Pro-Life Feminist Lecture Today!

If anyone reading this lives in the D.C. area, Serrin Foster, the head of Feminists for Life, is going to be speaking on the Georgetown Law campus (we’re located between the Union Station and Judiciary Square metro stops on the Red line — not in the Georgetown area of D.C., which is confusing). The lecture is titled “the Feminist Case Against Abortion.”

In related news, the indomitable First Things has a great article called “Her Choice, Her Problem,” by Richard Stith of Valparaiso University School of Law in Indiana. He argues persuasively, using both logic and empirical data, that the aftermath of abortion legalization is a reduction in the status and rights of women, particularly pregnant women. There are a lot of reasons he provides, but the crux is this:

  1. In male-dominated cultures, the man decides whether the woman will get an abortion or not, regardless of what the law says. This is particularly true of convincing the woman to have an abortion she doesn’t want. She can secretly get an abortion without his knowledge – she can’t really secretly carry the child to term. So the scales are tilted towards abortion from the start. You might say that if either parent wants an abortion, an abortion is the likely result. (Obviously, some exceptions apply – some women are strong enough to stand up to this pressure, but particularly in the 3rd World, this is a problem). So whatever “choice” the woman gains by being able to say “yes, I want an abortion” and getting it, she loses the choice of saying “yes, I want to have my baby” if the man doesn’t want her to — again, in many cases. This is true even in the US — Stith quotes Vincent M. Rue’s findings, reported in the Medical Science Monitor, that “64 percent of American women who abort feel pressed to do so by others,” as well as results from Frederica Mathewes-Green’s findings (from her book Real Choices) that almost all women abort to to satisfy the desires of people who do not want to care for their children.
  2. Abortion completely severs the causal link between sex and a baby being born, and the woman has the ability to get an abortion. So for the first time in history, every baby being born is born because his or her mother allowed him/her to be born. This sweeping authority has resulted in many negatives for women, particularly for the mothers of disabled children. There have been proposals to deny free medical care for disabled children whose mothers were offerred free abortions. Even for non-disabled children, fathers use the abortion argument to attempt to shirk responsibility for child support. When child support was established, the man and woman decided to have sex, and a baby was born. They were equally responsible, he was likely a higher wage-earner, and so he paid his fair share to make sure that the child was provided for. As Stith points out, fathers today argue, “If consenting to sex does not entail consenting to act as a mother, why should it entail consenting to act as a father?” So in many ways, this total veto power women now weild eliminates the sort of sympathy and responsibility that the rest of society once felt to help raise (or at least provide for financially) the new child. Fathers, government programs, and employers who provide medical coverage all seem to be adopting a similar (and frightening) line of reasoning: “If she can’t care for her kids, she knows where the abortion clinic is. If she decides not to kill the kid, it’s her responsibility.” That’s the general argument, and again, it’s not helpful to the rights of women or their children.
  3. One of Strith’s more controversial points is that he views a lot of the dating scene in terms which resemble economics – supply and demand. And with the advent of abortion, there are many more women willing to have unprotected sex, and many more willing to ensure that the father won’t be liable for a baby being born (because a baby won’t be born, even if she gets pregnant). The impact of this is that women, all women, are expected to go further sexually than they may desire, and all women are potentially at risk of being pressured to do something they don’t want to do (whether it’s premarital sex or having an abortion). The best non-religious argument for abstinence – pregnancy – goes out the door with abortion. Think of it in these terms. Sweatshops are bad for every manufacturer in society, because as long as some companies use them, all of their competitors must either do so, or look worse by comparison (that is, by having a higher-priced product). While there’s some minority of people who are noble enough to shop at places that are sweatshop-free goods, the general consumer is not; likewise, while some guys will prefer a pro-life or (better) celibate girl, these ethical girls are put at a real disadvantage in the dating pool.

Anyways, you should check out the article, because he raises some interesting points, and it’s a side of the abortion debate that few argue. He doesn’t even touch on the obvious issue – that abortion is the killing of children. He doesn’t look at the impact of the child at all (which I actually like, in this particular case). Rather, he deliberately re-frames the debate. Because for so long, we’ve been told that the abortion debate is about the rights of women v. the rights of children (or “potential children”), it’s easy for pro-choicers to paint pro-lifers are anti-woman. Stith proves pretty persuasively that abortion isn’t really pro-woman: it’s pro- a certain group of morally flexible women, at the cost of women who wouldn’t want to have sex, unprotected sex, or abortions (but feel pressured into them anyways).

I’m interested if Serrin Foster argues the same basic thesis, or if she brings up something different. I’ll find out tonight! I’ll probably blog about it tomorrow.

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