Pro-life feminism?

If there’s one thing I can’t understand, it’s a feminist who is “pro-life.” (“Pro-life,” in this context, means someone who favors using the state to force childbirth on unwilling pregnant women.) Even for feminists who – for religious or other reasons – consider it essential to save as many fetal lives as possible, should favor doing so by helping women, not by using the law to override a woman’s preferences.

One thing I believe – but I don’t think many “feminist” pro-lifers believe – is that feminism is a word that has meaning. If you’re a feminist pro-lifer, you should be able to point to some aspect of policy (not just rhetoric) in which your feminism has caused you to differ significantly from non-feminist pro-lifers. Otherwise, the word “feminist” becomes meaningless, a word used to make pro-life policies more palatable while not actually advancing any feminist policies. This is why I’ve never taken the group “Feminists for Life” seriously. They don’t criticize the mainstream pro-life movement; nor are the policies they favor different from those favored by anti-feminist pro-lifers. “Feminists for Life” even supports extremist right-wing positions like the discredited slander of UNFPA – despite the fact that UNFPA doesn’t support abortion, and despite the fact that defunding UNFPA reduces important medical help to poor women worldwide.

“Feminists for life” are, in short, identical to all other pro-lifers, once you put their rhetoric aside. To “Feminists for Life,” feminism is nothing but a rhetorical stance they take to support their pro-life policies. I don’t think that a feminism that means so little that it doesn’t alter a single preference or policy position is really “feminist” – because if that’s feminism, then feminism must be meaningless, without content or consequence.

Lately I’ve been wondering if there’s any grounds for compromise between pro-choicers like me – who, frankly, see next-to-no value in fetal life, aside from the value projected onto fetal life by eager, willing parents – and pro-lifers who claim to have progressive values. So once I became familiar with Hugo Schwyzer, who is pro-feminist (and sincerely so, as far as I can tell), politically lefty – and pro-life, I emailed him pointing him to this post of mine discussing the supply approach to reducing abortion (punishing women and doctors) versus the demand approach (providing women with more resources, so that fewer will feel forced by circumstance into having unwanted abortions). (Just to make things clear, my criticisms of “Feminists for Life” are not meant to be criticisms of Hugo).

Hugo recently posted a response to my post on his blog.

The rest of this post will reply to select passages from Hugo’s post (but do read his entire post).

Frankly, most pro-life organizations address both “supply” and “demand”, and most spend more money on the latter than on the former. (Pregnancy counseling centers that arrange for adoption cost more, long term, than lobbying Congress!)

This is a digression from the main point of our exchange, but I’m curious. Hugo, do you have any objective evidence to support this contention?

One problem in measuring how money is spent is that there are two kinds of pregnancy counseling centers – the ones that sincerely try to help pregnant women and girls, and the ones that use deceptive and cruel tactics to frighten women and girls away from abortion. Counting money that goes to the latter sort of “clinic” as “addressing demand” is wrongheaded (as are the clinics themselves).

More importantly, even a good pregnancy crisis center isn’t worth much. They’re not going to pay for a child’s clothing, doctor bills, food, etc past the first year of life – and many don’t even go that far. They’re not offering to pay for braces. They don’t offer enough child care to allow the mother to attend college – and they don’t offer to pay the mother’s college tuition, either.

The countries with the lowest abortion rates in the world all offer a relatively comprehensive social support system that supports not just the child(ren), but also the mother; and not just for pregnancy and infanthood, but for the long term. To imply that “pregnancy crisis centers” – even the few of them that don’t trade in deception and fright-shows – are any substitute for a real social support system is nonsense. And the vast, vast majority of pro-life groups support politicians who are adamantly opposed to allowing American women even one-tenth of the social support system that women in truly low-abortion rate countries have available.

My goal is to end the destruction of the unborn and to protect and enrich and enhance the lives of the already born — and I am ready to embrace any and all tools in that struggle. So, I rejoiced when President Bush signed the Partial-Birth Abortion ban. I also support the distribution of condoms in high schools. (I’m quite aware that there are relatively few folks who hold those two positions together.)

Well, I certainly agree with Hugo on the distribution of condoms.

I’m puzzled as to why Hugo “rejoiced when President Bush signed the Partial-Birth Abortion ban.” The only way the PBA ban will actually prevent abortion is if its proponents have been deceptive about what the PBA ban means (if it actually bans a wide variety of abortion procedures, and not just what doctors call the D&X procedure). I assume Hugo is not pro-deception. But if the PBA’s proponents have been truthful, then the PBA ban won’t actually prevent a single abortion; all it will do is force women to use a different abortion procedure. Why is that cause for rejoicing, for those who want to reduce abortion?

Those somewhat digressive points aside, here is what I think is the crux of Hugo’s argument:

As my students (and regular readers of this blog) know, I’m not big on “either/or” forced choices. I’m very fond of “both/and” ways of seeing the world. [...]

I agree with Barry — and with President Bush — that the abortion struggle can only be won through a change in hearts and minds. It can’t be won on the legal front alone. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t worthwhile and noble to expend energy and money on curtailing legal access to abortion — I think it is. But it’s even better to devote time and resources to reaching those women most at risk for abortion, preferably before they conceive a child. That can include abstinence education and information on contraception. One does not preclude the other, nor do I see any reason to believe that teaching both together vitiates the message of either.

As I argued in the post that Hugo is responding to, there is no empirical evidence that bans on abortion are an effective way of reducing abortion. On the contrary, the countries with the lowest abortion rate in the world all have abortion that is effectively legal and on-demand. There is not a single example, anywhere, of a country which has produced notably low abortion rates with pro-life laws banning abortion.

Hugo asks, why not embrace both the supply and demand-side methods of reducing abortion, rather than making a choice? Hugo’s position only makes sense if he believes that banning abortion would harm nobody to any significant degree. And if you accept that premise, then Hugo is correct: It makes perfect sense to ban abortion if the ban harms no one and might do some good by preventing some abortions (even if the number of abortions prevented is low).

But how could anyone think that banning abortion does no harm?

It’s clear that banning abortion would do harm. Some women (and their doctors) will have to be thrown in prison to enforce such a law. Some women (most likely poor women) will be hurt or killed by botched illegal abortions. Some working- and middle-class women will be forced to spend their life savings getting a safe, legal abortion in another country. And some women will be forced to give birth against their will, giving up control of their fertility (not just whether or not to have children, but also how many children to have and when in their mother’s life plans they’ll be born) and often being forced to give up life dreams and career plans. All women will have less freedom than before.

There is a substantial price to pay for banning abortion. And even if we accept -for the sake of argument – that reducing abortion is a noble and important goal, all the evidence indicates that banning abortion is a very ineffective way of reducing abortion.

So we’re faced with three choices for what our legal approach should be. One, we could try to reduce demand for abortion with social support polices (and also widespread distribution of birth control); this is the approach used by the countries in the world with the lowest abortion rates, such as Belgium. Two, we could follow the pro-life plan of reducing supply by banning abortion, which has never produced a low abortion rate in any country, and harms women. Three, we could go with Hugo’s plan – combining a proven-effective demand-side approach with a supply-side approach that may not even work and harms women.

I think it’s obvious why I – and, I’d argue, why any feminist – should prefer the supply-side approach to reducing abortion. I know Hugo disagrees, but I honestly can’t see why.

