Pro-life Feminism: An ideological contradiction, or a logical conclusion?
By Nicole Lau
Often times when I tell people about my pro-life position I am accused of being anti-woman. The idea of being pro-life is polarised in debate against the concept of feminism and women’s rights. And just what is it about the pro-life position that makes its supporters anti-woman? After all, the pro-life movement is founded upon women! What would my detractors say to that? Could it be possible to reconcile both regard for foetal rights and women’s rights? Is it necessary for women’s rights to supersede that of the unborn child in order to be sympathetic and compassionate to women?
The earliest feminists, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady-Stanton, (co-founders of the National American Women’s Suffrage Association), Mary Wollstonecraft (author of the Vindication of the Rights of Women), were pro-life. These central figures of the women’s rights movement spoke out against the use of abortion, which they saw in practice facilitate the sexual exploitation of women in society.
Being Pro-Life is to believe that all human beings have a right to life, and each has intrinsic human dignity. Their right to life is more important than a woman’s right to autonomy of her body. But many cannot see that the right to life of very young human beings, whom we do not know, outweighs the “freedom of choice” of women whom we do know.
Yet the question that really remains is what are we asking women to choose? In choosing abortion, a woman is really choosing to impinge on the human right to live for the sake of secondary rights. That is why the early feminists opposed abortion. Abortion was against women’s values because it meant that women, advocates of the weak, unnaturally compromised the rights of the weakest in society for their own benefit. The early feminists believed women deserved rights, but not at the expense of the rights of children. The aim was not to take rights from others, but to form rights of their own, in addition to the rights of others.
Lastly, abortion advocates need to face up to that fact that among their pantheon of heroes are actually exhibiting very anti-woman characteristics. Margaret Sanger, leading abortions-right activist, championed the “right” of abortion for the specific purpose of perpetuating the practice of eugenics. Using abortion enabled the society to select who did and did not deserve the right to life. Those deemed weak, inferior were denied that right.
Today, the full fruit of Sanger’s legacy is being realized in the practice of sex-selective abortion, as China and India face a severely unbalanced ratio of males to females. Feminists should have moral difficulties supporting a practice that is effectively killing the women they claim to defend. It is overwhelmingly clear, particularly in this situation, that abortion hurts and demeans women. As Elizabeth Cady-Stanton says, “When you consider that women have been treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit.”