By Miriam David
As someone who was pro-choice for her entire teenage career and into her young adult life, with that conviction only growing in fervency as she learned feminist political ideology, I can testify that most within the movement do not know the truth of its roots: the early feminists were pro-life.
“Without known exception, our feminist foremothers opposed abortion and sought to address the root causes that drive women to abortion” – Feminists for Life.
Susan B. Anthony, a radical feminist activist, Alice Paul, who drafted the primary version of the Equal Rights Amendment, and Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States, among many others, all considered abortion to be a means of exploiting both mother and child.
I had always assumed I had to choose between being pro-life and being a feminist. Luckily, I am not the only female out there who felt caught within this trap. As I struggled between wanting to advance the rights of women, and wanting to protect the life of the unborn, I found The New Wave Feminist movement. It seeks to dignify what they call a ‘consistent life ethic’; that is to protect life against violence from the earliest moments of our existence to our natural death. They, like the early feminists, see the foetus as the most vulnerable member of the human family. They see the link between the oppressive power that women were under when they did not have rights, and that same power we now wield over the unborn. Instead of accepting that, they want to change the discourse to say to women that they can do it, they are strong enough, and we will help you.
“Our liberation cannot be bought with the blood of our children” – New Wave Feminists.
Once you understand the undeniable humanity of the unborn, all other arguments come down to factors such as age, ability, class and even gender. As someone who believes feminism should be intersectional – that is to recognise the different forces of oppression that intersect with gender and disempower women to differing degrees – this strikes a chord. How can I claim to be an intersectional feminist, and ignore the classist, ableist, sexist underpinnings of the abortion industry? How can I support the killing of any human being based on how old it is, whether it has all its functions or not, or the socioeconomic circumstances in which it might live?
Today is International Women’s Day. In Canada, there are no laws preventing abortion under any circumstances – this includes the right of a woman to abort her child because it is a girl. I do not feel like I can celebrate this day in a country where females are still being killed because they are female. The evidence that this is happening makes apathy just not good enough. If you do not oppose sex-selective abortions, you are complicit in their occurrence.
We will never achieve the respect we deserve, we will never have enough resources for crisis pregnancies, or enough structural changes to accommodate the life-changing prospect of raising a child generally, if we treat abortion like the solution to a problem. To do so ignores the reality that it is the cause of many problems, and a solution to none. Today I advocate for a law to protect our unborn girls from gendercide, and a change in the way we, as a society, provide support for pregnant women.
Ultimately, our freedom is a farce if these two things do not work together, and we will never be truly free if the weakest among us do not have the right to live.
“Abortion is the ultimate exploitation of women” – Alice Paul (1885-1977).