In his post, Hugo wrote that people should “admit that the ‘other side’ might have some excellent and useful ideas.” But if Hugo can’t see that banning abortion significantly harms women, then I can’t imagine what “excellent and useful ideas” he can possibly credit to the pro-choice “side” of the debate. If pro-choicers are wrong about that, then we are wrong about everything.

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81 Responses to Pro-life feminism?

  1. 1
    lucia says:

    I had two reactions reading Hugo’s article:

    1) It doesn’t discuss women or the impact of unwanted pregnancy on their lives. It’s difficult to consider someone a feminist without at least discussing the impact of pregnancy on women’s lives. I would expect some concrete suggestions about what government programs we might have to make carrying a unwanted pregnancy something that doesn’t cause a tremendous negative impact.

    2) I would need to read additional articles on his blog to figure out whether other positions he holds are consistent with the term feminist. (I’m not suggesting they aren’t there. Had he placed links to other articles highlighting feminist ideas, that would help.)

  2. 2
    thisgirl says:

    Great post!

    I agree totally with the importance of discussing women and the impact on women when talking abortion. It’s easy to massively humanise, and ascribe emotive language to, the fetus; Hugo seems to avoid this over-emotionalising, (with the exception of the phrase “destruction of the unborn”) which was the first time I’d read any pro-life ideas not surrounded with layers of hyperbole. However, for someone who calls themselves a feminist to skim over the issue of women whilst discussing pro-life ideas seems somewhat suspect to me.

  3. 3
    Hugo says:

    Thanks so much for the link and the kind and constructive criticism; I’ve got my work cut out for me to respond next week in detail — and respond I shall, both to your main points, Ampersand, and to thisgirl’s concern that I don’t talk about pro-life feminism in a context of women’s rights.

    But I’ve got a holiday weekend to enjoy first.

  4. 4
    Hugo says:

    Oh, and Lucia, if you click on some of my “popular posts” on the right side of my blog, you’ll get an diea of where I stand. Many of them have feminist/pro-feminist themes.

  5. 5
    Kim says:

    Nitpick: I think you’ve swapped the meanings you’re assigning to “supply-side” and “demand-side” between the beginning and end of this post.

  6. 6
    yami says:

    This is a minor point, but it’s not very fair to complain that pregnancy counseling centers fail to provide all the things we expect of a full-fledged progressive social welfare system: limited resources, yadda yadda.

    We can fight for a comprehensive social support system, but women who need help now — to have a healthy pregnancy and successful adoption, or to raise an unplanned child — must pull together a patchwork of support from family, friends, government programs, and private charity. Supporting any particular patch in that network might be blinkered or ineffective, but meeting the short-term needs of women who choose not to have abortions isn’t an unfeminist effort (if one avoids the nasty fearmongers). It certainly doesn’t preclude joining in the long-term effort to create better solutions.

    It’s unfortunate that so many pro-lifers think the existing patchwork systems are acceptable, but I didn’t read Hugo’s piece as implying that he’s necessarily among them.

  7. 7
    Linnet says:

    I read a post of Hugo’s on abortion, and I found it stereotypical and patronizing. One part I particularly objected to was where he said that women need to not only be autonomous individuals but also “unique and precious women.” It seems that he thinks giving women control over whether or not to give birth makes them less feminine, and less “unique and precious” as if forced fecundity is an essential part of femininity.

    Sorry. It’s not. Not for me, and not for other pro-choice women, who are the majority of women and the vast majority of feminists.

    In addition, men as a group are never called anything like “unique and precious”–words like that seem flattering but are actually insulting and infantilizing, and were used to deny women everything from the right to vote to the right to own property to the right to enter the workplace. Women are more than half the population, and being a woman makes you neither “unique” nor “precious.”

    Frankly, I find being described as unique and precious because of my gender demeaning.

  8. 8
    Ampersand says:

    Thanks everyone for their commments.

    Kim, thanks for the nitpik; I’ve corrected the error.

    Yami, I thought Hugo was saying “look, pro-lifers really are committed to reducing demand for abortion – look at the pregnancy counseling centers!” PCCs are (when they’re not run in deceptive or cruel ways) a very nice thing to do; but they’re not a commitment to a real solution, they’re a stop-gap. And the real solution – comprehensive social supports for children of all ages and their parents, so that no one has to feel that having a child is the end of her life’s plans – is opposed by 99% of the politicians pro-lifers (and their organizations) are willing to support.

    However, you’re certainly correct to say that I may have been misreading Hugo, in which case I trust Hugo will set us straight. :-)

    Hugo, thanks for taking the criticism so nicely, and I’ll look forward to reading your comments after the long weekend. (Me, I’m working every day this weekend! But I get a lot of weekdays off, so it balances out.)

  9. 9
    Mark Barton says:

    “But how could anyone think that banning abortion does no harm?”

    I’m devil’s advocating here because I’m not actually pro-life myself, but if I put myself in the mindset, it appears there’s a very obvious answer: the first three items are entirely morally irrelevant because they’re self-inflicted in the course of the most serious criminal activity (murder), and the fourth is trivial compared to the harm (again, murder) that the law seeks to deter.

    Now, as I hasten to emphasize again, I don’t personally think that abortion is morally equivalent to murder. But there are those who do, and if I did, I wouldn’t be the least bit impressed by your argument because it’s nothing but a failure to take my (hypothetical) opinion seriously.

  10. 10
    Amanda says:

    Good point about infantilizing women, Linnet.
    I called out the class/race bias that Hugo showed in his post–alot of “pro-life” arguments only work if you buy the assumption that poorer women and women that aren’t white are more likely to get abortions. Not true–they just have a harder time getting a doctor to tell soothing lies about how the abortion is something else….

  11. 11
    lucia says:

    I’m devil’s advocating here because I’m not actually pro-life myself,

    Mark, I think you are correct those might be the answers. My concern is the article doesn’t discuss them. I find it difficult for someone to characterize themselves as feminist while simply omitting the discussion of impact.

    Laws that tend to equalize the level of control over over one’s body for both sexes tend to be “feminist”. Those that don’t tend to be “not feminist”. One may believe on has a good reason for an exception– but the position is inherently “not feminist”, as I see it. I think some discussion is required to explain why this is not so, and why the phrase “pro-life feminist” is not as much an oxymoron as “free-market socia list”.
    (Pardon the weird typo– the spam checker doesn’t like ‘social ist’! without the space!

  12. 12
    Jason Kuznicki says:

    I think it’s interesting where these groups stand–or fail to stand–on birth control as well. Surely, if you are pro-life, pro-woman, and want to reduce the incidence of abortion, then promoting condoms, the pill, and other forms of birth control that prevent conception (as opposed to the IUD which prevents implantation) ought to be at the top of your priority list. If abortion is bad–while women’s autonomy is good–then you should absolutely love these things. Feminists For Life doesn’t seem to mention them at all.

    Nope… something’s definitely not right here.

  13. 13
    Linda says:

    What I find disturbing about his attitude, is that although he “supports” birth control, the only kind of birth control he supports is condoms, the kind controlled by the man. He specificallly rules out the pill. Now I am aware that some right to lifers really believe that the pill and IUD’s are abortificants. But I have always found that to be a little suspicious.

