Feminism includes pro-life beliefs

Ruth Bishop

Last Friday, I attended the UA Feminist Caucus’ rally and was met by a diverse array of students, including many men. This heterogeneous mix of students scattered about the Ferg promenade could be touted as an example of increasing inclusivity and acceptance of the modern-day feminist movement; as a pro-life feminist, however, my views are completely rejected and my presence unwanted. In fact, many feminists, including bell hooks, author of “Feminism is for Everybody,” would go so far as to say that being pro-life is equivalent to being anti-feminist.

“But, but, but…I want equal treatment, education and pay for both men and women!” stammers my inner feminist. “And I stand for the idea that a woman’s worth extends beyond her physical attractiveness or sexuality. Aren’t these part of feminism? Can’t I be a part of this too?”

The answer is a resounding ‘no.’ My ideological disagreement on one point of modern feminism has made me completely ineligible to join, whereas queer and intersectional feminists, who carry with them varied views, have been welcomed into the larger movement with open arms. If feminism means something different for every person, then why is it that my feminist views are of lesser value?

Of course, all the modern feminists out there are chortling at the naivety of my question: “You [pro-life feminists] are unwelcome in the movement because your view infringes upon women’s rights to their own bodies, their bodily autonomy, a right that is, in essence, the very principle on which feminism is founded.”

But our feminist foremothers, Alice Paul, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, among many others, saw abortion as “child murder” (Susan B. Anthony) and as “the ultimate exploitation of women” (Alice Paul). Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote that when we consider that women are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we wish. The first feminists recognized the humanity of pre-born children and did not see the exclusion of their rights as necessary for the advancement of women.

Modern-day feminists can defend bodily autonomy for women all day long, but the reality is that the argument does not make sense and cannot be consistently applied. Does the right to bodily autonomy extend to women who are nine months pregnant? What if they decide as they are giving birth that they changed their mind and no longer wish to be a mother? What about new mothers?

I think most people, including some modern-day feminists, would say ‘no.’ Because the bodily autonomy argument really does not work since no one is truly and completely ‘autonomous.’ It is undeniable that at some point in time, another person has helped us through life, and to say otherwise is foolish.

I also recognize that it would be foolish for us as a society to think that poor pregnant mothers, because they, too, are ‘autonomous,’ do not need help. I would like to see feminists and pro-lifers working together to provide material and emotional support to poor pregnant women and mothers, instead of focusing all their energy on promoting bodily autonomy or illegalizing abortion, respectively.

Modern-day feminists should treat abortion as it is, not an inalienable right that should be celebrated with parades and balloons, but the loss of a developing human’s life. They should treat abortion with some amount of reverence and grief, even if they still believe abortion should be kept legal. And, at the very least, I want to see modern-day feminists honor the first-wave feminist’s beliefs on abortion and truly embrace the ideal that feminism is for everybody—even pro-life feminists.

Ruth Bishop is a senior majoring in biology and Spanish. Her column runs biweekly.