Next Steps for the Pro-Life Feminist Movement

Secular Pro-Life has published an article co-authored by Kelsey Hazzard of SPL, and me.

 

Some further thoughts on the ideas of the article (these thoughts are mine and may or may not be thoughts of the co-author):

1.

We wrote: those who are not pregnant . . . will have to give up time, energy, and money to share the load of children . . .

What would be the economic mechanisms to ensure that sharing? The following is a comment I once posted under Sean Cahill’s “I am equal, not the same”:

 

Thanks, Sean Cahill, for providing a lot of clarity for me. I think some questions still remain, however:

“We are not liberated until both sexes are fully accepted as they are.”

As vehicles for the full acceptance of women as they are, in another guest post you listed the following things that Roe did NOT provide:

1. children born outside of marriage and their mothers are de-stigmatized

2. ensure women are able to earn a living wage

3. ensure proper maternity benefits

4. demand accommodations for parenting students and employees at colleges and workplaces

5. demand men act responsibly.

Can women as they are (i.e., without abortion) attain equality through these vehicles? The problem I see is this: Under capitalism as we know it, people win economic independence for themselves only when they get compensated for producing marketable goods or services. Child-carrying and child-rearing are not presently marketable goods or services, so if some of a woman’s time and energy goes into child-carrying and child-rearing, she will be hindered in winning economic independence unless child-carrying and child-rearing become marketable services. Handouts from those who ARE getting compensated for producing marketable goods or services do not have as much potential to add up to real money as do the direct compensations that go to the real (real in capitalistic terms) producers. And your points 2-4 above are, in a capitalistic framework, handouts.

So why not begin to treat child-carrying and child-rearing as marketable services? The answer revolves around demand. Under some neo-capitalistic system, they could indeed be marketable services, and under a socialistic system also, they could be services deserving of compensation. The level of the fee or the compensation would depend on the level of a given society’s demand for population, but in every society there is always a demand for at least some level of replacement of population. So your points 2-4 above would be upgraded from handouts to earned compensation.

Even if child-carrying and child-rearing were treated in this way, however, there would not be full equality of opportunity if these activities were to continue to be seen, as at present, as relatively menial occupations. The quip about “brood-mares of the state” would be quite appropriate. Considering the importance of upbringing in relation to whether a child grows up to be an asset to society or a liability, good child-rearing should rather be seen as a prized and highly-compensated set of skills (the most important skill being a hard one to learn — true motherly love).

But even with that “fix” in our framework, skilled mothers might not be as highly valued as top scientists, artists, entertainers and athletes. And still more importantly, pregnant women and mothers would not be equal in a society — either a capitalistic society or a socialistic society — where the demand for population was low.

All the above was probably clarified a long time ago by some feminist writer or other. Where I would differ from pro-choice feminists might be this: I don’t see any of these problems as quite adding up to justification for killing babies.

Both capitalism and socialism are materialistic. I think that pregnant women and mothers will win equality only when their contribution is recognized in a sense that is not materialistic, and when they are compensated, if not by economic independence and opportunity, then by some kind of clout in society that is as good or better. In order for this to happen, society has to recognize that the contribution made by pregnant women and mothers is at least as valuable as the contribution of top scientists, artists, entertainers and athletes. Pregnant women and mothers contribute even if their children are not needed by society in a utilitarian way. Yet their contribution will not always be recognized as long as the calculus is a materialistic one. Their contribution is to give life.

 

2.

We wrote:The full value of this uniquely female contribution cannot be understood as long as the calculus is a purely materialistic one. . . . Thus women’s true equality, including the equality of women with unplanned pregnancies, requires a deep sensitivity to the value of life and the damage done to us all when already-existing life is devalued . . .

Will this day ever come? Please see “What’s in It for the Born?”

 

3.

Here is a comment I recently posted under Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa’s “Can you imagine a world without abortion?”:

 

Recently someone said to me, in relation to pro-life feminist thinking, “Strange to see someone argue that giving people more sovereignty over their own bodies is [patriarchal].”

But “sovereignty” of course means a right to kill their offspring, and it turns out that when you give someone that right, whatever happens next is their own problem — they are on their own. If they decide against abortion and opt to carry the pregnancy to term, then to the father of the baby, and to society, it will seem that they brought the burdens of pregnancy on themselves. And if they decide to raise the child, then it is a much bigger problem yet that they “brought on themselves.” Whereas if they decide to abort, no one will suffer any negative physical or psychological consequences as much as they will (though they undeniable stand to gain something as well).