  14. 14
    sailaway says:

    Regarding Amanda’s post, it is increasingly true that the abortion rate amongst poor women and women of color is increasing, where as the abortion rate amongst white women and women of a higher SES is going down. A number of reasons are proposed for this trend, including a decrease in access to medically accurate sex information, a decrease in access to low cost birth control methods, a decrease in funding for social support systems that might make bearing an unintended child less of a crisis for women with limited resources. I’m clearly pro-choice, seeing as I’ve worked in the provision of abortion care before, and will again once I’m done getting this degree, but I definitely think that advocating solely for the accessibility of abortion services while neglecting the social services that amp outlined above creates a similar bind as pro-lifers who argue that PCCs are filling the need.

    Basically, all of us are failing women when we don’t (loudly) advocate for a functioning social service system, access to medically accurate sexuality information and education, and access to safe and compassionate reproductive healthcare services. I would include birth control, STI testing and counseling, pap smears, prenatal care and counseling, and abortion care in that category.

    I also think that’s not enough, and when the few successful helping programs are being slashed and “restructured” (like Headstart, for example), then we as a culture and a society basically make abortion the only viable choice for increasing numbers of women.

    So I implore those who call themselves pro-life to please work for social, political and economic change that make it possible for women who find themselves pregnant unintentionally to make real choices. Cause right now, the current pro-life administration is doing nothing but take those choices away. As a pre-abortion counselor who tries hard to work with women to empower themselves to make a choice that works in their lives, y’all are making my job a hell of a lot harder.

  15. 15
    emjaybee says:

    Ha! I used to belong to FFL. As to the thinking of those who run the organization, I cannot speculate. I know the story I was given was that it was founded by women who felt they were feminists but believed abortion to be wrong (ie murder). This fit my own opinions at the time.

    FFL always had a neglected-stepchild feel to it, though. The regular pro-lifers were suspicious of anything feminist, and the pro-choicers reacted much as you did. It was hard to get much respect from anyone. I know our group did do fundraising for a local charity that helped women and children, but we could find no one willing to work with us on birth control or other feminist issues because of our pro-life stance.

    What was hard for me to understand at the time was the importance of control over your own fertility to feminism. I think that is something that many people, even otherwise liberated women, have trouble understanding, for a variety of reasons. It was easier to grasp “fetuses are the same things as babies and should be protected” than it was “letting the state forbid women from being able to choose abortion violates their right to their own bodily integrity.” It took time for me to understand that pregnancy could be used against me as a form of control.

    What finally allowed me to be a pro-choice feminist was the practical realization you mention, that pro-choice countries actually have lower abortion rates. I came to feel that making abortion largely unnecessary made more sense than making it illegal, and allowed women to preserve their freedoms.

  16. 16
    mythago says:

    The Pill can be an abortifacient, so I understand Hugo’s opposition to it. I don’t understand the opposition or “we don’t want to talk about it” attitude of groups like FFL toward contraception in general. Surely a truly feminist, pro-life group would have, as a priority, the development of safe and effective non-abortifacient contraception.

    I believe the kind of feminism groups like FFL practice is ‘weak feminism’–they don’t think companies should refuse to hire women, they believe it’s wrong for a husband to beat his wife, and so on–but what they really believe is that women’s role as wife and mother should be honored (in theory, anyway) as much as her husband’s paycheck-earning job. Separate but equal, in other words. The stereotypical slutty single girl who gets abortions like she goes to the nail salon doesn’t fit into that.

  17. 17
    Linnet says:

    Mythago–good point. If you read FFL’s statements about what they believe in, they make a big thing out of “we affirm women’s equality, while acknowledging that equals can be different” (I’m paraphrasing). I find that suspect. It could be an excuse to allow for governmental ownership of a woman’s body although it would be unacceptable for a man’s because women are “different.” But even more than that, I think it’s an excuse to argue that BECAUSE women are different, if a woman wants an abortion it must be because she’s pressured into adopting a male value system, as women are “life-givers” both biologically and emotionally and would never freely choose abortion.

    I hear this cant from a lot of people. They go on about how valuing a career is a male value foisted on women by the culture and we warm and fuzzy women just want to have babies, though they put it in would-be feminist language.

  18. 18
    Mark Barton says:

    “Laws that tend to equalize the level of control over over one’s body for both sexes tend to be “feminist”. Those that don’t tend to be “not feminist”. One may believe on has a good reason for an exception– but the position is inherently “not feminist”, as I see it.”

    But this is a weak argument because it’s trivial to make the law gender-neutral: “If a fertilized ovum, embryo or fetus is terminated within the body of its parent, or removed for the purpose of termination, both the parent and any person assisting shall be guilty of murder.” Now of course, I’m happy to acknowledge that this puts one in mind of the Anatole France observation: “The Law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich, as well as the poor, to sleep under the bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.” But if the supposed right-to-life of the fetus is as important as all that, then it’s just too bad that corresponding duty not to interfere with it impacts women more than men in practice.

    Mark B.

  19. 19
    lucia says:

    But this is a weak argument because it’s trivial to make the law gender-neutral:

    Which is why I didn’t say it’s feminist if the language is gender neutral! ;-)

    Gender neutral language can often be useful. However, sometimes that is not the issue. Control is the issue, and that has little to do with semantics, gender neutral language or word smithing.

    I think, when deciding if something is “feminist” or “not feminist” or “mysogynist”, one needs to look at practical effect of the law, not whether or not the law is gender neutral. The issue is whether or not the practical effect of the law tends to equalize control. In the case of avoiding pregnancy, that would be to let woman avoid being pregnant.– because there is no legal alternative to cause a man to be pregnant.

    Clearly, the law cannot change biology, but one can choose to permit legal procedures or forbid them.

  20. 20
    mythago says:

    Making the language of a law gender-neutral does not automatically make the law gender-neutral. If you wrote a law saying “It is OK to fire employees who take time off for treatment of prostate cancer,” and then pretend that the law is gender-neutral because its language is gender-neutral.

  21. 21
    mythago says:

    Gah, hit “post” at the wrong time.

    Gender-neutral language does not make a law automatically gender-neutral.

  22. 22
    jstevenson says:

    Mythago — “the kind of feminism groups like FFL practice is ‘weak feminism’”

    I would have to disagree with that statement. Perhaps FFL given their stance on birth control is questionable, however, just because “one” does not agree with the entire platform of a movement does not necessarily make them against that movement.

    For instance, I am very much for affirmative action, urban economic incentives, and many other things that are part of the NAACP platform (the dubbed spokes group for African-Americans). I don’t support the welfare system advocated by the NAACP and some of the other positions, (ie. Africa) espoused by today’s black civil rights leaders. Does that mean that I am not for civil rights for African-Americans. That would be a broad brush that is not indicative of tolerance of other views within a struggle.

    You can be feminist and still pro-life, anti-abortion is a more accurate term in this case. That is an area that some feminists may disagree. Feminism is the movement for equality of women. You can seek equality of women while not supporting sweeping abortion rights. Of course to not support birth control and proper repoductive education while being for equal rights of women is, in my opinion, mutually exclusive.

  23. 23
    Kate says:

    I don’t understand how someone can value a fetus as “next-to-nothing” and then say that they are of more value if the parents cherish the unborn fetus. That prompts the question of “is it a baby when it is loved, or a mass of tissue when it is unloved?” Both are the same: a formed mass of intricate tissue, muscles, veins and bones; and a baby.

  24. 24
    Rad Geek says:

    “Feminism is the movement for equality of women. You can seek equality of women while not supporting sweeping abortion rights.”

