Sure. I’m a feminist for life. I like life. I think mine is important enough to preserve, and I think yours is too. I think we should do all we can to sustain life and to make it as good (or at least as livable) as possible — I support life-affirming things like poverty relief programs, environmentalism, reasonable gun control laws, and universal healthcare. I don’t support things that result in the unnecessary taking of life, like the death penalty and preemptive wars based on untruths. Because I value women’s lives, I believe that everyone deserves access to medical care and family planning tools.
But the anti-choice group Feminists for Life is a different story. On the surface, they’re decent, as far as anti-choice groups can be decent. They promote education and childcare for women with children, and adequate campus housing for students with children. These are good things. But as Katha Pollitt discovers, they aren’t exactly a progressive’s dream (in more ways than being anti-abortion):
The problem is that FFL doesn’t just oppose abortion. FFL wants abortion to be illegal. All abortions, period, including those for rape, incest, health, major fetal defects and, although Foster resisted admitting this, even some abortions most doctors would say were necessary to save the woman’s life. (Although FFL is not a Catholic organization, its rejection of therapeutic abortion follows Catholic doctrine.) FFL wants doctors who perform abortions to be punished, possibly with prison terms.
They also subscribe to the theories that abortion causes breast cancer and birth control pills are “abortifacients” — despite all scientific evidence to the contrary. FFL claims that women choose abortion because of a lack of other options — if they had a better education, or access to childcare, or were making more money, they’d have that baby in a heartbeat and abortion would cease to exist. I agree that it’s tragic that some women do “choose” abortion simply for lack of other choices. I think it’s disgusting that right-wing legislators in states like New Jersey have created laws that limit poor women’s choice to have children — for example, penalizing welfare recipients if they give birth while on state assistance. Make the world a friendlier place for women by truly allowing us the fullest range of choices in all areas of our lives, and you can bet that the abortion rate will drop right along with the unintended pregnancy rate.
But if you don’t give women the opportunity to determine the number and spacing of their children, we aren’t going to be able to achieve things like fair pay, white-collar jobs and higher education on the mass levels that men have been able to. If you don’t believe that women are entitled to control what goes on within their own uteruses, if you don’t trust women to make their own decisions — indeed, if you think that the government should be allowed to legally force women to give birth — then you aren’t a feminist. “Feminists for Life,” aren’t. I’ll let the much more eloquent Katha Pollitt finish it out, but I’m curious if any feminists here think that you can be anti-choice (and I mean broadly anti-choice, in that you think abortion should be illegal, not just anti-abortion on a personal level) and still be a feminist.
Exposing the constraints on women’s choices, however, is only one side of feminism. The other is acknowledging women as moral agents, trusting women to decide what is best for themselves. For FFL there’s only one right decision: Have that baby. And since women’s moral judgment cannot be trusted, abortion must be outlawed, whatever the consequences for women’s lives and health–for rape victims and 12-year-olds and 50-year-olds, women carrying Tay-Sachs fetuses and women at risk of heart attack or stroke, women who have all the children they can handle and women who don’t want children at all. FFL argues that abortion harms women–that’s why it clings to the outdated cancer claims. But it would oppose abortion just as strongly if it prevented breast cancer, filled every woman’s heart with joy, lowered the national deficit and found Jimmy Hoffa. That’s because they aren’t really feminists–a feminist could not force another woman to bear a child, any more than she could turn a pregnant teenager out into a snowstorm. They are fetalists.