Righting Women’s Rights
Do You Believe Women’s Rights Includes the Right to Terminate a Pregnancy?
By Sarah Gitlin: Feminism is the radical notion that women are people. It may sound like a trite bumper-sticker slogan, but given that so many inourgeneration claim, “I’m not a feminist, but I believe in women’s equality,” maybe we need to reflect on what exactly feminists believe, and what we do not.
Let’s start with what we do not believe: We do not hate men. We do not think that women are superior to men. We are both gay and straight, and we do not hate sex.
Here is what we do think: We believe in equality and opportunity. We believe that, to quote Hillary Clinton, “women’s rights are human rights.”
If you think that women and men are equal – if you believe that both sexes should have the same opportunities to lead productive lives, and if you support a woman’s right to decide what happens within her own body – then, like it or not, you are a feminist, too.
We think that women, just like men, should be able to choose the course of their own lives and that they should be able to decide what goes on inside their own bodies. As the dismally low percentage of teen mothers pursuing high-power careers shows, the two issues are linked: Having children before a woman is economically and emotionally ready for them can have a devastating impact on the rest of her life.
We are pro-choice. If we want women to be able to have as many opportunities in their lives as men do, they must have access to safe, legal abortions. No one actively desires an abortion, but accidents do happen. Condoms break and birth control pills occasionally fail. And as for those conservatives who say that women should not be having sex in the first place? In response to them, we note the lack of reliable evidence to support abstinence-only education’s role in reducing the number of unintended pregnancies.
Unfortunately, abortion rights are still under attack in a post-Roe v. Wade world. As the recent spate of attacks around the country on Planned Parenthood funding and contraception access show, we must continue to fight to preserve the rights we already have. To protect the right to choose, we must mobilize, we must vote, and we must stand up and oppose each and every attempt to incrementally deprive women of the rights for which our mothers and grandmothers fought so hard.
By Kate Christensen: Women’s rights encompass all the decisions women are able to make about their own lives. From education and employment to relationships and families, all individuals have the right to be the steward of their own lives. The fundamental question in the debate on women’s reproductive rights is about who has jurisdiction over the fetus. Women and men should have complete control over when, where, and how they choose to have sex and establish a family. But who has control over the existence of the resulting zygote? A woman should have every liberty to make decisions for herself, but does she also hold the liberty of the being developing inside of her? Does she have the right to regulate the fetus, or does the fetus have its own rights? Women should have access to good healthcare and thorough education as they make their decisions. However, a woman’s freedom to make decisions for herself does not extend to making mortal decisions on behalf of the baby.
A fetus, just because it cannot think and speak for itself, should not be deprived of legal protection as an individual. Someone’s mental capacity does not mean she or he has any less privilege to liberty than another person. And this too holds true for the fetus.
The most beautiful privilege all women and men have is that of choice. The problem that comes with choosing, though, is consequence. Women who are victims of rape or incest, or are in mortal danger by their pregnancy, should have the option to have an abortion because they were unable to exercise free agency in childbearing. Under normal circumstances, women have the agency to choose when to have sex and with whom. We also have the agency to choose if we are going to use birth control. With that agency, which women are free to utilize, comes the possibility of consequence: pregnancy. Consequences are inextricably bound to action.
The government needs a more preventative approach toward women’s health policy. Abstinence-only sex education is proven to result in more unwanted pregnancies than more comprehensive education programs do, thus health education reform in public schools should be fully supported. We have a responsibility to inform potential parents of the ways in which they can plan their families and manage their sex lives. Life is not to be trifled with.
By Colleen Shaffer: Most people are perplexed when they hear the term “pro-life feminist,” as though these two beliefs could never go hand in hand. As pro-life feminists, we are dedicated to the fundamental right of all people to develop their own potential, free of all unjust limitations on their growth. All people are invested with inherent value and possess equal rights.
Individual humans are defined by their unique genetic code and capacity for growth, which is determined at fertilization; as there is no change in the genetics of this unique human being between fertilization and birth, he or she possesses the same value and human rights as a pre-born fetus, a newborn infant, or a grown adult.
The only major differences between the fetus and the infant are the level of physical development and the degree of dependency on the mother for survival. While it is obvious that fetuses are less developed than newborns, this difference is not morally significant. The unborn is not just a clump of tissue parasitically attached to the mother’s body. Killing him or her is a choice as much as killing another human being is a choice.
We hope that the fight for women’s rights in our society will continue: The right to be free of the influences of a sexist and misogynous media; the right to not fear for our integrity and safety in the home and in public; the right to equal pay for equal work; the right to more female representation in Congress and in upper-level leadership. There must be a radical transformation in contemporary society to make it practically pro-woman, through measures such the development of more community resources for pre- and post-natal counseling and medical care.
Our group upholds a consistent pro-life ethic, supporting the dignity and value of the human person from conception to natural death. Pro-life is “anti-” many things: among them violence, inequality, discrimination, and injustice. As pro-life activists, we consider ourselves human rights activists and, therefore, women’s rights activists committed to justice for all people to make any number of choices that do not infringe upon the inherent dignity, value, and right to life of any other person – born or unborn.