Oxford Students for Life

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Tag: pro-life feminism

Five things we learned from Fiona Bruce on sex-selective abortion

To conclude our Pro-life Feminism fortnight, last Friday, we had the pleasure of hosting Fiona Bruce, MP for Congleton in Cheshire, to hear about the huge impact sex-selective abortion still has in the UK as well as how ability-selective abortion laws promote extreme inequality. She told us about her attempt to clarify the 1967 Abortion Act, in order to raise awareness and prevent sex-selective abortion from continuing in the UK.

This is an issue which OSFL has discussed previously, and which has been making the headlines again in the last few weeks, and is always pertinent to the pro-life debate. For those of you who missed Fiona Bruce, here are five key points to take away from her talk regarding sex-selective and ability-selective abortion and the law:

fiona-bruce

It is very difficult for MPs to bring forward a matter they feel needs changing in the law.

Fiona explained that the main way MPs are able to bring an important issue concerning the law to the attention of parliament is to apply for a 10 minute rule bill, a type of private members bill. This is a chance to bring forward a bill to change or clarify the law by giving a ten-minute talk in the House of Commons on a Friday; around 20 bills for every 400 applications will be selected at random. The bill gives MPs a chance to raise awareness in the House and ask others for support, but does not itself actually lead to a change in the law. Fiona herself put forward a private members bill highlighting the ambiguity in the law regarding sex-selective abortion, and her arguments were so convincing that the bill won 181 votes to 1. Following from this, Fiona proposed an amendment to the Serious Crime Bill which read: ‘Nothing in section 1 of the Abortion Act 1967 is to be interpreted as allowing a pregnancy to be terminated on the grounds of the sex of the unborn child’. However, this was rejected in parliament. More information can be found here.

 

The 1967 Abortion Act is unclear on the matter of sex-selective abortion

The act does not mention the matter; this has led to some abortion providers such as BPAS stating that it is not illegal practice because the law is ‘silent’ on the matter. This is simply not true. The 1967 Abortion Act simply allows exceptions to legalise abortion under certain conditions. Sex-selective abortion is not one of these exceptions and therefore it is illegal.  Currently, the British Medical Association condones sex-selective abortion in cases where the sex of the foetus may have an impact on the state of the mother’s mental health; this feeds into the explicit element of the law concerning abortion on grounds of danger to the health of the mother. However, Fiona noted that the sex of the child in itself is not where the threat of danger to a mother’s health comes in – it is rather the abuse that she may suffer as a result of the sex of her child which is where the danger lies, and this is what we ought to be trying to change. Fiona stressed these women need help and support as a long-term solution to this problem.

 

Sex-selective abortion really does happen in the UK

Fiona told us two anecdotes regarding cases of sex-selective abortion in the UK; one involved a mother whose two eldest children were girls – as the eldest of six girls herself, remembering the upset and anger her parents went through every time they came home with another girl, she faced similar emotions and stress during her own pregnancy. She decided to abort her third child after she found out it was a girl to avoid bringing further dishonour to her family. The second involved a woman whose husband began to physically abuse her and eventually request a divorce after discovering that their unborn child was a girl. The issue with sex-selective abortion being under-recognised in the UK arises from women facing abuse and having to give alternative reasons for the abortion of their unborn child. It is important to stress that sex-selective abortion is not just practised within certain communities, either. ‘Family balancing’ has entered our terminology, for example. We have to tackle sex-selective abortion not simply on a legal level, but by recognising the root causes which lie in the devaluing of female foetuses, domestic abuse and misogyny: problems which are still present, if brushed under the carpet, in the UK.

 

There is currently a movement to change the law regarding abortion and disability

Although Fiona’s amendment to the Serious Crime Bill was rejected in the end this time round, there is now a new motion to change the law surrounding abortion and disability. Lord Shinkwin has introduced the Abortion (Disability Equality) Bill. At the moment, abortion is allowed up to birth for ‘serious disability’, however conditions such as club foot and cleft lip and palate, which are treatable conditions are included. The arguments involve the thoughts that the law promotes inequality and discrimination against disabled people, and is out of date since it does not recognise the essential contribution that people with a disability bring to the community. As society promotes equality for all, the abortion laws seem to contradict this. Support is coalescing around this movement at the moment, offering hope for the future. You can support and follow the Bill here.

 

Under UK law, medical practitioners have the right to not participate in abortion

The Abortion Act of 1967 states that no person must be made to participate in carrying out an abortion if they have a conscientious objection to the procedure, yet there is pressure on doctors and nurses today to overlook this, regardless of their beliefs. Fiona argues that we should discourage discrimination against those who wish to opt out from such procedures, and that more should be done to raise awareness that this is a right that people have.

