Two-year-olds, cats, and parasites.

“What on earth does this mean?” you wonder. Well read on.
I find pro-choicers and pro-lifers often talk past each other because they seem to take for granted certain assumptions the other side doesn’t share. In order to improve communication, I sometimes tell pro-choicers that if they want to understand how pro-lifers view abortion, just replace “fetus” with “two-year-old.”
For example, suppose a woman sought an abortion because a pregnancy and child would completely disrupt her education or career. To see this situation from a pro-life perspective, imagine if, instead of having her fetus killed, she was having her two-year-old killed in order to not disrupt her education or career. Sounds horrifying, doesn’t it? Same goes for having her two-year-old killed because she thinks the father is a bad life partner, or because she lost her job and is too broke to raise a toddler, and so on. Many of the reasons women normally cite for having an abortion seem woefully insufficient to justify having a toddler killed. And that’s roughly how pro-lifers see abortion, because most pro-lifers recognize the fetus as a member of the human species differing only in level of development–a difference pro-lifers do not believe is morally significant.
I don’t expect pro-choicers to agree with this illustration. I only point it out to try to give pro-choicers an idea of how pro-lifers view the situation.
But what would be the reverse analogy? How would I likewise explain to pro-lifers how pro-choicers view the fetus?
This is trickier for me because, first of all, I’m not pro-choice, and it’s a lot harder to fairly describe a position you don’t hold or agree with. 
Second, I think the term “pro-choice” covers a wider range of viewpoints than the term “pro-life.” “Pro-life” usually means a person believes most abortions are immoral and should be illegal. “Pro-choice” usually means a person believes abortions should be legal at least some of the time, but beyond that it could mean many different things. For example, different pro-choice people believe abortion is immoral, morally neutral, or even a moral good. Additionally, different pro-choice people believe abortion should only be legal in the first trimester, or only until viability, or all the way up until birth. It seems to me the label “pro-choice” is just a catch all for anyone who doesn’t think abortions should be illegal as a general rule. 
With that in mind, it’s hard to think of a single analogy that would encompass how most pro-choicers view the fetus.
Some people consider themselves “personally pro-life,” meaning they personally would not choose abortion, but they believe the choice should be up to each individual woman. I don’t think these people would apply the same reasoning if we were talking about two-year-olds; I don’t think they would say they personally wouldn’t kill their two-year-old, but they think that choice should be up to each individual woman. Therefore, I expect the “personally pro-life” crowd does not see the fetus the same way most pro-lifers do–morally equivalent to a two-year-old. At the same time, “personally pro-life” people don’t believe the fetus is morally irrelevant, hence their personal conviction not to abort. 
Therefore, I think perhaps they view the fetus the way some of us view, for example, our pet cat or dog. We may be happy to have our pets around. We may love our pets. We may care for them so much, in fact, that we would spend considerable resources to keep our pets alive and healthy. At the same time we recognize that, for some people, paying, for example, $1,000s in medical bills for a cat or dog just isn’t feasible. For some people, if their pets get seriously ill or injured, it’s really more financially responsible to have the poor animals put down. We personally wouldn’t do this, but we respect that some people choose to. We certainly don’t think putting animals down should be illegal as a general rule. 
Perhaps that’s how some pro-choicers view the fetus: like a beloved kitten–an entity with some moral worth, though certainly not as much moral worth as a human child. (Aside: I realize for vegan pro-lifers this analogy may not work at all, but it’s the best I can think of so far.)
I’ve talked before about how I think “pro-abortion” people are only a subset of pro-choice people, and I want to reiterate it here. At least based on my sample set, most of the pro-choicers I know are either “personally pro-life” or neutral, rather than “pro-abortion.”
However, there are some people quite sure they would choose abortion, and even believe abortion is the morally preferable choice in many situations. I think it’s fair to call people who think abortion is preferable “pro-abortion.” In these cases I don’t have to wonder as much what analogy to use to describe how “pro-aborts” view the fetus, because they’ve stated it explicitly enough. They see the fetus as a parasite, or a cancerous tumor–something foul to be removed as soon as possible. Certainly they don’t assign the fetus any moral worth.
And finally, some people are pro-choice without necessarily being either “personally pro-life” or “pro-abortion.” These people may choose abortion, or not, depending on the circumstances–it’s not out of the question–and they believe abortion should generally be legal. But they don’t necessarily think of abortion as a blessing *or* a curse–they don’t necessarily think abortion (at least earlier term abortion) should have much moral connotation to begin with.  I believe these are the people most likely to describe the fetus as a “clump of cells,” “pregnancy,” or “product of conception.” They think of the fetus not as a moral entity but in a rather vague, abstract way. To them, I think, the fetus has no “self” or “identity” apart from the mother, at least in the early term. I’m not sure which analogy would be appropriate to explain that perspective.

