The Modern Pro-Life Movement: Is This a New Wave of Feminism?
For the last few decades, questions about reproductive rights have been largely a political issue, with both sides of the aisle working to finagle the discussion to their best interests. It’s a complicated subject, especially considering that men have been making the majority of the decisions regarding women’s reproductive healthcare.
The conversation, however, is changing. With the first female president nearly (hopefully) inaugurated, Elizabeth Warren a powder keg of insight and women in Congress from both parties engaged in best outcomes for all women’s issues, abortion is no longer a question solely for men to decide. Previously, that would have meant a strong pro-choice front, but that assumption might also be changing.
The New Pro-Life — How It’s Different
Unlike arguments of years past, a new slate of women are aiming to take control of the issues, but for them, it isn’t an issue of religion or politics — it’s about the sanctity of life. These women understand that for the last two decades, the pro-life movement has cared about the unborn but given little time to those on death row. Or, even more common, they picket Planned Parenthood but will be staunch pro-death penalty advocates.
From the point of view of the new pro-life movement, it’s a divide that can’t be reconciled.
Such is the issue when politics is driving the conversation, but more and more women have a complicated relationship with abortion politics. Advocate and nun, Sister Joan Chittister, explains that simply because you oppose abortion, it doesn’t necessarily follow that you are pro-life. Having a child born but not nurtured, clothed, educated or fed isn’t pro-life, it’s pro-birth. Her argument is that you can’t oppose taxes for the poor and call yourself pro-life.
Abortion Politics Aren’t Politics
No one wants to talk about abortion as a political issue — for pro-life advocates, it’s about caring for every life, for pro-choice advocates, it’s about freedom. Both arguments transcend politics. The truth is, most women may not be as far apart on this issue as it seems at first glance. Most women who are pro-life would say they oppose abortion — most of the time. In cases of rape, incest or when the mother’s life is at risk, they aren’t as sure.
Nationwide, the numbers are split. Fifty-six percent of adults in the U.S. say abortion should be legal most of the time, whereas 41% say it should be illegal most of the time. But the “most of the time” is the rub — if there are times when abortion would be the right option, isn’t that an argument for choice? If someone truly believes that abortion is murder, then how is there an exception to that?
Can Pro-Life Supporters Be Feminists?
Feminism shouldn’t be relegated or owned by only one political party, but reproductive rights should be a part of the feminist conversation. Just like feminism shouldn’t be solely the space of women, neither should the conversation about abortion. When women’s health care is involved, it involves more than just her — it’s about her body, her partner and their possible offspring. But considering women carry the most burden — from birth to child care — her voice should be given deference.
Whether someone can be a pro-life feminist is a new conversation, but the arguments are the same. Pro-life feminism feels like a new-wave, but that’s likely because the supporters are young. Eventually, without church or politics to hold them to the fire of the pro-life movement, they will find that choice encompasses a path for both beliefs.