Sex-selective abortion is an issue which is unlikely to disappear as long as our culture fails to truly value women, and it is indicative of the way in which abortion is intrinsically linked to the oppression of the vulnerable: its victims are all too often women, or the disabled.

feminism-fortnight

Pro-life Feminism Fortnight was a great success: we have raised awareness of the intersection between the pro-life movement and feminism, hopefully demonstrating not only that it is possible, but that it is imperative to be both pro-life and feminist, and have raised money to support two at-risk babies for a month through ‘Women’s Right’s without Frontiers’, who oppose forced abortion, gendercide, poverty and other abuses of women in China. Next week we turn our attention to Assisted Suicide and will be hearing Peter D. Williams, Chief Executive of Right to Life, on the question of ‘What happens next after the defeat of the Marris Bill?’ Do join us on Tuesday 22nd November at 7pm in Harris Manchester for what promises to be a fascinating look at the future ahead.

Danielle Green is in her Second Year at St John’s studying French and Philosophy.

New Wave Feminists: 5 things we learned

As part of OSFL’s Pro-life Feminism Fortnight, we had the pleasure of hosting Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa and Kristen Hatten, the New Wave Feminists, via Skype last night. They describe themselves as ‘Badass. Pro-life. Feminists’ and that is exactly what we got. Destiny and Kristen demonstrated cogently and rationally, but with humour, the way in which our culture systematically commodifies women and sex, and the part abortion plays in a patriarchal system which makes women into objects and enables men to profit. Citing Alice Paul, the American suffragist and early feminist who said ‘Abortion is the ultimate exploitation of women’, Destiny eloquently made the case for being both pro-life and feminist. Their talk was filled with brilliant arguments and lots of helpful tips about how to put those arguments forward, but here are just five things to take away from the talk.

nwf-talk-2

 

  1. ‘Ye Olde Patriarchy’ has been defeated; it is against ‘The New Patriarchy’ that we must now fight.

Bringing down the patriarchy and its exploitation of women is crucial, but most feminists are fighting the wrong battle. ‘Ye Olde Patriarchy’, the system under which man marries woman, woman produces children, children provide free labour, and marriage and children are both profitable and sustainable, is dead. Feminism has already won that battle, but the war continues with the battle against what the New Wave Feminists term ‘The New Patriarchy’. If anything, this patriarchy is more insidious and many women have been raised to be unconsciously complicit. Another term for this patriarchy, according to Destiny, is ‘Douchebag Utopia’: this is the culture of Cosmopolitan, which tells women how to look and gives them page after page of sex tips; the culture in which ‘fauxminists’ see porn and sex work as empowering women; the ‘Kulture’ in which Kim Kardashian feels the need to post naked selfies whilst pregnant to show she has value and is still relevant. Under the tyranny of ‘The New Patriarchy’, sex is a commodity, making women a commodity. Marriage and children are now expensive, so we have turned to hook-up culture, birth control and abortion, which enables men to commodify sex without the financial liability of children. And it is women’s bodies that pay the price. This is the patriarchy feminists should be fighting. And this is the patriarchy that we as pro-lifers must be fighting.

the-problem-with-feminism

Image courtesy of the New Wave Feminists

  1. The three groups who benefit most from abortion are not women, but men.

Destiny outlined the three groups who benefit most from abortion, and all of them are patriarchal.

  1. Men who exploit women, using them for sex, and then use their credit cards to deal with the unintended, but natural consequence, by sending women to abortion clinics and hence abdicating responsibility.
  2. Governments, which are still predominantly male, who find it easier to subsidise abortion than to pay for eighteen years of child support.
  3. Child predators who groom young girls and procure abortions for them to hide the evidence of their crime. To see how abortion is tragically used to exploit young girls, and the way in which abortion clinics are complicit, have a look at some of the case stories here.
  1. ‘Don’t be nuts’

In their zeal to do good, many pro-lifers seem a little nuts and crazy! And given the media’s hostility towards the pro-life cause, they inevitably pick up on the craziest pro-lifers, rather than putting the spotlight on those who are rational and logical. Kristen said that if we take one thing away from the talk, then it should be this: ‘Don’t be nuts. Be sane’.  Use cogent, intelligent and effective arguments rather than graphic images and condemnation.  And if you can be funny, then be funny. To get a taste of how the New Wave Feminists use humour to aid the pro-life cause, have a look at some of their videos! (Please note that, naturally, some of these videos discuss women’s bodies explicitly, but more importantly, accurately.)

nwf-talk-1

It was wonderful to see so many people last night. Thankfully, we all look quite normal!

  1. Sometimes it’s enough just to be yourself

Going on marches and getting heavily involved in activism is great, but sometimes simply going about your business being quietly pro-life is a better witness as it proves that pro-lifers are regular, ordinary people too, and not the crazies the media would like to present us as (see Point 3…). People will probably eventually realise that you are pro-life and that way you will be able to have important, private conversations while simultaneously demonstrating that you are a normal human being.

