Modern Feminism and the Abortion Debate

Abortion, as defined by the NIH, “a procedure to end a pregnancy.”

Pregnancy, as defined by the NIH, “the term to describe the period in which a woman carries a fetus inside of her.”

Fetus, as defined by NIH, I can’t narrow that one down by searching the NIH Medline site. However, other definitions of “fetus” from the internet include “the unborn offspring of a mammal.”

Life, another term not clearly defined by NIH, but according to a few random internet definitions:

  1. the quality that distinguishes a vital and functional plant or animal from a dead body
  2. a state of living characterized by capacity for metabolism, growth, reaction to stimuli, and reproduction
  3. the condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter
  4. the existence of an individual human being or animal

And then Life as defined by NASA, located at nasa.gov:

“How to define ‘life’ is a sweeping question that affects whole branches of biology, biochemistry, genetics, and ultimately the search for life elsewhere in the universe.

Comparing the semantic task to the ancient Hindu story of identifying an elephant by having each of six blind men touch only the tail, the trunk, or the leg, what answer a biologist might give can differ dramatically from the answer given by a theoretical physicist.

However, some initial agreement is possible. Living things tend to be complex and highly organized. They have the ability to take in energy from the environment and transform it for growth and reproduction. Organisms tend toward homeostasis: an equilibrium of parameters that define their internal environment. Living creatures respond, and their stimulation fosters a reaction-like motion, recoil, and in advanced forms, learning. Life is reproductive, as some kind of copying is needed for evolution to take hold through a population’s mutation and natural selection. To grow and develop, living creatures need foremost to be consumers, since growth includes changing biomass, creating new individuals, and the shedding of waste.

To qualify as a living thing, a creature must meet some variation for all these criteria. For example, a crystal can grow, reach equilibrium, and even move in response to stimuli, but lacks what commonly would be thought of as a biological nervous system.”

And here we are today, struggling as human beings to define life, struggling as women to redefine Feminism. But those of us who get to argue over the question “what is life?” and more importantly “when does life begin?” we are all alive to make to make this argument. I ponder how those who were created, but not able to become “life” would define “life” for us. I wonder if unborn souls would define life as simply being a little more than another person’s trash, if life for them moves far beyond the term “unwanted.” I wonder if life for the those not born is equal to just being given a chance.

Feminism is associated heavily with the pro-choice movement. This movement began in a a time when pregnancy outside of traditional marriage was shameful, when adoption wasn’t prevalent, when the shame of getting pregnant was much greater than the glory of carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term for adoption. There were not a wide variety of birth control options available and the notion of men playing a key role in preventing unwanted pregnancy wasn’t part of the solution. Today all this has changed. Almost 50% of women who give birth do so outside of traditional marriage. The shame is gone. Adoption is out of the closet with the common practice of open-adoption. Birth control options are aplenty and condoms are as easy to buy as a fountain drink. Legal abortion was the solution to the “back alley” abortions of that day, but this day is different, this day doesn’t need abortion.

In our changed landscape of today, we must redefine Feminism in a way that promotes equality AND values life. Feminism is about equality, not dominance. Equality in creation means that women and men are equally responsible for preventing unwanted pregnancy.

A key element of the Feminist movement today is accountability. Feminism today is about women using birth control or demanding their partner use condoms. We have a responsibility to make the world a better place, we have a responsibility to rise above the instant gratification mentality. We don’t need the right to choose abortion, we already own the right to prevent it. I don’t want to be equal to a loser thug who refuses to wear a condom. I want to be a part of making the world a better place with a man who always wears a condom.

My stance on equality is lifelong, my stance on choice is lifelong. When I was young, I thought everything I was as a woman hinged on my right to choose and today I still think that everything I am as a woman hinges on my right to choose. Today though my definition of choice is different than how I defined choice as a young, narcissistic idealist. Today my choice is all about life and equal responsibility.

And on a final note, here is a statistic form the NIH website: Adolescent pregnancy and babies born to adolescents have dropped since reaching an all-time high in 1990. This is mostly due to the increased use of condoms.

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