Can we at least agree on this — that, though it may be paradoxical, pregnant women who DON’T want to abort will be better off in a society where abortion is not a legal option — where they DON’T have legal “sovereignty over their own bodies” ?

So they will be better off, whereas women who do want to abort, assuming they win the small physical gamble they take when they get the legal abortion, would be better off in a society where abortion is legal — better off, that is, in terms of their materialistic situation and ambitions.

Assuming that “better off in terms of their materialistic situation and ambitions” is really better off, in net, for that group of women, then we see that a society where abortion is not a legal option will be better for one group of women and worse for another group of women, and whether it is better for women overall might just depend on how many there are in each group.

And IS “better off in terms of their materialistic situation and ambitions” in fact better off for women who want to abort? A very deep question.

An academic paper, by a woman named Sidney Callahan, on what is lost by women where abortion is legal, is “Abortion and the Sexual Agenda: A Case for Pro-Life Feminism”. It concludes:

“Another and different round of feminist consciousness raising is needed in which all of women’s potential is accorded respect. This time, instead of humbly buying entrée by conforming to male lifestyles, women will demand that society accommodate itself to them.

“New feminist efforts to rethink the meaning of sexuality, femininity, and reproduction are all the more vital as new techniques for artificial reproduction, surrogate motherhood, and the like present a whole new set of dilemmas. In the long run, the very long run, the abortion debate may be merely the opening round in a series of far-reaching struggles over the role of human sexuality and the ethics of reproduction. Significant changes in the culture, both positive and negative in outcome, may begin as local storms of controversy. We may be at one of those vaguely realized thresholds when we had best come to full attention. What kind of people are we going to be? Prolife feminists pursue a vision for their sisters, daughters, and grand-daughters. Will their great-grand-daughters be grateful?”

 

Further thoughts” may be continued later.

 

You may leave a reply, if you wish, without giving your name or email address. If you do give your email address, it will not be published. Back up your work as you type, in case of accidents.

Some future posts:

Life Panels

Evolution, and the Humanizing and Uplifting Effect on Society of a Commitment to the Unborn

A Trade-Off of a Sensitive Nature

Unborn Child-Protection Legislation, the Moral Health of Society, and the Role of the American Democratic Party

The Motivations of Aborting Parents

Why Remorse Comes Too Late

The Kitchen-Ingredients Week-After Pill

Unwanted Babies and Overpopulation

The Woman as Slave?

Abortion and the Map of the World

The Ghost in the Garbage Can

 

Courtesy of Life Matters Journal. This poem was published, with an illustration, in Volume 4 Issue 3 — February 2016.

 

The Ghost in the Garbage Can

There’s a dumpster near my place
That smells bad
But it’s shorter to the 7-11.

When it’s dark
Misting a little
I hear a voice.

“I was small.
I was out of sight.
And I wasn’t very smart.”

It’s always the same.

“I was small –
Like our earth from a space probe.
Invisible –
Like your hopes when you’re deep asleep.
Not smart –
So what can I say?

“I wish – well –
If I had of been big
Like Serena Williams.
They wouldn’t have messed
With Serena Williams.”

It was fading.

“If I’d had some money…”

I rubbed the mist on my face
To come to my senses.
I always hear that voice in the garbage can.
That choice in the garbage can.

Acyutananda
28 April 2015

© 2015

Education and Art to Change Perceptions about the Unborn

Once when I was about eight, my younger brother did something, perhaps involving physical pain for me, for which I felt that retaliation was fully justified. As I ran after him, I was intercepted by our mother. I was outraged that she would so unfairly interfere. She in turn was shocked by the desperate fight that I put up, and finally resorted to lying down on top of me, as the only way to keep me from breaking free. I can still remember my impotent rage. I hated it.

No one likes to be restrained from doing what they want, even when what they want is to harm another person. So though unborn child-protection legislation may be unavoidable if we are to save all the lives that can be saved, it will always be problematic. It will never be completely successful. (Among other things, what we could call a “kitchen-ingredients week-after pill” might be just around the corner.) And such legislation will have bad side effects.

Parents who decide to kill their unborn kids may rarely if ever be motivated by anger as I was at the age of eight. Even when the abortion is unjustified, their motivations are normally more thoughtful, and sometimes offset by hesitation and guilt. Some factors may make them less resentful of restraining authority than I was, some even more resentful. But in any case, clearly a deeper solution is needed than mere legislation.

