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You Don’t Have to Choose Between Being a Feminist and Being Pro-Life

July 28, AD 2013 52 Comments

When I tell people that I’m currently an intern at Feminists for Life, they usually look at me like I have a second head. Pro-life and pro-abortion activists alike are full of questions:

What do you mean “feminist”?

What do you mean “pro-life”?

I’ve always been pro-life, but it was only with life experience that I learned how complex the issue of abortion really was. Women typically don’t go to abortion sites out of some kind of anger against the child in their womb. They often don’t see it as a baby and they usually don’t feel like they have much of a choice. The latest statistics show of all of the women who seek abortions:

– 75% say that having a baby would interfere with work, school or the ability to care for dependents,
– 75% say they can’t afford a child,
– 69% are economically disadvantaged,
– 61% already have at least one child,
– and 44% of all abortions are performed on college-age women.

All of this hit home for me when I had my son unexpectedly. I was lucky. I was happily married to a man who had a good job. I had the freedom to stay at home. But many, too many, women are not so lucky.

Although I will never be able to completely relate to those who are less fortunate, I did have much of the emotional turmoil they experience. Although my husband had a good job, there were still lingering doubts on whether we could make this work. I did have to throw my career plans out the window and I did have to make drastic changes to my educational plans. I lost my sense of identity because I had identified so strongly with my career plans. I had no idea who I was or what I was going to do anymore.

I could imagine how difficult it would have been if my husband wasn’t there, if my husband didn’t have a job or if my husband and I were not both pro-life.

To me, being a “pro-life feminist” means being pro-life with a drive to eliminate the reasons why women turn to abortion. No woman should feel that she has to choose between a career or an education and a child. No woman should have to choose between food and shelter and a child. As the organization Feminists for Life says, “Women deserve better.”

Abortion hurts women in many ways, but there is only one that I want to point out right now. Abortion upholds the status-quo. Schools and employers don’t feel the need to accommodate pregnant and parenting women if those women “should have just gotten abortions.” We can’t force the fathers to do their part in paying child support if the mothers “should have just gotten abortions.” We can’t change the social stigma attached to single parenting if we can say that the woman “should have just gotten an abortion.”

I was blessed with a supportive husband and a school that was willing to work around my schedule so I could graduate. Too many women are not so lucky. That’s the reason why I’m a pro-life feminist.

About the Author:

Bethanie Ryan is a housewife, mother and writer. She recently graduated with a MA in Pastoral Studies from Aquinas Institute of Theology. Originally from Missouri, she currently calls upstate New York home. She writes for several websites including her own, True Dignity of Women.
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  • Considering

    So you were happily married, financially stable enough to quit working, and you figure that your experience is relevant to women who are struggling financially, are in abusive, or unstable, or no relationship at all. That is just enough women have children they can’t afford, don’t have support for, then the world will change. What about the lives of the women who get to suffer through that?

    • Bethanie Ryan

      I agree with you. It does sound very ignorant and arrogant to compare my experience with theirs. I won’t be able to completely understand them, but I feel like I got a small taste and that has given me a deeper appreciation and sympathy for what they are going through.

      • Considering

        Have you ever spoken to anyone who has had an abortion to stay in school? or not be tied for life in a bad relationship? or who can’t afford a baby bc of lack of work, or lack of assistance/childcare?

        Do you understand what they go through? And how often abortion is the choice that is the best for them at that time?

        Until we start seeing changes in society, why should women who don’t have your safety net bear the burden and risks of having children while they face governments who won’t protect them from abusers, protect their jobs, assist with child care?

        If prolife would put as much effort into ensuring some protections for women then they could see rates drop.

      • MM

        Ummm, ever heard of adoption?

