Pro-Life and Feminist: Are They Compatible?
Abortion is one of the most contentious issues in politics today. Opinions often (but not always) run along party lines, and groups outside of political parties have stated opinions on the issue. The Church, in defense of the dignity of human life, has long declared its stance firmly against abortion. On the opposing side, what is perceived as the feminist platform is in favor of legal abortion.
Does this mean there can be no pro-life feminists? We need to break down the language to understand whether this is true.
First, we have to consider the concept of being pro-life. Being pro-life means respecting and protecting the dignity of the human person from conception to natural death. With a consistent life ethic, this means that a pro-life person not only opposes abortion, but also opposes the death penalty and supports care for our most vulnerable brothers and sisters at all stages of life.
Next, we look at what feminism is. In simplest terms, feminism is the belief in the equality of the sexes. This means that neither men nor women should be oppressed because of their biology.
Taking these two concepts together, pro-life ideology and feminist ideology are actually very compatible. Serrin Foster of Feminists for Life spoke about this on The Gist in 2013:
Pro-life feminism embraces the idea that women should have access to the support needed to carry and raise a child. This takes the shape of practices like prenatal medical care, resources for both mother and child before and after birth (beautifully exemplified by organizations like the Friends of the Unborn Home), and parental leave from work (such as the new parental leave program in the Archdiocese of Chicago). Creating a society friendly to mothers and children is a step toward true pro-life feminism.
A common misconception about the pro-life movement is that it cares only about the unborn child’s life, and not the mother’s. With a consistent life ethic, this is necessarily false. Being pro-life means defending the dignity of all life, and that includes women, especially when they are victims of oppression in any form. Pro-life activists are more vocal about defending unborn children, since they cannot speak for themselves and are more vulnerable. But including feminism in the pro-life movement helps ensure that mothers are not neglected, but instead lifted up. It is the responsibility of us all to come together in accepting the gift of life and respecting the dignity of all life, regardless of age, ability, or any other distinction. The divisions we create beyond that are merely distractions from the sanctity of life.