  1. The ‘forced pregnancy’ argument can be defeated with both reason and statistics.

One argument with which pro-life feminists are constantly confronted that of how one can call oneself a feminist whilst ‘forcing’ women to carry a pregnancy to term. Destiny punctured this argument persuasively and using logic that many would struggle to combat. First of all, we are all (hopefully!) intelligent human beings! We know where babies come from: babies are a natural consequence of fertility and sex. Surely that shouldn’t be such a surprise to everybody! To talk about ‘forced pregnancy’ in the context of pregnancy as a result of consensual sex is therefore a misnomer. If somebody has chosen to have sex, then they can hardly claim that pregnancy has been forced upon them. They had a choice, and that choice was made when they chose to engage in sex. On the other hand, there are tragic cases of rape, through which women had no choice about becoming pregnant. However, such cases only account for 0.06% to 1% of all abortions in the US, so this argument can only be used in the tiniest proportion of cases and hence one cannot argue that pro-life feminism forces women to be pregnant when in 99% of cases, this flies in the face of logic . This does not, however, diminish the appalling crime of rape nor the suffering that it puts women through and all cases must be treated with the utmost compassion. Yet the radical  bodily autonomy argument, which suggests that all human beings, including foetuses,  possess bodily autonomy right from the moment of conception, still applies even in cases of rape. For a nuanced discussion of the question of rape and abortion, have a look at Kristen’s video here.

nwf

Image via the New Wave Feminists

We learned such a lot from the New Waves Feminists and hopefully this will make us reconsider the way in which we discuss both abortion and feminism whilst also demonstrating the imperative of being pro-life and feminist. If you missed the talk and would like to find out more about the New Wave Feminists’ position, this video offers a great introduction to their ideas on pro-life feminism. You can find their website here, like them on Facebook here, follow them on twitter here, or check out their wonderful blog here.

feminism-fortnight

We hope that you will join us for some more of Pro-life Feminism fortnight. Next Tuesday we will be having our Pro-Life Feminism Fundraiser, venue to be confirmed, and on Friday 4th November Fiona Bruce will be talking at 6pm on sex-selective abortion. To get the latest details, and to see lots of inspiring quotes about Pro-Life Feminism, have a look at OSFL’s Facebook Page.

Preview: New Wave Feminists Skype Talk

Today marks the beginning of Pro-Life Feminism Fortnight! Over the next two weeks we will be exploring the question of whether it is possible to be pro-life and feminist. Spoiler alert, the answer is an unreserved yes!

feminism-fortnight

On Wednesday, OSFL will have the pleasure of hosting the New Wave Feminists. Part of the pro-life generation, they are fully committed to women and fully committed to life, and are eager to reclaim feminism from those who perverted it. They write ‘It’s time for the return of common sense feminism which refuses to exploit women in the name of liberation and create victims while settling for equality. Instead, we will live up to our full potential and demand others rise up to that level as we embrace how strong and bad ass women truly are.’

We had the privilege of hosting Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa and Kristen Hatten last year and these radical, articulate and hilarious feminists demonstrated uncontrovertibly for us the extent to which abortion is just another way in which the patriarchy controls and exploits women. The unborn child is just as much a victim of the patriarchy as women are, but society often fails to realise how abortion harms and takes advantage of women. The New Wave Feminists are part of the changing face of the pro-life movement and belie the false stereotype of pro-lifers as staid, religious, women-hating old conservatives – just wait till you see their hair! To see how young and vibrant the pro-life community can be and bust all these stereotypes have a look at this article from Slate.

skype-talk

Using their own brand of humour and rhetoric, the New Wave Feminists will be speaking to us via Skype and will prove to us not only that one can be feminist and pro-life, but that to be feminist is to be pro-life, and that to be pro-life is pro-women.  Join us this Wednesday at 7pm in the Prestwich Room in St John’s to hear them speak (and bring your friends who believe that to be feminist is to be pro-choice). We promise it will be a wonderful event and are looking forward to seeing you there.

New study shows the most pro-life Britons are…women and young people

A study from ComRes, out just this week, has shown that women are more likely than men to favour restrictions on abortion, and the younger generation are more pro-life than their parents or grandparents.

Asked whether they would like to bring UK law in line with other European countries by halving the upper limit on abortions from 24 weeks to 12, 43% of women said yes, compared with 32% of men.

The age gap is even bigger than the gender gap: on the same question, 48% of 18-25-year-olds said yes, and only 31% of 55-64-year-olds.

Given that Westminster and the media lean pro-choice, and that feminism and ‘abortion rights’ are often conflated (thought not here at OSFL), these figures – which mirror previous studies – are thought-provoking. Maybe it’s because women know more about pregnancy than men; maybe it’s because young people have grown up familiar with ultrasound images. Or maybe it’s because the practice of sex-selective abortion – which three-quarters of respondents said should be declared illegal – has concentrated the public’s mind.

But it is hard to deny, looking at these figures, that the caricature of the pro-life movement as misogynistic and outdated is a fantasy. And given the study’s other finding – that Labour and Lib Dem voters are more pro-life than UKIP or Tory supporters – it suggests that the ‘right-wing’ tag won’t really stick either.

But of course this is about more than the numbers. That’s why we’re holding a debate next Tuesday on the right to choose and the right to life. Male or female, pro-choice or pro-life, please come along!

(On a related point: a very useful new website, WhereDoTheyStand.org.uk, tells you what your local election candidates have said on life issues.)

(Dan Hitchens)

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.

(M.G.)

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

Raheal

“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.