I don’t know how I ended up on the Bea Magazine site, but I did, and I made the mistake of reading an article and a comment thread on the topic of whether feminists can be “pro-life,” or anti-abortion, if you aren’t a fan of euphemisms. As I expected, but not as I hoped, the consensus was that indeed, opposing abortion requires one’s ejection from the feminist tent, at least in the view of this particular cadre of feminists.
“Brillliant Nora Ephron,” the post by Diane notes, wrote that “You can’t call yourself a feminist if you don’t believe in the right to abortion.” Well, Nora wasn’t so brilliant that day, because this is classic backward reasoning. It is framing reality by using ideology, the crystallization of confirmation bias into its most dangerous, poisonous and historically destructive form. It embraces the statement, “my mind’s made up, don’t confuse me with facts.” Indeed, it requires that facts be seen, filtered and interpreted through a pre-existing template that requires and then dictates a given result.
Let us imagine that through remarkable telepathy-enhancing technology (assuming there is such a thing as telepathy), we found that we could read the minds of unborn babies in the womb from the moment they had a rudimentary brain. And, let us imagine, that to our amazement, they are thinking lucid and individual thoughts, expressing pain, curiosity, fear, love, and anticipation. A rational and ethical approach to that discovery would be to re-evaluate assumptions about the lives of unborn children, and their right to have full protection of the law. The Bea approach, however, would preclude such analysis. It would preclude any objective analysis at all. While a rational analyst, observing the new data, could conclude and should at least consider that abortion, which in the hypothetical would require taking the life of a self-aware, individual human organism capable of complex thought, now must be considered murder or at least the state-sanctioned taking of a human life, the true feminist, according to Bea, Diane and Nora, must reject the possibility by reflex. Feminists literally can’t consider the unborn as rights-bearing humans. So they won’t. And don’t.
The need for a woman to have complete control over the childbirth process, a core tenet of feminism, dictates that the unborn can’t be seen as individuals, no matter what the facts are. So the analysis goes backwards. We are feminists, and believe that we must have complete control. Facts that indicate that the unborn are not merely cells or parasites, but human individuals warranting the state’s protection, are incompatible with that objective, so they must be ignored, denied, or distorted: they can’t be true.
Please note: I am not, here and now at least, taking a position on abortion. I am saying that the mindset that requires feminists to support abortion no matter what the facts may be is a profoundly unethical mindset shared by people most feminists would find despicable.
The reason Todd Akin and his ilk have come to the ridiculous conclusion, contrary to biology and logic, that women don’t get pregnant when they are raped is that believing this nonsense is necessary for them to hold on to their pre-formed attitudes regarding abortion and rape. They feel that opposing abortion for rape victims who become pregnant seems unjust, cruel, and wrong, so rather than contend with the difficult balancing tough ethical questions like that one require, they decide that the dilemma doesn’t exist. Rape victims don’t get pregnant. If Todd were a Nora Ephron feminist instead of an evangelical idiot, he would similarly be unshakable in his belief unborn babies aren’t human beings, even if they were recorded singing “I am the very model of a Model Major-General” in the womb. Problems solved.
Of course, such problems aren’t solved, but merely defined out of existence. Slaveholders who fancied themselves good people, and who also couldn’t make their plantations profitable without cheap labor, convinced themselves that blacks were an inferior sub-species, because that was the only analysis that would support their pre-determined positions. You can’t be sympathetic to Jews and accept the fact of the Holocaust, so you deny the Holocaust. You can’t oppose world regulation of carbon emissions while believing in catastrophic climate change, so you refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of climate change research. You’re an Obama supporter? Then the Affordable Care Act is wonderful; never mind that you haven’t read it, checked its assumptions, or considered what it might do the budget deficit. Are you a Christian who believes that the Bible is the word of God? Why, then, you can’t believe that geological and paleontological evidence is correct, because the Earth is less than 10,000 years old. And never mind what science, psychology and genetics say: homosexuality is a choice, because the Bible says it’s a sin, and something that isn’t a choice can’t be a sin.
To say one can’t be a feminist and oppose abortion is no different than arguing that one can’t be a conservative and support raising taxes, or be a liberal and believe that Social Security benefits have to be cut back. It is saying that a dictated end result dictates the way dawning reality will be perceived and responded to, rather than the way real knowledge is gleaned—objectively, honestly, without predetermined limitations. There are words for a feminist who concludes, based on her evaluation of the facts, that abortion is the taking of a human life and therefore cannot be an unlimited right: courageous, fair, honest. Being a feminist should mean standing for feminist principles consistently with the world as we learn and mutually decide how it is, not denying reality to make the dilemmas of feminism disappear. Ideologies aren’t merely lazy crutches for avoiding the real life hurdles of inconvenient truths; they are unethical mindsets that make open-mindedness and objectivity impossible, while impeding society’s job of trying solve its complex problems, rather than pretending they don’t exist.
*UPDATE: Some commenters, and Diane herself, protest below that her article did not, in fact, say that being pro-life/anti-abortion meant one could not be a feminist. This requires a warped and disingenuous interpretation of the terms pro-life and anti-abortion. Diane seems to be arguing that one can be feminist-worthy anti-abortion as long as one does not oppose abortions by those who are pro-abortion. That is nonsense. Diane’s key passage:
“Feminists for Life seem to be missing the point (or maybe they think we are stupid) that many women who continue with unplanned pregnancy end up socially discriminated against as ‘single parents’ and financially oppressed as there is no adequate system to ask the absent parent to care/support the child equally. On the other hand, women can be pressured into abortion then oppressed for similar reasons. The real point is that people should be educated enough and free enough to look at their own lives and make a personal decision. So I feel Feminists for Life are just paying lip service and perhaps trying to sabotage the word feminism and bend it to make their cause popular. I think of them as ‘bandwagon feminists’, shouting ‘feminism’ but backing it up with their own oppressive opinions.”
If a feminist (or anyone) concludes, after fair analysis, that abortion is wrong because it involves the taking of a human life, opposing that act by others is not “oppressive.” It is, rather, morally and ethically mandatory.
Source and Graphic: Bea