Does feminism exclude “pro-life” women?
In response to the inauguration of President Donald Trump, Saturday’s Women’s March saw millions of women and feminist allies take to the streets to stand up for their rights, with roughly 750,000 marching in Los Angeles alone. Though the march was a celebration of inclusion and diversity, women who oppose abortion have since blasted the protest, its participants and modern feminism at large for excluding “pro-life feminists.” This naturally raises the age-old question of whether those who oppose a woman’s right to autonomy over her body have claim to the title “feminist.”
By no means is this a simple debate. But particularly in the context of Saturday’s historic Women’s March, the ability to be a woman and object to abortion appears to be a privilege that low-income, minority women can’t afford. The Women’s March was about so much more than women and abortion; it was a rally of solidarity in defense of all marginalized groups attacked by Trump’s rhetoric and policies, reflective of modern feminism’s move toward inclusiveness and intersectionality.
To be a feminist today, you must not only support the human rights of affluent, heterosexual, cisgender white women, but also acknowledge the disproportionate historical and modern implications of abortion restrictions on poor, immigrant women of color. Economic barriers to contraception and legal barriers to abortion have historically resulted in the entrapment of marginalized women in intergenerational cycles of poverty as they are forced to birth children they cannot afford, and violently mauled in back-alley abortions. Research has shown that the Hyde Amendment, which bars federal funding from going toward abortions for women on Medicaid, among other restrictions on the procedure, disproportionately affects women of color, prioritizing the ideologies of some over the dignity and needs of low-income women.
Speaking of back-alley abortions, which continue to this day in states with few clinics and a myriad of regulations deemed by the medical community as medically unnecessary, what abortion opponents can’t ignore is that it’s only possible to ban safe abortion — whether or not abortion is legal, it will continue to happen at the same rate, but at the expense of women’s safety. Opposition to abortion puts less privileged women’s health and safety at risk while also reducing them to the indignity of navigating the black market for basic healthcare.
Women of all races and classes are united by the simple fact that opposition to abortion is rooted in reducing them to second-class citizens whose rights are worth less than those of fertilized eggs, ignoring the most basic science of fetal viability at women’s expense. Not only do pro-life feminists who rally under the “women deserve better than abortion” slogan tend to be conservative-leaning opponents of funding for contraception, but they often also fail to answer the question of what “women deserve better” means: Objectively speaking, abortion is a safe, dignified procedure like any other. The stigma around it is just the disguised, age-old hatred of women exerting control.
No combination of any contraception offers 100 percent safeguard against nature, and to oppose abortion is to approve of select, unlucky women being punished by biology in a way men never will be. Fifty-one percent of women who have abortions used some form of contraception that failed.
Ultimately, if women deserve better, so do their children, and not just when their children are fetuses. To be pro-life and not just anti-abortion, support paid family leave, wider access to healthcare, and investment in education and the social safety net that disproportionately help single mothers and their children.
Feminism is not nearly as complicated as portrayed by its critics: It is merely the recognition of women as human beings. If the right to choose to have children is a human right, it’s one feminists should support.
I participated in the Women’s March on Saturday, and the last thing it sought to do was divide women and shame them for their differences. It celebrated diversity of identity as well as diversity of the beliefs that we each uniquely bring to the table. There’s a simple reason this column about feminism is called “You Do Uterus”: Feminism is about encouraging women to be themselves and make their own choices, however different these choices are from anyone else’s. On the other hand, feminism is not opposing women’s right to make choices, whether it’s to wear makeup or not or to have an abortion or give birth, simply because you wouldn’t make the same one.
In this sense, anti-abortion women’s ideology is inherently in conflict with feminism, but it isn’t fair to sweepingly call them sexists; they merely favor policies with disproportionately sexist consequences. And just as it’s their choice to support policies that prevent other women from the right to choose, it’s my choice to refuse to recognize them as feminists.
Kylie Cheung is a freshman majoring in journalism and political science. She is also the editorial director of the Daily Trojan. Her column,“You do Uterus,” runs every Thursday.