I’d be interested to get feedback from any pro-choicers reading this: what analogy would you use to explain how you view the fetus morally?

Dear Jezebel: Real friends don’t count chromosomes.

According to the Washington Times, there was a couple planning to abort their child diagnosed with Down syndrome. A priest made a deal with the couple–if he could find a good home for the baby before their state’s deadline for late-term abortions, the couple would not abort. The priest’s church reached out through Facebook for interested parties, and was soon inundated with offers to adopt the baby. According to the article:

The president and founder of the International Down Syndrome Coalition, Diane Grover, stressed the importance of informing couples who are considering abortion for babies with Down syndrome that adoption is a viable option, pointing to the fast and overwhelming response her organization received about this one unborn child as an amazing example.

Now this seems like a story everyone can get behind, doesn’t it? A community rallied around a couple and got them the resources they needed in order to no longer desire abortion. Both pro-life and pro-choice people can appreciate one less abortion due to increased support for abortion-minded women and couples. Right?

Well, yes, I think so. In most cases. Just not with Jezebel’s Katie Baker:

…But the woman in this story is still being coerced into carrying to term.

So many mistreated babies and kids with Downs live terrible lives. Instead of throwing resources at a nonviable fetus, why can’t the church help children with Down syndrome that are already alive? Because anti-abortion folks care more about fetuses with fairytale narratives than actual babies.

There’s so much stupid in this quote I need to take it piece by piece.

1. “But the woman in this story is still being coerced…” So offering to help find an adoptive family is coercion now? That’s awkward. Just so I understand: pro-lifers are jerks for not trying to help women get through crisis pregnancies, and pro-lifers are jerks for trying to help women get through crisis pregnancies. Is that right? The only people who truly care about women are those who either stay uninvolved or encourage abortion, yeah?

The woman is not being coerced. The priest offered to find an adoptive family. The woman could have said “No, I’m not interested in doing that” and continued with her plan to abort. She chose to wait and see if the child could be adopted instead. It’s biased to assume (and condescending to insist) that if a woman makes any choice other than to abort, she must not be thinking for herself–that it must be coercion.

2. “So many mistreated babies and kids with Downs live terrible lives.”

2a. The solution to people being mistreated is to fight against the mistreatment, not to kill off the people being mistreated.

2b. So many kids in general live terrible lives. So many people live terrible lives! It’s ridiculous to suggest that you are somehow in the wrong if you try to help some people without managing to help everyone. What an unhelpful, impossible standard.

3. “Instead of throwing resources at a nonviable fetus…” Not that viability is a reasonable measure of “personhood” anyway, but for the record: fetal viability hovers around 24 weeks, and can be even earlier. This fetus may well have been viable at the time the priest entered the picture, and if not, the fetus would be viable very soon thereafter.

First the author tries to undermine this fetus’s life by talking about how terrible life is for people with Down syndrome (I believe families of people with Down syndrome have plenty to say about that), and then she tries to undermine it with the red herring of nonviability. Classy.

4. “…why can’t the church help people with Down syndrome that are already alive?”

4a. “Already alive?” Not to impose science on you, but the fetus is already alive. I thought pro-choicers who denied that the fetus is alive were a thing of the past, but (embarrassingly) apparently not.

4b. As I said, it’s counter-productive to tell people they can’t help anyone unless they’re helping everyone. The only way these suggestions make sense is if you assume fetal life is less worthy of protection or respect than the lives of other human beings which is, of course, a distinctly pro-choice assumption. Way to beg the question.

4c. The church can help born people with Down syndrome. And the church does. Along with helping plenty of other born people, too, by the way. Not to mention all the assistance that pro-lifers of all religious persuasions provide outside of the church, through such organizations as the International Down Syndrome Coalition.

