Recently in a Time Magazine article, Emily Buchanan, executive director of the Susan B. Anthony List, argued that women can be both feminist and pro-life.
“The biggest card that groups like the Susan B. Anthony List play is invoking the names and quotes of 19th and 20th century suffragists to prove their point.
While "the original feminists" were certainly admirable and courageous women, it is absolutely idiotic to consider their views on abortion as part and parcel to feminism. Could you imagine if we just blindly adopted all of the beliefs and actions of great thinkers who lived in the 1800s? Thomas Jefferson—the man who literally defined American liberty and said "all men are created equal"—not only owned a large number of slaves and participated in domestic slave trade, but he enslaved his own children, born of the slave that he took as a lover, who just so happened to be the half-sister of his wife. That's some twisted s*** and should never be held as a standard of equality.”
To answer the charge that being anti-abortion is an affront to civil rights- like Thomas Jefferson owning slaves- we must look again at the pro-life position. Morrissey admits in the piece that women have been debating the correct meaning of feminism since it began, but what she does know is that being anti-abortion can’t be part of it. At the end of the first paragraph, she asks the question, “But who the f*** are you to actively work at taking away other women’s right to make their own personal decisions about their uteruses? You’re not a feminist, that’s for sure.”
I’m sorry, ladies, the pro-life position has nothing to do with your uteruses. The point that pro-choice people don’t understand, or do but choose to ignore, is that pro-life people fight abortion because we believe that what is in the womb is a human being worthy of protection. As such, abortion is an affront to the civil rights of the unborn. It has nothing to do with wanting to control someone else’s reproductive rights. Infringement on reproductive rights is a straw man. The real debate is over the humanity of the unborn. Modern pro-choice feminists do not believe the unborn are human beings worthy of protection, which is different than what was believed by early feminists.
Morrissey says that, “the nature of a progressive movement is to keep moving forward, to evolve. You can't do that by going backwards, by getting stuck in the past.” But by using Thomas Jefferson as an example, she has affirmed that some past ideas - in this case that all people are created equal - are worthy of keeping as we move forward.
The burden is on pro-choice feminists to prove why the idea that the unborn are human beings is no longer valid. Especially considering what the advancement of technology has brought to the discussion. We know there is a heartbeat at 4 weeks past conception. We know that by 6 weeks, all organs have started to develop, including the brain. We know that the unborn can feel pain at 20 weeks, and possibly earlier, as well as showing reactions to sound stimuli. (These are all fetal ages, not gestational ages). Advancements in medicine continue to lower the age of viability. At the same time it is legal to abort a 22-week old, babies survive at this gestation. It is illogical to say that a trip through the birth canal made that baby human. New information has given us more reason to believe in the humanity of the unborn, not less.
Whether these things actually prove, rather than just suggest, that unborn babies are human beings is a matter of debate. I won’t get into that debate here, but the point is that it *is* a debate. And my belief on the matter is no less feminist.
A pro-choice feminist would argue that unplanned pregnancies can ruin a woman’s life and livelihood, and keep her from achieving independence and success in her life. To force her to continue an unplanned pregnancy is essentially an attack on her bodily autonomy and a denigration of her as a person. There is no doubt that an unplanned pregnancy can drastically affect a woman’s life. I’ve seen it. But if the unborn are human beings worthy of protection, the practical reasons for terminating a pregnancy are no longer valid. When Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves, he didn’t care that thousands of plantations in the south would grind their operations to a halt because they couldn’t afford the labor to continue, and plantation owners would lose their livelihoods. Or that the resultant lack of crops would drastically raise the prices on necessities like cotton. Abolitionists didn’t care, because slavery was wrong. Period.
Cheris Kramarae, co-author of A Feminist Dictionary said, “Feminism is the radical notion that women are human beings.” I say that pro-life is the radical (these days) notion that the unborn are human beings. And as Emily Buchanan said, these are not mutually exclusive.
If you are a pro-choice feminist, you don’t have to tell me you disagree. I already know. And you can’t “kick me out of the club.” You know... thinking about it, it doesn’t really matter if you deny my commitment to women’s equality. I know what's true. And I decided I don’t want to be in your stupid club anyway.