Today is a day to celebrate all women! It is a day to be grateful for all the advances made towards equality of all people. Many victories and many struggles have brought about the acknowledgement of personhood, the right to vote, shift toward equality in the workplace, the right to inherit property, and other advances towards a society that respects all people, regardless of gender, as valuable, autonomous individuals. We have inherited this legacy from many courageous women whose vision of justice was profound and dynamic. As we respect their achievements, we should also ask ourselves whether we are fulfilling their vision.
How can we say that feminism has been victorious if women are still forced to choose between their education and careers and their children? Feminists for Life is an organization that says “abortion is a reflection that our society has failed to meet the needs of women.” The prevalence of abortion is a symptom of – not a solution to – the problems that still exist in our society. Feminists for Life seeks solutions to these problems because they believe women deserve better than abortion. On their website, you can read quotes from many of the early feminists which indicate that these women would not accept abortion as a way for women to gain equality, and that they saw it for what it was: killing children.
“When we consider that women are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit.”
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
And therein lies the real question: how can abortion be a step towards equality when abortion law inherently treats the unborn as non-persons. The early feminists fought hard for women to be recognized as persons under the law. What would they think of a society that treats unborn children as non-persons? So often the pro-life movement is regarded as against women’s rights. As Andrea Mrozek of ProWomanProLife wrote in an article entitled “Pro-life doesn’t mean anti-woman”:
“There’s no battle between feminists and freedom. Being pro-life is a distinctly pro-woman stand; it is only for a lack of freedom of speech in Canada today that the debate is rarely framed this way. The abortion debate is only partly a question of rights. It is, more often, a question of life. With each repetition of “my body, my choice,” women’s rights to complete information, to intellectual integrity, to the scientific roots of life, furthermore to her own physical and mental health, are denied.”
She goes on to point out that in many cases, abortion does not get to the root of the problem:
“Asking why a woman wants an abortion highlights the real problem. Is it because her parents will throw her out of the home? Is it because she was raped? Is it because her culture demands she produce a boy, yet she knows she is carrying a girl? In each of these cases, abortion does not address the problem, but sweeps it under the carpet. Abortion clinics can’t ask the whys of it all: That’s an infringement of women’s rights — the unalienable right to suffer in silence. Pro-lifers support women, not abortion. Freedom of information has been curtailed such that no one understands how this could work. If abortion is not about another person, as well as the woman, none of this debate matters. If the fetus is a person too, then offering women one life-and-death choice without first fully discussing what is at stake is a denial of women’s rights beyond comprehension.”
So while we celebrate the achievements of feminists over the years, let us remember that we are still far from achieving personhood and equality for all human beings, both in Canada and in the world at large. Let us work towards real solutions to the challenges women face. We all deserve better than abortion.
Further links of interest:
An open letter to pro-choice advocates by a woman who had two abortions can be found here.