Can You Be Pro-Life and Feminist?

As a person who is pro-life, the answer to this question is obvious.

Yes.

Chapter TK - Can you be both pro-life and a feminist?I have not been shy about my support of a women’s right to choose, so this opinion may come as a surprise to you. That said, my problem with the pro-life movement has little to do with the  literal idea of pro-life.

When I think of the ideal of pro-life, I imagine a movement that should really be as feminist as the pro-choice movement. Those who are pro-life should lift up pregnant women, especially those who may be considered “high risk” for choosing abortion. They could offer free child care and budget counseling to help those worried about finances. They could offer to provide the income a woman loses during doctor’s visits and the birthing process. As many women fear their families with condemn and/or abandon them for being pregnant, people could open a group to act as a supporting family.

In terms of preventing pregnancy, those who are pro-life could discuss the options. I once heard the argument that birth control is not pro-life because a woman can still ovulate and an egg could still be fertilized. The contraception, however, makes it so that the fertilized egg won’t attach and develop into a fetus. Even though it’s not uncommon for this to happen naturally, I’ll run with that. There are still methods, such as condoms, that don’t do that at all. There are many different forms of contraception and I’m sure there are some that don’t prevent a fertilized egg from implanting.

None of the above strikes me as anti-feminist. A person or group who is trying to help out pregnant woman is clearly pro-life. Unfortunately, I have met very few pro-life people who take up any of this. Instead, what I hear from the pro-life movement is that women are whores who are seeking the easy way out through abortion and birth control. I’ve heard the argument made that men will never stick around if they know they can’t get you pregnant or that you can get an abortion. Countless laws have been made to regulate women’s bodies, preventing them from safe access to medical procedures and doing nothing to actually support the life and well-being of them or their child.

It seems few in the pro-life movement understand that abortion is a blanket terms for many abortions. They can be as simply as taking a few pills and as complex as surgery. A woman may choose to have one for many reasons, including risk to her health or a desire to prevent her child from living a life of pain (if they child would be born with extreme deformities, for example).

Even if we lived in a world where every pregnancy was planned and welcomed, we still could not go on without abortions. At the very least, we won’t be able to escape the multitude of medical conditions or injuries that could put a pregnant woman’s life at risk. Safe access to abortion services will always be pro-women because it protects her life. Being pro-life should not be equal to restricting to safe access to these services, not only because that puts women at risk, but because it’s ineffective at reducing abortions. The choice is not between abortion and motherhood. Too often, it’s a choice between a safe abortion and a hanger. A pro-life feminist should know this and strive to prevent a woman from ever considering abortion in the first place. They should not put her life at risk by blocking her from a safe procedure.

Perhaps it seems that I am arguing for my side of the argument now, but that’s not what I’m trying to show here. What I’m trying to show is that the desire to protect life is not anti-feminist. Wanting to end abortion is a great thing to desire and, in itself, does not make one an enemy of feminists.

I wish there were more outspoken, pro-life feminists. I wish someone would say, “I am pro-life, which is why I’m working on these plans to stop women from seeking abortion services.” Instead, what I usually get is , “I am pro-life. All you women seeking abortions are whores who will  burn in hell. Let me shove a picture of an aborted fetus in your face, even though statistics show doing this has an extremely low chance of changing your mind.”

That woman-hating attitude it what makes me mad, not the actual pro-life stance. I really think the pro-choice and pro-life movement could work together on a lot of issues. At the end of the day, no one wants to get an abortion. No one thinks they will someday have to make that very hard decision. Certainly there are some things we can make happen.

No matter what, pro-life feminists are not myths. They may be few, but that doesn’t make them invisible. So long as a person views women as equal to men and strives to support them while persuading them to avoid abortion, I don’t see the problem.

What do you think? Can a person be pro-life and feminist? Do you know anyone who claims to be? Do you think there are things the pro-choice and pro-life movement could agree on and work towards? If so, what issues do you seem the two movements working together on?


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41 thoughts on “Can You Be Pro-Life and Feminist?”

    1. Whoops. I didn’t mean to imply I’m pro-life. I’m totally pro-choice all the way. However, I can see how it’s possible to be pro-life and feminist. I rarely see that, but still.