    Only if you don’t hold that “sweeping abortion rights” (i.e., not using violent force to prohibit women from controlling who can and cannot use their own internal organs) are not part of achieving “equality for women”. But that’s a tendentious premise, to say the least. As has been argued elsewhere (see, for example, http://www.radgeek.com/gt/2004/05/30/why_we.html ), there are very good reasons to say that the only consistent basis that anti-abortionists can give for claiming to have the right to control what a woman does with her womb is to claim that women, as women, don’t have the same rights over their internal organs that men do. (That’s not to say that anti-abortionists will come out and say that. It is to say that if you press them to elucidate their position, it will end up coming down to that.)

    Is the case a strong one? Well, I think it is. If it’s not the case that anti-abortionists are making a special exception in self-ownership just for women, specifically, then it’s hard to know just what they are doing. And if they are doing that, then that’s a pretty good reason to say that they’re opposing, not supporting equality between men and women.

  25. 25
    Ampersand says:

    I don’t understand how someone can value a fetus as “next-to-nothing” and then say that they are of more value if the parents cherish the unborn fetus.

    In my view, a fetus for most of the pregnancy (before it develops an effectively functioning cerebral cortex) has no inherant value of its own. It is like any other mindless object.

    However, mindless objects do have value when people project that value onto them. So, for instance, a piece of paper with some black ink on it has no inherant value of its own. But if that piece of paper happens to be the original Walt Kelley drawing that my Aunt Gerry gave me, then I find it very precious.

    Presumably, you’d say that a piece of paper is a piece of paper, whether it’s the Kelly drawing or some incoherant ink scribbles I made to see if a pen had ink in it. After all, in both cases it consists of pulped, bleached wood with some black in on it. It’s the same in either case, right?

    I disagree. We don’t live in an objective universe; we live in a subjective human society, where the value of most objects is the subjective value placed on them by their owners. So I say a fetus has no inherant value of its own; but when I see that a particular fetus is loved and treasured by its eager parents, then I think that particular fetus does have value.

    Of course, pro-lifers see value in all fetuses. However, juse because you see value in something, it doesn’t follow that you do (or should) have the legal right to control that something’s destiny.

  26. 26
    jstevenson says:

    “[T]here are very good reasons to say that the only consistent basis that anti-abortionists can give for claiming to have the right to control what a woman does with her womb is to claim that women, as women, don’t have the same rights over their internal organs that men do.”

    To couch it as government control over the womb, while politically charged is not true to form. Even without abortion-at-will, a woman has the right to control what goes into her womb and what comes out of it.

    I agree that women should be afforded the right of control over their reproductive system and the male reproductive system.
    Biologically must women bear the brunt of the risks of a mutual decision. I think the feminists who are pro-life (not the one’s who are against other forms of birth control) are believe they are fighting for true equality when it comes to feminism. Men should bear the equal burden of protecting their reproductive system. If abortion were illegal men would not share equally in the burden of failed pregnancy prevention on their reproductive rights. The one pro-life feminist I knew stated it was a lose-lose situation. I happen to agree with that stance. Biologically you cannot acheive true equality in regards to reproductive irrepsonsibility. In her position, abortion-at-will essentally extinguishes the need for a woman’s responsible use of her reproductive system, while maintaining the male burden of irresponsible use of his reproductive system. If abortion-at-will were not allowed, a woman certainly would bear a greater risk when having sexual intercourse than a man. However, the man still bears some risk regarding the pleasurable use of his reproductive system. She further stated that abortion-at-will allows a woman to extinguish the risk of pleasurable use of her reproductive system while controlling the burden of the male’s use of his reproductive system. In her view, equality means that everyone should bear equal responsibility for the use of their reproductive system and no one should have control over another’s repoductive system.

    Although I see her point I believe it is flawed because women bear a greater risk with the irresponsible use of their reproductive system than men. That is why women should continue to have unfettered control over the reproductive systems of the men they chooe to have sexual intercourse with. I know that is not true equality, but I think it is only right because women to bear a greater responsibility in the reproductive process than men do.

  27. 27
    alsis38. says:

    I could’ve sworn I read somewhere that FFL sprang from the anti-war movement in the 1960s. Does anyone know if this is true ?

    As far as I’m concerned, there is no such thing as a pro-life feminist. You can be a feminist who hates the concept of abortion and would never want one, for sure. But if you are out there trying to cut off women’s access to legal abortion (as the pro-life movement has been doing with great success for the last twenty-odd years), or applauding those who do, you are not a feminist.

    Some things, I don’t have very nuanced feelings about, and that’s one of them.

  28. 28
    funnie says:

    If there’s one thing I can’t understand, it’s a feminist who is “pro-life.”

    One thing I believe – but I don’t think many “feminist” pro-lifers believe – is that feminism is a word that has meaning.

    This is why I’ve never taken the group “Feminists for Life” seriously.

    “Feminists for life” are, in short, identical to all other pro-lifers, once you put their rhetoric aside.

    Lately I’ve been wondering if there’s any grounds for compromise between pro-choicers like me…and pro-lifers who claim to have progressive values. So once I became familiar with Hugo Schwyzer, who is pro-feminist (and sincerely so, as far as I can tell), politically lefty – and pro-life, I emailed him…

    (Just to make things clear, my criticisms of “Feminists for Life” are not meant to be criticisms of Hugo).

    I think it’s really great how much effort you’re going to in order to have a nice, respectful dialogue with a male pro-lifer, Ampersand. It’s very “polite” of you to do him the “courtesy” of not encircling his “claims” in “quotation marks” as though they might not be exactly “valid.” In fact, I doubt very much that you needed to add that last parenthetical! It was quite clear to me that you had no intention of treating Hugo in the same way you treated the “feminist” organization to which he donates money. The organization which, dubious though it may be, appears to be run by women (anyone know about this? I can only find a Board of Directors for the NY chapter).

    In the interest of the courtesy and respect vibe, though, I would suggest one change to your initial post:

    “Feminists for life” are, in short, identical to all other pro-lifers [other than Hugo who is apparently reasonable and genuine], once you put their rhetoric aside.

    There, that’s better! Now it’s factually accurate. I mean, if we’re going to take a man’s terms of self-definition at face value and make sure he isn’t impugned with the motives of those dirty messy self-hating females whose self-definition is plain *wrong*, we have to make sure he stays separate from “all other pro-lifers” at the relevant critical points in the argument. It’s only polite.

    I know you’d hate for him to feel like he was unfairly pigeonholed into a movement containing millions of members but one entirely cohesive set of “values” and motives! He’s unique and special! Sans quotation marks!

    Oh, dear, where are all the female bloggers.

  29. 29
    Hugo says:

    Great stuff, and I’m challenged! I have responded at my place preliminarily — but there’s more to come.

  30. 30
    Jake Squid says:

    See, funnie, this is why fanatics are not very good at convincing the masses. They see things that aren’t there. And they tend to be over the top. Nothing that you quoted that is in quotes refers to women only. Those would be:

    “pro-life”
    “feminist”
    “Feminists for Life”

    Although, to be fair, your definition of feminist as excluding men is probably what led you to rail against having “feminist” in quotes. OTOH, you should take into account that Amp’s definition of the term feminist has no such exclusion. I’m bewildered as to why “pro-life” placed in quotes has you ranting about sexist language. Carrying on, “…feminist” pro-lifers… has “feminist” in quotes as an indication of Amp’s problems believing that such a thing can exist. Please note that in this context that “feminist” includes men as well as women.