4d. The particular priest in this story, Rev. Thomas Vander Woude, comes from a family marked for their support of people with Down syndrome. Vander Woude’s youngest brother, Joseph, has Down syndrome, and several years ago Vander Woude’s father actually gave his life to save Joseph’s. …I couldn’t make this stuff up.

5. “Because anti-abortion folks care more about fetuses with fairytale narratives than actual babies.” Yeah. I’m sure the families offering to change their entire lives by adopting a child with Down Syndrome are just doing it to keep our fetus fairytales going. I’m sure Vander Woude’s family members, who have raised and supported his brother with Down syndrome, are just perpetuating a decades-long ruse to cover up their fetus-centric mentality. If only we all cared about babies as much as Katie Baker–then instead of seeking (and being) loving families, we could assume these children’s lives will be terrible and kill them off early.

And people say no one is “pro-abortion.”

See the rest of brother and sister Josh and Grace Curley’s sweet message here.

“The Miracle of Abortion”

Remember watching those awkward sex education videos when you were about eleven? Ever have to watch a live birth one?

The satirical online newspaper, The Onion, parodies the adolescent awkwardness of learning about sex with its article “8th-Grade Health Class Squirms Throughout Entire Screening Of ‘Miracle Of Abortion’.” Some excerpts and thoughts:

“During the video’s first 20 minutes, as the patient and various surgical tools were prepped for the procedure, the only noise reportedly made by the students was the sound of anxious fidgeting as they repositioned themselves in their seats. While many grew red in the face and giggled audibly at the first sight of the woman’s genitals, the chuckles are said to have quickly turned into gasps and groans of revulsion as the film approached its climactic scene of embryo evacuation.” 

Abortion rights proponents decry the use of graphic abortion photos as disturbing and irrelevant. As they point out, photos of open heart surgery could likewise look disturbing or disgusting, but that doesn’t necessarily mean open heart surgery is immoral.

But the revulsion we feel when seeing an abortion is fundamentally different
from the squeamishness of watching an open heart surgery; it is
the revulsion of watching a death. Our reaction is not based solely on “grossness” but also on an understanding of the meaning behind the disgust. It’s like the difference between watching a surgeon break a kid’s leg in order to set it so it will grow properly and watching an abusive parent break a kid’s leg. Yeah, they’re both “gross,” but they are entirely different and appropriately elicit different responses. I expect parents would feel very differently about allowing their children to watch one situation versus the other. It’s not about being gross, it’s about being horribly violent.

On the other hand, we do provide people–including our children and teenagers–with specific descriptions, photos, and sometimes video of the reproductive/birthing process. That information can also be disturbing and disgusting to kids, but as they become old enough to be sexually active it’s important they understand how their bodies work and what can happen as a result of their actions. Or, as The Onion puts it…


“Every year, there’s a lot of uneasiness when I show this video,” Flannery said. “I recognize it’s uncomfortable for kids their age to watch, but as they start to become aware of their own sexuality, it’s important they see what actually happens to the female body during abortion.”

Again, The Onion is a satirical newspaper. Still I couldn’t help but think, as I read the above, what a sad thought it is–as if abortion is so inevitable that we need to educate children on exactly how it works. And yet, in reality, is that so far off? Abortion isn’t exactly a rare event. Depending on which organization you look to for estimates, there are between 780,000 to 1,200,000 abortions in the US every year. According to Guttmacher, by age 45 about 1 in 3 American women have had an abortion. As Kathleen Parker of the Washington Post put it:

We have indeed come a long way from Roe v. Wade. In the early days of
legal abortion, nearly everyone insisted the procedure wasn’t intended
as birth control. Millions of abortions later, original intent is
laughable. Even Bill Clinton’s call for abortion to be safe, legal and rare has a fairy tale quality by today’s standards.

(You should read her whole piece, by the way. It was excellent.)

Again, from The Onion:


In both the moments leading up to and immediately following the screening of the film, health teacher Diane Flannery, 53, is said to have reminded the unsettled students that the events depicted on screen were 100 percent real, and simply a natural part of life and sexual behavior.

I don’t know about “natural.” But “common”? Sadly, yes.

Let the bickering begin.