  1. Thank you so much for writing this; I like how you put emphasis und treating the condition, not the symptoms, so to speak! A society where women feel their pregnancies are welcome and they know having a child won’t mean ending up in poverty or rejection would be truly feminist. Women are the ones who are able to bear children, so supporting them in this definitely is both pro-life AND feminist, as long as they aren’t forced into their role as a mother. (If I knew that having a child wouldn’t affect my job opportunities then deciding to have one would be more probable.) And just forbidding abortion all together can’t help, women would just go to shadier places (or use home remedies) if they feel it’s still a better option than going through with the pregnancy because nobody would help them.
    Maybe in addition to the use of contraception they should add “where to get supportive help in case they fail” to the sex-ed curriculums – things like contact information for anonymous birthing, safe houses where girls or women can stay in case of family problems, options for adoption, legal stuff, whatever. True pro-life education which has both the wellbeing of mother AND child in mind could be very feminist!
    Where I live they started a campaign and put contact information on posters inside our trains for women who are pregnant and don’t want anyone to know about it; on these posters they state they’ll help women anonymously to stay safe and work things out.

    1. One great thing I saw was a church who literally offered support to pregnant single woman. They collected cribs, strollers and diapers. They did it in such a way that the woman would have to come to them and talk to them, meaning they could spread the message they should embrace their motherhood. That was the nice thing. Never once did they say the word abortion. They weren’t trying to stop woman from having an abortion. They were trying to help them embrace motherhood and recognize their child as a gift. It was fantastic and I wish more religious organizations acted that way. That and I really wish priest and ministers would instruct their congregations to offer that same support to people in their family, especially their own children. If the Christian idea is that we are all sinners, than that’s what we are. No sin is better or worse than the other, and no one deserves to be treated worse or kicked out of their home because their sin shows in their growing stomach.

      Now… I have a problem with sex outside of marriage and resulting pregnancies being sinful, but that’s a whole different argument.

  2. I dislike the term “Pro-Life” immensely. It’s disingenuous and bordering on propaganda. The term “Anti-Abortion” would be more accurate because all their actions are focused on blocking access to abortion. The term “Pro-Life” has a more positive connotation, but their actions are not positive. As you noted, providing financial, medical, and emotional support for women who aren’t ready for children would be positive and worthy of the label “Pro-Life.” To answer your question, I don’t think it’s POSSIBLE to be truly Pro-Life without also being a feminist.

    1. Now that I think about it, it seems a lot of conservative groups have borderline propaganda type terms. They’ll call an organization hell bent on destroying LGBT families a The American Freedom for Families Organization. Or an organization trying to demonize all religions but Christianity the Group For Religious Tolerance.

      It’s a shame, because it’s not like they can’t voice their opinion. I just wish it wasn’t done with so much hate.

      1. Just go Google what those “Focus on the Family” people are saying….They aren’t focused on their own families, they’re focused on ours, and how wrong and sinful we are, and they imply that people who disagree with them are going to Hell…. Oh, do I sound bitter? Sorry, realizing one day that you’ve been brainwashed tends to do that…..

        1. You don’t have to tell me. I’m a recovering Catholic…. which is weird in a way because I still feel like I follow everything I was taught. You know, acceptance of everyone, love everyone, etc.It’s just not what I saw practiced. Same here. They say they’re in support of families, but their actions imply otherwise.

          1. I see we’re in the same boat! (life raft? dinghy? that p.o.s. from The Life of Pi, with a tiger in it?) Yeah, I have always marveled that the simplest phrase can really open your eyes sometimes: “Actions speak louder than words….”

  3. I’m pro-life and a feminist, and I really like you what said about how being pro-woman is preventing the need for an abortion in the first place. I do believe the fetus counts as a person, but I always cringe at people (mostly politicians) who seem to think the importance of the fetus outweighs the importance of the mother’s life, and possibly her other already-born children. There ought to be a distinction between ‘pro-life’ and ‘pro-birth,’ because making sure a child is born at all costs and ignoring their needs after that isn’t encouraging life at all.