    Your fanatacism also blinds you to what is necessary to engage in civil debate with somebody with a diametrically opposed viewpoint. Thus Amp bending over backwards to let Hugo know that he wants a civil dialogue bereft of name-calling. I am guessing that you have not been reading this blog for long. If you had, you would have noticed that Amp has also had “nice, respectful dialogue” with a female pro-lifer. Does that make you feel any better?

    In the future, you may want to take some time before posting a rant to make sure that what was actually written matches what you believe was written.

  31. 31
    Lukas says:

    I’m not sure whether the feminist label should be abandoned by pro-life groups. Certainly some historic feminists, such as Susan B. Anthony, were pro-life. But right now so many different groups attempt to use the term that it seems to basically just mean, “an ideology which is concerned with women,” and so nearly every ideology can be considered feminist.

    Anyway, just a quick comment – I don’t know all there is to know about Feminists For Life. However, I do believe that they are right to recognize the fact that legalized abortion will not necessarily make women more liberated. If abortion is legal, a woman has more legal options (she can abort, or not abort). But on a practical level, she may have only 1 option – abortion. If her boyfriend, her college, her family, and her financial situation make abortion a practical impossibility, then she’s just as unfree as if abortion were illegal. If she tells her boyfriend that she wants to keep the baby, and he responds by promising to abandon her if she does, how is she free?

  32. 32
    Barbara says:

    Lukas, we aren’t going to go back to a society in which that boyfriend will have to forego either of his current options, whether abortion is legal or not. Boyfriend will always be free to withhold every kind of support except that which a court orders him to provide. Nor will Girlfriend be required to marry him just because he wants her to. This idea that when abortion is legal abortion becomes your only option is simply not true. There are many children born out of wedlock to single mothers who make a go of it with our without their boyfriend’s support. Obviously, they considered their options, which included abortion, and did something else. Do people put pressure on women to have an abortion? Yes, they do. Do they ostracize her and refuse any other assistance if she refuses to listen? Well, perhaps some do, but I believe that most do not.

    And FYI, the IUD and the pill are THEORETICALLY capabale of acting as abortifacients, but their mode of action almost always occurs earlier, by blocking fertilization, or even blocking ovulation altogether. The most common form of IUD includes hormonal support (impedes fertilization). Never, ever, consider as authoritative any information provided on this subject by pro-life groups or the RC Church. You need to find actual scientific literature. Studies have been done, especially on the IUD.

  33. 33
    alsis38 says:

    Who pissed in your Post Toasties this morning, funnie ?

  34. 34
    Barbara says:

    From the American Academy of Family Planning:

    http://www.aafp.org/afp/981200ap/canavan.html

    ACOG has literature on contraception as well. I harp on this for two reasons. First, it highlights the willingness of those who call themselves pro-life to accept lies as truth without bothering to check. I used an IUD for four years and I found resources such as the enclosed in one short internet search, more than seven years ago. Second, this isn’t like deciding whether to serve chocolate or vanilla ice cream at your birthday party — carelessly advising someone that such and such is actually an abortifacient has real consequences, potentially, for policy and for women’s lives. This is a minimum standard of interest and compassion that should be brought to bear on this subject and I’m tired of listening to complete know nothings.

  35. 35
    Mark Barton says:

    “Making the language of a law gender-neutral does not automatically make the law gender-neutral. If you wrote a law saying “It is OK to fire employees who take time off for treatment of prostate cancer,” and then pretend that the law is gender-neutral because its language is gender-neutral.”

    It depends on what you think gender-neutral means, and what sorts of lack of gender-neutrality are objectionable. If you mean gender-neutral at the level of individuals, your example _is_ gender-neutral. My friend C. is legally and to all appearances female, and yet she has a prostate. Your example affects her just as much as it does me, quite without regard to our different genders.

    Of course, if you mean gender-neutral at the level of the statistics of groups, it isn’t. Vastly more males than females have prostates. Now making an issue of this could still be objectionable, if having a prostate were being used as a proxy to smuggle in some more general gender discrimination. But if the law is narrowly targeted towards some admirable goal such as people living without fear that keeping their prostates healthy might adversely affect their employment (i.e., something like the reverse of your example) it should be legitimate.

    Now, opposition to abortion is a mix of these two types of reasons. It’s only too obvious that a lot of anti-abortion crusaders are against sex (and especially women having sex) as much or more than they are for the life of the fetus, and they want abortion restricted to deter women from being sexually active.

    But at the same time, many anti-abortion crusaders really do feel that not terminating embryos/fetuses/babies at any time is a universal moral principle of the highest priority that just happens to affect women more than men. Now I can understand Ampersand holding out for a conception of feminism that sought to plaster over differences between male and female to a considerable extent. For example, it would be good to encourage breast-feeding, but only women are equipped for this, so we need to give them help and protection so that they don’t have to write off careers to do it. But I don’t think he can reasonably insist that people push that to include issues that, as pro-lifers would claim, have life-or-death consequences for a third party.

  36. 36
    Barbara says:

    You said, in the context of gender neutrality:

    “But at the same time, many anti-abortion crusaders really do feel that not terminating embryos/fetuses/babies at any time is a universal moral principle of the highest priority that just happens to affect women more than men.”

    I know we’ve been down this road before, but there is a point at which abstractions really do obfuscate rather than clarify. For most people the principle isn’t quite universal, but is riddled with exceptions related to rape, incest, and health of the mother (what universal moral principle dictates preference of the mother’s life to that of the fetus?) It’s an exercise in line drawing. The question is who gets to draw the line, and where.

  37. Mark, if I honestly thought that laws did nothing to prevent murder, I’d demand that we stop wasting tax money on those laws and instead fund (say) free psychiatric treatment. I care less about punishment than I do about not dying.

  38. 38
    Sheelzebub says:

    Look, I agree wholeheartedly that we should strive for good social support policies as a way to reduce abortion (and improve the quality of life for everyone). Yes, yes, yes, I think that’s wonderful.

    However, I am still pro-choice. And in my own case, I am pro-abortion.

    I don’t care how much social support I would have if I got pregnant. I do not want to have a child. I do not want to be pregnant. I do not want to put my body through all that, social supports or not, adoption option or not. I do not want to have to go through the physical trauma again. Ever. So if my pill were to fail, I would haul my butt down to the nearest clinic and have an abortion.

    Sure, it would be different if we produced say, an egg that we could put in an incubator. If the actual gestation did not physically affect one person in so many ways, I’d forgo an abortion. Consider adoption. The whole shebang. But that’s not the way it is.

    Pregnancy isn’t like carrying a small Gucci bag. It affects your body in all sorts of ways. Yeah, some women go through it with zero ill effects, others have nothing but problems. Thing is, you don’t know until you go through with it how it will be. And I cannot in good concience force anyone to take that risk.

  39. 39
    NancyP says:

    Remember Romania as an example of how well anti-abortion, anti-contraception laws work. Thousands on thousands of kids dumped in orphanages at birth, very high mortality rates, high rates of AIDS from quack blood transfusions done to orphanage kids who failed to thrive, as most infants and toddlers do when warehoused with a 30 kids to 1 caretaker ratio. Furthermore there was a considerable maternal mortality from illegal abortion. The experiment’s been done. It failed. Move on. (for details, there are several good articles in epidemiology journals)

  40. 40
    NancyP says:

    Re: feminists for life. One of the trademarks of feminism has been the demand for equal rights and responsibilities, and the demand goes both ways, to male involvement in child and house care, male financial responsibility for children sired and then abandoned.