I’m pro-life. I get annoyed when people call me “anti-choice,” because I am not anti-choices in a general way. I am anti the specific choice to have your fetus killed. 
Similarly,
I get annoyed when my fellow pro-lifers call pro-choicers
“pro-abortion.” There’s a difference between thinking a woman should be
able to choose whether or not to have an abortion, and thinking a woman
should get an abortion. Indeed, I have adamantly pro-choice friends who
have discouraged women from getting abortions and helped them find
alternatives. There is a distinction.
In
fact, I’d go further and say there are pro-choice people who are
pro-abortion, pro-choice people who are neither for nor against
abortion, and pro-choice people who are anti-abortion. That last group
are the ones that call themselves “personally pro-life.” They don’t want
to see their views made law, but they do find abortion morally
objectionable. They certainly aren’t “pro-abortion.”
I
apply the term “pro-life” to myself because it’s the most common phrase
used to describe a person who thinks abortion should be far more
legally restricted. I also apply the term “pro-life” in a more holistic
sense: I am not only against abortion, but also the death penalty.
However, I believe war is necessary in some circumstances, I am not a
vegan, and I happily kill mosquitoes. There are many ways in which you
could argue I am not “pro-life” in the most general sense, in which case
it may be more accurate to call me “anti-abortion.”
Bearing all this in mind, I created a Venn diagram to quickly explain how I understand the terms:
 
The circles aren’t meant to convey quantitative proportions, just general subsets.
There are people who are pro-abortion,
and they are a subset of pro-choice people. You can’t be pro-abortion
without being pro-choice, but you can be pro-choice without being
pro-abortion.
There are people who are pro-life in a holistic way,
and they are a subset of anti-abortion people.You can’t be pro-life
without being anti-abortion, but you can be anti-abortion without being
pro-life in a more holistic sense.
There are people who are legally pro-choice but personally anti-abortion, and they are in the crossover part. 
In
the end I think it’s simpler to call people by their self-applied
labels and move on, but for clarity’s sake, the above is how I
understand the actual meanings.

In the womb at a shiny, clean clinic.

In
response to the Gosnell trial, some pro-choicers are claiming this is
what happens when we restrict access to abortion. They say Gosnell
exemplifies exactly why we must fight to protect abortion rights. For
example, here’s NARAL’s statement on the subject:

Kermit
Gosnell’s actions were reprehensible, illegal and reminiscent of
back-alley abortions from the days before Roe v. Wade. The conditions in
Gosnell’s clinic were horrific, demonstrating what can happen to women
when abortion isn’t available through safe and legal providers. This is
why we work every day to protect the constitutional rights of women to
access legal and safe abortion care regardless of income and geography.

Gosnell
was a rogue operator taking advantage of an environment created by the
careless oversight of local and state regulators. He preyed on women who
were financially unable to choose a better option, thanks in part to
Pennsylvania’s repeated efforts to limit access to abortion. When states
go to extreme lengths to restrict abortion, unscrupulous providers like
Gosnell are often a woman’s last resort. 

Gosnell’s
clinic was far below the standard of care. The conditions there remind
us of what women were forced to go through before Roe v. Wade. We can
never go back to those days of back-alley abortion. The best way – the
only true way – and to ensure we don’t is by protecting and
strengthening access for all women to safe and legal abortion care.

Like
so many pro-choice defenses of abortion rights, I can’t help but notice
NARAL’s statements focus solely on the women, completely ignoring the
infants Gosnell and his staff murdered. (I can say “murder” this time
because these babies were outside their mothers’ wombs when they were
killed; there are no inane semantic arguments here about how “murder”
and “abortion” are different because murder is illegal.)

That’s okay, though. Over at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Kyle Wingfield covers the infanticide angle [warning: graphic descriptions]:

   
But pro-choice people are kidding themselves if they believe details of
the way the mothers were treated are the only details from the Gosnell
trial that matter in this debate. Consider these bits of testimony:

