abortion & kids

C. G. Estabrook galliher at alexia.lis.uiuc.edu
Mon Nov 1 18:37:00 PST 1999

The article by Katha Pollitt that Doug posted is (at least) formally disturbing: there's a name for an argument that goes, "People who believe X believe Y; we know Y is wrong; therefore X is wrong."

And here's another view; it appeared in the August 1993 issue of the feminist ezine Blue Stocking (but is opposed to that publication's editorial position):

Apologia of a Pro-Life Feminist

Or How to Cause a Controversy by Merely Getting Up in the Morning

by Jenny Westberg

Caryn Brooks put forward an excellent proposal in July's Blue

Stocking: the feminist movement should "accept anyone with two X

chromosomes." YES! Some feminists may see this as a mistake.

Diversity's fine, to a point. But if you open up the doors, won't all

the riffraff want in? As a certified member of the riffraff, I'd like

to speak to that issue. You probably gathered from the title that I'm

a pro-lifer. In fact, I'm a member of Advocates for Life. (Okay, I'm

not really a member; strictly speaking, we have no members. Let's just

say I'm "in concert.") I'm also a feminist.

Many of you would say, "How can you possibly reconcile feminism and

anti-feminism?" Well, I don't see it that way. I simply believe that

both the born and the unborn have rights.

I believe that the unborn person has the right to continue living,

without direct interference, regardless of age, gender, race,

handicap, social class, circumstances of conception, or immediate

level of "wantedness." Furthermore, I do not believe it's necessary to

prove that an unborn child is a person for these protections to be

morally required; the possibility is sufficient. If doctors and

ethicists want to quibble among themselves, fine; but let's have a

moratorium on abortions until the unborn child is proved to be more

expendable than a mink, or a veal calf, or a dog in a hair spray

testing lab, or an old-growth forest.

I'm a feminist because I believe that women are full human beings,

with the right to think, act and achieve to their fullest potential,

without the artificial limitations that society has historically

imposed. I also happen to think that if women had more options, and

more genuine respect, there would be fewer abortions.

Consider these reasons for abortion:

"My husband will leave me if I have the baby." "My boyfriend doesn't

want a kid." "My dad will kick me out of the house." "I'll lose my

job." "I'll have to quit school."

All of these are based on inequality, dependence, and lack of options.

No woman should have to "choose" between abortion and poverty,

abortion and homelessness, abortion and abandonment. No woman would

have to "choose" abortion for rape, because no woman should be raped.

The advent of prenatal testing has brought about new categories of

discrimination-based abortions. It's all very well to insist on

wheelchair accessibility and sign language interpreters at progressive

conferences, but the simultaneous insistence on the right to abort

"defective" persons speaks much more loudly. The birth of a physically

or mentally challenged child is seen as so undesirable that it is used

as a primary defense for the absolute right to post-viability

abortions. To me, it rings hollow to tell differently-abled persons

that we consider them as valuable as ourselves, when it's so glaringly

obvious that we consider their births to have been tragedies.

Abortion-rights advocates stress that the right to abortion must be

absolute, or it is meaningless. A woman's private decision cannot be

questioned or subject to external judgment regarding her reasons for

wanting an abortion. Certainly this is logical, but it is also

unfortunate; it necessarily protects such atrocities as sex-selection

abortion. And which gender do you suppose is more frequently aborted

on this basis? You may choose from (a) females and (b) females.

Various studies have shown an overwhelming preference for firstborn

males among American men and women; likewise, couples are more apt to

feel they need to "complete" or "balance" a family composed of girls

by gender-selecting a boy, than the other way around.

Because I hold the above "anti-choice" ideas, I'm given to understand

that I'm not allowed to be part of the feminist movement. Now, it's

nothing new for me to have my ideas dismissed out of hand, but

generally it's been by smug, patronizing testosterone-drunk MEN! The

feminist establishment's dissent-suppressing attitude is, in my

opinion, wholly patriarchal. The funny thing is that the supposedly

rigid, close-minded conservatives I know behave in a manner that is

often more liberal and tolerant than the party-line feminists.

Although most of my conservative friends disagree with me quite

strongly on women's rights issues, they tolerate a great deal more

debate than most feminists.