    No-one proposes a serious effort for DNA banking of all U.S. males (not just armed forces and convicted felons) for purposes of positive ID of paternity, and no-one is willing to put serious resources into committing paternity without express consent of the woman and a contract re care of any resulting child. Likewise, no-one is taxing males only to provide funding for women abandoned by the father of the child to raise that child in decency. So until FFL goes for either effective enforcement against males or a really generous child-rearing package of salary and social services for women whose men have walked, well, FFL isn’t making the feminist demand for equal male responsibility.

  41. 41
    NancyP says:

    I meant, “PENALIZING committing paternity without express consent of the woman and without contract…” oops.

  42. 42
    Mark Barton says:

    “For most people the principle isn’t quite universal, but is riddled with exceptions related to rape, incest, and health of the mother (what universal moral principle dictates preference of the mother’s life to that of the fetus?)”

    Certainly although pro-life people view the right to life of the fetus as a very weighty consideration, they don’t necessarily view it as infinitely weighty. And certainly the health of the mother is a very weighty consideration, at least in the context of a pregnancy being allowed to take its course. But Ampersand didn’t mention mothers dying in the course of errant pregnancies as a harm, I suspect in part because he took it for granted that even fairly gung-ho pro-lifers would be prepared to work out exceptions in such cases. The cases he mentioned were either conspicuously not of life-or-death weightiness (giving up life dreams and careers) or presumptively irrelevant due to moral hazard (botched illegal abortions).

  43. 43
    Amanda says:

    I a foolproof idea for reducing abortions to almost nothing while avoiding using the pill and IUD’s. If, in fact, it’s not about reducing rights but stopping abortions, then all men need to be sterilized immediately. Well, some could elect to put sperm away in a sperm bank for future use. They would be allowed to withdraw that sperm after going trhough a lengthy process where their marriages are examined for healthiness and financial status would also be examined. Both mother and father to be will be interviewed extensively to make sure parenthood is something they really want to do. Sure, it sounds invasive, but since reducing rights, even if it affects one sex more than the other, is not too high a price to pay if it stops abortions, then surely men will understand. Sterilizing women is of course out of the question because it would be much more difficult for them to store their eggs in preperation for the future.

  44. 44
    Hugo says:

    Compared to that, Amanda, abstinence outside of marriage (and barrier birth control or NFP within marriage) sounds positively reasonable. ;-)

  45. 45
    Amanda says:

    Well, if someone’s sexuality has to be controlled in this country, I’d say after thousands of years, it’s men’s turn.

  46. 46
    alsis38 says:

    abstinence outside of marriage (and barrier birth control or NFP within marriage) sounds positively reasonable…

    Errr… except for those of us whose interests don’t include abstinence, pregnancy, [b]or[/b] marriage, thankyouverymuch.

  47. I would suspect that feminist pro-lifers believe in non-discrimination against women in the workplace, may be interested in protecting women from domestic violence, have some sort of informed opinion about interactions of gender and society, and also believe that fetal life has a high enough intrinsic value to be worth protecting.

  48. 48
    Hugo says:

    Amanda, if it would work, I’d sign up to be sterilized. Anything to end abortion.

  49. 49
    Amanda says:

    I decided to bring the hammer down over at Mouse Words. I just hope what I wrote makes sense.

  50. 50
    alsis38. says:

    It would work fine, Hugo. You yourself would no longer be responsible for any abortions because you wouldn’t be able to impregnate a woman. What’s the problem ?

  51. 51
    mythago says:

    abstinence outside of marriage

    Because nobody has sex inside of marriage unless they want to have a baby? Because married couples are always happy to have intercourse lead to another child? I don’t get it.

    however, just because “one” does not agree with the entire platform of a movement does not necessarily make them against that movement

    Absolutely. It’s not the anti-abortion stance that I believe makes their feminism ‘weak,’ but their approach to feminism overall.

  52. 52
    Hugo says:

    Actually, I’d like to have a child, thanks. I’m just not prepared to have intercourse with a woman outside of a committed monogamous relationship where a child is wanted. Once children have come, then I shall of course have a vasectomy. But that is hardly the stuff of national social policy.

  53. 53
    mythago says:

    I’m just not prepared to have intercourse with a woman outside of a committed monogamous relationship where a child is wanted.

    Nothing wrong with that. But you realize that your position–vasectomy when kids are no longer wanted–is not one any major right-to-life group supports, or as far as I know, even addresses. “Abstinence” seems to be a message aimed at unmarried women, with the assumption being that married women simply don’t have unwanted pregnancies.

  54. 54
    Linnet says:

    Hugo: you do realize that your plan makes your girlfriend/wife completely dependent on YOU and YOUR choice to get a vasectomy or not, right? It is a situation that obviously works for you, but some men don’t want vasectomies, and some women don’t want to be dependent on the men in their lives for birth control.

  55. 55
    Amanda says:

    A lot of men refuse to get vasectomies, since that’s “emasculating”. We live in such a fucked-up world that standard woman deals with birth control initiallyk, then deals with pregnancy and childbirth in relative silence, and then gets her tubes tied in an invasive surgery so her man doesn’t get emasculated after they are done having children. *sigh*

  56. 56
    Naa-Dei Nikoi says:

    I haven’t wanted to comment yet because I haven’t yet gone back to the library to pick up the book I sourced this from, but only half the women getting abortions are unmarried. The rest have husbands. And many have other kids. I don’t think there are as many selfish and irresponsible women out there as there are women who have considered their situation and decided that they cannot have and support a new child now.

    If we’re talking about making society a better place for women to have kids in, then the Guardian has recently reported on the major challenges facing would-be mothers. Given the sheer hostility and very real long-term problems having a child can entail, practically speaking a woman has to be ready for being treated as stupid, for a real pay cut, to say goodbye to most senior positions, to be haraunged by people no matter *how* she structures her life and she’s really, really secure and really, really wants that child, it’s not to be wondered at if she says ‘no thanks’ to the idea of having a baby. It’s really fun when I hear people on the radio pretending that there’s no connection between attitudes towards women and children and the abortion rate.

    http://society.guardian.co.uk/societyguardian/story/0,,1299123,00.html

    http://society.guardian.co.uk/news/story/0,7838,1280773,00.htm

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/3629614.stm

    So, pro-life people, where’s the rolling up of the sleeves to make life a better place for all? Or is sitting down, tut-tutting and talking about what ‘ought’ to be work enough?

    Dei.

  57. 57
    lucia says:

    Hugo: you do realize that your plan makes your girlfriend/wife completely dependent on YOU and YOUR choice to get a vasectomy or not, right?
    This is an extremely important point if we are discussing whether or not the position is a feminist one– which is the topic of the article!

    Selecting methods that mean a woman can’t control things on her own tends to be non-feminist.

  58. 58
    Barbara says:

    Amanda is funny, but the elephant in the room is the fact that the stalwart force in opposition to abortion is also equally and adamantly opposed to contraception of any kind, abortifacient or no. Which is to say that, notwithstanding Hugo, the majority of pro-lifers are opposed to abortion for reasons that go well beyond protecting the fetus, or avoiding abortion per se. Opposition to abortion is almost always part of a cultural construct that prefers women to be at the mercy of biolgy and dependent on traditional family structure. Women, at least, instinctively understand this even when they agree with it (and certainly, if you’re a working mother, as I am, you know full well what they think).

