March 25th 2011

The real issue in the abortion controversy

By MarieAlena Castle
[Letter to various media]

Abortion is not about when life begins. It is not even about how many restrictions should be imposed. It is about the status of women in society. Are they free and equal citizens or is that freedom to be compromised because of millennia-long social and legal assumptions that women weren’t meant to be free, they were meant to have babies? After all, the Equal Rights Amendment did not pass precisely because of fears that it would free women to be their own decision makers in reproductive matters.

The current campaign to increase restrictions on abortion rights is to ensure that control rests squarely in the hands of everyone except the woman whose wellbeing is adversely affected in many ways by an unplanned pregnancy. That some of the proposed restrictions will become law – adding to the burdens already imposed by existing restrictions – indicates that the public in general feels it is acceptable to relegate women to a special slave-like class that exists primarily to serve the social purpose of childbearing.

So the question must be asked: Why is this childbearing so important that even the most unwise, difficult and problematic pregnancy must be brought to term if at all possible and at all costs?

“Concern for life” is the operating mantra. How is this concern expressed? By pro-life counseling centers giving a woman a year’s supply of diapers? Well and good, but where are the pro-life campaigns for laws that guarantee the woman will keep her job if she continues the pregnancy; that will give her the same educational and other benefits that military personnel get after a tour of duty (assuming that giving life has the same social value as taking life); that will ensure the availability of high-quality, affordable daycare for these supposedly highly valued children; that will provide them with affordable health care; that will offer comprehensive, affordable educational opportunities and ensure the availability of decent opportunities to earn a living? Where even are the highly accredited facilities for caring for children coerced into life with severe disabilities?

And getting back to basics, where are the laws that promote wide use of contraceptives and ensure their easy availability and affordability? In short, what do the advocates for a childbearing slave-status for women offer that might greatly reduce the need for abortion? Nothing but punishment. Nothing but economic and emotional hardship. Nothing but guilt-tripping and stigmatizing.

“Concern for life” shows no concern for life after birth, only a patriarchal concern that the decision making about childbirth be kept in the hands of misogynistic males and religious theocrats, and out of the hands of the woman, where it rightfully belongs.

1 Comment »

One Response to “The real issue in the abortion controversy”

  1. Ben Lucking on 27 Mar 2011 at 07:15pm #

    I share many sympathies with the opinions of this article however I also cannot disagree more with many of its conclusion. I am myself pro-choice however I think it is wrong to consider a pro-life position to be a sexist one or that it is only possible to be pro-life if you are religious.

    The idea that ‘life begins at conception’ is anti-science and can be easily shown to be false with simple facts about embryology. However the position that ‘life begins at birth’ is also scientifically indefensible.

    What is the difference between a child born one week premature and a fetus in utero that is due to be born in one week?

    We consider it appropriate to burden a parent with the care of their child, it is possible to give a child up for adoption however what do you think the law would be if this were impossible? Would we deem it morally appropriate to allow the child to die through neglect because it would be wrong to burden the parent? I sincerely hope not!

    The real question that we should ask concerning abortion is this. Is it ever appropriate to legally enforce a pregnant women to have the burdens of childbirth and pregnancy in order to allow the child or pre-child inside her to live?

    I would say no, however I do consider the life of the child to be morally relevant (although less so than the life of the mother and not to the same degree at every stage of pregnancy)

    The fact that any legislation on pregnancy and abortion applies ONLY TO WOMEN does not seem valid grounds to say that any anti-abortion legislation is misogynist or chauvinist. It simply places the life of the child above the burdens of the mother.

    [By the way you are spot on with all the latter points about the ridiculousness of the current anti-abortion lobby. It is a completely incoherent position however it is possible to have a non-religious and coherent position that is pro-life]

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