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July 21, 2005



Those ads are certainly revealing: even their advocacy for childcare or child support is put in the context opposing abortion. What a non sequitur. Most everything else strikes me as a strawman, or simply false ("No one wants to have an abortion ...").


Hugo, this is one of those issues where you and I will have to agree to disagree. I took a look at the FFL website and as far as I can tell the "feminist" part of their name seems to be, basically, advertisting and nothing more. I think the only reason the word feminist is in their name is that they have a very clever PR person. I also think that ANY political organization which refuses to allow easy public access to their policy papers on certain issues is trying to hide something.
By the way, I've done a great deal of research on the abortion/breast cancer connection because I have two first-degree relatives with breast cancer and am therefore in the high-risk group. Basically, there is no statistically meaningful correlation between abortion and breast cancer. The correlation between breast cancer and birth control pills is much stronger, although even that is still inconclusive.


bmmg, I have to think you're being deliberately obtuse at this point. The poster may not have that exact message printed on it, but the group as a whole implies that mindset by remaining utterly silent on the topic of rape except as it relates to abortion. I'm extremely suspicious of any "feminist" group which is more concerned about chastising women who were impregnated by rapists than actually speaking out against rape. Frankly, nothing on that poster suggests that rape is any different from any other sexual experience that could/does lead to pregnancy, or that anyone other than the woman has responsibility for what happened, or that "Feminists for Life" particularly care whether or not the woman suffers emotional trauma as a result of the decision they're urging her to make (just as long as that fetus stays alive at all costs!). If it's not actually victim-blaming, it's a close relative; whatever it is, it's not feminist.

And as a fun little intellectual exercise, imagine that Rebecca was a high-risk pregnancy whose mother was likely to die or suffer permanent physical damage as a result of carrying/giving birth to her. The same appeal-to-emotion rhetorical tactics would apply, wouldn't they? Does she deserve the "death penalty" simply because she had the misfortune to be a danger to her mother's life? It wasn't her fault, was it? Aren't people who advocate for "exceptions" in the case of danger to the mother's life implying that poor Rebecca should be dead? Somehow I don't think that message would be nearly as palatable to most sane people, but it's really the same argument-- only the severity and type of damage to the mother is different (death/physical damage vs. emotional/mental damage). I find both arguments equally unconvincing and equally distasteful.

Susan Nunes

Sorry, but in no way can you be a feminist and be for the recriminalization of abortion.

"Feminists for Life" is an oxymoron. It would be like claiming one is a feminist but doesn't support equal pay.

The right of women to control their fertility is vitally important for them to participate in society as full equals. Feminists realized this in the 1960s, and they joined forces with population and medical groups in legalizing abortion.

I also find the FFL website full of lies and distortions about the issue, beginning with their deceptive use of early feminist icons like Cady, Anthony, and Woodhull. These women would spin in their graves knowing they were being used by a lying organization like FFL. Remember, abortion was outlawed in the first place not because of any concern for fetuses but because it was dangerous (this was in the pre-antiseptic era) to women, even more dangerous than childbirth. That coupled with the general attitude towards sexuality in the Victorian Era explains these early feminists' opposition to the procedure.

I seriously doubt they would feel that way now if they were alive today.

It is deception to twist and ignore history and use these icons to further what is really a right-wing agenda couched in "feminist" terms.

I have no more use for "Feminists" for Life any more than I do the Eagle Forum. They are all part of the same sisterhood.


Susan, FFL does not call for the recriminalization of abortion as part of its mission statement. Some folks in FFL do support that; others (like me) favor a more gradual shift. You don't stop abortions by making them illegal, say some FFLers; you stop them by making them unthinkable.

Sorry, I just broke my self-imposed silence on this issue. But I loathe litmus tests, and as someone who has known many wonderful pro-life feminists, I know full well that this isn't a contradiction in terms.


Sorry, but being anti-abortion supports criminalization for somebody -- doctors, women, somebody. "Unthinkable" doesn't justify the stance and a "feminist" label together.


