legal abortions in America were those done in cases of rape or incest).

In the 40 years since Roe vs. Wade, the abortion issue has only grown more contentious. There are many people who are still vocal supporters of the pro-choice movement, but there are also many people who don’t support a woman’s right to bodily autonomy.

And you know what? I wish I could say that I understood, but I don’t.

I don’t understand why you would try to enact a ban on abortions when banning abortion does not actually affect the abortion rate.

I don’t understand why you would try to create legislature that is almost certainly going to be dangerous to the health of women, sometimes even leading to their deaths.

I don’t understand why you would spend your time preaching at women about dead babies, telling them at what gestational age they develop fingers and toes and referring to abortion as “murder”, rather than using your time to promote access to things like birth control and sex education.

And I really, really don’t understand how and why Ross Douthat thinks he can convince women that they can be anti-choice and feminist.

I think that part of the problem is that Douthat doesn’t seem to understand what the feminist movement and the abortion debate are all about. And you know what? Far be it for me to elect myself the Boss of Explaining Feminism and The Pro-Choice Movement to Ross Douthat, but I guess someone has to do it, so here goes.

Douthat begins by complaining that Nellie Gray, a former-WAC-corporal-turned-bureaucrat-turned-lawyer who helped establish the March for Life, the annual rally against Roe vs. Wade, is not a “case study for students of second-wave feminism.” This, Douthat argues, is because “cultural stereotypes” cause us to believe that the anti-choice movement has a more “complicated relationship” to women’s advancement than all those Liberal left-wingers want us to believe.

I bet you are wondering how on earth banning women from exercising their reproductive rights is anything more than a reverse of all the hard-won equality that feminism has fought for. I know that I sure am! Let’s see what Ross Douthat has to say.

First of all, Douthat wants you to understand that one of the “stereotypes” about the anti-choice movement, the idea that they are trying to reinforce traditional gender roles by forcing women to have children and stay out of the work force, just isn’t true! He notes that,

Jon Shields of Claremont McKenna College pointed out last year, pro-life sentiment has been steady over the last four decades even as opposition to women in the work force (or the military, or the White House) has largely collapsed. Most anti-abortion Americans today are also gender egalitarians: indeed, Shields notes, pro-life attitudes toward women’s professional advancement have converged so quickly with pro-choice attitudes that “the average moderately pro-life citizen is a stronger supporter of gender equality than even the typical strongly pro-choice citizen was in the early 1980s.” Among the younger generation, any “divide over women’s roles nearly disappears entirely.”

Translation: the anti-choice movement totally gives you permission to work outside of the home! And wear pants! And vote! They support all kinds of radical choices for women!

I mean, except whether or not to have kids once you’re already pregnant.

You’re totally allowed to be in control of your own body right up until that one, single, solitary sperm encounters that one single, solitary egg – after that moment, you’re up baby creek without a paddle.

Douthat then goes on to assert that,

The pro-life cause has proved unexpectedly resilient, in other words, not because millions of Americans are nostalgists for a world of stricter gender norms, but because they have convinced themselves that the opportunities the feminist revolution won for women can be sustained without unrestricted access to abortion.”

What he actually means is that SOME of the opportunities the feminist revolution won for women can be sustained without unrestricted access to abortion. You know, all the opportunities that don’t involve a woman’s right to choose whether she has kids or not.

And before you jump in to tell me that if a woman doesn’t want to have kids, she should just use birth control, let me tell you that that’s not how it works. Even with all sex education in the world, even with easy access to birth control, women are still going to have unplanned pregnancies.

Sex education is easily forgotten in the heat of the moment. Birth control fails. We all know that no form of birth control is 100% effective, except for abstinence.

Please, go ahead and raise your hand if you think that preaching abstinence is going to work.

Lindsey Graham, you can put your hand down right now.

Douthat finishes his article by saying that,

For its part, if the pro-life movement wants not only to endure but to triumph, then it needs … [to offer] … realist’s explanation of how, in policy and culture, the feminist revolution could be reformed without being repealed.

Ross Douthat, let me explain this to you using small words, so that you will understand:

If you are trying to take choices away from women, that is not feminist. If you want to enact policy that will quite certainly lead to women’s deaths, that is not feminist. If you think that you, as a man, get to have any say over what happens to women’s bodies, that is really not fucking feminist.

Got it?


And you know what? If you really, truly believe that life begins at conception, why not work to fund research and raise awareness regarding miscarriage and infertility? One in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage, and those are only the pregnancies that women know about. It’s actually estimated that 50-75% of all embryos fail to implant due to genetic problems, hormone imbalances and other factors – if you really want to save unborn babies, why not go that route? You’d be saving way more “lives” that way than by banning abortion.

