No, you can’t be a pro-life feminist: It’s a betrayal of women

By Joyce Arthur | 31 January 2017

Those who want to ban abortion but call themselves ‘pro-life feminists’ are not feminists. They are just dressing up anti-choice views in the language of feminism to gain respect and credibility. Their co-opting of the word “feminist” to smuggle in patriarchal views is actually a tribute to the power and popularity of the women’s rights movement.

Feminism says that women are free and autonomous human beings with their own inherent dignity and right to life and liberty, just like men. If women’s value is mainly defined by their childbearing capacity, they become an instrument of their biology. That violates the fundamental Kantian ethic of humanity being an end unto itself, rather than a means to an end. Further, what sets humanity apart from animals is our ability to control our environment and direct our lives. Human civilization has accomplished an amazing feat in just the last 70 years—we’ve learned how to separate sex from reproduction, safely and reliably. Denying the benefits of this modern advance to women is cruel and misogynist.

The concern for fetuses is really a mask for distrust of women’s moral authority and decision-making ability. Women cannot achieve equality by trying to compel them to carry every pregnancy to term regardless of their own needs or wishes. Women will make their own decisions regardless of the dictates of anti-choice people, since we know that laws against abortion do not stop the practice. In fact, abortion tends to be most common in countries that ban it, likely because of lack of contraception and higher unintended pregnancy rates. Every year, 22,000 women die and millions are injured from unsafe, clandestine abortion. All of this death and suffering is completely preventable by decriminalizing abortion and making it safe and accessible. Banning abortion and then turning a blind eye to the horrific cost paid by women is not only not feminist, it’s a betrayal of women.

Reprinted with permission from the author.

Joyce Arthur is the founder and Executive Director of Canada’s national pro-choice group, the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC). Before founding ARCC in 2005, she ran the Pro-Choice Action Network in British Columbia for 10 years and edited the national newsletter Pro-Choice Press, which she began in 1995. Arthur has written hundreds of articles on abortion and other political and social justice issues. As a media spokesperson and international speaker, she has spoken at dozens of venues in Canada and internationally, given hundreds of media interviews, and appeared in several documentaries.

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