The Feminist Case for a New Pro-Life Movement
by Rebecca Bratten Weiss
Elsewhere, I wrote about how our economic and social system depends on abortion. To quote Germaine Greer:
“What women “won” was the “right” to undergo invasive procedures in order to terminate unwanted pregnancies — unwanted not just by them but by their parents, their sexual partners, the governments who would not support mothers, the employers who would not employ mothers, the landlords who would not accept tenants with children, the schools that would not accept students with children.”
Abortion cannot be viewed outside the larger context of a society that is radically utilitarian, capitalistic, and unwelcome to life. Society itself punishes women for being pregnant outside very select situations. Many who participate in creating these social conditions then turn around and denounce women who, trapped within them, often find they have no other choice.
Conditions that harm women and children, and make it difficult to choose life, include: poverty, no parental leave, domestic abuse, poor housing situations, rape culture, inadequate medical care, grueling work hours, lack of access to affordable childcare, hostile communities, misogynistic religious organizations, institutional education, environmental dangers, and employers who find loopholes to fire pregnant women, and who avoid hiring those who have children.
If one believes strongly in the right of women to equality and autonomy, but also in the fundamental right to life of the unborn human, neither the existing pro-choice movement nor the existing pro-life movement is sufficient. Ironically, pro-choice advocates are often the ones who offer solutions for women in difficult situations. Meanwhile, many pro-life advocates say “choose life!” — but make it difficult for women to do so.
If pro life activists were to devote all their capital and energy to helping women and families, instead of supporting politicians who claim to be prolife while upholding an anti-life system, we would achieve three important ends:
- We would eradicate the genuine injustices which exist in the conditions that drive women to abortion.
- We would successfully decrease the number of abortions, without coercing or forcing women, but instead by helping them.
- Instead of expending energy on culture wars, we would open lines of dialogue with pro-choice activists who do not, in fact, consider abortion ideal, but instead view it as a necessary evil. Thus we might ultimately succeed in changing laws, also.
One thing I would like to point out: support for the life of the unborn makes most sense when situated within a larger consistent life ethic which also opposes war, capital punishment, environmental degradation, animal cruelty, factory farming, and gun violence. When movement leaders set up narrow lines of protection, allowing killing and violence for nearly everyone except poor and desperate women, when they refuse to enact policies that will help babies once they are born, it is difficult to believe that they actually care about life. It looks as though they care more about controlling women’s sexuality.
Support for Donald Trump (accused child rapist, self-proclaimed sexual predator, sexist, despiser of the poor and disabled, cynical opportunist, greedy and inept business owner, enabler of racists, proponent of war crimes) from the ostensibly pro-life Right, and from many vocal movement leaders, simply confirms this suspicion in the minds of many. Even some who claim to be pro-woman, who claim to be feminists, have bought into the Trump lie. We in the New Pro-Life Movement reject this.
The New Pro-Life Movement seeks to defend the rights of women while also protecting the lives of the unborn. We do not believe that one of these needs to be sacrificed for the other; however, we also recognize that until our system is radically changed, it will be very difficult for us to uphold both ends. This is why we are seeking to reduce abortions by changing the culture and reducing demand, instead of carrying on the largely futile effort to alter laws that, as long as the system doesn’t change, won’t really work well anyway.
Read more on this topic at Suspended in her Jar.