    1. Agreed. Your comment makes me think of a case I heard about in Chile. A woman had some kind of healthy condition putting her life at sever risk if she continued with her pregnancy. A judge ruled that, since she was not at this very moment dying, she had to keep it. That’s frustrating because, by the time she’s giving birth, it might be too late to save her life. Even if we assume the fetus is a person, so is the woman. Certainly she should at least have the right to choose between her life and that of her child’s. Some woman might think it was worth the risk, but if she has other children to support, she might not. I just don’t think it’s the government’s place to make that decision.

      I’m using a lot of examples in my comments here – but I have one other story. My uncle is a Catholic priest. I was once told a story that a pregnant woman came to his door. She was afraid, considering an abortion and needed someone to talk to. So they talked and when she left, he felt pretty good that she wouldn’t go through with the abortion. A few weeks later, she came to his door again, in tears. “Will God ever forgive me?” she asked. She had gone through with the abortion. So what did my uncle do, strict supporter of the pro-life movement as he was? He welcomed her back into his home, cried with her and told her that God has love to forgive every deed. Maybe he was disappointed. Maybe he was angry. But what I respect about that story is that, before the abortion and after, he understood the difficult situation the woman was in. Understanding can go a long way in this world, even between those who disagree.

      1. That’s an awesome reaction, and a lot like what I might do in a similar situation. A friend and I talked about this after she had an “oops” with her birth control and took Plan B. She knows I’m pro-life and probably wouldn’t be the best person to ask if she were pregnant (she wasn’t, it turned out) and wanted a ride to the clinic. But I did tell her if she did go through with an abortion she could stay on my couch as long as she needed to, and I cook for her, help her out in any way I could. It’s just the driving to the clinic part I don’t think I could do in good conscience. Maybe. I haven’t quite thought it through all the way since I’ve never *actually* been in the scenario.

        My husband and I also decided we’d rather adopt children than have our own someday. It won’t do much to fix a broken system but we’ll feel like we did our part.

        1. All of that, is fantastic. I can totally see why you wouldn’t feel comfortable driving her to the clinic and I feel like that’s far less destructive than the ‘typical’ way people shame and protest. Your friend, or any woman, is still a person with a life at least worth equal protection. Someone who reacted that way might find an avenue to convince them not to have the abortion, because they’d know they have someone to support them no matter what.

          The adoption thing is great, too. I hate how people say adoption is always an option. Being in the adoption system isn’t some glorious experience, especially when the people who say “there’s always adoption” never adopt.

          We have different views about abortion (although, I should note, on a personal level there is a point where I think abortion is wrong.) I also like the idea of adoption more than having my own children. It seems like there’s enough mouths to feed in the world. I’d rather see them all fed before I go on making more. That’s not the only reason I like the idea of adoption, but it’s part of it.

  4. I love this assessment. Its almost exactly how I feel about the whole thing. Pro-life should be encouraging and not restrictive, necessarily. It should support women’s ability to choose life and not make it harder for them to survive an abortion. And I find it ridiculous that anyone could bd against birth control, but I know some people are. Great post!

    1. Agreed. The problem is, as much as the other side tries to deny it, there are cases where an abortion is necessary. Cancer and other health risk are always the first to come to mind, but I’ve heard of cases where there was a problem with the fetus that required abortion.

      For example, I read this heartbreaking story about a couple who were trying very hard to have a child. They were thrilled when the wife got pregnant. Then, along the way, doctors noticed something was wrong. When the fetus had developed enough, they saw the problem. The fetus was missing the top part of it’s skull. It was unlikely to survive to term and even less likely to survive long outside the womb. What life it had would likely be unpleasant. This couple made the heart breaking decision to spare their child all that and have an abortion. Unfortunately, they lived in one of those states where the woman had to be probed, go through multiple examinations, be forced to look at the fetus inside of her while a nurse described the fetus in detail, from it’s toes to every part of it’s deformed skull. The couple cried. The nurses cried and apologized. If they didn’t comply with the law, they could lose their jobs. Finally, they had jumped through all the hoops and had the procedure.

      That the couple’s heartbreaking decision had to be even more drawn out and painful is completely unreasonable. That shouldn’t happen. I’d have to problem if well meaning people came in and tried to change their mind and give them hope to keep the fetus, but it’s still their decision in the end.

