Oxford Students for Life

Promoting a culture of life in the University and beyond

Month: February, 2015

An easy way to help save unborn girls

If you only write to your MP once before the election, then the best time to do it might be in the next nine days. On Monday 23rd February, an amendment is being proposed to the Serious Crime Bill which would confirm the illegality of sex-selective abortion and prompt the government to combat the practice. There has been widespread public revulsion at the discrimination against unborn girls, and the amendment has a good chance of passing. Lots more useful background at stopgendercide.org, plus a form which makes emailing your MP childishly easy. This close to an election, they’ll be interested in your opinion.


Feminism, the Pro-Life Movement, and Justice

If I could guess the one thing that all women who are actively pro-life have in common, it’s probably that at one time or another, someone has asked us (in so many words); “How can you be a woman and be against abortion? That’s so anti-feminist!” The question can be asked with anything from timid confusion to outraged disbelief, but however it’s asked, it points to a very real issue.

The truth is, it’s not immediately clear how, in 2015, one could identify both as a feminist and as pro-life. The dominant feminist narrative of our age often emphasizes the right to abortion as one of its essential tenets. Many women agree with this, but many women don’t, and have found themselves bizarrely at odds with a movement that is supposed to work for their benefit. But as defenders of feminism have pointed out, being a feminist simply means believing that all people, regardless of gender, are of equal worth and deserve equal protection and rights under the law. And believe it or not, this also happens to be the fundamental principle of the pro-life movement. Those who are pro-life reject human rights violations such as abortion on the grounds of the essential equality in dignity of all human beings, born and pre-born. So while the pro-life position may clash with a few of the specific policy goals of modern feminism, it concords with the true spirit of feminism in a way that those policy goals blatantly do not.

A criticism hurled at many pro-life women is that, in opposing abortion, they are “judging” other women, while a true feminist would support whatever choices women make. This simply isn’t true. There’s a vast gulf between respecting another person and sanctioning any action they may take. Judging an action is not the same as judging a person. Being supportive of other people doesn’t mean approving of destructive choices; on the contrary, being supportive of others means wanting and working towards their good.

The major injustice that legal abortion supposedly resolves is sexual inequality between men and women. Men are literally able to walk away from unwanted parenthood in a way that women are not; hence the promotion of abortion as a way of levelling the playing field. The trouble is that abortion may achieve equality on a crude practical level, but it does so by perpetuating injustice on a much deeper one. Neither men nor women should be able to walk away from their children, whether or not those children are planned and wanted. Pro-life feminism takes the positive approach of insisting that both women and men take responsibility for their children, and seeks to build a culture in which women who are abandoned by their partners are supported in choosing justice even when their partner doesn’t.

Feminism is meant to empower women in societies in which men have historically been the wielders of power. The brand of feminism that defends abortion continues the institutional abuse of the weak by the strong, and in doing so, contradicts the fundamental principles of feminism itself. There’s some truth in the argument that one cannot be both pro-life and feminist in the modern world. But this is only true inasmuch as contemporary feminism has erred. In the interest of advancing women’s rights to create a just society – a worthy and incredibly important aim – we’ve forgotten that a just society is impossible if any person’s rights can be violated by another person at will. It’s deeply wrong that men’s interests should be realized at the expense of women’s rights, and it’s even more wrong that adults’ interests should be realized at the expense of children’s lives. Pro-life feminism demands higher standards for society’s treatment of all people. Women deserve better than abortion as a response to gender inequality; as feminists of all stripes have pointed out, no man will ever have to worry about needing to have an abortion. No woman should ever have to, either.


Pro-Life Feminism: last night’s discussion in quotes and photos







Emily Watson

Emily W

“I was spending time in Rwanda for work recently. They seemed to value something that we have forgotten: life, even life far more difficult than our own; and they really value children.”

“As science advances, it is becoming more and more difficult to dismiss the unborn as just a clump of cells.”


Panel laughter







Maryssa Gabriel

Panel Mer

“Abortion is a defective product. It’s mis-sold to women.”

“The message being sent to women is that women aren’t good enough… If you get pregnant at the wrong time, that’s not good enough.”


Isabel Errington

Panel Isabel

Every Child Matters – that’s the title of a very important document about safeguarding children that every teacher is familiar with. And yet tragically the same is not being said for children in the womb.”

“For any woman who feels unable to carry a pregnancy to term, the first question we should ask is ‘Why?’, and then we should start addressing her answers… Women deserve long-term solutions rather than the quick-fix of abortion.”


Panel serious







Aurora Griffin

Panel Aurora

“Of women are to compete with men in the current marketplace, pregnancy is perhaps their greatest obstacle. Our society and corporations are designed for bodies that can’t get pregnant.”

“It is not empowering to be told that one of your greatest strengths is a weakness. It is not empowering to be told that you have to walk away from your gravest responsibilities to achieve your dreams.”


Raheal Gabrasadig


“Women can feel pressurised into having an abortion… A woman confided in me and said, “I didn’t want to do this. I was worried my boyfriend would leave me.” I wonder whether we in the medical profession are doing enough to help women.”

‘Many abortions are for ‘social reasons’: there are social answers to those questions.”

Panel flowers

First Person: I’m pro-life for the same reason I’m a feminist

DelapOur 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’.

Pro-Life Feminism Week starts here – with a song!

We’re devoting this week to a special focus on pro-life feminism: the centrepiece is Wednesday’s panel discussion. But we’re starting the week with a brand-new song we’re quite excited about, not least because it’s by OSFL Secretary Megan Engel, who’s kindly allowed us to launch it on our YouTube channel. It’s about pro-life feminism, but about a lot of other things, too. Give it a listen:

“So tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
—Mary Oliver

We’ll Give Them Life

I know that you think that I just want to do you wrong
But I am here to say I love you anyway; I’ve written all of us this song

So tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
If we focus on nitrogenation of the soil then we can end the strife
And you don’t you want to let it go?
Generations through all ages to know
you gave them life?

There’s an elemental power coursing through our veins and hearts
beating so incessantly just desperate to be free
I see where all this starts

And I know we’ve been so oppressed before, we’re reeling and we’re sore
But we’ve been lied to, told our bodies are our shackles – cold and iron, we have to gut them; now we’re bleeding on the floor.
And I just want to let it go?
Generations through all ages to know
we gave them life?

We’ve been told there’s nothing wrong with mass destruction
I think instead there’s nothing wrong with our construction
We make life

So tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
If we focus on nitrogenation of the soul then we can end the strife
And you don’t you want to let it go?
Generations through all ages to know
you gave them life?
We’ll give them life.