  • “I can’t describe it. It sounded like a little alien,” one of
    Gosnell’s employees, Sherry West, said of the screams coming from a baby
    she estimated to be 18 to 24 inches (i.e., the size of a child carried
    to full term) when it was delivered and then killed.
  • “It jumped, the arm,” another employee, Lynda Williams, said of a
    baby whose neck she “snipped” after it was delivered into a toilet.
    Williams testified that Gosnell told her not to worry about the
    “involuntary response” from an “already dead” child. But why would an
    “already dead” child have to have its neck “snipped”?
  • The post-birth abortion procedure was “literally a beheading. It is
    separating the brain from the body,” said Stephen Massof, who previously
    pleaded guilty to third-degree murder in the deaths of two infants at
    Gosnell’s clinic.
  • “I see this big baby boy laying there … He had that color of a baby.
    I didn’t feel as though he had a chance,” testified Adrienne Moton, who
    both worked for Gosnell and had two abortions at his clinic. Moton
    estimated she’d “snipped” the necks of some 10 infants.
  • “They looked just like regular babies,” said Ashley Baldwin, who
    began working at Gosnell’s clinic at the age of 15 and testified she
    witnessed five or more babies move, breathe or “screech” between their
    births and deaths. One of them was so large, she said, that Gosnell
    joked, “this baby is going to walk me home.”

    The point is this: All of those children had the ability to
move, breathe, scream, screech and twitch before being removed from the
womb. They did not become human in the birth canal, and they were not
transformed from some stone-like existence to life via the
birth-inducing drugs given to their mothers so that they might be pushed
out.

    The notion that these killings would have
been OK, if only they had taken place within the womb at a shiny, clean
clinic, is barbaric.

“Reproductive Rights are Human Rights”

[Today’s entry is re-posted from “Yeah, but…“]

Stumbled upon this Elle story about men who don’t want to be fathers but are “forced”* to by their pregnant partners.

Dubay’s argument was that while his girlfriend was permitted by the
Constitution to end her pregnancy for any reason, he had no comparable
right, in violation of the Equal Protection clause. As a result, he
contended, he shouldn’t have to be financially responsible for the
child.

As the public face of the case, Feit duked it out on CNN with
then–National Organization for Women president Kim Gandy, who argued
that once a child is born, the rights of the child supersede those of
the parents. Since this was the law in all 50 states, men had to accept
their financial obligations, Gandy said. Elsewhere on the airwaves, Dr.
Phil chastised Dubay—he’d exercised choice, all right, a choice to
practice condomless sex. And Fox’s Bill O’Reilly bullied Feit with
declarations about what it means to be a man and taking responsibil­ity
for one’s own actions.

As Feit points out, this reasoning is
ironically similar to that often used against women’s reproductive
rights: Abortion encourages sexual promiscuity and irresponsibility; the
right of the fetus should override a woman’s right to terminate a
pregnancy that could’ve been avoided with birth control; women should
have to suffer the consequences of their sexual dalliances.

Interesting
conundrum. Do the men have a point? Do abortion rights and child
support laws create a sexist standard? I say it depends. It comes to
this: Why do pro-choicers think abortion is justified?

If abortion is justified because of bodily rights,
then the double standard between the genders makes sense. When it comes
to procreation, men and women don’t have the same bodily
responsibilities at all, so of course they don’t have the same rights
either. If it’s about bodily rights, you can just say “no one can
use your body against your will” and that is as true of men as of women.
Sure, it never actually comes up for men in terms of pregnancy, but if
it did they’d presumably have the same choice to abort; it’s a
consistent standard.

But if that’s all abortion is about, why do we hear so much about reproductive rights? People sometimes use the phrases “reproductive rights” and “bodily rights” interchangeably, but they aren’t the same.

When
we talk about reproductive rights, we talk about women being able to
choose whether and when they want to become mothers. We talk about each
woman carefully considering her responsibilities to her other children,
or her educational and career goals, or her concerns over a bad
relationship, or her financial issues. What does any of that have to do
with her body? Planned Parenthood’s motto (Every child a wanted child!) isn’t about bodily autonomy–it’s about whether people want to be parents, whether they want to reproduce. It’s about reproductive rights.

I’m assuming “humans” include “men,” right?

 Even in Roe v. Wade itself, the Court created a right to abortion based on much more than bodily concerns:

Specific and direct harm
medically diagnosable even in early pregnancy may be involved.
Maternity, or additional offspring, may force upon the woman a
distressful life and future. Psychological harm may be imminent.
Mental and physical health may be taxed by child care. There is also
the distress, for all concerned, associated with the unwanted child, and
there is the problem of bringing a child into a family already unable,
psychologically and otherwise, to care for it. In other cases, as in
this one, the additional difficulties and continuing stigma of unwed
motherhood may be involved.

