How a love of life can equal hating women, or, my issues with “pro-life” rhetoric

24 Aug

I posted this status:

Anti-choice legislation doesn’t do anything for anyone. It creates a larger burden for women who already have the least amount of access to reproductive health options. It takes away options for family planning and then blames women for the consequences. It pretends to care about fetuses as it comes from the same people who are cutting funding for education and refuse to talk childcare. It is oppression and it is sexism and it is woman-hating. Plain and simple.

In response to reading this article:

Planned Parenthood vs. the States: The Legal Battles Rage

And someone commented with:

Explain to me how love of life equals to hate of women.

I thought that my argument was outlined pretty well in my status, but then I took another look and decided to try to tease all of my thoughts out. Ta-da! Short new blog post.

My issue is assuming that these bills come from a “love of life.” I don’t see how they express anything close to that. Yes, they seem to be deeply invested in a bag of cells developing to birth within every uterus ever, but I don’t call that a “love of life.” I think to claim you “love life,” you have to be honest about what kind of lives you love. The anti-choice movement values the “life” of the fetus (and I say “fetus” because they don’t push nearly as much legislation that would guarantee support for the fetus after birth, and as a matter of fact they demonize such laws as “entitlement programs” for the “takers” and “moochers” and are currently taking funding away from public schools like it is their job), and that is where it ends. They have no love for the life of the woman, and if they do, it is a very patronizing kind of love that assumes they know how that woman can have her best life. They also seem to be fine with the lives of poor women, rural women, and women of color being further marginalized through lack of access, because those are the groups of women that are most directly impacted by this legislation.

I don’t think that a “love of life,” in an honest definition of the phrase, would be equal to hate of women. But this is not actually love of life.

What it is is pushing a patriarchal set of beliefs drawn from right-wing Christianity onto an entire population of people who have the capacity to give birth. It is expecting that all people with uteri should conform to your idea of a life deserving of love, and those deserving lives do not include the vast majority of people. That “love of life” is conditional. You love the life of the person if they avoid having sex before they want to procreate so that they will only ever have children that are wanted. You love the life of the person who can provide for that child adequately so they don’t have to rely on welfare or adequate public schooling. You love the life of a woman who is defined only in reference to the full use of her reproductive capacity.

I don’t know about y’all, but I would not call that “love of life.” I would call that prejudice and marginalization through laws. And that is some sexist, misogynist, classist, and racist BULL. SHIT.

[Side note: I realize that I use the word “woman” here quite often, though I tried to also use phrases to include all gender-identifying people who have the capacity to give birth. Anti-choice legislation does not just affect those who identify as “women.” This legislation is oppressive to all people, and specifically to those uterus-having people who run the risk of getting pregnant in our society. I apologize for any cisgendered bias that ended up in this post.]

**UPDATE!**

So, after someone responding to the above blogginess as akin in rhetoric to Ann Coulter and Michelle Bachmann, I responded with this, which I though would be a good addition to round out this post as well:

I really have to disagree with you on associating “anti-choice” with “anti-life.” When I wrote the first part of this blog, I was absolutely in a state of feminist rage. The resulting explanation of my issues with the word “life” in association with any of the family-planning related legislation was certainly more of a “preaching to the choir” move than an attempt to appeal to people who do not see the world the way I do. That is certainly true. However, I stopped using the term “pro-life” a long time ago. To me, it represents the same kind of misleading rhetoric that the “Crisis Pregnancy Centers” do. “Pro-life” inherently demonizes everything else. As I pointed out in my rant on my blog, I find it difficult to accept “pro-life” as the name of a movement that only cares about the life of an unborn child. I say that because the policies reflect this: restrictive policies don’t actually increase the health of the mother nor does having an unwanted baby necessarily improve the life quality of the person giving birth. Further, these laws are never brought up at the same time as laws that would guarantee that every child born has adequate food, housing, education, and support. As a matter of fact, the party supporting this legislation consistently demonizes mothers on welfare and is currently stripping funding from education.

Of course, not all people who identify as personally “pro-life” support this legislation. I know plenty of people who identify as feminists but are “pro-life” when it comes to their own reproductive choices. I am talking about the political movement taking form in hundreds of bills pushing to restrict women’s access to reproductive health. For the reasons I’ve listed above, and for so many more reasons that I don’t have the space to share here (including the fact that if the “pro-life” goal were achieved and abortion was made illegal, we would go back to the time when women died of illegal and self-performed abortions) I will not support this rhetoric of misrepresentation that creates knowledge where women’s access to control of their reproductive lives is associated with being against “life.” I refuse to give any support to this discourse that is directly responsible for laws that restrict all people with the capacity to get pregnant.

In my work on analyzing discourse, I found an explanation of “common sense” and “taken-for-granteds” as tools that the powerful use to influence the powerless. Using “pro-life” to describe a movement that continually strips women’s abilities to control their own lives through legislative action is one of these “taken-for-granteds” that now fully permeates our culture. I refuse to accept these policies and this political agenda as having any real investment in life, and so, it is a political, critical, and feminist stance that I take when I call this movement “anti-choice.”

Ann Coulter makes statements that are racist, classist, sexist, ableist, and misogynist and full of shock value to defend patriarchal ideological beliefs. Michelle Bachmann consistently uses information that are, in fact, non-facts to support her arguments, which also fit under what I would call patriarchal legislation.

As a person who has a uterus, I am affected by the legislation that comes out of this movement. As someone who refuses to fit into patriarchal expectations of my sexuality and reproductive health, I am one of the demonized by this rhetoric of “life.” Comparing my choice to call this movement “anti-choice” in order to show the sexist and misleading nature of the term “pro-life” with the misogynist and utterly horrifying rhetoric of Michelle Bachmann and Ann Coulter is offensive and completely misses the point. Further, it erases the hierarchies of power and institutionalized oppression that separate me, a woman, from the powerful political movement that represses my reproductive rights and my access to equality through the erasure of those rights.It assumes all things are equal and somehow innocent of demonizing discourse in their existing state of “pro-life” “pro-choice,” when nothing could be further from the truth.

And that, as they say, is that! Good night all!

One Response to “How a love of life can equal hating women, or, my issues with “pro-life” rhetoric”

  1. Kendra September 4, 2011 at 6:29 pm #

    I read a great article, and I have no memory where I got it, that reasoned that anti-choice legislation does not come from a place of genuine caring or even moral obligation – it comes from a need for control.

    The moniker “pro-life” is ridiculous. Unless they walk around like Buddhist monks with a broom to sweep away the bugs, they don’t value all life.

    I approve of this bout of feminist rage – it definitely resonates with me.

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