And let’s not even talk about all the ways in which you don’t help the children you’ve “saved” from being aborted. You know, the children born to mothers struggling to make ends meet, the children who don’t have access to healthcare, the children who don’t get enough to eat on a daily basis. Those children.

The thing is, Ross Douthat, you and I both know that this isn’t about saving unborn children. This isn’t about the fact that you believe that abortion is murder. This is about controlling women, plain and simple. This is about you thinking that you can use the rhetoric of the feminist movement to somehow trick women into agreeing with your anti-choice stance.

So please refrain from ever using the word “feminist” in conjunction with the anti-choice movement ever again.

p.s. Also, please never use the term “mansplaining” ever again.

p.p.s. No one says “chauvinist” anymore. Just sayin’

p.p.p.s. I don’t like you.


43 Responses to “Feminism and Abortion”

  1. Cat January 28, 2013 at 12:34 am #

    I remember when this argument first started failing miserably: when Feminists for Life started making news in the 90s. Dumb then, even dumber now. The Bush years made abortion access so much worse in the States and we are seeing the fallout: injured women, jailed women, desperate women. Shameful.

  2. Tori January 28, 2013 at 2:55 am #

    Thanks for taking this on. I saw the headline in my inbox this morning and was just like, “No. I just — effing no.”

  3. Balancing Jane January 28, 2013 at 3:33 am #

    I grew up in a very pro-life environment and some of those ideas were the hardest for me to intertwine with my nascent feminism. The thing that ultimately convinced me that the two could not co-exist (at least not for me) was the thing that you hit upon in the end of this post. Too many of the people I knew who were “pro-life” were only concerned with this narrow, debatably-defined sliver of “life,” with very little regard for all the lives that were clearly suffering and dying. The narratives of morality were simply masks for control. If we want fewer abortions to happen, we do that by giving women more agency over the choices in their lives, not less.

  4. Arlene Somerton Smith January 28, 2013 at 11:49 am #

    Brave. And much needed.

  5. gatsby78 January 28, 2013 at 9:40 pm #

    The abortion debate is always challenging for me- wait before you get your backs up, I will explain. I believe in Pro-choice, I believe a woman should have autonomy over her body, but here is the BIG BUT..I don’t believe a woman, who has planned the pregnancy, should have an abortion because she has discovered her child has Down Syndrome, Spine Bifida or Cystic Fibrosis. The life expectancy and quality of life for a person with Down Syndrome, Cystic Fibrosis and Spine Bifida that can be detected via amniocentesis has improved immensely. I work with people with disabilities. I feel like it would be hypocritical of me to support someone who was having an abortion because their baby had Down Syndrome. In someways it would be like me telling my friends with Down Syndrome that I didn’t think their life was worth while. (as always I like reading your views, even when we disagree :))

    • Kira-Lynn (@Cupcakes_n_Rap) January 30, 2013 at 3:10 am #

      So if you worked with people who were poor would it mean that women shouldn’t be able to abort if her reason was that her baby wouldn’t have resources?
      Or if you worked with teen moms or children of teen moms would a girl or woman feeling she is too young not be a reason.

      You don’t get what pro-choice is.

    • feministifythis January 30, 2013 at 9:50 am #

      First, I have to say to The Belle Jar: Thank you for a wonderful post.

      Then, gatsby78, I get what you’re saying. But I don’t think that supporting free abortion is like telling people with Down Syndrome that their life is less worth. People make abortion for all sorts of reasons, and if we were trying to find out the exact reasons behind an abortion, and thus restricting the choice, that wouldn’t end well. In the end of the day, only the woman who is pregnant can decide whether she wants to carry on the pregnancy or not, and her reasons are not important – that is not anyone else’s business. But the problem you’re talking about is serious. Likewise, in China and India, a lot of female fetuses are aborted, resulting in a huge demographic gap. But the problem is not abortions, the problem is the society and the fact that women are considered to be of less worth.

      I think, if we want people to stop making abortions because the child might have disabilities, we have to change views in society – not force people to carry on with an unwanted pregnancy.

      • Joeann December 30, 2013 at 4:33 pm #

        Shouldn’t we consider the morality, or simple, the rightness and wrongness of an act by the act itself? I think if a person really investigates what abortion is, on a physical level, then apply that to whom abortion is mostly given, you will see something entirely different than the idealistic ‘freedom of choice’ most people have erroneously been given.

      • vashti760223 April 13, 2014 at 7:35 am #

        This comment is to Joeann, below. No, just no. You do not get what this article is saying, at all. If a woman’s right to bodily autonomy is abridged because of sex-selective restrictions, that means that a female fetus gets more rights than anyone born on the backs of women, which just leads to devaluing women further, and leads to higher expectations of more male births, therefore choosing to abort female fetuses even more often. As the author said, this is a SYMPTOM. Addressing the symptoms rather than the cause never leads to a healthy person *or* society, after all.

