For many people, the first issue that comes to mind when they hear the term “Women’s Rights” is reproductive rights. This is understandable, as reproductive rights has been one of the major focuses of the Women’s Rights movement since its “second wave” began in the early 1960s. Even today, reproductive rights seems to be the most controversial and talked-about aspect of Women’s Rights as a whole.
Throughout the conservative political community and the Christian community, Women’s Rights is often a tough topic to broach because of its association with the right to life/right to choose debate. Those who are pro-life often become so focused on one issue that they ignore the rest of the gamut of Women’s Rights issues. Those who are pro-choice often alienate pro-lifers and miss out on potential allies in other Women’s Rights efforts. All do a poor job acknowledging the existence and importance of the pro-life feminist.
The dictionary definition of “feminism” is: the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men. It’s obvious that this definition can have different interpretations, and I think a pro-life interpretation is both possible and legitimate.
So what does a pro-life feminist look like? While I’m sure the answer to this question will vary greatly depending on who you ask, here’s what I think: a pro-life feminist is somebody who celebrates unwed mothers. Oh, and teenage mothers, divorced mothers, poor mothers and mothers who are sexual assault survivors.
A pro-life feminist believes that every baby conceived in difficult circumstances still has the right to live, and this feminist knows that for every unplanned baby born, there is a woman who made an extremely scary, difficult choice. A pro-life feminist is crazy about any woman brave enough to raise a child without the support of a partner, any woman who chooses life for her baby over financial security for herself and her family, any woman willing to waddle around her high school for nine months as everyone around her passes judgment, any woman willing to forfeit the future she had planned for herself.
“But what if I believe that premarital sex is wrong?” you might be asking. “If I believe things like unwed motherhood and teen pregnancy are societal problems just like abortion, isn’t it unfair to ask me to celebrate the results of bad decisions?”
No matter your cause, the enemy of your enemy is your friend, as the old adage goes. It bothers me that so many people refuse to see the binary that characterizes this issue. Abortion is one side of the binary. Pregnant, unmarried women and disadvantaged mothers are the other side. Less of one means more of the other, so if you’re going to dislike one, you have to be ready to support the other.
I’m sure many feel that this shouldn’t be the case, that we should live in a world where no one is faced with an unwanted pregnancy, no one is caught in a cycle of poverty, no one is abandoned by a partner, no one is sexually assaulted, or maybe even no one has sex outside of marriage. However, we don’t live in that world, and that isn’t the world we humans are obliged to love and serve.
This doesn’t mean that anyone needs to encourage or condone choices that he or she genuinely believes are wrong, but if your stance is that women should go through with unplanned pregnancies, you’d better be there for them when they do. The people condemning abortion and the people condemning unwed mothers should never be the same people.
A pro-life feminist does everything in his or her power to show love and support to the women who choose “life.” This is more than merely avoiding direct or indirect condemnation of these women; “love” is an entire set of words and actions.
A pro-life feminist finds concrete ways to economically support struggling mothers. She goes out of her way to emotionally support struggling mothers. She votes in favor of candidates, programs and policies that aim to benefit struggling mothers. She refuses to gossip about unwed mothers or pass judgment on those facing unplanned pregnancies. She celebrates the women she knows who choose motherhood or adoption and tirelessly encourages everyone she knows to do the same.
I’d love to see a time when fewer women choose abortion, not because it is illegal or shrouded in shame, but because they know that if they make the incredibly difficult decision to move forward with motherhood or adoption, they will be showered with love and support instead of condemnation. The way I see it, the best way to be pro-life is to pour love into the lives of the women who face unplanned pregnancies, no matter the choice they make.
Tatum Hunter is a sophmore from Lebanon, Ohio who may be best known around campus for her performances as a hysterical teenage girl in the Crucible and Lucy the Slut in Avenue Q. When you can get her off of a stage, she is a witty and charming writer who loves cats. She will spend her summer writing social media for the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.