      • Considering

        Adoption isn’t the magical solution that prolife likes to present it as. I’d direct you to a very good site called http://www.thelostdaughters.com/ to read some of the fallout from adoptions

        Personally I have witnessed a dear friend who was adopted have to go through the heartbreaking process of being found by a birth mother with no sense of boundaries and a huge sense of entitlement who he’s had to get a restraining order against to have her stop contacting his family/children

        Yes there are success stories too. I’m not denying that. There is one in my own family. But adoption isn’t a simple, easy out. Birth mothers life with that choice and some regret it for the rest of their lives. Adopted children also live with choices made for them. Read lost daughters

        Now I know the response will be “but they’re alive!” Maybe that’s not enough for some

        And the “so many couples want babies!” They could access the 10s of 1000s of children in foster care right now and choose not to.

      • MM

        “some regret it for the rest of their lives”. Very very very few mothers if any, wish they had had an abortion rather than giving their child up for adoption. But scores of women regret their abortion and live with post traumatic syndrome and depression the rest of their lives. Check out:
        http://www.hopeafterabortion.com
        http://www.rachelsvineyard.com
        http://www.silentnomoreawareness.org
        There many organizations dedicated just to helping women who regret their abortions. How many organizations exist to help women who wished they had an abortion instead of giving their child up for adoption?

      • Considering

        There are going to be regrets on both sides of an unplanned pregnancy no matter how it’s dealt with.

        That is why is needs to be a personal choice and women need to be supported in whatever they choose

      • MM

        Women who have abortions often regret it. Women who give their child for adoption don’t regret it. It’s as simple as that. Abortion is not only child abuse, it’s women abuse.

      • Considering

        Actually many women regret giving children up, or felt they weren’t well informed about the process, or didn’t have the children go to families they wished.

        Some are successful. Some aren’t. That’s just life. It should be a choice. If a woman decides to put a child up for adoption she should be given as much help and information as available

        If she chooses not to carry a child to term and give it up, then she should be supported too

        Also, keep in mind adoption is a PARENTING choice while abortion is not, it’s a choice about the pregnancy. Different things

      • MM

        “Actually many women regret giving children up” – You need to distinguish between those wishing they had aborted and those wishing they had raised the child. The latter I can believe but the former I do not believe since I have never heard or read about anyone wishing they had aborted. I agree that someone putting their child up should be given as much information as possible. It’s too bad pro-choicers don’t feel that women considering abortion should get all the information about their unborn baby and the abortion process before they get an abortion. Abortion is a parenting choice. You have a child and you choose to impose the death penalty which is the ultimate child abuse.

      • Considering

        Prochoice is in favour of giving ALL the information on all the options. The positives and negatives of each. And of women looking who is giving them the information, what their agendas might be.

        Abortion is the choice to end a pregnancy.

        Adoption is the choice to end or modify your level of parenting

        Women should be supported in whatever choice they make.

      • MM

        Either you are grossly naive or you are lying. All pro-choice lobbying organizations are against informed consent laws. By the way, finish you sentence: Abortion is the choice to end a pregnancy,,, by killing your child.

      • Considering

        The faux “informed consent” laws that would impose on women ultrasounds and lectures and waiting periods against their will?

        Do you honestly believe that women do not know that they are pregnant? And by the time they have made the decision to terminate their pregnancy they have seriously considered the implications of what they are doing?

        Abortion is an option. As is keeping the child, as is adoption. All options. All should be supported and women should have access to all the information possible

      • MM

        Yes, abortion is a legal option. But’s it’s the wrong option to choose. Just like it’s legal for me to cuss someone out but it would be the wrong option. And what are you afraid of by giving women full information about the abortion and the stage of development of her unborn child? Are you afraid she might choose life,– the loving option?

      • Considering

        I never said that a woman shouldn’t have all the information available. But I do think that if she should have the option of refusing to view a ultrasound. And that if she has traveled some distance having to book a hotel for an arbitrary waiting period is an unnecessary expense and often puts early abortion out of reach for women of limited means. There shouldn’t be limitations imposed that make some options only available to the wealthy

        If she chooses to have the baby then I think that’s great. And her choice. But it shouldn’t be forced on her to satisify some stranger’s moral code

      • MM

        It isn’t some stranger’s moral code. It was the moral code of this entire country until roughly the 1960’s.Even now about half the country shares my moral code and half the country shares your lack of moral code. Well, as much as I would love to discuss this all night, my own precious gifts of God need parenting.