  59. 59
    mythago says:

    I don’t think there’s anything inherently non- or un-feminist about choosing to have a vasectomy. Hugo isn’t, as far as I can tell, saying “She may not use any kind of birth control.” Certainly I’d say it’s more responsible for Hugo to say that if he no longer wants children, he is going to go through the risk and effort of getting a vasectomy, rather than insisting his wife get a tubal ligation or stay on the Pill for decades.

  60. 60
    Amanda says:

    I agree with you, mythago. But beyond a man’s right to choose a vasectomy, don’t you find it a little suspicious that the methods of birth control that have suddenly become “abortificants” and are under attack by the pro-life movement are all ones that are controlled by women?

  61. 61
    lucia says:

    I don’t think there’s anything inherently non- or un-feminist about choosing to have a vasectomy.
    I agree. I wrote a clumsy comment. Laws limiting contraceptive choices to male methods, or those requiring male cooperation is inherently non-feminist. Women need to have access to methods they can use even if the man doesn’t cooperate. The methods need to permit the woman to make a wide range of choices in her life.

    My impression is Hugo is narrowing choices down to: Natural Family Planning (does involve male cooperation), condoms (involves male choice), abstinence outside marriage (limits choice), and sterilization. Only female sterilization would be in the woman’s power to chose on her own, and it’s permanent.

    I have no difficulties with the idea that people might impose these choices as a matter of personal philosophy. But, enacting them into law limits women’s choices. (Even in marriage, where the risk of pregnancy becomes much greater at all times.)

  62. 62
    funnie says:

    Yeah, mythago, having a vasectomy isn’t the problem. The really antifeminist part comes when Hugo views his vasectomy as private, “hardly the stuff of national social policy,” but something he’d gladly do if it would end abortion. Yet, clearly if ALL men had vasectomies (and all vasectomies were foolproof), abortion WOULDN’T exist. Since he thinks of abortion in terms of national social policy rather than private choice, surely vasectomy is also a public issue to be decided for the general morality of our society.

    Hugo does not advocate all men being given the legal options of a)abstinence, b)vasectomy, or c)imprisonment. Since he believes it reasonable to criminalize abortion, he advocates sexist and inconsistent policy using the excuse that it’s girded by a supposedly consistent worldview.

    What a unique and unprecedented position it is for a man to declare that “the policy you women call unjust cannot be so, for it is entirely consistent with my entire worldview.”

    It’s a crock, not worth my time, and frankly serves as an excellent example of why men’s self-definition on feminist scales is ultimately of no consequence.

  63. 63
    alsis38. says:

    men’s self-definition on feminist scales is ultimately of no consequence.

    ROTLMAO.

    Naa-Dai, I think for the average pro-lifer, it IS indeed easier to sit around and tut-tut. Just as it’s easier to love and worship the ideal of a baby than it is to wade into the messy, dirty, complicated business of shaping a society that would give a real flesh-and-blood baby and its Mom a comfortable environment to live in.

  64. 64
    jstevenson says:

    Mythago — “Abstinence” seems to be a message aimed at unmarried women, with the assumption being that married women simply don’t have unwanted pregnancies.”

    I think the message is aimed at unmarried women not because married women don’t have unwanted pregnancies, but because the social impact of unwanted pregnancies by unmarried women is greater. Of course society can provide services specifically geared to unmarried women who are unable to support a child, but decide to engage in reproductive intercourse. Unfortunately, those social services cost money. It is funny that pro-life advocates are also generally against social welfare programs.

    I believe women should have the choice to terminate a pregnancy for whatever reason. I don’t want my tax dollars being spent on lack of sexual responsibility. Women should have the choice to abort a child because society should not have to pay to take care of somebody’s unwanted child. Women should have the benefit of being 100% sure that their sexual interlude will not result in a child (BTW — contrary to popular belief men do not have that option).

    What I don’t like is how women, especially young women, are not given all the facts about what it is that they are doing. The rhetoric regarding a bundle of cells is hogwash. Everybody who wants to have an abortion after fifteen weeks should have the doctor explain the abortion procedure through an ultrasound. So the woman and the guy who is probably “forcing” her to have the abortion can see how the procedure will be performed on their “bundle of cells”.

  65. 65
    jstevenson says:

    Barbara – you have to explain how my wife was treated as stupid? I know women who took a pay cut after they had children. Not because they had children, but because they were working less. Too be fair, I know a few people that did not get a job because they were women of childbearing age, they are now very wealthy individuals who can spend lots of time with their children when they decide to have them (also they can afford to abort their child if they don’t want one now — boy I wish I had that choice). My wife has three children and is a rising star in her career. If she wants to have a senior position she can. She is a Marine – you can’t get more “North American Machismo” than that.

  66. 66
    Cleis says:

    Re: Birth control pills, IUDs, and emergency contraception as abortifacients.

    They’re not. They do not cause abortions. Therefore it makes no sense for pro-life folks to oppose them.

    Abortion is the removal of a fertilized egg that has implanted in the uterine lining. The pill, IUD, and EC don’t do this. Rather, they either prevent fertilization (most often), or they prevent implantation of the fertilized egg.

  67. “Everyone within pro-life groups (including “Feminists for Life”) is also against birth control. Therefore, the only reasonable opinion is pro-choice.”

    That’s what a lot of the comments on here sound like. But how is this logical? Even if it were true that “every pro-lifer wants to make birth control illegal too” (ludicrously untrue) why would that necessitate that they’re wrong about abortion?

    I’m getting tired of stupid labels. I don’t always know whether to call myself pro-life or pro-choice (how I would vote on a specific abortion issue can be a matter of principle vs. practice).

    But I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I’m a feminist. And I’m almost always appalled at pro-choice rhetoric, whereas I’m only occasionally appalled at pro-life rhetoric. Does that make me pro-life? OK then. I’m a pro-life feminist. (Note: The vast majority of people I associate with are pro-choice, and I otherwise have very little in common with typical pro-lifers.)

    I don’t know a ton about “Feminists for Life”, but I do know that they are hardly a monolithic group of people will all one opinion. Last year I taught a jr. high sex-ed class at my Unitarian Universalist fellowship. I brought in someone from FFL as a guest speaker, and I have to say that she was *excellent*. During that same class I brought in someone who worked at an abortion clinic (pro-choice of course) and also a woman who was a single mom who kept her child (happened to also be pro-choice). The discussion was incredibly civil and enlightening. The FFL woman was concerned about the fact that it’s mostly college women who are getting abortions, when instead they should be getting support for their pregnancy. That shame and stigma were very much alive on campus and that the “acceptable” reaction to unplanned pregnancy was abortion. The single mom talked about the pressure she faced from school counselors to get an abortion or drop out of school (which probably *would* have screwed up her life, since how could she support the kid without a decent job?) The kids got a lot out of it. And it was one of the few worthwhile interchanges I’ve ever heard on the subject.

    I realize that a huge part of the pro-life agenda is “supporting traditional family values” which is code for “reinforcing patriarchy”. I realize that and I hate that, but IMHO, that doesn’t make every single pro-lifer wrong about *everything*.

