[personal profile] longhairedweirdo
One of the things I've seen some whining (and to be fair, some reasonable pondering) about is that women who are ardently pro-life aren't being accepted as feminists in the broader movement for women's rights. Isn't that terribly unfair? Well... no.

This gets long, so I'm going to break it into multiple pieces.

First: a key thing to remember is that "pro-life" means something very specific in political circles. It doesn't mean "personally opposed to abortion" and it doesn't mean "wanting to reduce the number of abortions performed" - it means "wanting to make abortion illegal for everyone, except in excruciatingly limited circumstances."

Whether a woman becomes pregnant or not, and whether she must carry the pregnancy to term, are big issues affecting a woman's day to day life; and any pregnancy, even a healthy, minimally-burdensome one, may, in fact, kill a woman. While a great many women, feminist or not, might be personally anti-abortion, to declare that abortion should be made illegal is to set yourself in opposition to a necessary component of women being free and equal. If you oppose women's freedom and equality, then, no, you don't get to call yourself a "feminist" and have that label broadly accepted.

See, this is the major, fundamental point about abortion: Pregnancy is a huge burden, both physical and otherwise. And it carries a significant risk of death. (Significant, in the statistical sense. It's clearly, certainly, not 0 risk.)

Although this wasn't always true, abortion is far, far, far safer than carrying a pregnancy to term and delivering a baby. It wasn't always this way - it used to be pretty risky. This is one of the reasons why early suffragists and other women's rights supporters might have opposed it - they didn't want women to risk being harmed or killed if a husband didn't want to support another child. Some surely had other reasons - Catholics have always opposed abortion, for example, and it's hardly a nice, happy-making topic in the best of times. Just keep in mind that circumstances change - for example, Protestants, including evangelicals, used to preach that abortion was in no way murder, and that this was biblically obvious and absolute truth. Many of them now say the exact opposite (except they still say it's biblically obvious and absolute truth; it's almost like they use the bible to justify their decisions, rather than studying the bible to learn their 'absolute truth').

There's another important issue to consider. "Pro-life" doesn't mean "opposed to abortion" - not in today's politics. Pro-life means trying to make abortion illegal, and to throw whatever barriers one can in the way of legal abortion. There are left-leaning folks who call "pro-life" folks "pro-forced birth" instead, which is fairly accurate, if not very nice.

You can be opposed to abortion - you can be a woman who would never, under any circumstances, have an abortion, and one who would be bitterly disappointed if a friend or family member chose to abort a pregnancy, and still be a feminist. What you can't do is, proclaim you want to take away women's rights, and expose them to civil and criminal charges inconsistent with life in a free society, and nevertheless claim you're in favor of women's rights and equality.

Of course, this idea falls apart if the right to have an abortion isn't a fundamental right. But it is, and that's a subject of my next post.
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