Abortion and the feminist club

Anti-abortion?  Can you even be a feminist, doesn’t it break some kinda rule or something?

It’s contested, for sure.  Personally, I think you can be anti-abortion and a feminist.  If you don’t like abortions, you don’t have to have one – and you can still be active in challenging gender oppression which harms women.

Where there is a rule for me is around whether being anti-abortion means you try to restrict other women’s access to controlling their own fertility, including access to abortion.   I don’t buy the claims to feminism of well-organised US groups which actively campaign to restrict other women’s access to abortion and call it “pro-woman”.

I believe access to safe, early abortion should be as straightforward as possible for all women. Not wanting to have a child is reason enough.  It’s reason enough that we don’t want to have a child yet, or we don’t want to have a child with that person, or we don’t want to have another child yet or at all.  All of those reasons are enough because every child should be a wanted child.

But I also believe that abortion ends human life, so the safer and rarer they are, the better.  Women having multiple, serial abortions?  Not typically an example of women living autonomous, empowered lives.  I say this not to blame women – I’m not interested in that – but because if I imagine a world in which abortion is much less necessary for women to exercise full control over our fertility, that world feels like somewhere I’d like to be.

We’d need access to the full range of reproductive and sexual health options.  All of us, all the time.  And that includes information about pleasure, and tools for unravelling gender norms which perpetuate the risk of unwanted pregnancy. Far too many women are in coercive sexual situations with men in which negotiating contraception is problematic at best and impossible at worst.

We’d need access to reproductive and sexual health options, and information about pleasure and our bodies, and tools for unravelling  gender norms which perpetuate the risk of unwanted pregnancy for everyone, not just for women.  The cultural shift of responsibility for pregnancy resting with the people who created the pregnancy, not the person impregnated.

And after all that, if an unwanted pregnancy still happened, we’d need straightforward access to safe abortion.  Because every child should be a wanted child.

These issues are intimately feminist, and intimately intertwined.  Being anti-abortion at a personal level, to my mind, does not mean you cannot be active in campaigning or working to provide active reproductive choices for women.  But the moment you step over into trying to stop other women’s exercising reproductive choices?  You’re out of my feminist club.

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