“The feminist case against abortion”?

9 03 2009

There are fliers hanging around campus promoting “The feminist case against abortion” on Tuesday night as presented by the Feminists for Life. Can you be anti-choice and feminist? I don’t think so. I think that you can personally be against abortion (for religious reasons or other reasons) but you can and should be supportive of other women’s reproductive rights and control over their own bodies, and therefore still be a feminist. You can respect someone else’s views and respect their decisions even if you strongly disagree.

Having reproductive rights and control over one’s body are so central to a woman’s autonomy and critical to her full participation in society. So even if abortion is not something you would personally do, it’s important to have that option available for women who choose to get them and to support those who do follow that route.

The rhetoric around abortion rights also gets problematic. Calling someone who opposes abortion rights “pro-life” implicates that the rest of us who do support abortion rights are anti life in general. On the flip side, being called “anti-choice” doesn’t fly too well with opponents of abortion. Unfortunately, just being in favor of or against abortion rights just isn’t catchy enough.

While I don’t think that you can be against abortion rights and feminist, I believe that you can’t just dismiss organizations like Feminists for Life or individuals who share those views because they can be important allies. Feminists for Life supported VAWA: the Violence Against Women Act. At the same time, for an organization that is supposed to be “pro-woman and pro-life” Feminists for Life has not done much to advocate for mothers to demand affordable and quality child care or more equitable access to health care.

This also raises questions around what exactly a feminist is. Of course feminists come in all shapes, sizes and colors. But do we need a standard definition of and platform for feminism? It’s hard to define feminism and it differs from person to person which is part of its beauty, that it can mean so much for and strike a chord with such a varied audience. However the word feminist has also been thrown around a lot by people who call themselves feminists when they are not (like Sarah Palin or Camille Paglia) which is disconcerting.

What are people’s thoughts?



One response

15 03 2009

I like the term “abortion prohibitionist” for people who want abortion to be criminalized. It’s more specific than “anti-choice,” and implicitly refers to Prohibition, one of most well known national experiments in denying people something to which they had been accustomed to having access (and that just a substance for pleasure!).

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