      • vashti760223 April 13, 2014 at 7:37 am #

        This comment is to Joeann, below. No, just no. You do not get what this article is saying, at all. If a woman’s right to bodily autonomy is abridged because of sex-selective restrictions, that means that a female fetus gets more rights than anyone born on the backs of women, which just leads to devaluing women further, and leads to higher expectations of more male births, therefore choosing to abort female fetuses even more often. As the author said, this is a SYMPTOM. Addressing the symptoms rather than the cause never leads to a healthy person *or* society, after all.

  6. gatsby78 January 28, 2013 at 9:41 pm #

    Wait an article to think about or write about-

    • m March 19, 2013 at 2:40 am #

      I came across this post from someone sharing your most recent ‘wife, sister, daughter’ post, which, by the way, I thought was excellent. I have to firmly and respectfully disagree with this post. The problem is that ‘pro-choice’ has become a monster unto itself… crusading for partial birth abortions, no parental consent and most notably for this argument, making it Illegal… yes, illegal, for doctors to share potential side effects and/or complications to abortions. I am a feminist. I have had to council numerous women who had an abortion without being fully informed of what they were going through and then suffered through years of depression. Many were inconsolable when they got pregnant later in life and, for the first time, saw an ultrasound and realized just how developed the ‘sack of cells,’ was. I am a feminist who stands up for women being informed (would any doctor perform an operation without showing the patient the x-ray or ultrasound of a tumor? no, so of course women shown the ultrasound of the fetus.) I am a feminist who stands up for the mother of the daughter that should have the right to be there for her daughter in a difficult situation (again, would a doctor remove an ovarian cyst in a 14 year old without parental consent? not in a million years) and I, yes, am a feminist standing up for the baby girl in the womb that has a higher percentage chance of being aborted. all in all though, I respect your posts and respect people willing to talk about abortion in detailed and intelligent ways.

      • Jennifer March 19, 2013 at 4:08 pm #

        Yes, I agree and came acroos this blog in the same way. I just believe that all people have total autonomy over their bodies – until the choice they make with their body hurts someone else. I can get a tattoo on my hand a paint my nails black and whatever – but I cannot use it to punch someone in the face. That’s assault. My right to do what I like with my body is restricted when the rights of someone else to be safe are involved. In this case, that “someone” is the baby. All other arguements- quality of life, etc.- are irrelevant to this fundamental principle. And lastly, you are right that what pro-choice has evolved into, in many cases, is an all-out-madhouse where zero restrictions are acceptable to SOME feminists. Some want no restrictions based on age of mother, developement of baby, gender, viability….it defies common sense and make me wonder how we have come to this point of such total disregard for something so vunerable as an innocent, unborn child.

      • vashti760223 April 13, 2014 at 8:14 am #

        Um… partial birth abortions is a made-up term. All that the ban of partial birth abortions did/will do is make it more risky for women, who have complications to their or the fetal life and health or even both of theirs during pregnancy, to have an abortion. Late-term abortions are nearly 1% of all abortions performed and they are always done for medical reasons. No wonder we want to keep these particular procedures open, available and legal. Which comes nowhere near to being a ‘crusade’. Thanks.

        If you are so concerned about lack of parental consent. Why is it that a teenager is not required to inform her parents when she intends to continue a pregnancy. And there may be many reasons why her parents may be unaware of it.

        Potential side effects and complications to abortion? Pregnancy is much more risky than safe, legal abortion. If doctors and Pro-Life really wanted women to have informed consent, they would want doctors to be required to inform women about all the potential side effects of pregnancy, as well. They don’t, however.

        The majority of women report relief after having an abortion. And the majority of those who do report depression say it comes as a result of community attitudes, stigmatization, harassment, stalking, shaming, etc…. Or they report pre-existing circumstances. But, for women who continue their pregnancies, reports on depression resulting from pregnancy quite often, if not almost all of the time, carry none of those indicators. When they do, however, it usually comes from the same contingent that lead to the reports on depression in women who have aborted their pregnancies.

        Women already know that they are not pregnant with a canine, ursine, equine, whatever ‘ine’ fetus, but with a human fetus. Ultrasounds have a negligible effect, if any, on abortion rates, and quite often women who are choosing to terminate a pregnancy report relief after seeing an ultrasound. Which raises the question, why *force* ultrasounds on women? Because that is what the *real* issue is. Ultrasounds do not ‘inform’ women of something they already know, they do not provide what Pro-Lifers obviously assume is a chance for ‘second reflection’ when they have a negligible effect on the women’s decisions *and* they do not provide informed ‘consent’ if the procedure is forced on women.

        And if that mother of the daughter happens to be an abusive parent who would force her daughter to have an abortion against her will? Or if her father is the one that impregnated her and her mother does nothing to stop the abuse, along with informing her mother, you will not only inform the father but prevent the young girl from reporting the abuse. Rape already goes underreported enough, dontcha think?