      And on the note of birth control, I read the argument that – since birth control makes the uterus inhospitable to a fertilized egg and since an egg can still be fertilized while on birth control – birth control is not pro life. It ‘kills’ the fertilized egg. Never mind that (last I checked) an estimated 15 – 25% of pregnancies are naturally aborted before the end of the first month. Many woman don’t even realize their pregnant during this time (which is why the range is so large, I presume). You can’t tell me any God worth believing in created 15 – 25% of souls for no other purpose than to give a woman an extra heavy period that month. I don’t buy it.

      Sorry… this comment got a little impassioned on me. If you got this far, I will conclude by saying I’d have a lot more respect for the pro-life movement if it supported women instead of demonized them. I still wouldn’t agree, but they’d have my respect and willingness to compromise.

      1. Yes, unfortunately most of the pro-life side doesn’t stop to consider that it may ne a choice of mercy for the fetus. I can’t imagine being forced through all of that.

        There’s just so much that so messed up around sex and reproduction and taboos in this country and then the way religion plays into it maked it so much worse. And that’s coming from a religious, pro-life, feminist. But pro-life in the sense that you mentioned in the post. I’d never participate or condone the clinic protestors. I don’t know how people can interpret the message of Jesus (cause, yeah, the Old Testament is super violent) as violently as they do. Or to mean that we should demonize and marginalize people. They totally miss the point.

  5. TK, I actually like much of what you say in this post. I don’t want to be confused as a person who tells women they are whores who are going to hell. Aside from how cruel and ineffective it is, I don’t even believe in Christianity and therefore logically cannot say that stuff.

    More to the point however, I am all for doing what it takes to change society so that women have less reasons to seek abortion. This however is a task as difficult as getting humanity to go vegetarian. People resist change to their traditional way of life.

    That being said, I don’t think that abortion should be legal just as I don’t think the sale of guns, cigarettes, and alcohol should be legal either. However, not everyone actually needs to agree that something should be banned to agree that it is not a healthy thing. They can work together sometimes at reducing them.

    1. You know that I have the opposite opinion from you when it comes to those things you would have be illegal. But I think there is a level of compromise, or at least a common path, that all can take. I’d argue that teaching good, complete sex education, including education on varying methods of birth control, their risks and their benefits would be in the interest of both sides. But then how each side defines that probably differs. I’m honestly not sure if there is a thing both sides can work together on… I just feel like there should be.

      1. I also feel like there should be things that both sides can work together on. I am not sure if its practical or just my wishful thinking, but you know what? I don’t like the fighting, the drama, the namecalling.

        I personally would like to take an official comprehensive sex education class so I know exactly what it is people are hearing. The information is useless to my own life except for how it helps me understand others. I study religion for the same reason.

        1. We could all deserve comprehensive sex education, but there’s too much false information. Despite the fact that teens who have abstinence only education have the same amount of sex as children who receive a full education, people still fight it. I think teenagers are smarter than we give them credit for and at the very least deserve to be informed.

          That’s not the only controversy because a lot of people who are pro-life are also anti-contraception. They’d be against the very mention of it. Personally, I think we all deserve to be education on how every contraception method works. If a person is against abortion, there’s still probably a method that works for them.

          idk…. maybe we’ll find something someday.

          1. If there was a was to separate the pro-life christians(who are also the ones who are anti-gay, and anti-contraception of all types) from the pro-life secularists, then it would not be as confusing as it currently is. I have read that a lot of money is spent on abstinence only education but that it really has no effect on anyone.

  6. The question is, if people already know rationally this is the way to reduce abortion, then why hasn’t this been taken up already?

    My answer is that even if some of the younger people in the pro-life movement actually do care about the fetus, it didn’t start out that way. In my opinion the whole “Protection of life” thing is just a kind of noble myth. It’s rationalization for the reasons why a patriarchal society would want to conspire to keep a woman pregnant (Reasons you expounded upon above).

    The evidence for this still exists – Why else would pro-life groups spread the lie that abortion causes breasts cancer? Why else would you spread the lie of “Post abortive syndrome”, a made-up psychiatric disorder that’s supposedly caused by abortion? Or spread the lie that Susan B. Anthony was secretly pro-life? You can’t respect women as equals and lie to them to influence their decisions, this is the way you would treat a child.

