Can You Be Pro-Life And Feminist?

April 6, 2016  |  

Hillary Clinton

AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

I’m not a Hillary Clinton fan (nor am I a Bernie Sanders fan for that matter), but I have to say some of these gotcha moments meant to color our impression of her campaign are just flat out ridiculous. And borderline misogynistic.

For example, the hoopla over recent comments made by the former Secretary of State about abortion rights.

More specifically (from the Talking Point Memo):

During an appearance on ABC’s “The View,” co-host Candace Cameron-Bure asked Clinton if she thinks it’s possible to be a feminist while identifying as “pro-life.”

“Yes I do, absolutely,” Clinton said.

“They’re not mutually exclusive?” Cameron-Bure asked.

“No, absolutely,” she said. “Look, I’ve been, and I’m sure that Whoopi and Joy have been, we’ve been in these conversations now for, what, 40-plus years, right? And I respect the opinions and beliefs of every woman.”

“The reason why being pro-choice is the right way to go is because it is a choice and hopefully a choice that is rooted in the thoughtfulness and the care that the women bring to this decision,” she continued. “So, of course you can be a feminist and pro-life.”

These comments come after Clinton referred to a fetus in an interview as an unborn “person,” a word choice that angered some abortion rights activists.

The unborn person doesn’t have constitutional rights,” she said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “Now that doesn’t mean that we don’t do everything we possibly can in the vast majority of instances to, you know, help a mother who is carrying a child and wants to make sure that child will be healthy, to have appropriate medical support.”

You can watch the exchange here:

To clarify, Clinton’s previous “unborn person” comments were made after “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd asked her specifically, “When does an unborn child have constitutional rights?”

Therefore, it’s likely that she responded back to Todd’s question using the same language used in the question given to her.

But that hasn’t stopped media outlets, as well as those sharing the story on social media, from accusing Clinton of pandering and speaking out of both sides of her mouth on the issue of abortion rights (in the same “Meet the Press” interview, Todd ask Clinton flat out her position on abortion, which you can also read here).

The issue of abortion rights continues to be one of the most divisive matters of our time. And despite it being made legal in 1973 by the Supreme Court, there has been no shortage of legislative efforts aimed at denying women the right to do whatever she wants with her body.

And yes, those doing the most legislative meddling and prying into women’s reproductive choices usually are folks who consider themselves apart of the pro-life movement, which has particular political and social agendas that are often contrary to the reproductive choices of women. As such, those who consider themselves pro-life – but not apart of some movement – are often lumped in with those who have weaponized “life” for political and social purposes

However, not everyone who personally sees themselves as pro-lifers are anti-choice. Just like those who call themselves pro-life, particularly those in the current pro-life movement, are actually all the way pro-life. I think this is most evident by how many of these same “pro-lifers” are also cool with the death penalty and stripping public assistance away from other pro-life poor mothers and their children.

The same could be said for those calling themselves pro-choice.

According to this recent article in The Atlantic entitled, The Progressive Root of the Pro-Life Movement:

“For most mid-century American Catholics, opposing abortion followed the same logic as supporting social programs for the poor and creating a living wage for workers. Catholic social teachings, outlined in documents such as the 19th-century encyclical “Rerum novarum,” argued that all life should be preserved, from conception until death, and that the state has an obligation to support this cause. “They believed in expanded pre-natal health insurance, and in insurance that would also provide benefits for women who gave birth to children with disabilities,” Williams said. They wanted a streamlined adoption process, aid for poor women, and federally funded childcare. Though Catholics wanted abortion outlawed, they also wanted the state to support poor women and families.

Other progressives, though, took a more calculating approach to poverty and family planning. Some proponents of the New Deal believed birth control could be used to implement government policy—a means of reducing the number of people in poverty and, ultimately, saving the state money, Williams said. Later, as technology made it easier to detect fetal deformities, abortion proponents commonly argued that women should have the option of terminating their pregnancies if doctors saw irregularities. “It was a widespread belief among abortion-liberalization advocates … that society would be better off if fewer severely deformed babies were born,” Williams said. The Catholics who opposed abortion “saw this as a very utilitarian perspective,” he said. “If you believed the fetus was a human being, this life would be destroyed for someone else’s quality of life, and they saw this as a very dangerous way of thinking.”

We mock the HOTEPS but clearly there is a lot of historical truth to their favorite “they are trying killing us through eugenics” conspiracy theory. And for poor folks and people of color, who were often the target of these “progressive” measures, it is certainly understandable why they might have a problem with the pro-choice movement, which goes far beyond concern about what a woman does personally with her body.

As such, not every pro-lifer is anti-feminists just like not every person who believe in pro-choice actually cares about women. And speaking of feminism…

All feminism – no matter how you intersect it – is based on the belief that women should be free and equal to make choices for themselves, just as men are. Those choices include whether or not to have children. And while there are legal protections, albeit eroding, in place to ensure that women have the final say in our reproductive choices, the decision to have an abortion is still a choice.

Personally speaking, if I were to ever become pregnant more than likely I would not seek out an abortion. Personally speaking, I consider myself pro-life.

However politically speaking, I am pro-choice. And I adamantly support and will defend any woman’s right to have one. And that is because I am also a feminist and believe that other woman should also have the same reproductive choice as I.

So what’s the problem here, folks?

The problem, of course, is we try to neatly label and compartmentalize our beliefs – be they political, social, economic or spiritual – when in reality what and how we see things are a little more complex and nuanced than that.

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