        As for the rest, read my response to Joeann, above.

      • Jennifer April 13, 2014 at 3:34 pm #

        And I am so over the argument that pregnancy is somehow dangerous for women so we need abortion SO much! Wake up! Women are not getting over a million abortions a year in USA alone because their health is in jeopardy. The natural conclusion of your argument is that you advocate for abortion only in the case of the mother’s health being jeopardized – which I highly doubt is your position. Get a little consistency please.

      • vashti760223 April 13, 2014 at 8:40 am #

        To Jennifer, above.

        “but I cannot use it to punch someone in the face.”

        Why do you act as if a fetus is just sitting there, developing on its own before it magically pops out of the body of the woman it was residing in? After all, if that were the case, no one would have any issue with abortion, because a fetus wouldn’t die as a result of an abortion. A fetus directly effects the maternal host, which is why pregnancy puts women in the bracket of the third leading cause of death for women, worldwide. Iow, an abortion is a response to someone using their ‘hand to punch someone in the face’. And everyone has the right to defend themselves from such. Denying a woman that right for any reason is not feminist, and shows a total disregard for someone so vulnerable as a pregnant woman (remember, after all, that a fetus can suppress a woman’s immune system, so who is more vulnerable, the one who can defend itself from the woman’s immune system or the one whose immune system is compromised?).

        A fetus is neither innocent nor guilty. It does not have the capacity for either. A fetus is not a child.

      • Jennifer April 13, 2014 at 3:27 pm #

        To Vashti:
        1. It’s “lo”, not low. “Lo” means, “therefore”; “low” means low.
        2. Saying a woman has a right to an abortion is like saying a man has a right to ditch child support. You had sex. A baby resulted. Stop wringing your hands about your rights and step up and handle your responsibility.

      • vashti760223 April 14, 2014 at 4:38 am #

        To Jennifer, again, first it was capital I then lower case o and w. Which is a shortened form for ‘in other words’. So, no, I was correct. As I will obviously prove with your second point.

        Abortion is an option for an unwanted pregnancy. Not a way for either man OR woman to opt out of financial support for children. Because financial support is required by *both* men and women if they are the non-custodial parents. Not just the man. Which means you would grant more rights to the man just because a woman has the equal right to bodily autonomy that everyone else does.

        Plus, the fact that women tend to get custody more often is because of misogyny. They are expected to be the primary caregivers and homemakers for their children. So, they tend to seek custody more often than men. And the courts grant custody to women more often, not only because they are the ones to seek custody more often, but also because they, too, view women as the primary caregivers and homemakers for children. Another nice catch 22 for which many Pro-Lifers would like to put the onus on women.

        Also, who do you think provides more financial support to the child? The custodial or non-custodial parent? Custodial? That’s what I thought.

        To put it in perspective for ya, my mother is Pro-Choice not only because she chose to have an abortion but because she chose to have me and my sibling. Therefore it is not the right to abortion that Pro-Choice supports. But the right for each individual woman to choose the outcome of her pregnancy, whether it be termination *or* continuation. Which brings us back to the basic right of bodily autonomy. And is also the reason why rape is so bad, (not just because rapists are bad but) because victims are actually hurt. If there is no such right, that not only affects abortion but rape laws. Tb. Ss.

        Besides, bodily autonomy =/= to someone else’ wallet. To compare the two is to dehumanize women. And that is also *extremely* misogynist.

        Again with the biological destiny? That’s another form of extreme misogyny, dontcha know? The rudimentary supports for the development of the uterus were designed by the maturation of two x chromosomes upon fusion. So, that a fetus depends upon support from the uterus in order to sustain its life is not the woman’s responsibility. After all, she should not be required to take any more responsibility for her organ functions, via either a ‘natural’ claim or being advised against seeking medical treatment, than any other human population is required to take, such as… say… men (again, big hint, there), which is absolutely none.

        Neither does a conceptus exist prior to the fusion of the chromosomes nor a fetus before implantation. How can someone be held responsible for something that doesn’t exist when they, themselves, engage in one action, yet exists by either an action that the conceptus own *parts* took prior to its assembly or an action that the conceptus, *itself*, takes (meaning implantation)? That’s like saying that because a man contributed his sperm to a child, he should be forced to give up his kidney if the child develops kidney disease. But, again, no one requires a man to do that (another huge hint, there, for ya, icymi).

        Finally, punishing (punishment because its used to modify women’s behaviour with respect to men’s behaviour in a similar action) women for involuntary (involuntary because, if it were voluntary, women would be able to never get pregnant, even when using contraception and fertile or infertile women would be able to get pregnant whenever they wanted) organ functions, by denying them the same sexual freedoms as men, is the misogynistic icing on top of the cake of misogyny.