As I've said before, it is also pretty freaking ridiculous for a "feminist" group to have no position on the use of contraceptives. It's like saying that one wants to stop people from drowning, but one has no position on the use of life jackets.


OK, here goes:

I struggle with Hugo's struggle over the issue of abortion. I must confess, I find it difficult. I cannot honestly agree with absolutely everything in the consistent-life-ethic mission statement, though I agree with many things. Being anti-abortion is not something I can support, and the question of euthanasia is, I think, even more complex than the issue of abortion.

But I respect that abortion is a big issue, and I appreciate that some people do actually listen to others views and experiences and actually struggle with it. I grew up in an extremely conservative Christian town, and all I heard in church groups and even in public school was how terrible abortion is. So when someone actually does try to think, and listen to dissenting views, and struggles with the issue, I can say that I have some appreciation.

However, I ask those of you who are against access to legal abortions. What about the women who will die from illegal abortions if Roe Vs. Wade is overturned? History, in both the U.S. and Canada, shows that abortions do not stop when they are made illegal, they go underground. And some women who find that they cannot even access and illegal underground abortion will try radical things on themselves in desperation.

Thousands of women have died in North America from illegal abortions, desperate home measures, and suicide. No one reading this blog will argue that women aren't human beings. However, not everyone reading this blog will agree that a fertilized egg is a human being.

So: when is an egg, or an embryo, or a fetus, a human being? This is a big, and somewhat unknowable question. People do not agree, medical experts do not agree, religious leaders do not all agree.

The abortion debate gets very dramatic very quickly. The whole "a woman apparently conceived in a rape -DOES she deserve the death penalty" thing is a good example.
Are people _seriously_ comparing the death of an adult woman to the termination of an embryo that is under, say, 9 weeks? An embryo at that stage has nothing compared to the mind and emotions of an adult woman, or a newborn baby. Spiritually, of course, no one can make any sure claims, but not everyone shares the same spiritual beliefs.

I am a little more familiar than some people are with the development of embryos and fetuses, now that I myself am pregnant.

I have had friends that were anti-abortion. One of these friends, when she became a feminist, still had grave misgivings about abortion. She herself felt she could never have one. Who would have the right to tell her differently? But she stopped short of advocating against access to abortion, because she didn't think that that would be right. I was thankful about this, because, dear as she was to me, we would have had a terrible fight over it if she'd publicly fought to make abortion access illegal. And I really appreciated her honest struggle over her contradictory feelings and thoughts.

Then my friend got pregnant (she loves children, and always wanted to have children early and often, so we her friends weren't too surprised when she and her partner announced it)! Unfortunately, she was terribly ill due to her pregnancy.

She threw up many times a day for about 7 months. She was incapacitated, almost hospitalized. Fortunately, her income was not essential to the household at this time, because a job would have been impossible!

After she had her child (the first of three, so far) she told me that her thinking was changed. She said that she honestly couldn't imagine imposing what she had just gone through on an unwilling human being. She became more pro-choice than she ever had been before.

The abortion debate IS closely tied to other debates about controlling women, their independence, their bodies, and their sexuality. And it is also about controlling youth.

Women of colour, especially, have also pointed out how social institutions pressure "desirable" groups of women to have children (and not abortions), but advocate for abortions, forced birth control, and sometimes even sterilization for "undesirable" groups of women: A young black woman on welfare? She should be required to have a contraceptive shot!

Good access to a wide variety of birth control options, AND comprehensive sex eduation are essential. Not only that, they are the best ways to reduce the number of abortions without increasing the number of women dead from desperate measures.

If you are against access to abortion, but you do not support scientifically-verifiable sex eduation AND access to birth control, then you are either terribly hypocritical, or terribly ignorant and naive.

Many studies, especially in Europe, show that comprehensive, scientifically-verifiable sex eduation actually reduces early partner-based sexual activity in teenagers. And it certainly reduces teenage pregnancies, and unwanted pregnancies.

Another essential factor is the self-esteem and status of women and girls. When females have low status, the higher the rate of unplanned pregnancies (as well as other female sufferings).

