An interesting controversy arose out of the Women’s March activities this past weekend. Maybe you heard?
At least one pro-life women’s groups was ousted from being an official partner because Women’s March leadership felt their position on reproductive rights wasn’t in line with the march mission.
Here’s an article from The Atlantic about pro-lifers marching. It was written prior to the group (from what I’ve read it was New Wave Feminists) being excluded. Here’s an article from Slate that discusses that group’s experience.
To be clear – I do not like the fact that a women’s group was first included and then un-invited from being an official partner of march, but I’m more interested in the big picture questions:
Should a pro-life group be an official partner of this Women’s March?
Can you be pro-life and pro-women?
Some quotes from The Atlantic article to start the convo:
“Students for Life of America has invited hundreds of women to attend on Facebook, proclaiming that ‘“we will not sit by as Planned Parenthood, our nation’s abortion Goliath and a sponsor of this march, betrays women into thinking abortion is their only choice.”’
Does Planned Parenthood suggest that abortion is a woman’s only choice? No. Does the pro-choice movement suggest that abortion is a woman’s only choice? No.
“While the organizers’ general position is that “a woman’s body is a woman’s body is a woman’s body,” she said, “I can’t tell you how many emails I received from women who identify as conservative who are marching with us on January 21 because there are so many other concerns.”
This makes sense. You can be personally conservative and march against all of the issues that frustrate women at this moment in time. But that’s not the same as a pro-life group being an official partner of the march.
“Staunchly pro-choice advocates might argue that there’s no room for anti-abortion views in any women’s movement: “The ability to decide when or whether to have children is key to women’s opportunity to be financially secure and pursue their dreams,” wrote Planned Parenthood’s president, Cecile Richards, in an op-ed for Time in 2015.”
Yes, true, but Cecile leaves out circumstances critical to the abortion conversation: rape victims, incest survivors, women that need to terminate a pregnancy to save their own lives. How does a feminist pro-lifer feel about those women and their rights?
“I know people want to say we don’t exist, or we’re an oxymoron,” Herndon-De La Rosa said. “But we do exist, and we are true feminists. We’re not just pro-lifers who are also feminists. We’re feminists first and foremost.”
But are you?
A feminist is a person that believes men and women should have equal rights and protections under the law. If you believe a pregnant woman is held to a different standard of rights than a woman, I understand this position.
I guess to a pro-life feminist, a pregnancy is almost akin to being a felon. If you are a felon you lose the right to vote – you lose agency over yourself. If you are a pregnant woman you lose agency over your body?
So a pro-life feminist believes the buck stops at abortion. When it comes to abortion they stop advocating for the life of the woman/mother and flip to advocating for the rights of her unborn child?
Even if she was raped? Even in instances of incest? Even if the mother could die should the child be carried to term? Even if the child will die upon being delivered?
This is the problem with a political stance on a nuanced, personal issue. A person may identify as feminist who happens to be pro-life – and that is a beautiful thing. Feminism is about personal choice and personal power. Feminism supports women that do not personally want to have an abortion. But politically, feminism aligns with the pro-choice movement.
Because the key element of the pro-life versus pro-choice movement isn’t the life part, it’s the choice.
I was raised Roman Catholic in a community with many personally conservative women, some of whom are in my own family. Some would not personally have an abortion. It is hard for them to think about a mother terminating a pregnancy. That goes against their Christian beliefs about life and morality. But they know there are many logical, practical, and medical reasons for a woman to have the right to choose abortion and so these women put their personal beliefs aside and favor a political stance that is pro-choice.
They believe it is not their place to make a call on every American woman’s life because of their personal ideology.
That, to me, is true feminism.
But here’s where I keep getting stuck. Why should the women’s movement – one that needs support now more than ever – exclude anyone who supports any elements of the movement?
Because they’re not excluding pro-life women from participation; they’re excluding them from leadership. They’re saying this women’s movement is politically pro-choice.
I’ve been trying to think of it in terms of this comparison.
Imagine we’re talking about the gay rights movement. The movement is advocating for equal treatment and equal rights across the board – personhood, if you will. Now imagine there is an arm of the gay rights movement that believes the gay community should have every single right afforded everyone else except the right to adopt children. Why? Because this arm of the gay rights movement has research that suggests children raised by same sex parents face major issues in life. Yes any child raised by any gay person.
Again, they’re all for everything else: gay marriage, anti-discrimination laws, etc. etc. But the buck stops at gay adoption. Their research suggests it is bad and wrong, no matter what.
Should they be allowed to be an official partner of a gay rights march?
In my opinion, no. The march is about inclusion, no matter what. This group says, right! yes! inclusion…exceeeeept for this one thing based on our personal beliefs.
It’s not a perfect comparison, but I think it draws the right parallel.
If you don’t believe a woman should choose to have an abortion, don’t have an abortion. Tell your daughter she can’t have an abortion. Tell your family members. But a woman and all women is a very big divide.
It seems too hypocritical to me to say we support all women…except the ones that want to terminate their own pregnancies. So I find it ironic that the pro-life movement claims the women’s march is being exclusive when their own position around a woman’s right to her own body is rooted in exclusivity. For them, there is a line in the sand. That line is abortion. For the women’s march that same line applies.
Here is the section from the Women’s March platform that discusses reproductive rights:
There has been a lot of talk about intersectional feminism. This march was organized in the name of intersectional feminism. Here is how that, too, is defined by the leadership:
Telling a woman – any woman – that she cannot have an abortion is not allowing her to be free and able to care for and nurture her family, however it is formed, free from structural impediments, in my opinion and that of the Supreme Court. It is taking your belief about the meaning of life, when it is formed and who should be able to decide its fate and applying it to another woman’s life. And, and most importantly, it is creating political policy based on those personal thoughts.
I believe a person has every right to be pro-life. I believe a government that supports women equally must be pro-choice.
So can you be pro-life and pro-woman? Personally, yes. Politically, no.
And – and here’s the most important part of this conversation – the Women’s March is not a personal movement, it is political.