      • Jennifer April 14, 2014 at 11:44 am #

        That is so funny – learn more Internet shorthand every day I guess!

        The way I see it, women have abortions because they are not “ready” to be a parent. They choose to not become a parent and have an abortion. It is the same animal as a man who is not ready – yet he has no “choice”. He has to support the child financially; custodial or non, the point is, he is legally obligated to support the child. Now, is that a good thing? Of course! This isn’t about letting men off the hook. It’s about consistency.

        My maternal health response wasn’t to you; it was a general remark to a few comments. But, I will say: stating that abortion is needed because of maternal health and giving that as your primary argument leads to the conclusion that abortion should be available only for that reason. Which is clearly not the pro-choice position. Pregnancy is not inherently dangerous or bad.
        Abortion is NOT a feminist position! Women have been given the amazing POWER (not curse!) of being able to grow life within their own utsrus and nurture that life with their own breasts! It’s not some awful thing we need to escape and the cosmic powers didn’t saddle men with – it’s awe-inspiring.

      • vashti760223 April 14, 2014 at 5:03 am #

        Again, to Jennifer, where did I mention in the post you responded to, that abortion was necessary only because it affected the mother’s health or life? I was responding to someone else’ comment that implied that regulations on late-term abortions were needed because women go in the minute before they give birth to have a surgical abortion just because. If you are going to correct what you perceive as erroneous claims that Pro-Choicers make, would it not be *consistent* to correct what are actually erroneous claims by a fellow Pro-Lifer? Hmm.

        Besides that, pregnancy is the third leading cause of death for women, worldwide. And, just because medical advancements have decreased the rates of maternal mortality does not mean the risks have lessened. In fact, in the United States, where States have the highest number of abortion restrictions, maternal mortality rates are one of the highest in the developed world.


  7. Madison W. March 20, 2013 at 2:01 am #

    One of the great things about feminism is the idea that anyone can be feminist. Excluding a certain demographic just goes against everything that feminism is. This blog post made me ashamed to call myself a feminist–my version of feminism includes everyone–no matter class, age, gender, sexual orientation, or political views.

    • Virginia March 20, 2013 at 6:02 am #

      Me, too.
      And as Kermit Gosnell is on trial for infanticide and murder (of the woman), I think we can agree the abortion industry has been protected by this argument for far too long. Anyone who wanted abortion facilities to have the same standards as out patient surgery centers were deemed ‘not a feminist’.
      Know what? Feminists want to do more than ‘educate against unplanned pregnancies’. We want to make sure women aren’t butchered and breathing babies don’t have their spines cut by teenage minimum-wage workers.
      But I’m sure this will be seen as ‘unfeminist’.

      • vashti760223 April 13, 2014 at 8:56 am #

        Sorry, but Kermit Gosnell was not Pro-Choice. And, in fact, his practice thrived because it was built in a state that had the highest number of abortion restrictions on legislative tap. It was Pro-Choice organizations that made complaints to the State legislature but were ignored by that very same Pro-Life state. Therefore, it is not Pro-Choice that is at fault for the Kermit Gosnells of this world. Therefore, it is Pro-Choice that wants to do more than educate against unplanned pregnancies, but also want to make sure women aren’t butchered and breathing babies don’t have their spines cut by teenage minimum-wage workers. Thanks.

        We are against one type of surgery being forced to have the same standards as outpatient surgery centers, while other, similar, surgical procedures are not given the same treatment. It would have forced some abortion clinics to close and only created the chance for more Gosnells to thrive.

        Abortion industry? Pregnancy is far more lucrative than abortion and results in fewer death threats, threatening and harassing phone calls, stalkings, clinic bombings, murder of doctors, etc…. They are also performed by the same physician. Ob/Gyn. Which do you think would be the choice for more medical professionals after reading that? Right. Pregnancy care and labour and delivery. So no, if anything is an industry it’s *not* abortion.

    • Zoe March 20, 2013 at 6:58 pm #

      I completely agree.

      Feminism isn’t about discrimination – it’s about acceptance, equality and justice for all, and that includes people whom you disagree with. Some feminists view abortion as an injustice to women – some feminists view abortion as a woman’s right – and regardless of your opinion on the matter, I don’t think it’s helping the women’s movement to say that someone else can’t be a feminist just because you don’t see 100% eye-to-eye on every issue. It’s not helping women to say that pro-lifers aren’t allowed to believe in equality in areas not regarding abortion, because that’s just taking away less equality in the world.