When you are nothing without a man, well, you can't very well object to having sex with him when he wants, can you? And you certainly can't tell him to wear a condom...
When you are worth little, as a young woman, won't having a baby raise your social status, and provide someone (the baby) who will be sure to love you?

Scary, scary...

In the depressed, conservative, very Christian town I grew up in, fully 1/3 of the girls in my grade 9 class did not graduate high school -- because they got pregnant.

I agree that society also needs to provide more support for women who want to have children. Serious funding should be provided for maternity leaves, parental leave (including leave for the non-pregnant parent), post-delivery follow ups, child care, and heath insurance for kids!

The option to give newborn children up for adoption should not be frowned upon in any way.

I have to honestly admit, and this is not nice or becoming: I feel horror when regarding some of the things women must suffer in parts of the U.S. in terms of reproductive rights, and social supports.

I'm really glad to be Canadian living in Ontario, because I have access to many legal rights and protections that are provincially and federally mandated (like protected job leave, paid maternity leave, parental leave options for my spouse, health coverage for prenatal care and childbirth, health coverage for midwife support post-delivery, some government-funded childcare, basic health coverage for children, federal unemployment insurance, etc...). It would make it sooo much harder to have a child, and raise that child for the next 18 years or so without the institutional support that I can access.

My only regret right now is that I won't be able to access Quebec day care -- the provincial committment to day care is nothing short of amazing! It only costs something like $5 Canadian a day!
But I'm not saying that day care is unilaterally a good thing (if my partner and I can avoid it or minimize our use of it, we will). But it is very important, and completely possible -- remember World War 2 anyone? Women worked in factories while men were off fighting, and miraculously, the government was able to provide huge amounts of child care! Is war more important than children?

I'm not saying that abortion is an uncomplicated thing. At the very least, it does stop something from developing that is alive. Whether it is a human life is a big question, and when it is a human life, is a big question. That's why I think it IS important to have medically verifiable facts about stages of fetal development. I, personally, have a very hard time understanding serious objections to first-trimester abortions.

And none of the decisions about getting pregnant, or carrying a child to term, are made in a vacuum.

But abortion is an important, unfortunate, practical option for women in a society where many women as a whole are still second-class citizens to men as a whole, and where women get pregnant, not men. Where child-rearing is not strongly integrated into the whole culture of work and life, and where mothers are expected to take most of the responsibility for raising their children, and take most of the blame for anything wrong with their children.

Abortion should be the last option, I agree. Education, healthy relationships with self and others, equal social status, access to the necessities for life and growth, access to birth control, comprehensive sex education, and responsible decision making need to come first.

So why don't you work to make these things more likely, especially for children?

I still feel I have to ask the old pro-choice question:
If you won't trust a women with such an important choice, why would you trust that women with a child?


"I still feel I have to ask the old pro-choice question:
If you won't trust a women with such an important choice, why would you trust that women with a child?"
I think this is the real crux of the matter, quite honestly. A similar question that I always want to ask pro-life people is, if you really believe that women who are pro-choice are callous and murderous by nature, as you seem to believe, why on earth would you want such a person to have a child?
incar_nadine, there's an old post over at Bitch Ph.D's site about this that you might appreciate. Here's a link


"If you do recognize a difference between feminism and misandry, why did you imply progressive or pro-choice feminists are misandrists?"

Except that I didn't. I was addressing the argument that FFL is anti-feminist because they have a father's rights link. My argument: you can be both father's rights and pro-feminist. You don't have to be anti-male to be pro-female.

"This is a strawman argument, as most pro-choice people remain agnostic about the personhood of a foetus."

Except that the secular science textbooks I've seen are NOT agnostic on the question; they seem to hold that a person's life begins at fertilization.

"And as a fun little intellectual exercise, imagine that Rebecca was a high-risk pregnancy whose mother was likely to die or suffer permanent physical damage as a result of carrying/giving birth to her. The same appeal-to-emotion rhetorical tactics would apply, wouldn't they? Does she deserve the 'death penalty' simply because she had the misfortune to be a danger to her mother's life?"