    Thus, even if you’re not automatically an enemy of female equality by being pro-life per se; the intention is immaterial if you’re lending support to a movement whose spirit is in maintaining an unfair status quo.

    1. Yeah, the lies are not okay. But I guess what I mean by this is that I can imagine a person existing who is both a feminist and believes life starts at conception and should be protected. I can see that coexisting, but I don’t see it in reality.

      Maybe, as old fashioned ideas die out, the pro-life movement will change into something positive. High hopes, maybe?

  7. I’ve liked this, even though there are 903 words left for me to read…because of why I can;t read them! This Like comes from my love – that of all the blogs I follow that I’m sifting through here at work, only yours is blocked by my psychotic overreactive company firewall for “inappropriate material….” I’m so proud of you! That will get you my “Like” any time!!! And also, yes, I am one of those chaps who believes the term “feminist” is ridiculous in its very existence. I’m a “humanist,” because I find it mind-boggling that we still have such inequality to require feminism to change it….. Humans are humans! I have always tried to include both the female and male point of view in my perception of the world! Is it that hard?? (Our bodies honestly aren’t that drastically different, our minds less so. What’s society’s big deal, anyway??)

    1. I can understand the humanist idea. Someone people on my blog call themselves equalist. That’s fine, too. But I see why these movements need to be separate. Somewhere, there is someone who supports equal marriage but not religions freedom. Somewhere else, someone supports gender equality but not racial equality. So, for any movement to move, they have to be specific. I long for the day when I can just be an equalist or humanist, but I feel like I must wear many labels until then.

      And really? I’m blocked at your work? I don’t even think I talk about things that bad. Maybe they don’t like that I discuss sex sometimes or something….

      1. Yeah, probably…I mean you aren’t the only blocked blog…..and I work for Marriott. Hoo boy, is that a company with roots few people understand! I mean, we all know the Marriotts are originally from Utah…..

  8. I wish the anti-choice movement would call itself that and be honest about their intentions so people who think the way you do could actually use the term “pro-life” for your efforts and be understood. However, that is not the case and your post is very mis-titled as well as misleading.

    For example, you wrote: “I wish there were more outspoken, pro-life feminists. I wish someone would say, ‘I am pro-life, which is why I’m working on these plans to stop women from seeking abortion services,'” but that is NOT a feminist position at all.

    Feminists respect all people and recognize equality for women as a goal and a given. Feminist women know that it is our right and responsibility to control our own lives and bodies.

    No actual feminist would go around trying to “stop women” from doing anything that is within our rights to choose to do, regardless of their personal or religious beliefs. That is the MEANING of “pro-choice.”

    Making it easier and more possible to stay pregnant by providing for pregnant women financially and otherwise, so that pregnant females could decide to remain pregnant, perhaps to raise that child themselves or give the child up temporarily or permanently for adoption, are great ideas, but only if it remaining pregnant and dealing with the child are among many other easily accessible and attainable options, including abortion. However, when these so-called “helpers” are really trying to influence these women, coming from their positions as anti-choicers, not allowing for equal access (psychologically or legally) to abortion, they are NOT feminists and they are not, by your definition, “pro-life,” either.

    Otherwise, great post.

    Best to you,

    Sally

    1. I suppose what I meant by that was that I can see how a feminist who believes that life starts at conception would fight for that fetus’s equally and what to stop it’s death. But, I don’t think they would try to stop women by these crazy anti-women laws and shaming we see going on. They’d try to stop abortions by making it more possible to stay pregnant. What’s not said there is that this action would be taken instead of standing in the way of women who wanted and/or needed safe abortion services.

  9. Good points, TK. I agree, you can be both.
    Off topic, I saw your blog subtitle and thought you would probably like David Dark’s book, “The Sacredness of Questioning Everything.” 🙂

  10. Great post! I agree completely. I always think one of the things the pro-life/pro-choice movements forget is both movements are anti-abortion. No one WANTS abortion.

    I can comfortably self-identify as a feminist. I can also comfortably self-identify as pro-life – in a personal way, as in I’m morally opposed to having an abortion myself, but I would not stand in the way of someone else’s decision to have one or not. Or maybe that’s pro-choice I don’t know. Personally, I believe human life begins at conception, but that’s just MY belief; if you believe in good conscience otherwise that’s your issue and who’s to say with definite authority when life begins?

