I’m pretty late on getting to this AlterNet article Can You Be a Feminist and Anti-Abortion?, but I just read it and thought it was worth discussion. It’s an interview with Jennifer Baumgardner about her new book Abortion and Life, and includes a decent-sized excerpt from it on this very topic.
I’ll let you read the article yourself, but Baumgardner’s conclusion is a “yes” with a bunch of caveats — and I was happy to see that she didn’t excuse the bullshit pulled by some of those groups out there which claim to be made up of “pro-life feminists,” but aren’t feminist at all.
Do I think that one can oppose abortion and be a feminist? Yes. But read that carefully: I said that I think one can oppose abortion. I don’t think that one can oppose abortion rights. You see, without abortion rights, women die. There is a more complex argument to it, but I think that much suffices: outlaw abortion, lots of women die, or are injured, by illegal and unsafe abortions. Thus, outlawing abortion by definition cannot be pro-woman.
But I do in fact respect a person who says that they themselves could never have an abortion, or that they believe a fetus/embryo to be a person, but yet do not want to make that choice for other women, and do not want to see other women be harmed as a result of that choice. I respect them — and their feminism — so long as they support efforts to prevent abortion by preventing unplanned pregnancies, and so long as they support efforts which make it easier for women to continue their pregnancies in ways that are non-manipulative.
One does not have to believe, as I do, that having an early abortion is morally neutral, or be willing, as I would be, to have an abortion at the drop of a hat should they find out they were pregnant. One doesn’t have to be willing to choose abortion for themselves or even be morally okay with the idea of abortion in order to be pro-choice — by definition, they simply have to support the right to that choice for each and every woman.
And I’ve always thought, as I’m sure that many of you do, that claiming pro-choicers and feminists think otherwise is generally quite the strawfeminist. I also think that when a feminist/pro-choice person is asked a question about someone who is “pro-life,” their mind tends to jump to your typical anti-choice person who wants to outlaw abortion and does not support real sex ed and pregnancy prevention. And I feel like we’ve had this discussion many times before, but largely because of terminology confusion, it keeps coming up. (In fact, we’ve danced around the subject in comments very, very recently.)
For these reasons, I am a bit queasy over the term “pro-life feminist.” I’m not going to try to bully someone out of using the term, nor do I want to bully them into claiming the title “pro-choice” if they don’t want to, even if that’s what I think they are. But surely there has to be a better alternative descriptor?
So, what do you think, both about the term itself and the significantly more nuanced concept behind it? Play nice as you discuss.