When Voicing An Opinion Makes You Anti-Feminist

The abortion issue is rife with ill will, angry feelings, and ideological bullshit from left and right sources. For all the harping on how it’s a personal decision between a woman and her doctor, there are still those who believe that to be against abortion as a solution to the “problem” of pregnancy makes one anti-feminist and someone who “endangers” women’s lives. To be for choice also signals to the radical right that one is “anti-life” and not a proper Christian. Nowhere is there the freedom to make this decision on an individual case by case basis and not write a blanket free check as if we can vote for or against by rote.

I promised myself I would never write on this issue, but Marcy Bloom’s belittling of Melinda Gates’ decision to steer clear of the ideological issues surrounding abortion in On the Issues magazine made me so angry. Bloom writes:

So why is the Gates Foundation ignoring the abortion care needs of women? When asked on NPR by reporter Michele Norris, Melinda Gates said, “We don’t want to be part of the controversy.” In response to a request for comment to the Gates Foundation, a response was emailed from “Deborah Lacy (Independent Contractor)” who said: “While the foundation is making new investments in maternal and child health, our position on funding abortion services has not changed. Specifically, the foundation does not fund abortion and does not take a stance on the issue. We focus on improving access to the tools women need to prevent unintended pregnancy, by supporting organizations that provide voluntary family planning information and services for women in developing countries. Family planning services are critical to prevent unintended pregnancy and reduce abortions.”

Does she fear that the image of the foundation will be affected? Fear anti-choice boycotts of Microsoft products? Does she have security concerns? Fret about the moral complexity of women’s decision-making? Or does she view women’s lives as controversial?

Gates seems unable to understand that the true moral issue is allowing women and girls to die because of lack of access to a safe medical procedure. By trying to avoid the “controversy” surrounding abortion, Gates has created another: it is impossible to work on maternal mortality issues and ignore abortion.

In other words Melinda, by refusing to get involved you are dooming “women and girls to die.” Now don’t you feel ashamed, Melinda Gates? Never mind that some people wrestle long and hard with issues surrounding abortion and come to different conclusions that Marcy Bloom. Never mind that the Gates Foundation is doing a world of good in other areas surrounding women’s health. The fact that abortion on demand isn’t one of them dooms the Gates to censure from those who disagree with their politics and moral decisions.

Abortion is by no means the only solution to saving women’s lives. It’s the equivalent of allowing the death penalty to clean out prisons and stop crime. It is NOT the solution just as abortion is NOT the solution to unwanted pregnancies. Let’s address birth control. Let’s address educating boys and men that they hold equal responsibility for unprotected sex. Let’s teach women that abortion is not a birth control method. Sure there are rapes. Sure there are horrific gender crimes in other countries. Rape is a political tool for oppressing women especially in militaristic and dictatorial societies. But abortion does not solve this problem. Refusing to fund abortions does not mean that the Gates Foundation condones rape or ill-health or anything of the sort. Taking the opposite ideology to Bloom’s does not mean the Gates Foundation is advocating anything other than exercising their own decision to fund what they want.

Personally a woman is in as much danger having a legal abortion as she is when having an illegal one. For me, abortion cheapens life just as much as the death penalty does. It means that there are lives that are expendable for the sake of others’ lives. I did not come to this decision lightly. My great-grandmother died from a botched abortion in her 20s because my great-grandfather told her they could not afford another child. At his urging she got the abortion and my grandmother and her sisters lost their mother. At 18 I found myself faced with a similar decision. I chose abortion and have regretted it and simultaneously not regretted it. It was in a legal clinic and was a horrific experience all around.  Sure, I gained my “freedom” from a situation I didn’t want to be in, but I have always regretted not giving the father of that child a voice in the situation. I’ve regretted not knowing I had other choices  and not knowing the gestational completeness of an infant in the womb (the word fetus cheapens it to some blob of tissue, which it assuredly is not at a certain stage). Late term abortions I find completely repugnant and would oppose no matter what the circumstances.

