Just because they’re pro-life doesn’t mean they’re sexist

Nope. The title isn’t a joke. In fact, it’s been on my mind as of late. It keeps me up at night. It creates friction between me and the liberal activist friends whose circle I used to run in — and most of all, it increasingly brings my farther away from the liberal activism movement and more into in-party politics.

Let me explain: in the recent legislative attacks on Planned Parenthood and reproductive rights, a state senator from Ohio was quoted with the familiar rallying cry of the liberal movement: “if men could get pregnant, abortions would be a sacrament.” It’s goes along the same line as Gloria Steinem’s “If Men Could Menstruate” piece that, as a freshman taking my first women’s studies class, I thought was brilliant.

Yet, as I grow, I am beginning to sense such rhetoric isn’t helping anyone. Just as the right thinks the worst of the left, when the left strikes back with its own rhetoric, nobody wins. In fact, the people it harms most aren’t well-to-do legislatures or protesters (that protesting in itself is both class and economic privilege is undeniable), but the families and women they’re trying to help, as such rhetoric does not bring any results or progress to the legislative efforts to help them.

Moreover, said rhetoric is absolute untrue. Just because someone is pro-life, or as some in the movement would prefer, “anti-choice,” does not make them sexist. When we begin character assisinations on our political opposites, we kill any meaningful and progressive dialogue. In fact, the majority of those who are pro-life are both family people, women and men, who believe in gender equality, yet simply cannot wrap their minds about the termination of a fetus. It doesn’t make them bad people. It makes them bad legislators.

Is being against abortions inherently sexist? No. While it most certainly is a great failure legislative wise, and shows a lack of insight regarding public health and how to strengthen America’s economy, the position, in itself, is not sexist. This is because while women’s health are, indeed, being attacked, women are not being attacked because they are simply women. Their health status and choices are being attacked because THEY are the ones who are biologically able to have children.

While I’ll readily admit that the fight for reproductive choices in the Global South is based on a lot of sexism – that they aren’t entitled to an education, bodily autonomy and ought to be casted to a life of baby-making and mothering, the same cannot be applied for the anti-choice movement here in America. In fact, while we are cautious in the transnational feminism movement, and within NGO activism, to ensure that we respect the cultures of Global South nations, in relations to global reproductive care, we’ve failed to do the same in America. Instead, my friends from the activist left have chosen to reduce our movement to rhetoric fitting for a bumper sticker, but is unworthy of any legislative attention.

Women’s lives, and the health of America’s families, aren’t political slogans and the legislative efforts to strengthen America’s families shouldn’t be reduced to a catch phrase, yet we’re all too happy to do it, instead of attacking the policies based on a concern for public health. Instead of attacking the right for its failure to make America’s workforce healthy, or coming up with plans to make our nation stronger, by giving its families the ability to family plan, we spew rhetoric and hate — the same toxic dialogue that, for so long, has plagued politics.

At the same time, by reducing our movement, our beliefs to something as silly as “if men could get pregnant, abortions would be a sacrament,” we do something else — we send a message that reproductive choices and issues of reproductive rights are ones that only women are — and should be concerned about. In doing so, we also remove the  link between men’s lives and the reproductive choices of women. We have an opportunity to talk about how men have just as much of a vested interest in keeping abortions and birth control legal and available as women do, yet we’ve given up that opportunity, and instead, have made our rallying cry into something of a joke.

We all have something to benefit from in being pro-choice, and we should focus on actual discussions and conversations regarding choice, rather than simply crying “Oh, they’re attacking women’s uterus.” There is a time to use rhetoric to rally the troops, but there is also a time for us to settle down and use our minds to come up with legislatively progressive ideas and visions for our nation and its families, including both women and men.

It’s time that we mature as a movement and think less the feel-good rhetoric of politics, and more about what we truly can do for America; abortion is America’s wedge issue — one that has divided America for a long time, and the victims of this have always been women and their families. It’s time we actually work together, rather than painting our opposites as the enemy, because in the end, it doesn’t hurt them, it hurts America’s families, and particularly women.

All I am asking, simply, is that we come up with solutions, rather than crying about the problem

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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