      • Considering

        If it’s not her moral code then it belongs to a stranger. Why should that be forced on her?

      • Bethanie Ryan

        We “force” moral codes on one another all of the time. Take for example polygamy. Some people want to live that lifestyle, but that lifestyle is illegal everywhere in the US. Murder and stealing are illegal. If my religious beliefs stated that I had to give a human sacrifice to make it to heaven, even if my victim was willing, I’d be locked up. Morality is not subjective. There are some things that are always and everywhere wrong.

        To avoid bringing in religion, let me just talk about logic. When would you say life begins? I would say that life beings at conception. In the beginning of life, there are two events that are set in stone: Conception and birth.

        Life must start sometime before birth because, at the very least, we know that babies are viable long before they are actually born. So, where do you draw the line? A heart beat? A functioning brain or spinal cord? Independent breathing? All of these lines are blurry.

        It is wrong to kill any innocent person. And we don’t want to make any mistakes. That’s one of the reasons why I’m against the death penalty: we have killed innocent people and we can’t raise people from the dead. So, setting any line before birth could lead to the murder of someone who has met our “requirements for personhood.” And any policy that leads to the death of even one innocent person is wrong.

        So, one of the best logical arguments I can think of against abortion is one of caution. There are only two clear lines and one of those lines doesn’t seem quite right, so let’s take the other.

        For more: http://www.secularprolife.org/

        So, before you talk about morality, ask yourself: What is a “human being”? What is a “person”?

      • Micha_Elyi

        “Considering” that those who try to claim the mantle of “pro-choice” don’t put any personal support into the other “choice”, they’re not honestly “pro-choice”. They’re pro-abortion.

        Never seen IVF or adoption offered at a so-called Planned Parenthood center, have you? (Be honest.)

      • Considering

        I wouldn’t know. I’ve never engaged planned parenthood for any services. You might want to check their website

        Prochoice people that I work with are happy to support any choice the woman wants, including helping them get assistance for finances, finding jobs, linking them up with housing, helping them find things they need for the baby, or, if they decide to terminate, supporting them in that decision

      • Micha_Elyi

        Honey, when you were “considering” dropping your panties you were planning a pregnancy. Yeah, your plan was pretty spur-of-the-moment and quite stupid but it was a plan. A bad plan. Females should not be “supported” in whatever stupidity they choose. That’s the way we treat children. Oh, I’ve got it now! Feminism is about making women into children, but nobody is supposed to question your double standards because women! That explains a lot about you feminists and how you operate.

      • Considering

        Dear One, when you decided to have sex with that woman, and didn’t use protection, or take the time to have a in depth conversation on what you wanted to happen if a pregnancy happened, and got consent and agreement between you, then you lost the right to complain.

        consent to sex does not equal a consent to pregnancy, or parenting

      • Bethanie Ryan

        I agree that pro-life and pro-choice activists should both work to end the circumstances in which women feel forced to have an abortion.

        I know you don’t mean it, but it sounds as if you feel that abortion should always be an option because assistance will never be available, their jobs will never be protected, and abusers will never be stopped. I’m more idealistic than that.

        And abortion will not fix any of those problems. A woman in an abusive relationship is still in that abusive relationship when the abortion is over. A woman living in poverty is still living in poverty after she’s had the abortion. She needs support to get out of the relationship. She needs opportunities and education to get out of poverty.

        I don’t think we’ll see all of the changes we want to see if abortion remains an attractive, easily accessible option.

      • Considering

        Banning abortion will not fix those problems. I understand that you think that having that option makes it easier to ignore/not implement solutions but the way to turn that around is to strongly advocate for better laws, better protections, not by forcing women to bear children and letting those women and children suffer as some kind of object lesson in the hopes that then, finally, someone will notice that protections need to be in place.

        A woman living in poverty will still be living in poverty after giving birth but will have the added stress of a baby to support and a lack of childcare to worry about while she tries to support them both now.

        A woman in an abusive relationship will be tied forever to her abuser by child support, visitation orders, family court orders and is less likely to leave knowing there is a child that can be used as a pawn against her. She still needs help getting out. But again, now as a single mother, needing assistance that still isn’t there.

