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On the possibility of pro-life feminism


I’ve been meaning to pull together a post responding to various arguments made by Hugo Schwyzer on the possibility of a left, feminist pro-life political alignment (See hereherehere). Ampersand at Alas, A Blog has rendered any such project on my part redundant with this splendid post. (I can’t seem to get a permalink, so you’ll half to scroll down a bit).

This is clearly a case of “read the whole thing,” but I’ll provide a few highlights:

But (at the risk of losing my civility a tad) I understand why Hugo and other pro-lifers don’t want to talk about the disgusting carnage they’ve caused; there are about 70,000 women who die every year from unsafe abortions, mostly in third-world countries where evangelical Christians have succeeded in banning legal abortions. Not only do pro-lifers not take responsibility for their death toll, they make things worse by slandering organizations that provide non-abortive health care to third world women, such as UNFPA….

The basic fact – the fact that Hugo never addresses directly – is that there is not a single country in the world in which banning abortion has led to a low abortion rate. Logically, there is no compelling reason for someone whose goal is a low abortion rate to support abortion bans, because they simply don’t work. (What does work, judging from those countries that do have low abortion rates, is Belgium-style generous social support combined with widely available birth control).

There is no logical way, given the evidence, that a pro-lifer can claim to support banning abortion because they want the US to have a low abortion rate. The two things are not connected….

If being a feminist pro-lifer means anything, it should mean an eagerness to support both the best interests of women and the best interests of preborns. And, in fact, there’s a practical real-world way of doing that – a more effective method of reducing abortions that doesn’t attempt to punitively control women’s bodies. That’s something pro-life feminists should be eager to support.

I don’t have much to add. I know Hugo doesn’t want to address this issue at this time, but reading his defenses of policies to ban abortion almost always invoke what he calls a “consistent life ethic.” I haven’t seen him define this term, but I infer it signals opposition to Euthanasia, the death penalty, abortion, and (I think) pacifism. Perhaps it also means support for universal health care. But how does this ethic get translated into specific policy positions? Here are two possibilities:

A CLE means supporting policies that actually postpone the death of as many humans as possible as long as feasible, including fetuses.

A CLE means supporting policies that are ideologically pure in their condemnation of ending human life, regardless of their consequences.

I’d like to hope it means the former, but allegiance to positions like abortion bans (and certain strong versions of pacifism) make me suspect it may be closer to the latter.

I’ve got to go now, but I’ll have a few further comments on Hugo’s emphasis on the “hearts and minds” approach later.

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