      • Zoe March 20, 2013 at 6:59 pm #

        *taking away more quality

      • vashti760223 April 13, 2014 at 9:19 am #

        Abortion can only be viewed as an injustice to women if abortion is either perceived as something that is done *to* them or that separates women from their predestined role of motherhood. In either case, women are tools of the patriarchy. Either they are considered thoughtless creatures that need a firm *male* hand to guide them, whether that be abortion or pregnancy, *or* they are the only ones whose lives are equated with biological destiny. Iow, either it’s only men that can think or it’s only men who are allowed to follow something other than biological destiny. Neither of those scenarios are feminist, I don’t think I need to add, but just in case….

        Pro-Lifers are generally against contraception, comprehensive sex ed, supports for maternal and child welfare, etc (all things which also tend to *reduce* rates of abortion)…. While Pro-Choice generally supports these things.

        I think I can understand why the author calls Pro-Life unfeminist, even more, now.

    • vashti760223 April 13, 2014 at 8:43 am #

      Tell me, how can you be a feminist if you are against the rights of women? The idea behind feminism, full stop, is that you support women’s rights, not that anyone can be feminist. That means someone who is a wife abuser could be a feminist. So, you might want to rethink that. Thanks.

  8. JN March 20, 2013 at 2:28 am #

    If you are a feminist you should be horribly appalled by the (lack of) regulation on abortions. Sex selective abortions are a huge issue. In many parts of the world, notably in India and China but also in N.A,, the words “Its a girl” are deadly. The recent film by Sasha Cohen, “The Dictator” makes light of this issue with the joke, “so, are you having a boy or an abortion?” but this is a reality!

    Being Pro-Life has nothing to do with whether or not you are a feminist, it is an issue of whether or not you value the life of the unborn child.

    • vashti760223 April 13, 2014 at 9:40 am #

      You missed the point. And you should also read my post to Joeann, above.

      Being Pro-Life or Pro-Choice has everything to do with not being a feminist or being one. Being Pro-Choice means that you believe that women have the same right to determine who uses their body and when and how it is used via ongoing, informed and explicit consent that everyone else does. Being Pro-Life means you do not believe that women have these rights. It has nothing to with whether or not you value the life of the *fetus*. After all, how can someone say they valued the life of the fetus if they bring it into the world only to face terrible suffering, abuse, neglect, etc… at the hands of either the Pro-Life society that demanded its birth (through cuts to maternal and child welfare or lack of support for young, teen mothers and parents) or the parents that created it *or* if they relinquish the child and leave it to languish in, and age out of, abusive foster homes or adoptive systems because the Pro-Life crowd wants to provide healthy, white newborns for prospective adoptive parents, even though they claim adoption is the answer to every unwanted pregnancy and state of parenthood, not abortion?

  9. Tori March 20, 2013 at 4:25 am #

    Just coming back to say I’m sorry you’re getting so much recent… ungoodness… on this post. :/

    • Virginia March 20, 2013 at 6:03 am #

      Yes, because disagreeing means we’re not ‘good’. *sigh*

      Women have minds, too. We have opinions. We can argue a point. And we can all be feminists.

      • Krista R. March 20, 2013 at 3:59 pm #

        Thank you Virginia, I agree completely. We’re all women, we’re all feminists, we need to stick together. I simply believe that the right to not be killed extends to the unborn, as it does to the rest of the human population. Children in the womb deserve the same as we do, nothing more, nothing less.

      • vashti760223 April 13, 2014 at 9:44 am #

        Yes, we have opinions and we have minds. But the only way the Pro-Life position can work is if it’s decidedly UN-feminist. As I explained to Zoe above. Because, no, just like black people can be racist against other black people, women can also be misogynists. And, yes, feminism *does* have certain requirements. It requires that we support women’s rights. Pro-Life does not do that.

      • vashti760223 April 13, 2014 at 9:49 am #

        To Krista R: There is no right to not be killed that extends to anyone born who is infringing on your bodily autonomy. Why should that be extended to fetuses? Why do only fetuses deserve a right that no one else has? Why are women the only ones who do not deserve the rights of full persons?

        Pro-Choice ensures that *fetuses* have the same rights as we all do. Which is why Pro-Choice is feminist while Pro-Life….

  10. Krista R. March 20, 2013 at 5:11 am #

    I am that outspokenly liberal feminist you’ve heard about, in favor of birth control, sex education and the freedom to do what you want with your body. That includes when you want to have sex, who you want to have sex with, where you do it, how you do it, all of that is up to the individuals who take part in it. I was completely pro-choice, you might even call me pro-abortion. the pro-life movement didn’t make any sense to me, in fact, they seemed like a bunch of restricting brainwashed conservatives, trying to push their morales and values on others. But then i met a group of fabulous feminist ladies, who also happened to be prolife. i began to open up to them, and my opinion on the issue was completely turned around within a few months. I began to research what abortion really is, and view the fetus as an actual life instead of a worthless parasite. once you believe that fetus is a human, equal to you or I, you can’t go back. because once you acknowledge that everyone deserves to be born, there’s no going backwards, just like in 40 years it will seem ridiculous that we ever restricted two men or two women from marrying.