So the Supreme Court considered:

  • Other offspring;
  • Psychological harm;
  • Mental health;
  • Distress of other people involved;
  • Preparedness to care for a child; and
  • Stigma of unwed motherhood.

None of that is about bodily rights.

But
the Court didn’t leave bodily rights out entirely. In the above
passage, they also cited concern over  direct medical harm during a
pregnancy and physical health during child care. Then again, the Court
disagreed with the idea that the right to abortion is absolute or has
much to do with unlimited bodily rights.

…some amici
argue that the woman’s right is absolute and that she is entitled to
terminate her pregnancy at whatever time, in whatever way, and for
whatever reason she alone chooses. With this we do not agree. … The privacy right involved, therefore, cannot
be said to be absolute. In fact, it is not clear to us that the claim
asserted by some amici that one has an unlimited right to do with
one’s body as one pleases bears a close relationship to the right of
privacy previously articulated in the Court’s decisions. The Court has
refused to recognize an unlimited right of this kind in the past.

So this isn’t
just about bodily rights. Wouldn’t all the non-physical reasons a woman
might be unwilling to raise a child apply equally to an unwilling man?
If pro-choicers believe in not just bodily rights, but reproductive freedom, why do so many of them apply that freedom to women only?

*I put the word “forced” in quotes because, unless you were raped, no one made you get a woman pregnant, and therefore no one made you
become a father. You took that risk yourself. The difference between me
and most pro-choicers, though, is that I apply the same logic to both
genders.

Aborting to protect our bodies?

[Today’s entry is re-posted from “Yeah, but…“]

We hear a lot about bodily rights during the abortion debate. Moving beyond the abortion debate to
society in general, I think it’s clear that bodily rights are
fundamental. It seems most other pro-lifers think it’s clear too. You’ll
be hard-pressed to find a pro-lifer that says they’d be fine with laws
forcing drivers to donate blood to people they hit with their cars, or
even requiring parents to donate kidneys to their sick children.

Yet when we are discussing

abortion, it seems to me a lot of pro-lifers tend to avoid the bodily
rights argument. They brush off the “my body my choice” assertion as a
cop out, a cover up for less noble justifications. I’ve seen many
pro-lifers respond to the bodily rights argument with disgust or
bewilderment, claiming it’s a bunch of mental gymnastics, a twisted,
desperate attempt to justify a horrible act. After denouncing bodily
rights as a red herring, they see no reason to consider or discuss it.

Of course this doesn’t apply to the entire pro-life movement; there are plenty of pro-lifers who try to explore the moral distinctions
between pregnancy and allegedly analogous situations. Still, in my
experience it seems too many pro-lifers haven’t seriously
considered–and in some cases refuse to consider–how much bodily
rights do play into the abortion debate. Sometimes I’m surprised by
this, because the issue of bodily rights weighs heavily
in my consideration of my abortion stance.

I wonder if pro-lifers
dismiss the bodily rights argument partly because it’s not usually why
women get abortions in the first place. While bodily autonomy is a commonly cited reason for keeping abortion legal, it’s not a commonly cited reason for actually getting an abortion.

According to Guttmacher:

The
reasons most frequently cited were that having a child would interfere
with a woman’s education, work, or ability to care for dependents (74%);
that she could not afford a baby now (73%); and that she did not want
to be a single mother or was having relationship problems (48%).

Not mentioned is a concern for bodily health, or a frustration or fear over sharing her body with another.

The Guttmacher report elaborates:

In a 1985 study of 500 women in Kansas, unreadiness to parent was the reason most often
given
for having an abortion, followed by lack of financial resources and
absence of a partner. In 1987, a survey of 1,900 women at large abortion
providers across the country
found that women’s most common
reasons for having an abortion were that having a baby would interfere
with school, work or other responsibilities, and that they could not
afford a child.

Again, the main reasons women choose abortion have nothing to do with their bodily autonomy.

Still, that doesn’t mean bodily autonomy is irrelevant to
these women. Guttmacher found that 12% of women cite concerns over
their health as cause for an abortion, including “from chronic or
debilitating conditions such as cancer and cystic fibrosis to
pregnancy-specific concerns such as gestational diabetes and morning
sickness.”