    I have gotten so much shit for my pro-life tendencies it is unbelievable. I’ve gotten plenty of shit for being a feminist too (sometimes from the *same people*, amazingly!), so I guess I’m used to it. All I ever want is honest discussion. I hate debate. I hate having to “prove I’m right” or others trying to “prove how right” they are. I’m not interested in being right. I’m interested in facing facts and solving problems. There is plenty of denial on both sides of the abortion issue. Also, there are a lot more anti-feminists who call themselves pro-choice than there are pro-lifers who call themselves feminist. I think feminists should be more concerned with the former category. I know I am!

  68. 68
    Hugo says:

    I’ve been doing lots of thinking on this since I posted and began to read the responses.

    I put a big fat mea culpa up at my place just now.

    Barbara — amen.

  69. 69
    Barbara says:

    Barbara,

    All I can say is that for me the obfuscation starts with the moniker “pro-life,” and the varying degrees to which people hide behind that label rather than state their views honestly: Is it “I have a consistent ethic of noninterference with biological processes that hinges on the event of fertilization” — or “I am balancing rights, responsibilities and injuries, and though I give great deference to permitting a fertilized ovum to continue unmolested, I do not hold it to be inviolable in all cases. I draw the line at X based on Y reasons.”

    I happen to believe that most people fall in the latter category, but lack the vocabulary, the courage, or the will to convey a coherent view. So much easier to snuggle in the comforting blanket of a label that conveys only positive feelings, and not bother explaining away the logical inconsistencies of views that, if carrried out, could have dramatically negative consequences for actual people.

    But only so much casuistry can be forgiven on the grounds of political expediency (e.g., I advocate exceptions in the case of rape because otherwise no one would listen to me).

    So I appreciate your frustration, but it does seem to me that as it is the side that calls itself pro-life that seeks to impose a monolithic solution on all, to restrict the liberty of an entire class, that it bears some additional burden of elucidating its logic or lack thereof for all. While the other side may be confused and confusing, its adherents are generally committed to letting each individual work within their own moral framework. Not that we all wouldn’t be better off if everyone spoke plainly.

  70. I’m pro-life and all for birth control of all sorts.

    I’m probably not in the majority of pro-life thinking on that, but I think I represent a fairly large contingent.

  71. 71
    Linnet says:

    I don’t think there’s anything inherently non- or un-feminist about choosing to have a vasectomy.

    No. But Hugo is limiting his birth control options to things he either controls or must participate in, as lucia noted.

    funnie: WORD. I love it how vasectomies, which might prevent abortions, are “private”. If the government has the right to control a woman’s reproductive system to prevent abortions, then it sure as hell has the right to control a man’s! So if you’re pro-life, then vasectomies are no longer a private matter but ought to be imposed in some fashion by the government, because the government (according to you) can violate bodily integrity to protect fetal life. Otherwise you’re being inconsistent.

  72. 72
    alsis38 says:

    I’m pro-life and all for birth control of all sorts.

    I’m probably not in the majority of pro-life thinking on that, but I think I represent a fairly large contingent.

    You’re not doing much of a job of making yourself heard to the people heading up your movement, Sebastian. Maybe you should try it and see how far it gets you. Better yet, maybe you should withdraw your funding and support from the Pro-Life movement and start again from scratch. Create a movement that really represents your POV, instead of settling for the woman-hating, bait-and-switch nonsense espoused at the national level.

  73. 73
    jstevenson says:

    “If the government has the right to control a woman’s reproductive system to prevent abortions, then it sure as hell has the right to control a man’s!”

    The government does not have the right to control a woman’s reproductive system. Propaganda! See Casey v. PP-PA case. The Court in that case made it clear that whether a woman gets pregnant is a private issue and should not be inpinged upon by the government. That is equal to a man’s private right not to get a woman pregnant.

    I don’t think it is intellectually correct to equate everyone’s equal right to preganancy prevention with a woman’s option to determine whether or not her and her sexual partner will have a baby.

    In the former, only the individual is measurably affected by his or her choice (if their partner does not like it they can choose not to participate in sexual intercourse). In the latter, several people AND society as a whole are measurably affected by the woman’s decision. I believe that is ok for a woman to make a unilateral decision that will have measurable affects on people other than herself, but that is not equal to having a vasectomy.

  74. 74
    she who walks among the rows says:

    “The government does not have the right to control a woman’s reproductive system.”

    What kind of world do you live in? The government controls women’s reproductive capabilities and their families in many ways not easily understood by the prochoice movement(assuming it cared; it doesn’t) and in many ways not even mentioned here.

    Most prolife feminists I know, (and I do know quite a few) hate abortion and what it does to them and women in their communities or they opppose it for religious reasons(i.e. Catholic). It doesn’t mean they necessarily want it banned or made illegal. It’s just a painful thing for them. These women are often treated by the ‘prochoice’ movement as adversaries but they’re really not.

    Whether vasectomies are public or private depends on who you are. Not all men are treated the same by this society. There is a history of coerced or involuntary vasectomies in this country and others just as there is a history of coerced or involuntary sterilization of women, though the number of men in this category is probably less.

  75. 75
    Amanda says:

    Unmarried women are subject to more preachy carrying on about their sex life not because they are a bigger drag on society, but because, in a conservative viewpoint, they are women that are dangerously out of male control.

  76. 76
    Ampersand says:

    She Who Walks wrote: Most prolife feminists I know, (and I do know quite a few) hate abortion and what it does to them and women in their communities or they opppose it for religious reasons(i.e. Catholic). It doesn’t mean they necessarily want it banned or made illegal.

    I disagree that someone who doesn’t “Want [abortion] banned or made illegal” is pro-life. I know tons of pro-choicers who are personally opposed to abortion, think it’s wrong, and would never have an abortion themselves.

    What defines pro-life, in my opinion, is that someone who is pro-life advocates using the law to ban abortion. Someone who thinks abortion is wrong but nonetheless thinks that it should be up to the woman to decide, not the government, is pro-choice.

  77. 77
    she who walks among the rows says:

    “It’s a crock, not worth my time, and frankly serves as an excellent example of why men’s self-definition on feminist scales is ultimately of no consequence.”

    It must be really nice to be among the few women in this country who are able to say this and have it be reflective of the state of their own lives. Unfortunately this is not true for most women.

  78. 78
    she who walks among the rows says:

    “What defines pro-life, in my opinion, is that someone who is pro-life advocates using the law to ban abortion. Someone who thinks abortion is wrong but nonetheless thinks that it should be up to the woman to decide, not the government, is pro-choice.”

    A true pro-life person is one who values all life. They would also oppose the death penalty and euthanasia, and food, shelter and medical care for all people, including men, women, and children. The pro-life movement co-opted this term to make themselves sound like the opposite of what they really stand for and to then have any of their opponents representing views in support of death, murder, and so forth. But that movement is pro capital punishment and supported welfare reform legislation which harmed many women, men, and children. The proper term for those who want to make abortion illegal is antiabortion.

    That is one opinion of the definition of prochoice. Would you believe that there are opinions much broader than those described on this topic? Opinions which include areas of life for women far outside the scope of either abortion or male sterilization? Probably not.

  79. 79
    she who walks among the rows says:

    I mean to say in the previous post that a true pro-life person SUPPORTS food, shelter, medical care for all people.

  80. 80
    Amy S. says:

    They would also oppose the death penalty and euthanasia

    Not to mention war.

  81. 81
    she who walks among the rows says:

    “They would also oppose the death penalty and euthanasia”