    • vashti760223 April 13, 2014 at 10:41 am #

      I view the fetus as an actual life. I have never met someone who is still Pro-Choice who doesn’t. In fact, the majority of those who claim to have become Pro-Life after being Pro-Choice are the only ones I’ve seen who have advanced that position, that Pro-Choice believes a fetus was not a life.

      In the same vein, Pro-Choice generally understands what abortion is. They do not dress it up in emotive words like ‘baby’ (which is only a slang word that describes a stage of development outside of the uterus), ‘feels pain’ (several studies conclude that most abortions are performed before there is even a cerebral cortex to process information that transmits pain ‘messages’. There are also studies that claim that a fetus is in a coma-like state within the uterus throughout the entire gestational period, anyways. There is a reason that women are prevented from taking medication during pregnancy, because it will have an effect on the fetus, which means that any anesthesia given to a woman during the abortion procedure will prevent the fetus from feeling pain, too. Also, finally, it is believed that the fetus is injected with a painkiller prior to the abortion), ‘is dismembered’ (a fetus has no members to speak of at the time most abortions are performed), ‘sucks its thumb’ (reflex), ‘has brainwaves’ (again no cerebral cortex by the time most abortions are performed), ‘has a heartbeat’ (the heart is a cluster of cells that will beat on their own in a petri dish), etc…. They also tend to focus on *both* sides of the equation, rather than just the one.

      Calling a fetus parasitic does not make it ‘worthless’, especially since the word accurately describes the relationship between the maternal host and the fetus. Would you say that calling someone a teacher makes them worthless? Or would you just say that it accurately describes part of the relationship between a child and adult in an educational setting?

      Human is =/= to human being/a human/person.

      I believe a fetus has equal rights to you or I, that is *why* I’m Pro-Choice.. And that is the same reason given by the others who are still Pro-Choice. Again, that Pro-Choice believes that a fetus should not have equal rights to all born persons only seems to be advanced by those who were *formerly* Pro-Choice. We believe that everyone has the right to determine who uses their body and when and how it is used via ongoing, informed and explicit consent. We do *not* believe that a fetus should be granted a right that no one else has, the right to co-opt another person’s organs against their wishes even if it is to save their life.

      No one has the right to be born. Birth and abortion are not about what one deserves, either.

      Finally, as is pretty standard for the course, typically those who oppose abortion also oppose gay marriage rights. They also tend to support by action while opposing by mouth some other rather fundamental transformations in our society over the past *hundreds* (hint, hint) of years (and more).

  11. Veronica C March 20, 2013 at 3:23 pm #

    Thank you for your post. I stumbled across your blog today.
    I agree with you that the pro-life movement should focus on reducing the number of unplanned pregnancies but I think you missed an important part of that in your post.
    In addition to not having proper education or access to contraception for sex we also face a problem with empowerment of both women and men to say no to sex. Abstinence only education does not work but not every person waits until they are ready for sex and I also believe this due to a lack of education. A lack of education that it’s okay to wait if you want to, that not everyone is having sex, that you are not weird for being a virgin.
    I think in this sexualized nation that this is missing from our sex education and has negative repercussions just the same as abstinence only education. Like you said, contraception fails and the only 100% effective method of birth control is abstinence so why aren’t we teaching our kids that it’s okay to wait? Why aren’t we empowering them to realize that they don’t need to have sex to be loved or respected by their significant others or friends and there are alternatives to having sex for showing affection or just having fun?
    I know that my last paragraph sounds like I am pushing abstinence only education but I’m not. It’s just I think we are doing our kids a disservice by not presenting all their options to them in an equal manner that doesn’t make one option seem outdated. Many men and women wait till adulthood to have sex because it was their choice. I think that we need to teach kids that it’s okay to choose that option.

  12. Darby March 21, 2013 at 12:49 am #

    I am a feminist. I struggle with my view on abortion. My question to you is: if you are pro-choice, meaning you believe a person has te right to choose whether to have a child, shouldn’t the father also have the right to choose? Because right now, he does not in most states. He cannot require that a mother have his child so that he can raise it as a single dad without her help.

  13. Jasveena March 22, 2013 at 2:32 pm #

    Cant agree more with what you have written for banning abortion: an anti-choice act!! It’s not about protecting the rights of the unborn. Protecting the rights of the born should come in all form, a family with good parents and the opportunity to combat poverty and so on. One can’t just give an opportunity for an unborn to be in this world without all the basic needs of life and expects them to emerge a champion

  14. Scott April 30, 2013 at 5:58 am #

    Thank you for your great post, and your great blog. I wish Douthat could be safely ignored, but I’m glad you call him out.