If we can unlock the love and protectiveness for the unborn that already lies within us as part of our deepest nature, this will not only shield the unborn better than any legislation, but will represent the biggest breakthrough yet in the slow process of unfolding our own humanity.

As we begin the process of facilitating in society an appreciation for the unborn, one of the foundations of that process should be a non-technical but thorough course in embryology — “Getting to Know Our Unseen Neighbors,” we might call it — for all children at the fifth- or sixth-grade level. The emphasis in such courses should be on the wonder of the life that is transforming itself, reinventing itself, hour by hour, deep within the body of a somewhat senior and more-developed member of our human family.

One of many sources to give us a hint of how prosaic science can tug at the heart in the right way is this one: http://www.birth.com.au/pregnancy/

To make vivid to children that a human life is a seamless process, students could be given thought experiments such as: “Pretend that Mary the embryo can speak and tell the world about her hopes and dreams — how she longs to begin to beat her heart, to pump her lungs, to touch from the outside, for the first time, the skin of the mother who has nurtured her inside . . . to learn to stand up, to learn to throw a ball . . . What would Mary say to the world, if she could?”

What we’re up against: We may have to admit that the default viewpoint, the mental starting point, for many people, likely is that the unborn are of little significance. “Out of sight, out of mind.” Many people may not be able to see the humanity and personhood of the unborn without going through a process of mental development. But if education can to a great extent create a salutary aversion to the limited destructiveness of smoking, can’t it create a salutary aversion to the extreme destructiveness of killing unborn babies?

Little girls, in particular, should hear as they grow up some viewpoints, and perceptions of the unborn, that all too often go unheard, such as this dialogue between the president of Feminists for Life and one of her correspondents.

Serrin Foster: “Women aren’t stupid. We know it’s a baby that is growing just like we did in our mother’s wombs. . . . For years, abortion advocates have been pitting women against their unborn children, dehumanizing the growing child with misleading phrases like ‘blobs of cells’ and ‘products of conception.’ . . .”

Michelle Stewart: “I am a prolife feminist. Abortion before 20 weeks is equally wrong. The founding feminists understood this truth. Women are strongest when they engage as warriors to protect the most vulnerable. What is more vulnerable than an unviable human being in development?”

Children are likely to start hearing at an early age the view that women should be free to kill their unborn babies. In a small example of the effectiveness of art, Neil Young once satirized almost this same kind of “free world”:

That’s one more kid that’ll never go to school
Never get to fall in love, never get to be cool
Keep on rockin’ in the free world . . .

As children grow up, they will hear all the messages that different groups want to bombard them with. We cannot and need not, and even should not, prevent this. But if children first come to understand the realities that lie deeper than the messages, they will be able to discriminate. Certainly children as they grow should learn to understand the heart-rending plight of many pregnant women, and to consider deeply all the possible solutions. But the plight of the unborn is a plight that is easier to overlook than any other, and that therefore requires a more proactive education. The prevailing positional disadvantages of the unborn can be summarized very well by three old proverbs: “Out of sight, out of mind” (already mentioned), “Might makes right,” and “The squeaky wheel gets the oil.”

And for adults: Just as Uncle Tom’s Cabin made vivid, to people unable to see it before, the human yearnings of slaves, a blockbuster book or movie could make vivid the yearnings of the unborn to live and realize their potentials. Some of those yearnings are very undeveloped or unconscious, but they exist (they are in the genes), and could be portrayed imaginatively by art. We need a suspenseful movie portraying an unborn baby imminently threatened by abortion.

To conclude, let’s elaborate a little on “the slow process of unfolding our own humanity,” mentioned above. It humanized us (those of us who are white) to come to see other races as persons; it humanized us (those of us who are men) to come to see women as persons; it humanized some of those of us who are Americans to come to see the Vietnamese as persons; and it will humanize us to come to see the unborn as persons. That step, crossing that last civil-rights frontier, will humanize us more than any other, because of the subtlety of thought involved. But that may only be possible through education and art.

© 2013

 

You may leave a reply, if you wish, without giving your name or email address. If you do give your email address, it will not be published.

Some future posts:

Life Panels

Evolution, and the Humanizing and Uplifting Effect on Society of a Commitment to the Unborn

A Trade-Off of a Sensitive Nature

Unborn Child-Protection Legislation, the Moral Health of Society, and the Role of the American Democratic Party

The Motivations of Aborting Parents

Why Remorse Comes Too Late

The Kitchen-Ingredients Week-After Pill

Only a Potential Person?

Unwanted Babies and Overpopulation

The Woman as Slave?

Abortion and the Map of the World