        Abortion isn’t anyones “attractive” option. but sometimes its a necessity. If we started to make having the baby a more attractive option then you might see changes. but that costs money, will be work, will require commitment on the part of government and communities and no one wants to commit to that.

        Easier to just ban abortion.

      • Bethanie Ryan

        You’re right, banning abortion will not solve these problems overnight either. These issues are more complicated than that.

        The woman in poverty does need the education and the opportunities to get out of poverty, but an abortion will not help her reach her goals. A society that will support her and her child will help her reach her goals.

        You underestimate the woman in the abusive relationship. Who knows what the existence of that child will do to her? It might push her to do everything she possibly can to get out of her situation. PARENTAL RIGHTS CAN BE TAKEN AWAY. And NO MAN NEEDS TO KNOW THE ADDRESS OF THE MOTHER WHEN HE GIVES CHILD SUPPORT. The money does not have go directly to the mother, the gov’t can take it from him and then give it to the mother. There are organizations out there to help the woman get out of the abusive situation. Yes, our current system is far from perfect. Issues like that are the issues that feminist should spend their time on, not “abortion rights.”

        Support for mothers include, but are not limited to: TANF, WIC, SNAP, SCHIP, and many, many non-profit, charitable organizations. Yes, there are holes in the system, and we need to fix those, but you make it sound like there is no support at all, like no one cares. WE ALL CARE.

        It is sad how some people who are pro-life don’t seem to care about life outside the womb. But as someone in the pro-life movement, I can tell you that that is largely a mis-characterization. Most (if not all) of your average pro-life activists care very much about all children, born and unborn.

        It’s an issue of where the support should come from. Conservatives think that support should be local and from charitable organizations. Liberals are more comfortable with the support coming from the government. No one in their right mind wants to see a woman and child on the streets. We need to work together to solve these problems. Not bicker and fight.

        For more information about support, go to:
        http://www.feministsforlife.org/taf/2009/Fall09.pdf

      • Considering

        “The woman in poverty does need the education and the opportunities to get out of poverty, but an abortion will not help her reach her goals. A society that will support her and her child will help her reach her goals.”

        And so far society doesn’t not support her so insisting she have a child, without those protections in place, generally don’t help her

        Women in abusive situations already have enough problems without, again, being told they must carry a pregnancy to term if they don’t want to, then must fight their way through the courts to ensure her own safety, that of her child, and adequate support and termination of the abusers parental rights

        I think a lot of people prolife and prochocie care, but on the practical side of things, it would help your cause more of people saw changes being made to the laws, to jobs, rather than a fight to force women to carry pregnancies they won’t want in the hopes that this will force the system to change.

        I think that making women dependent on charity (and the whims of the givers) is counterproductive if you are trying to lower abortion rates, offer a sustainable, safe, assistance program that won’t be shot through with religious impositions, you might see some progress

      • Micha_Elyi

        Nice try at “considering” a red herring where a relevant fact should go, honey. Where’s the abortion clinic that puts “effort into ensuring more protections for women”? It doesn’t exist. Rather, you pro-abortionists were eager to keep Gosnell’s woman-butchering, baby killing horror show in business.

        And, disgustingly, that’s the feminism Bethany Ryan is unwittingly helping.

      • Considering

        Well you do have the odd heath care situation in the US where health care is a for profit enterprise. Prochoice people generally offer all options. Then assist women to get the best possible care for which ever option they choose

      • Bethanie Ryan

        Where are you from Considering… if you don’t mind me asking?

      • Considering

        Canada

  • Bucky Inky

    Feminism is one, among many, of those words that mean whatever the person using is wants it to mean. This seems especially true when it comes to religious feminists.