    I was pro-life as a high school student, and I think I gradually changed my mind as I became convinced that body autonomy should be viewed as a fundamental right. Even if we ignore socioeconomic questions of babies born into inhospitable situations, I think it is wrong to force women against their will into the various trials and potential complications of late-term pregnancy and delivery. It is all too easy for us men to trivialize this process. More generally, even if, in some hypothetical universe, childbirth were somehow riskless and painless, it would be wrong to force a reasonably preventable biological process on someone who doesn’t want it, whatever their reason. I don’t think such a decision is any of my business, or society’s business (but obviously there are those who disagree, often for rather awful reasons).

    One of the stumbling blocks in my transition to pro-choice was that I had trouble formulating a robust ethical framework where newborn babies were individuals deserving of protection while reasonably mature fetuses were not. The obvious difference is that newborns can be fed by others while fetuses are dependent on participation by the mother. I think most people agree that this parasitic relationship makes the fetus less deserving of protection, but there seems to be a lot of disagreement about how much less. In particular, I think a woman’s bodily autonomy is primary here, but there is no shortage of people who think otherwise, and I certainly don’t have a knock-out argument up my sleeve for why I am right.

    Anyway, I hope it wasn’t a complete waste of your time to read a complete stranger’s evolving views. I wish I knew a reliable way to sway people the same way that I was swayed. It certainly took somewhat longer than I would like to admit for me to change my mind.

  15. gxm17 March 17, 2014 at 5:34 pm #

    I think what the anti-choice *feminists* don’t understand is that the pro-choice position allows women the choice to either have an abortion or not have an abortion. The anti-choice ideology does not. It allows only one path and assumes that, not just all feminists but all women must follow it; never mind that it will leave many women bearing forced pregnancies. The idea that women’s bodies are public property is so ingrained in our culture that there are people who truly believe they are feminists yet can’t divorce themselves from it.

  16. Ella Duncan April 20, 2014 at 4:45 am #

    Very Interesting article. I just wanted to make one point, choosing to abstain does not protect one from unwanted pregnancy if the case of forced sexual contact (rape) or from emotional or physical violence in relationships and or family.
    The abstinence only mantra does little to protect and inform young people about any type of sex, sexuality, and healthy relationships with/without sex. Obviously preaching to the choir here.
    No form of sex/not sex can be completely safe. I would hesitate to describe abstinence as a form of sex as it is the antithesis of that. Masturbation is probably the safest form of sex, but also healthy and happy relationships across all sexual/nonsexual spectrum and sexualities. I think the best way to proceed is by giving people as much accurate information and safe practices as possible. So they can make choices and be able to stand by those choices.

  17. Jeff S April 22, 2014 at 6:17 pm #

    This is sad for me to read. I guess I don’t get to wear the label “feminist”, but then I don’t attach much value to labels so I’ll probably live. It’s my girlfriend who calls me that anyway.

    But it does frustrate me that you choose to use the words “anti-choice”. I’ve never called the pro-choice folks “anti-life”. I allow them the charity of defining their own focus, because I really do believe this is a complex topic with competing objectives.

    I think most good people believe in both life and choice. The question is which you think is more important in the case of the unborn and his/her mother. The pro-choice folks believe that the choice of the mother is more important than the life of the unborn, and the pro-life believe that the life of the unborn is more important.

    I know it’s simple in your mind: choice of mother > life of unborn. It’s also really simple in the minds of those you oppose, only the other way around.

    The reason this topic is different from all other discussions surrounding women’s freedom is that this is one case in which a life is biologically bound to her and affected by her choices. Her choices don’t just affect her; like it or not, she is responsible. As much as it would be nice to decouple this relationship, it’s there, not by man’s law but by biological law. The question is how we determine the value of “choice” vs “unborn life”. To imply that this is easy on either side is not doing justice to the question. And to label this as the litmus test issue whether someone stands against patriarchy is to set yourself against allies who are fighting for many of the same causes. Perhaps it is worth it to you, but I think you should re-evaluate.

    Feminist or not, I am against patriarchy, and I am very aware of how pervasive it is. I would consider myself mostly “pro-life”, but I don’t think that it’s worth expending much energy on laws “protecting the unborn” because I don’t think they accomplish much. I also believe that anyone who is truly pro-life must also give as much (or more effort) to protecting the well being of children who are born as the unborn. I support birth control and do believe in abortion with the mother’s life is at risk.

    In fact, I know someone very close to me who had an abortion. And I know the reason she had one is because no one gave her any choice otherwise. It tears her up, but is she really to blame when there was no one to help- when she had to bear the burden alone? Yes, I believe the abortion was wrong, but I don’t believe the responsibility is laid at her feet: it is laid at the feet of those who put her in that corner where it was the only way out. Shame on them.

    I’m sorry I’m on the outside of your feminist community, because I think that intelligent communication between people like us might make the world a better place for both women and the unborn.

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