Pro-Life Index

Food for Thought

Linda Naranjo-huebl on helping women contemplating abortion:

When I say we must acknowledge what prochoice and prolife feminists have recognized all along--the State can't come in and control what a woman does with her own body, I am not merely using the rhetoric of choice. I am using carefully chosen words that eighteenth and nineteenth-century feminists used to win rights for women-- to go where they want, flee abuse, marry by choice, engage in sex on a willing basis, learn about their bodies, etc. Prochoice feminists have appropriated the terminology from early feminists. To call it a "slogan" or to take offense at words that have arisen from the sincere struggles of women is to stop listening. Actually having dialogued with many prochoice feminists, I am quick to agree with them when they assert woman's right to control her own body. Then I move on to pointing out that the in-utero child has that same right. The biological fact that the child's body is inside another person's body is the most unique relationship and perfect example of community that exists. This distinction, I would argue, has largely been ignored by law in our country and suggests that "law," as we know it in America, will not be able to be applied to the abortion issue in the same manner as other legislation concerning "rights" (the subject that raised this discussion). You mentioned the dyad that is "totally unique to a woman's sexuality." This is exactly the point I am trying to get across. It is so unique that laws, as we know them, are not going to be much help if the nature of the relationship between a woman and her in-utero child is not fully understood or appreciated by our culture. And I would argue that a legal system founded in a patriarchal culture is sorely lacking in this understanding and isn't the best tool to address the problem (although it is a tool).

I'll make my point again--the State can't (that is, will not be able to) control a woman's body. If a pregnant woman does not want to take care of her in-utero child, we can have all kinds of laws in place that discourage her and make it difficult for her to abuse her in-utero child, but the State can never effectively force her to nurture that life. Society hasn't even figured out an effective way to stop abuse of born children, even though there has always been legislation in place. Again (I feel like a broken record here), I support such legislation because our laws are an expression of where we as a culture place our values, and all human beings must be guaranteed equal protection under the law; but it is clearly not a complete "remedy" because the mother-child relationship is so unique. And those women for whom abortion has a major self-destructive element to it will hardly be deterred by legislation. How many suicidal people do you know who are concerned about breaking a law?

When a prochoice woman states that a woman must control her own body, instead of turning her off, hear instead the real problem. Within her range of thinking about the law and rights and autonomy, she recognizes no model, no paradigm, by which both the woman's and her child's rights can be respected simultaneously. What this says to me is not that I should stop listening to her, but rather, that I should seek to explore with her new paradigms and new ways of thinking that would help her see that patriarchal thinking has led her to see only an either/or situation; and together we need to imagine new models that go beyond these restrictions. This is why FFL's current college campaign has been so effective--we are going beyond the existing models and poles in the debate to imagine something new and work together with prochoicers to provide women more life-affirming options.

One time I was speaking at a high school, debating an ACLU attorney who made the mistake of going first (why anyone would volunteer to go first in a debate situation is beyond me). She started by saying that she believed the entire abortion debate could be summed up in the bumper sticker "If you don't like abortion, don't have one." When I got up to speak, the first thing I said was that the idea that this very difficult debate could be summed up by a bumper sticker is an extreme insult to prolifers, prochoicers, and everyone in between who has sincerely struggled with the issue, including the high school students to whom we were speaking. (I then went on to point out historically where that slogan came from --antebellum slavery debates--but I've told that story before.)

We need to be listening.

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