The phrase "death penalty" was used because rape is a crime -- meaning they're NOT minimizing the horrors of rape -- and so the "life of the mother" scenario doesn't apply. Furthermore, what often happens in this latter scenario is that the doctors will induce early delivery. The child dies, but no one has actively killed her. They only induce early delivery to save the mother's life.

"That coupled with the general attitude towards sexuality in the Victorian Era explains these early feminists' opposition to the procedure...I seriously doubt they would feel that way now if they were alive today."

Susan B. Anthony was quoted as saying that "abortion is child-murder" and Elizabeth Cady Stanton considered it a form of "infanticide." I don't see a whole lot of ambiguity there, do you? Fine if you disagree with their position, but I'm disturbed by revisionist history and people being called misogynists when they hold the same positions on abortion that the foremothers of feminism held.

"As I've said before, it is also pretty freaking ridiculous for a 'feminist' group to have no position on the use of contraceptives."

And as I'VE said before (I believe at the Pope thread), many believe that abortion never would have gained its foothold if people didn't harbor a contraceptive mentality already. When you go into sex with the idea that you must prevent pregnancy at all costs, abortion seems like a way to "fix the problem." Again, fine if you disagree; I'm trying to explain why some hold the position...


There is no such thing as a "consistent life" ethic, only a Pontius Pilate ethic that says killing is fine as long as you can blame it on someone else - even if that someone is someone you had the power to stop. End capital punishment and you'll save the lives of a few hundred mass murderers every year - and possibly one innocent or two every decade, if that - in exchange for enabling the murders of many other innocents, probably by a factor of about 18 to 1. Anti-death penalty advocates will conveniently ignore this trade-off, deny it exists or, if confronted with incontrovertible proof (assuming that's even possible when dealing in the social "sciences"), wash their hands and say, in effect, "The state didn't commit these extra murders, so what do I care?" Similarly, but in much greater numbers, a unilateral end to the arms race would make it far easier for the Saddam Husseins of the world to kill far more of their own people and those of neighboring countries than we would ever kill by fighting a war against them - let alone by pushing the arms race, which ended Soviet oppression for millions of Eastern Europeans without killing anyone at all. That's why the "consistency" canard is so silly: the choice isn't between some people dying and nobody dying, it's between some killing and more killing - coupled with with a perverse preference for less killing by "us" even if it results in more killing and suffering overall. If there were such a thing as a "consistent life" ethic worthy of that name, the preference would be for whatever system results in less killing overall, with no thumb on the scale to distinguish "our" killings from "theirs."

No such trade-offs exist for abortion, where the choice is not between killing A directly and killing B indirectly by allowing A to go unchecked, but rather between allowing A to kill B, on the one hand, and inconveniencing A, on the other. Thus, there's nothing remotely inconsistent about opposing abortion rights while supporting the death penalty and an aggressive foreign policy. Indeed, as a pro-life Christian I'd think you'd have to admit as much, given that Bible itself is arguably anti-abortion, but is very clearly pro-death penalty and pro-war, both to a much greater extreme than the most right-wing Congressman or Legislator anyone could point to today.

As to Judge Roberts, my hope is that whatever views he may privately hold, on the job he will take a position that is neither "consistent life" nor "inconsistent life" (or should that be "consistent death?"), but rather, consistent law. As every good Federalist Society member knows, it is emphatically the province of the judiciary to say what the law is, not what it should be. We have other branches of government for that.


XLRQ, I more or less agree with the larger point you're trying to make, but I'm mystified as to where you're 18-1 figure is coming from. Are you actually suggesting that murder rates in the US would likely increase by a factor of 18 were the death penalty eliminated? You can't possibly think that, as you surely know that the death penalty has been eliminated and reinstated in various countries and states in the modern world, and we've never seen anywhere near that sort of change. But if you don't mean an 18-fold murder increase, I can't imagine what the number means.


DJW, the 18 to 1 estimate compares individual executions to individual murders prevented, NOT the total murder rate. Given that only a small fraction of murderers are executed, and the reality that many of those indviduals committed more than one murder, the impact of executions on the total murder rate will be much more modest than that. More on that here.


thanks for the link.


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