I read an Opinions article entitled “Divided by Abortion, United by Feminism” by OP-ED columnist, Ross Douthat from The New York Times, over the weekend about the subject of abortion and its place in feminism. Douthat spoke of Nellie Gray, a former soldier and member of the State Department and the Department of Labor, who after obtaining a law degree from Georgetown University in January 1974, helped found and establish the March for Life, an annual rally against Roe v. Wade that continues to the present day.
By the end of the article Douthat states that “the abortion rights movement, once utopian in its own fashion, is now at its most effective when it speaks the language of necessary evils, warning Americans that while it might be pretty to think so, the equality they take for granted simply can’t be separated from a practice they find troubling.”
As a vegetarian who tries to the best of their abilities not to harm any living being, for me personally, I believe if a situation ever arose and I had an unwanted pregnancy that I would not elect for an abortion. For that same reason I am also against the death penalty and try at all costs to avoid the death of anyone. But in stating this, as a feminist and as a person still vying for the equality of everyone, I am also pro-choice.
I find the right for a person to choose what happens to their own body and future is far more important than what my opinions are or what anyone else’s religion states. I believe that a part of being a feminist is not only to strive for the equality of everyone regardless of sex, race, gender, orientation or beliefs, but it is also making sure that we do not restrict the rights of any other group in the process. So when Douthat writes in his article how being pro-life and an activist for anti-abortion doesn’t exclude people from being a feminist or a person striving for the equality of everyone, I can’t help but be concerned for the advancement of women.
In the article Douthat writes, “If she had chosen a different political cause, Gray’s trajectory — from soldier to working woman to professional activist — would be a case study for students of second-wave feminism. But the cause she did choose — and in whose service she issued strident attacks on “feminist abortionists” — has endured precisely because it has had a more complicated relationship to female advancement than some cultural stereotypes would suggest.”
The real reason why Gray’s trajectory hasn’t become “a case study for students of second-wave feminism” is because her stance isn’t a “complicated relationship to female advancement,” but rather it completely stops this progression, erases milestones and sends this advancement backwards.
“Those stereotypes link the anti-abortion cause to traditionalist ideas about gender roles — to the belief that a woman’s place is in the home, or at least that her primary identity should be maternal rather than professional. Writing in the Reagan era, the sociologist Kristin Luker argued that this dimension of the debate trumped the question of whether unborn human life has rights: ‘While on the surface it is the embryo’s fate that seems to be at stake, the abortion debate is actually about the meaning of women’s lives.’”
It’s not just that feminist link the anti-abortion cause to traditionalist ideas about gender roles, but rather it encourages the government to enforce laws that would take away a woman’s right to choose what she can and cannot do with her body. This anti-abortion stance is what sets women back in the progression towards equality, because if women aren’t allowed to choose what happens to their own bodies, then how can they continue on the path to be treated fairly as a human being?
I applaud the author for his admission that Todd Akin is “a chauvinist, a creep and the enemy of a more enlightened future,” and I agree that Nellie Gray should be looked up to for her outstanding career in both the military and the government. However, her campaigning to take away a woman's rights to her own body should exclude her from being considered a feminist since she has single handedly set women back into the dark ages. The author's opinion that “the best pro-choice rebuttal to the young idealists at the March for Life or the professional women who lead today’s anti-abortion groups isn’t that they’re too reactionary — it’s that they’re too utopian, too radical, too naïve” is what’s fueling this continuous division of equality between the genders.
A woman having basic human rights to her life liberty and property isn’t “too utopian, too radical or too naïve.” Having your own opinion about abortion and allowing others the right to choose what happens to their bodies by incorporating those opinions in to your own actions isn’t “too reactionary.” Part of being pro-choice isn’t to mandate anyone to have an abortion, but rather it gives women a chance to choose what they would like to do with their own bodies.