Feminism and Abortion, an Alternative View
I identify as pro-life. It seems as though having a pro-life position is in conflict with classical feminism but I believe I must articulate my position and the misgivings I have with the entire issue as it is represented by two polarized sides. I believe a fetus is a human being with the right to life. I also believe a woman has the need to be able to exercise personal autonomy. This autonomy must extend to reproductive choice. The reason I believe abortion is such a divisive issue is because there are two fundamental rights that may not always be able to coexist peacefully. I have always believed the right to life is the one that has priority over the others but, I don’t say this without a lot of serious misgivings.
Recently, there has been an article in the New York Times entitled, “Pro-Life Nation.” It paints a picture of life in a state without legal abortion. El Salvador, in particular, has outlawed abortion. There was a story of a woman who was in a desperate situation that resulted in her having an abortion. She was caught, prosecuted, and is serving a long jail sentence. Unfortunately, her two children are now without a mother. They are being raised by an extremely impoverished grandmother. I don’t want this type of justice in our nation. I don’t want to see women in desperate circumstances having dangerous abortions and facing jail sentences for killing their babies.
I do, on the other hand, value the life of the unborn.
What a conundrum. Pro-life and Pro-choice seem to be mutually exclusive, how can people be brought together to work for common ground.
What is the common ground?
In my opinion the basic common ground could be the reduction of unintentional pregnancy and empowerment of women. Statistics seem to indicate that the better educated women are with regard to how their bodies work, and the basic mechanics of contraception, the less likely she will become pregnant unintentionally. Parents need to become more comfortable talking about sex. They need to not be intimidated by having their children emerge as adults with sexuality. I am more conservative than many others. I would prefer my children wait until they have sex, but I am also realistic. I want them to know how their bodies work, I want them to know how contraceptives work, and I want them to know about human development, and how abortions are done. I believe this approach does nothing but decrease the likelihood that they will find themselves with an unintentional pregnancy.
Apparently, the number of abortions has been on the rise since Bush (a “Pro-life” president) has been in office than when Clinton (a Pro-choice president) was in office. This would seem to indicate that having access to crucial social services encourages women to continue with their pregnancies when they feel able, but if social services are less available, women feel driven to choose abortion even if their hearts are looking for an alternative.
I believe in providing education, freely available contraceptives, and generous social services would eliminate the need for the majority of abortions. In the past, I thought things were cut and dry; outlaw abortion. I do not like the picture of life in El Salvador as a vision of the future here if abortion is criminalized. I think some alternative to seeing women in prison garb for seeking an abortion must be found. I am not comfortable with abortion as it exists today, but I am not comfortable with any of the proposed alternatives. I am pretty sure an equitable and humane solution to our present conflict will not be found in my lifetime.