Why
is there such a divergence between the reasons people insist abortion
should be a right and the reasons women actually get abortions? Does the
difference matter? Are there parallel differences between the reasons
people protect other rights vs the reasons people exercise those rights?

Can I be a feminist too?

[Today’s entry is re-posted from “Yeah, but…“]


I consider myself a feminist. I’m a big proponent of women
going to college and building their own careers (and I’d like to see more female scientists). I’m very big on a balance between our relationships and the rest
of our lives; you should not be made or broken by whether you’re single or dating or married. I think society concentrates
far too much on our looks, too little on our minds. I’m a huge advocate of expecting
and demanding respect from others, particularly from romantic interests. I
believe empowered women include women who value themselves, and expect their
partners to value them as well. Cruelty, indifference, derision, dishonesty—I hate
seeing people tolerate poor treatment, especially due to a fear of being single.
I also hate victim-blaming. I’m grateful my boyfriend, brothers, and guy friends
understand that the standard is not “it’s okay as long as she doesn’t say ‘no'” but rather “it’s not okay unless she says ‘yes.'” I’d love for a lot more people to understand this.


I consider myself a feminist. I’m humbled by the women who’ve
gone before me, who helped create the opportunities I enjoy today. I’m proud of
and inspired by the women who fought for my ability to vote, get an education, own property, access birth control, serve in the military, hold political office, stand up to sexual harassment, graduate from college, and on and on. I feel grateful to
modern role models who speak out against ridiculous body expectations, or
sexual expectations, or what have you.

Oh, Jennifer Lawrence 🙂

I
consider myself a feminist and my heart and mind go out to fellow
feminists
in many respects. I’m glad to be a part of our movement toward equality,
making the world better for my daughters. I feel a kinship with the
men and women who also work toward that goal.

But then we turn to the topic of abortion, and suddenly I’m
shoved right out of the feminist movement and into an ill-fitting stereotype.
Apparently pro-life women hate sex and (simultaneously, somehow) think women have a duty to
procreate. Apparently, because I’m pro-life I don’t believe our gender can or should make our own decisions. Supposedly I don’t
think women should have their own educations, careers, or lives outside of the kitchen (or
the bedroom). I’m told I don’t even care if women die. I’m told, in fact, that I hate women, including
myself. All of the gender
issues I care about so deeply are a farce, smoke and mirrors to hide my
backward, misogynistic, sinister agenda of reducing my gender to a bunch of
baby incubators.


In reality, I’m
pro-life because I believe the non-defensive
killing of other human beings is wrong. How sad that this perspective is enough to destroy my credibility as a feminist. 

The
truth is I think women should have control over their bodies, and that
their sexual decisions should be their own. I think consenting adults
should be free to have sex with whomever. I’m glad we live in a society
in which birth control is legal and common, and I’d like to see better
sex education so more people will use birth control effectively. I
really dislike the double standards society has regarding men and
women’s sex lives. (For example, the phrase “man-whore” irritates me
because it seems to imply that normally women are “whores,” so in
this case we have to clarify.) I can’t stand the “slut vs. prude”
dichotomy, as if women can only be one or the other, and we sure can’t
win either way. 

Choose your stereotype.

 
I also don’t believe anyone has a duty to procreate, and I would love it if no one got pregnant who didn’t want to be pregnant.

I
do believe, though, that once a woman is pregnant, things have changed.
I see a huge moral difference between preventing a pregnancy and
terminating one, because I recognize the human fetus as part of our
species, warranting protection. 

I
don’t take this position lightly. I understand how dramatically
pregnancy, childbirth, and child-rearing alter women’s lives. Indeed I
think part of feminism is transforming society so that procreation
doesn’t affect women
so disproportionately.
We need better maternity leave and childcare options. We need to break
down stigmas surrounding single, student, and working mothers. I’d love
to live in a society where employers understand that supporting their
pregnant and parenting employees means supporting productive citizens
and healthy families. If our society had better support for pregnancy
and child-rearing, I believe less women would feel compelled to choose
abortion in the first place. 

But
in any case, I reject the idea that only when women are able to
have their offspring killed can we have the same opportunities as men.
If that’s equality, it’s an abysmal form.



I consider myself a feminist, and I’m pro-life. I know I’m not the only one.

