Our guest blogger is Sarah Delap, a modern languages graduate from Durham currently working as a Fundraising and Communications Officer for the pro-life charity LIFE.
Do women’s rights and abortion have to go hand in hand? Of course not.
Feminism exists to promote the equality of the sexes: to advocate for equal economic, political, social and cultural rights for women. This can include having access to the same work opportunities as men (with the same wage prospects), having our opinions and thoughts respected, to ultimately be seen as individuals whose worth is not connected to our reproductive organs.
I couldn’t agree more with these aims. As a woman I believe that I deserve to have access to the same opportunities as my male counterparts. In essence: I am a feminist.
But where does abortion come into this? As well as being a feminist, I also hold strong pro-life values. Not because I’m religious (I’m not) but because I believe that a human life comes into existence the second that a sperm swims merrily into an egg and changes its make-up forever. Science is on my side here too – it is widely agreed that life begins at fertilisation; the crux of the abortion debate centres around when that life becomes valuable.
As a woman, the same principle could be applied to my value in the eyes of a patriarchal society. When do I become valuable to society? When I satisfy a man’s needs? When I conform to the stereotype of female attractiveness? When I put a home-cooked meal on the table when my husband walks through the door after a long day at the office with his male chums?
How ridiculous. I am a female human being, who should carry the same value and be awarded the same rights as a male. These points have been made for decades, achieving women’s equality has been recognised as necessary, logical and most importantly, required for an equal society to exist. Gender should not determine whether women and men hold the same value economically, politically and culturally.
It can be argued that the unborn are oppressed by born humans in the same way that females are oppressed by males; the value of the first is determined by the opinions of the second. It is only if individuals meet certain requirements that they are deemed valuable, rather than the group itself being granted this status on the simple grounds that they are human and deserve to be treated in the same way as other humans.
There is an irony, therefore, given that the unborn and women are both oppressed, that it is women’s rights and feminist groups who advocate for increased access to abortion, for the unborn to be oppressed ever further. Feminists are battling oppression with more oppression. The patriarchal society in which we live cannot believe its luck – it can continue to control women’s bodies without doing anything. The feminist movement is doing all the hard work for them under the mantra of “choice”; women can choose to further their career and to access further education – they just can’t choose those things and have children anywhere near as easily as men can. If women do choose a career and children, they don’t ‘have it all’ like they were once promised, they simply end up exhausted from ‘doing it all’. Survey after survey shows that working mothers still do the vast majority of childcare and domestic chores compared to working fathers.
Little wonder then, that women’s fertility is looked on as an inconvenience, something which gets in the way of having consequence-free sex. We seem to overlook the fact that sex is a must if you’re to make a baby, and are shocked when it succeeds – whether that was the original intention or not. Regardless of its “wanted-ness”, we’ve already agreed that the pregnancy is now another human life, so how do we weigh up whose life is worth more? Are not the woman and the life growing inside her two sides of the same coin, which need to be cared for and respected equally, in the same way that born men and women should be viewed and respected as equal?
Whilst I’m certainly not claiming to know exactly how this can be achieved, I strongly believe that the current ‘quick-fix’ solution of abortion is far from the most positive approach – for men, women and children. Women are choosing to abort their pregnancies because it is the only way they see to participate in society on an equal footing with men. But what victory for feminism is this, when this ‘equality’ is built upon the oppression of unborn members of our society? Not only are they stinting the progress of achieving true equality, they are deploying the very techniques which we experience first-hand and deplore.
Have the oppressed become the oppressors? As victims of bullying, are women really ok with becoming bullies themselves? I’d like to think that we are better than that and that’s why I am a pro-life feminist.
A reminder that, as part of our 3rd Week focus on pro-life feminism, we’re hosting a panel discussion tomorrow at Exeter. Please come along!
Previously in this series: Robert Stagg, ‘Why I am a pro-life atheist’.