Daniel Payne wrote for The Federalist last month that it is impossible to be a feminist and be pro-life. While many who find their pro-life values constantly attacked by feminists share this sentiment, it simply isn’t true. Pro-lifers may in fact be in the best place to advocate for the rights and well-being of women today.
Payne brings up two examples of modern feminists who claimed pro-life views were possible within their camp. Both of them failed to demonstrate any strong opposition to abortion. Interesting cases, but this certainly doesn’t prove the two ideologies are irreconcilable. All Payne succeeds in saying is that the most common mainstream incarnation of feminism is adamantly pro-abortion.
At risk of stating the obvious, one cannot be both pro-abortion and anti-abortion. Therefore, if you are one of the most common mainstream incarnations of feminism, you are pro-choice and not pro-life, Payne concludes. He doesn’t bother to define feminism at all.
Feminism Is Big-Tent
Feminism is an incredibly broad set of views. History recognizes at least three waves, all concerned with different issues. People largely share the concerns of the first wave, whether or not they identify as a feminist. Women should have the opportunity to vote, be educated, and receive fair pay, for example.
There are several issues—such as pornography—that feminists take wildly different stances on, some saying it’s terrible for women and some saying it’s empowering. There is room for disagreement on abortion within feminism, as well. It is only natural that reproductive rights should become a topic of conversation for feminists. But the conclusion that many of them draw is not natural or necessary.
It is good for us to discuss sexual and reproductive rights. Should a father be legally bound to contribute monetarily or otherwise to the raising of his unintended child? We care very much about the answers to questions like this. The concept of reproductive rights is important for us to consider, feminist or not.
It’s a Question of Conflicting Rights
Who bears the responsibility of an unintended pregnancy, and who can make decisions for the child at this point? Just because we say that a mother has a right to make decisions for her child in the event of an unintended pregnancy does not mean she has the right to kill. What’s unnatural in this conversation is not that the mother has rights—it’s our willingness to completely overlook a legal and moral injustice.
We agree that I have a right to privacy, but if somehow my right to privacy came in conflict with another human being’s right to life, their right would transcend mine. To be feminist and pro-life is to say that when the rights of the mother conflict with the child’s right to life, the right to life transcends her reproductive right. It’s as simple as that.
Not only is it possible to be feminist and pro-life, but the pro-lifer is in a unique position to fight for women today. We believe that women should be empowered to be mothers, rather than have pills and procedures pushed at them just because they are young or didn’t mean to get pregnant. We believe that women are amazingly strong, and we don’t downplay the incredible stamina it takes to carry a child and give birth. We believe that society should do more for the mothers, so women don’t have to live like men just to get an education or a job.
Payne concludes, “It is, indeed, possible to call yourself a ‘feminist’ and also style yourself ‘pro-life,’ but… such a marriage is ultimately untenable. The politics and the philosophy of one side will often crowd out the other.” I disagree. Those who hold a pro-life philosophy are the best equipped to empower women and advance the feminist ideals that the movement was originally founded upon.
This article was originally published on Save the Storks, and is reprinted with permission.