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