Working Mothers

Licia Ronzulli at work with her baby girl in tow.

A woman’s decisions about bearing children are influenced by how much social support she can expect as a mother. With that in mind, and in honor of Women’s History Month, today we consider some historical examples of support (or lack thereof) for working mothers in the US.

In 1903 Oregon made it illegal to require women in certain industries to work more than 10 hours a day. In the 1908 Supreme Court case Muller v. Oregon, the Court ruled the law constitutional, pointing out that “healthy mothers are essential to vigorous offspring” and citing a public interest in “the physical well-being of woman…in order to preserve the strength and vigor of the race.”

The flip side of forcing employees too work too much is forcing employees to take time off. In 1952 Ohio school boards required a pregnant schoolteacher to take mandatory unpaid maternity leave from the 5th month of her pregnancy until the beginning of the semester after her baby was 3 months old. The teacher wasn’t promised re-employment, only priority in being reassigned to a position. The 1974 Supreme Court case Cleveland Board of Education v. LaFleur found these requirements unconstitutional. Justice Stewart, writing the opinion of the Court, explained:

This Court has long recognized that freedom of personal choice in matters of marriage and family life is one of the liberties protected by the Due Process Clause … By acting to penalize the pregnant teacher for deciding to bear a child, overly restrictive maternity leave regulations can constitute a heavy burden on the exercise of these protected freedoms.

The Court found the Ohio requirements infringed on this freedom, and called out the Ohio school boards for “unnecessarily penaliz[ing] the female teacher for asserting her right to bear children.”

Two other 1970s cases (Geduldig v. Aiello & General Electric v. Gilbert) ruled that it was not discriminatory for insurance programs to exclude pregnant women from medical benefits. This caused an uproar and, apparently, a backlash. In 1978, Congress amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act with the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, explaining that sex discrimination includes discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions. The Act requires employers to treat their pregnant employees the same way they treat any other employee with similar abilities, including providing pregnant employees with the same fringe benefits.

Of course non-pregnant employees don’t usually receive fringe benefits like extended time off to look after their children. In 1993, President Bill Clinton signed the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) into law. Among other things, the FMLA entitles eligible new mothers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for up to 12 weeks to care for their newborns within one year of the birth.

It’s good to look back and see how social support for pregnant women has improved over time, but we still have work to do. Many women can’t afford to go 12 weeks without pay, regardless of whether they want or need to care for their newborns. Some employers are very supportive of their new mom employees, but national averages suggest we still have a ways to go in getting working mothers more support.

What have your experiences been regarding employment and pregnancy? How can we pro-lifers help create more social support for working moms?

“Bro, do you want someone to do that to you?”

Some religious people suggest you can’t have morality without God, and therefore atheists have no reason to act morally. Some atheists respond by saying we shouldn’t need the threat of eternal damnation to inspire us to act decently.

As an agnostic, I don’t see why a belief in God is necessary in order to want to live a moral life. I can see the benefits of the Golden Rule regardless of whether you think someone will eternally reward (or punish) you depending on how you behave.

Exactly.

And I have secular friends that I think are perfectly lovely people, so I’m obviously not convinced that without God we are all just awful.

I will say, though, that when secularists insist religion is the only reason anyone would be pro-life, they sure do reinforce the “atheists have no morality” stereotype.

I’m against abortion because I recognize the fetus as a member of our species and I believe human beings should be valued and protected; at minimum, I think it should be illegal to non-defensively kill someone. I don’t consider any of what I just said to be radical, and I don’t see why any of what I just said would require religious faith in order to make sense. From the pro-life perspective, when people insist you have to be religious to be pro-life they’re insisting that you have to be religious to value humanity and/or to think it’s wrong to kill others. Great.

But I understand that there’s a disconnect here. Many pro-choicers make a distinction between human beings and people, and while the fetus is a human being, they will insist the fetus is not a person. A pro-choicer could believe that all people should be valued and protected while all fetuses can be killed. So, from a pro-choice perspective, the idea that you must be religious to be pro-life is really the idea that you must be religious to believe the fetus is a human being of moral value.

I still think it’s a little sad that some secularists believe you have to be religious to value all members of our species…but I guess it’s better than thinking you must be religious to think, you know, killing others is bad.