    Like you said, the problem with the typical pro-life movement is that their perspective is too narrow. They only think of abortion-seeking individuals as stereotypically irresponsible individuals (like you said: whores), when there could be a myriad of situations. I read an article on HP recently that, ironically, the more you restrict women’s access to abortion, the more late-term abortions we get happening, and I think the majority of pro-choicers and pro-lifers alike would agree that late-term abortions are more inhumane than early-term ones.

    1. I think you would technically be labeled as pro-choice, but I’m not really sure, You’re not the first person to say they are personally pro-life and legally pro-choice, but I say you can have whatever label you choose.

      Late term abortions start to border on where I would personally draw a moral line, but in terms of legality, I would have all forms of abortion illegal and easily accessible. Having safe access to all abortion services, most would choose to have it done earlier. It’s easier on the body and all around safer. The later you get in a pregnancy, the more likely an abortion is not desired. That is, the more likely it is due to some kind of medical condition of either the woman or the fetus. That scares me more than anything else – that those women in that dire situation might face even more difficultly by misguided laws.

  11. Great post. I feel like it is totally possible for there to be a pro life feminist. Feminism is all about equality. I’m pro choice but just barely. Raised in a conservative household (until recently where I became more middle of the road to liberal) I believed that abortion is homicide. My stance is that pro life/choice is all about health. If a woman is in a steady relationship, already has a family and did not intend to get pregnant, should she have the right to have an abortion? If a younger woman who is not capable of supporting a child financially or physically have a right to have an abortion? Both women are given options. One could say, the woman who is not capable should not have the baby but the woman who has a family should. Either way, those women are entitled to do what’s best for their (and the baby’s) future. Quality of life is key. This is how I became pro choice. It is a personal decision that I am aware must be reviewed from all aspects. I wrote a final on this topic so I could go on…I just wanted to add my proverbial 2 cents that, just as feminism stands for gender equality, every woman is entitled to her own stance yet should still be accepting of all decisions.

    1. The reason I answer yes to this is because I believe a person can both believe life starts at conception and believe in gender equally. Unfortunately, we’ve created a lot of complications. People debate whether parents should be told if their child wants an abortion. In a perfect world? Yes. In a world where many conservative parents will throw their child out of the house for getting pregnant, ruining her future and the future of her unborn child, possibly forcing her to seek more dangerous means of abortion to reclaim at least one of those lives? No way.

      My father told me he and my mom would get a divorce if I ever got pregnant as a teenager. He terrified me and, since that terror did not erase my reproductive organs or the fact that conceiving a child may not be my choice (if I were raped, for example). What it did was cause me to make an escape plan, a way to go on the run if it ever happened. That’s not safe either. I don’t know if I would have made the choice, conservative as I was at the time, but certainly having an early term abortion on the DL is better than being on the streets…

      Which, to come full circle, is not to say parents shouldn’t know. They should. They should also support their children and not throw them out.

      1. I suppose I didn’t consider the life of the child starting at conception. For that reason alone, this topic should be brought out of the taboo files and discussed more openly.
        It is so important to have support, especially from parents! My mother was told she was a mistake and constantly reminded of that throughout her life. Due to that method of thinking, she will never fully accept a compliment. I have never met a kinder and more supportive soul than my mother.
        Back on topic though…I’m so glad you are raising awareness of pro life stance. It’s refreshing to hear an alternative take on a topic where society assumes we only have one view. You have enlightened me, that’s for sure.

        1. Well, I am pro-choice myself, but I really yearn for good, healthy discussion on this topic in society. I don’t need everyone to agree with me. i don’t need everyone to be pro-choice. But I do want to have a conversation and, frankly, I can’t have a conversation with anyone who thinks a woman has fewer rights than her fetus. At the very least, a woman and her fetus have the same rights in that argument.

          But it’s amazing to me how many people don’t believe women have those rights. I mean, just the other week I read an article where a state senator claimed women are a “lesser cut of meat” because they came from the rib of man. I don’t understand how such ideas can still exist in a modern world.

  12. Thanks for posting this. Many years ago I wrote a paper about being both pro-choice and pro-life and so I resonate with many of your arguments. Always good to defy being put in a simple box.

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