There are some, like Bloom, who feel they are doing women a service by providing these procedures. Some provide them without ever knowing anything about the circumstances in which the women come to them. It makes a complete difference why women come to abortion clinics. Are they being coerced into it by their boyfriends? Would they then get counseled NOT to do it? Are they told they have the right not to do it? Are they informed about what the procedure is like? I wasn’t. I got the impression no one much cared why you were there as long as you had the money for the procedure. Sobbing from pain and nauseous, all I got was a nurse telling me not to be such a baby about it. And still, no one pays attention to the women who regret this decision and are NOT brainwashed by a religion to think so. As a Christian, I was completely pro-choice without reservation. But as with everything, age and experience has taught me different things and I’ve since changed my mind and have some very serious reservations.  It is a completely personal decision not to whole-heartedly endorse all abortions at all times. I don’t. There are objections of all sorts. And I admire the Gates Foundation for not succumbing to another person’s politics and making their own decision about where their money is going. I admire them for not using women as pawns to further fund their personal ideology. There will always be those who furiously defend their opinions and ideologies as the only “right” ones to be had. However, if that one opinion puts me on the “wrong” side of the whole political spectrum feminists are supposed to espouse, then count me in the anti-feminist category.

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6 thoughts on “When Voicing An Opinion Makes You Anti-Feminist

  1. As a male, if called upon to judge between individual decisions, arrived at through individual experiences, and “ism” group think, I would advocate an individual woman or couple’s right to make a choice based on as much information as possible.

    Ideology makes a poor counsellor. We can all make choices we later regret, but if those choices were made based on who we were then, and were made according to our own views rather than someone else’s, we can better live with them afterwards.

    Whether or not to terminate a pregnancy is surely not the kind of heart-rending life-changing choice which should be influenced either by sexual politics, or the baleful rantings of those who claim to know what God thinks.

    • Well said Reg. I fear that I may have left the impression that I no longer believe in choice. I do wish for safe procedures for women. However, I do not believe abortion is the answer to any of this. Just because we have the ability to do something, doesn’t mean we should do it. And no “ism” can tell anyone what should be the right decision or the wrong one. I think anti-abortionists and abortionists alike exploit women in the attempt to make their ideologies the “law” of the land. It’s a complicated issue and not one to be decided any ideology whatsoever, which is the point I think you are making as well. Thanks for that.

  2. My $0.02 is that the choice needs to be made by the individual, and that’s between her and God and whoever else she chooses to make part of the process.

    I can understand the frustration that Marcy Bloom expressed; thousands of women in developing countries die of botched abortions every year. I agree with improving access to health care and safe, effective birth control. I feel that this reduces the need for abortions. But nonetheless, the procedure itself needs to remain safe, affordable, and available for the many women unlucky enough to find themselves in that situation and wanting to make the decision. In the US, it is the single most common medical procedure women undergo. I believe it is very common for women to be able to receive counseling now. At least, I hope. And I hope it’s the type that doesn’t make things worse instead of better.

    The way I understand it, feminism is supposed to be about women making choices for themselves. If you choose to be pro-life while being a feminist, I am not going to argue with you, because you clearly have reasons for doing so. There will be women who argue that your position is anti-feminist, just like there are people who would argue that I’m not a real Christian. People are people, regardless of the labels we put on ourselves. :-/

    • Jessica, you wrote: “If you choose to be pro-life while being a feminist, I am not going to argue with you, because you clearly have reasons for doing so. There will be women who argue that your position is anti-feminist, just like there are people who would argue that I’m not a real Christian.” And this is the truth. My post mainly was to show that despite what the gatekeepers of “isms” would like us to believe, policy and how we choose to make it, act on it, or contribute to it, is a lot more complicated than the black/white issue of being pro-life or whatever. I consider myself pro-choice but with caveats. I guess the deeper issue would be that we’ve lost the ability to think deeply about these issues and how they affect all concerned, not just the mother. Like I said, I used to be pro-death penalty until I saw that among all the executions taking place they would sometimes execute teenagers, which should be a criminal act itself or that they used to execute innocent human beings in the pre-DNA era. Now, there are too many variables to take into account. Similarly, I don’t think anyone can say that abortion is an absolute right of the mother and no one else’s and in that stance is where I think feminists would exclude me from the ranks. Thanks for the comment! 🙂

  3. Actually, the situation is even worse than your title implies: That dissenters on various issues are automatically branded as anti-feminist (or misogynist, patriarchical, whatnot) is very common. Here, however, someone is attacked just for not explicitly agreeing—either you are with us or against us.

    As an aside, I find it highly troubling that the abortion issue is not treated as the very complicated ethical issue (involving several parties and aspects) it is, but as an absolute “a woman can do whatever she wants with her body” or a “God forbids it”.

    • Hi Michael. Thanks for the comment. I too am troubled by the lack of nuance attached to the issue. As if all of feminism rises or falls on this one single issue.

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