Breaking news: empowering women is important
by Hillary Bosch
Have you ever heard of the feminist pro-life movement? Probably not. It’s incredibly niche and often overshadowed by its more vocal Bible-thumping, shame-shouting counterparts. Although the progressive pro-life movement shares an end goal with the rest of the anti-abortion movement, it dramatically differs in its mission and offers a modern, compassionate perspective to a 45 year old issue that has divided the country.
As millennials who grew up in conservative households reach college age, many grapple to reconcile their pro-life upbringing with modern social justice movements. As a graduate of an all-girls Catholic high school, the pro-life cause was drilled into me with graphic testimonials and even more graphic photos. It became cool and almost expected for people to join the Pro-Life Club, and even cooler if you were able to snatch a coveted spot on the bus that drove up to the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. My high school friends and I have had countless discussions over the years about finding our place in current social movements; can we march in the women’s march but still be pro-life? Can we argue for refugees, immigration reform, and other typically “progressive” issues while harboring what our university colleagues would call a backwards or hateful opinion?
That same annual march was held last week on January 19th and, despite the relative lack of media coverage, was a massive success with hundreds of thousands of attendees. Although many in attendance hailed from churches and conservative activist groups, it would be wrong to stereotype all marchers as members of these groups. Every year, feminist pro-life groups bring thousands of their supporters in only increasing numbers, including the Fordham Respect for Life club.
If your goal is to help women in desperate situations (which it always should be??), then the goal should not be to make abortion illegal but entirely obsolete; this means not fighting the women involved, but fighting the reasons they have to make such a heart-wrenching choice in the first place. The feminist pro-life movement, as described on the Feminists for Life webpage, is “dedicated to systematically eliminating the root causes that drive women to abortion — primarily lack of practical resources and support — through holistic, woman-centered solutions.” Basically what this means is that people are realizing that overturning Roe v. Wade tomorrow will not end abortion, but rather just make it dangerous and set us back half a century. Shocker.
The main goal of the progressive pro-life movement is not to make abortion illegal ASAP, but to end the economic, social, and cultural pressures that drive women to that decision in the first place.
Instead, the progressive pro-life movement is focusing its efforts on three fronts: preventative, post-natal, and social. On the preventative side, they work to provide access to birth control, real sex education, and fighting rape culture. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 75% of women seeking abortions live in poverty, meaning that one facet of ending abortion is also working to help women (and men) out of poverty.
This ties into advocating for improved post-natal resources as well; no parent should ever be forced to choose between their pregnancy and financial survival. Childcare, post-natal medical bills, and simply the day-to-day necessities of caring for a newborn add up to a hefty bill. A common critique of the pro-life movement is that it purports to be pro-life, but often is only “pro-birth,” and honestly this assessment is warranted based on the current message being blasted by pro-life leaders (@realDonaldTrump).
However, many pro-life organizations are realizing this and trying to tackle this problem. For example, the Sisters of Life in New York offer free daycare services for working mothers, and also has an office dedicated to helping pregnant women get the information and resources they need. Additionally, they have an office solely for helping women recover from abortions because anyone who knows the reality of abortion, pro-whatever, can recognize it as a human tragedy and potentially one of the most distressing experiences one can face. Colleges and universities around the country are also working to offer more resources such as childcare and family friendly environments.
It also means everyone, Bible-thumping pro-lifers including, working to create a world “in which pregnancy, motherhood, and birth are accepted and supported.” This includes more breast-feeding friendly businesses, working for paid maternity AND paternity leave, and treating women with unexpected pregnancies with the respect and dignity they deserve at every point in their lives. That means not gossiping about the girl from high school that “got knocked up,” but empowering her. That means not shaming young mothers but rather offering warmth and understanding. The goal of changing the “hearts and minds” of society is perhaps the most difficult, but arguably the most important if we are to end the social pressures and expectations that push women into abortion.
I get that this was a lot of information, sorry not sorry. But to recap, the main goal of the progressive pro-life movement is not to make abortion illegal ASAP, but to end the economic, social, and cultural pressures that drive women to that decision in the first place. Isn’t that everyone’s goal, pro-choice or pro-life?