Being pro-woman means protecting lives inside and outside the womb.
This past January, hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Washington D.C. to “advocate for and promote women’s rights” at the 2017 Women’s March. Groups from all over the world participated in this event. However, one type of women’s group was banned from the March – women’s groups that were pro-life. Before the final decision was made to bar pro-lifers from the march, Guardian columnist Jessica Valenti implored the March organizers to exclude pro-life groups, saying, “Inclusivity is not about bolstering those who harm us.” Her message here is straightforward. She believes defending the right to life goes against defending the rights of women. She’s saying that it’s not possible to be pro-life and pro-woman.
It’s true that being “pro-life” and “pro-woman” are often seen as mutually exclusive. People say if one is truly for women’s rights, it’s impossible to be for the rights of the unborn, because that’s not supporting a woman’s “right to choose.” This belief, however widely held, could not be further from the truth. It’s possible to be pro-life and pro-woman. In fact, it logically follows that being pro-woman necessitates being pro-life. Here’s why.
Why Pro-Woman Necessitates Being Pro-Life
First, being pro-woman means being pro-life because roughly half of aborted babies are women. When a person promotes abortion even just as an option, they are advocating for the death of millions of little girls. Just this year, 24.6 million babies have been aborted. Doing the math, this means 12.3 million females have lost their lives due to abortion. The fact that supporting these mass abortions is seen as pro-women is absurd.
Second, being pro-woman means being pro-life because the pro-life movement tells women they have other options besides abortion. Often, when a woman has an unwanted pregnancy, she is pressured or even forced by the father of the child or her parents to have an abortion. Whether this is motivated by financial concerns, fear of responsibility or shame, no woman should have to be put in this position. When women go to clinics like Planned Parenthood, they are given biased information that directs them toward the choice of abortion. One Planned Parenthood in Chicago even had a pamphlet that read:
“But aren’t there alternatives to abortion? Yes, there are. A pregnant women can carry the baby to term and she can then keep it or relinquish the baby for adoption. Relinquishment is often not a very humane procedure.”
As if abortion would be more humane?
On the other hand, pro-lifers tell women that they have other options and choices. The pro-life movement promotes the message that women are capable of having and raising a child. Pro-life pregnancy centers and clinics provide resources for women such as diapers, clothes, counselling and mentors. Adoption centers help women to find a loving family that will receive their child if the women is truly incapable of caring for them at that time. Pro-lifers want these women not to feel as if they are cornered into making one choice, but that they have a variety of choices.
Third, being pro-woman means being pro-life because abortions harm women’s health. Women are often told that an abortion is what is best for them, what they are often not told are the risks involved and the ways their choice to end the life of their child could impact them emotionally and physically. Studies show that women who have had an abortion have an 81 percent higher risk of subsequent mental health problems than women who have not. This number is broken down into higher rates of anxiety (34 percent), depression (37 percent), alcohol abuse (110 percent), and suicidal behavior (155 percent).
It’s not just women’s mental health that is impacted. Abortions have been shown to affect the reproductive system of women and future pregnancies. One study of first pregnancy abortions found that women who had an abortion experienced 2.3 miscarriages for each subsequent live birth later on down the road. Another study concluded that 66% of teenagers who aborted their first pregnancies experienced miscarriages or premature birth later. Some studies have even found an increased risk of breast cancer among women who have had an abortion, as an abortion removes the protection from breast cancer that carrying a child to term provides. If abortion is truly best for women, how does one explain the utterly destructive effects it has on women’s mental and physical health?
Finally, we see that even the early feminists clearly condemned abortion. Susan B. Anthony, founder of the American Equal Rights Association, sought to, “bring about a better state of things for mothers generally, so their unborn little ones could not be willed away from them.” Just like it is now, at the time the AERA was founded, women were being pressured by male partners and economics to do something they didn’t want to do. The AERA members also believed the right to control one’s body should not extend to the right to destroy another’s.
Pro-choice women marching in January would’ve been surprised to find out that some of their heroes, like feminist philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft and the first woman doctor in the US, Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, both wrote disapprovingly of abortion. Blackwell even wrote in her diary “The gross perversion and destruction of motherhood by the abortionist filled me with indignation.” Some of the first women to stand up for their rights were unwaveringly against abortion.
Understanding the Terms Pro-Woman and Pro-Life
Perhaps those who say one cannot be pro-life and pro-woman misunderstand what being pro-woman is. The term “pro-woman” can be simple defined as being “pro-what-women-need-to-succeed,” whether it be at work, in marriage, as a mother, or so on. This leads us to the following question, do women need abortion to succeed? Does having the power to kill their unborn child help a woman thrive? The answer is a resounding no.
Imagine a pregnant woman, living in poverty, lacking money and resources, and who already has multiple children. What does this woman need? Maybe she needs an education, support or help for her already born children. But does she need an abortion? Does having an abortion fix any of these things? No. It may eliminate a “burden,” but it fixes absolutely nothing.
What women need to succeed is resources and encouragement. Many women are not told these resources exist, and they are told if they “go through with this pregnancy” their whole life will be put on hold. Now, sometimes goals do have to be altered when another human being enters one’s life (think marriage). That can’t be denied. However, the culture leads women to believe that it’s impossible to have their child and succeed, instead of telling them that, as women, they are capable of both.
The claim that one cannot respect the dignity of women without denying that of unborn children has been around so long that it has been received as truth. However, being pro-woman means protecting the lives of women inside and outside the womb. Being pro-woman means being pro-life.
Anna Katherine Daley
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