    But the first (and true!) feminists, we are told, were pro-life! The jury is still out on this one in my mind. In fact, judging by the proto-feminists’ position on women’s autonomy, I am inclined to think that the only thing that stood in the way of their general acceptance of abortion was that it was not as accessible as it has become in more recent years. I do not see any particularly principled stance in defense of unborn children from early feminists, the only arguments put forth against abortion that I have encountered being indirect as relating to the unborn child, direct only in how it relates to women. That is, the most important reason for opposing abortion for them was the harmful effect it had on women, not that it was the murder of an innocent human being. It is difficult to know what the early feminists’ position on abortion would be if it were as routine and safe (as least in the immediate, physical sense of the word) as it is today, but judging by their philosophy in other matters, it looks as though they would likely be more accepting of it.

    Though I don’t accuse the author of this article of consciously promoting it, the theme of women’s autonomy at all cost is very present in the philosophy behind the article. By this philosophy, it is acceptable, for instance, to “force the fathers to do their part in paying child support,” but it is not acceptable to force the mothers to refrain from having sexual intercourse with men who are not married to them. It’s expected that a woman shouldn’t have “to choose between a career or an education and a child,” but it’s not expected that a woman should have to do her work to choose a man who is likely to stick around after having shared a bed for the night (i.e., a man who has freely chosen to marry her).

    • Bethanie Ryan

      I think that there is a huge jump between believing in women’s autonomy and agreeing with abortion. Namely: I would have to deny the humanity of the unborn child.

  • KarenJo12

    So, precisely how do you plan to make a world where women don’t have to choose between career and children?

    • Bucky Inky

      Hi KarenJo12,

      I would plan the world to be such that the discouragement for unmarried women to have sexual intercourse with men to whom they are not married is so strong, that they refrain from doing it. Of the many women in our society who are unmarried and facing unwanted pregnancies, this would largely solve that problem.

      For the sake of women who are in a committed marital relationship, but facing a difficult pregnancy because of financial/economic reasons, I would plan the world to be such that men are favored for most (not all, but most) jobs in the workforce, also known as discrimination against women. The reduced supply of labor in the job market would drive wages up, most notably for those men who are married and would otherwise be facing great difficulty in supporting a family without the increase in wages caused by the lowered supply of labor. The reduction in financial difficulties would make the increased financial burden added to a family with a new baby much easier to bear, and the pressure to have an abortion would be greatly reduced, if not eliminated.

      Perhaps this is not as precise as you were asking for, but you’ve got to admit, what I propose is so very far removed from where we are as a society currently that it is rather difficult to get very precise about it.

      • KarenJo12

        Would you discourage men from having sex outside of marriage, or is that only “women’s work.?”

      • Bucky Inky

        Before I answer, I wonder if you would let me know what your latest question has to do with making a world “where women don’t have to choose between career and children.” I have a feeling answering without further explanation from you will lead down an irrelevant rabbit trail.

      • KarenJo12

        It’s a very straightforward question. Would you discourage men from having sex outside of marriage?

      • Bucky Inky

        Many questions are straightforward, but have nothing to do with what we are talking about here. I suspect this is the case with your question, which looks irrelevant to me, and so I require first an answer to my question in order to answer yours. My question is also straightforward: What does your latest inquiry have to do with making a world “where women don’t have to choose between career and children?”

      • Margo

        I would discourage all people to refrain from having sex outside of marriage as it violates the very nature of the sexual act. Sex was always intended to only be between a husband and a wife. Any other sex reduces people to mere objects used for pleasure. I would much rather have a man value me for my inherent dignity as a beautiful daughter of God than use me for a few moments of sexual pleasure.

    • Bethanie Ryan

      The organization I’m interning with has a lot of answers to that question.

      1) Affordable (preferably on-site) childcare

      2) Bringing the children to work. There are many companies who have introduced this concept and have found that it actually boosts productivity as the women help one another care for the children throughout the day and no one has to take time off because they can’t find a babysitter and stuff like that. It takes a lot of time to get used to, but some companies say it’s worth it. (Sorry, I can’t find the website I have on this topic.)

      3) Telecommuting

      4) Job sharing. I’m not entirely sure how this works, but essentially two women share a full-time job without losing their benefits. I good example of this would be a doctor’s office where one of the doctors has to cut down on her hours because of a child. So she works Tuesdays and Thursdays while another doctor comes in Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

      Those are the 4 ideas that I could remember off the top of my head.

