Because I am a feminist, I am pro-life. I advocate for basic, equal rights for all humans regardless of age, location or ability to defend themselves. The pro-life movement has been a central branch of feminism since its beginnings in the United States, its message championed by Alice Paul and Dr. Mildred Jefferson, among others.
We must begin with the understanding that human life begins at conception – a fact accepted by developmental biologists. At conception, human beings receive their unique genetic makeups. Epigenetics begins to regulate those genes, and, even before implantation, the zygote’s environment begins shaping the baby’s health and personality. If we acknowledge the scientific truth, the question we are debating becomes: When does a particular human earn their intrinsic human rights? (Trick question – human rights are not earned.)
The other half of the equation is the mother. To take into account only the child or only the mother is neither pro-life nor pro-woman. Abortion degrades women in many ways. It devalues women before birth. It contributes to the social issues that degrade women, such as workplace inequality, abuse and lack of resources. It commodifies women, manipulating them to make money for big corporations.
In a 2008 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Douglas Almond and Lena Edlund found son-biased sex ratios among some demographics in the United States: an effect of sex-selective abortions.. If anything is antifeminist, it’s this. Not only does sex-selective abortion destroy developing girls, violating their human rights, but it also encourages their continued cultural devaluation, hurting all women, born and unborn.
Abortion is used as a quick fix, and it hides the true social issues degrading women. Abortion frees men of responsibility for their actions. It hides the victims of sexual abuse, trapping them in horrible situations. According to the Alliance Defending Freedom, Planned Parenthood (PP) has been caught hiding child sexual abuse in seven states. Rather than reporting these incidents, Alliance Defending Freedom has stated that PP allowed victims to return as repeat customers. A company supposed to be centered on women’s healthcare should be more concerned with the well-being of the women it claims to serve.
In addition, abortion encourages workforce discrimination. With abortion available, women are pressured to choose between a family and a career, and women may be denied promotions or even be fired for choosing to go through with a pregnancy. Our society is forcing women to choose between employment and their own children, a situation especially distressing for lower-income women and single mothers who may not have the financial resources of wealthier women. If companies had equal maternity/paternity leave options or were flexible enough to allow women to work from home or alter their hours based on their family situations, some of this social strife could be remedied.
The fact is, many women who receive abortions feel pressured into the decision, either directly by parents or boyfriends, or by society. The top three reported reasons for having an abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute, are: (1) the baby would interfere with work, school or other obligations; (2) the mother feels she cannot afford a child and (3) the mother fears being a single parent or is experiencing pressure from her partner. These are signs of a society that is failing to support women in need. In addition, women are taught from a young age that pregnancy will ruin their lives. They are told that young mothers cannot complete school or find employment. Further, women who have had abortions are at risk of suffering from regret and depression, and often have nowhere to turn. Rather than contributing to this cycle of pain and devaluation, we should build women up by supporting them in pregnancy, connecting them to the abundant resources that exist for expectant and low-income mothers and providing them with adoption and counseling resources.
Many argue that if abortion becomes illegal, more women will opt for dangerous, “back-alley” abortions, suffering complications and death. However, in countries that have banned abortion, this is simply not the case. Chile banned abortion in 1989, and since then, the number of maternal deaths has decreased by 69.2 percent, according to a 2012 study by Elard Koch et al. published in PLOS ONE. Today, Chile has a lower maternal mortality rate than the United States does. Chile also reports decreasing hospitalizations due to suspected illegal abortions, while hospitalization for miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy remains steady. Other countries that have banned abortion also have lower maternal mortality rates than the United States, including Malta and the Republic of Ireland. Meanwhile, in the United States, it is largely ignored that mothers can continue to suffer from health problems and death as a result of legal abortion.
PP, the “Walmart” of abortion providers, claims to be a champion for women, but its clever marketing hides the truth that it sees women as a commodity. PP influences sex education programs in schools, where it promotes sexual promiscuity, claiming that its birth control will protect students from pregnancy. In fact, the Consumer’s Union ranked PP’s condoms as the lowest-quality of those they tested. Further, the World Health Organization labeled the estrogen-progestogen oral contraceptive, more commonly known as “the pill,” as a Group 1 carcinogen – the same ranking as cigarettes and asbestos. Nationwide, PP performs almost 900 abortions a day, making over $147 million a year, according to statistics obtained from the PP’s 2013-4 Annual Report.
As a feminist, I resent being a target of this money-grabbing machine. Rather than tearing each other down and adding to our problems by supporting legalized abortion, we should be building up a society that values all women, mother or child, born or unborn.
Elizabeth Jacobsen ’16 is a biology and English double major from St. Paul, Minn. She lives in West College.