The sort of pro-censorship feminism I'm talking about is exemplified

by this statement from Robin Morgan: "The New Ms. Magazine will

unfailingly treat a woman's right to an abortion as sacrosanct. There

will be no dissent on that in our pages."

"There will be no dissent"--! What is she so scared of? It happens

that I agree with the National Organization for Women on several

issues. Yet I'm not allowed to work with NOW on any issue, because I

disagree with the party line on abortion.

This bothers me because I feel so strongly that gender-based

discrimination MUST be opposed. Most of my conservative friends, of

course, feel the feminist movement MUST be opposed. I'm not able to do

a whole lot about women's rights except within the feminist movement.

Perhaps my memory is faulty, but it seems to be that the feminist

movement began as a much more inclusive entity, reaching out to

Amazons and beauty queens, housewives and executives, liberals,

conservatives, and anarchists. All you needed to be part of the

movement, as I recall, were those two X chromosomes.

But at some point, apparently, the feminist establishment determined

that they needed a great deal fewer adherents, and began

systematically excommunicating one another for violating a standard of

Total Philosophical Purity.

Excluded (or highly suspect) groups include: pro-lifers; Republicans;

Libertarians; conservative Democrats; members of most organized

religions; stay-at-home mothers/wives; and anyone who dissents from

whatever unwritten agenda is currently in force. That's an awful lot

of people. Right now there's a big debate between the

pornography-is-exploitation feminists and pornography-is-sexuality

feminists. Given the current exclusionary policies of the feminist

movement, it seems inevitable that whichever group prevails will expel

the other group in its entirety. Is this any way for a movement to


There are many women out there who are dedicated anti-feminist

activists, such as the members of Concerned Women for America and

Eagle Forum. These women are articulate and talented. Many of them

work outside the home in low-paying jobs with little potential for

advancement. Many others do piecework or child care, at home, for

slave wages. On top of their paid employment and their hours of

activism, they are expected to take care of the housework and most of

the parenting, and take care of the emotional needs of their allegedly

fully-grown husbands.

These women are oppressed and they know it. They want to do something

about their situation. Why are they working against feminism? For one

thing, the feminist movement wants no part of them. They're

conservative: they're an anathema. Feminist's message to conservative

women is "We don't want you. We don't care about you." When a Beverly

LaHaye or Phyllis Schlafly comes along and tells them that feminism is

the enemy, it tends to ring true.

If NOW and the rest of the feminist establishment allowed more women's

voices to be heard (even if the current feminist agenda remained

entirely unchanged), the feminist movement might well pick up quite a

few of these hardworking activists. LaHaye's group has 150,000

dues-paying members, and a mailing list of half a million. If the

feminist movement could attract some of these women away from LaHaye's

camp, it might result in the kind of NOW enrollment that would really

strike fear into the heart of the patriarchy. Apparently NOW is in

denial about all this. One of their ads reads: "We don't expect every

woman in America to join NOW, just the 100 million who are

discriminated against." Oh, really? Does NOW expect me to join? HA!

They wouldn't touch my membership with a 10-foot coat hanger. Just who

are we fighting?

I'm tired of the pervasive attitude that says "sit down and shut up."

I'm sick of people telling me not to think for myself. ("We'll tell

you what to think!")

I don't like it from the Right, and I don't like it from the Left. At

least the Right is honest about it! The fundamentalists come right out

and say that men have a God-given position of authority over women;

that the husband is ordained to be the head of the household; that a

woman's primary role is that of mother and nurturer; that a "good

woman" is submissive, gentle and silent.

The Left, on the other hand, tells women to speak out -- and then

refuses to listen.

I like women and I respect women's ideas. When I read Blue Stocking, I

read it carefully and thoughtfully. I certainly don't agree with

everything -- far from it -- but I am often moved, challenged,

inspired. What I don't agree with, I try to respect: and I will defend

to the death your right to say it.

I submit that we can work together, in an inclusive women's movement

that's mature enough to tolerate more than one set of opinions.

Eleanor Smeal has said that if women ever got together, at the same

hour on the same day, we'd go over the top. Sisters don't always agree

on everything, but sisterhood is still powerful. Let's do it.

Blue Stocking

PO Box 6706

Portland, Oregon USA 97228-6706

Email: bluesock at teleport.com


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