      On a related note, the maternity leave system in the US is messed up. You can get up to 12 weeks unpaid leave. People living paycheck to paycheck cannot afford 12 weeks unpaid. Also, there are still many women who come back to discover they no longer have jobs. Maternity and paternity leave practices in this country need to be revisited.

      • KarenJo12

        Those are all great ideas. You, and everyone who comments here but me, are almost certainly a Republican. The Republican Party opposes every single one of them, and further, opposes any efforts to support unions that would advocate for those policies.

      • bjergtrolde

        Come now, you’re not the only one who reads this and votes Democrat. There are plenty of people here who stand proudly and erectly by Anthony Weiner as he fights the good fight for the party of women. We stand by Bob Filner, because we are tired of watching the GOP groping around in the dark on on women’s concerns. We shed a tear at Ted Kennedy’s death because it would mean one fewer Senator who would fight to keep women’s rights from sinking below the dark waters of Republican politics. We know that the party of Eliot Spitzer has got women’s backs, and that the party of Bill Clinton will never let women down. Let this be our manifesto, sister Democrat, that we’ll be with the party that fights for women, and not the party which just screws women.

      • Bethanie Ryan

        I’m not going to get into a political debate on here. I’m not a Republican by any stretch of the imagination, but that’s irrelevant. I think that both parties need to talk to one another if we will get anything accomplished. We aren’t doing anyone favors by bickering and sticking to our own corners.

  • Micha_Elyi

    Schools and employers don’t feel the need to accommodate pregnant and parenting women…
    –Bethanie Ryan

    Schools and employers don’t feel the need to accommodate men in their outside interests and lifestyle choices, either.

    Let’s be honest. Feminism was never about ‘equality’, feminism has always been about more privileges for women only.

    • Bethanie Ryan

      It was a conscious choice on my part to not discuss men in this piece because it’s not what the piece is about, but I, the organization I’m interning with Feminists for Life, and every other pro-life feminist group I’ve seen are all for rights for fathers as well. They should be paid maternity and paternity leave. Workplaces and schools should also work with fathers, especially single dads.

    • bunnybuzki

      Why bring men up in this conversation? “Men have this problem too so shut up” that is what it feels when in every conversation about feminist issues, someone has to point out that in some cases men also. Then it is implied to the people suffering that you are denying there is any problem at all. This is a huge pet peeve of mine. This is just another way of willfully not listening. And really your whole argument is inherently sexist because you not only write off having a family as a choice and worst of all an outside interest, you assume that rights extended to those who are caretakers would only help women because why? Only women are caretakers? And let us not assume that single people with no children also have families and may have caretaker roles as well. If the feminists won this round, would it really be so bad?

  • Lex

    Honestly the Bethany and Considering were the only two people having an adult discussion here. Bethany is pointing out that if we improve socially abortions will no longer be necessary (for the most part) “Considering” is pointing out that banning abortion would be jumping the gun and that in the present it is better to offer women support regardless of whether we agree with the decision or not. Neither or their ideas are mutually exclusive and I think they both know what and are able to have an adult discussion about it.

    MM in the other hand seems to be refusing to even read “considering’s” statement and seems intent on telling them that they are wrong. That’s not the basis or an intellectual discussion MM and whether you mean to or not you are clearly attempting to control “considering” by replacing their ideas with you’re own. Stating that you’re moral code is the “right” code isn’t going to win you any debates because that in itself is the weakest argument you can have on the topic. Take Bethany for example, she is taking the time to say A. What she believes. and then B. Following it up with real world reasons that support her view and then C. Listening and trying to understand other points of view even if she doesn’t agree.

    That is the basis of an adult discussion MM and honestly people like you are the reason intelligent people are wary of having discussions about abortion and I believe that is one of the reasons we make so little headway in that conversation.

    • bunnybuzki

      I actually thought michi and mm were trolls, as they are so stereotypically what pro-life people are described as. I know this is kinda old but it was the only thing that popped up when i searched “you can be pro life and a feminist” we are all on the same side, and i wish we had more conversations like the author’s and consideration’s.

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