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Abortion And The Rights Of Women

“Abortion does not address the basic inequalities, such as poverty and unequal pay, that make a woman believe she cannot have a baby. It’s a cheap fix that leaves the woman as poor and oppressed as she ever was, while politicians claim to have struck a blow for women’s rights and the doctors go home $250 richer.”

–Jane Thomas Bailey

There are many convincing arguments against abortion. One can argue from a religious point of view, that we are made in God’s image and likeness, that we are created with an individual destiny and purpose and that respect for life is a basic tenant of most religious faiths.

Then there are the medical and scientific arguments against abortion, which are progressively becoming more and more convincing, as technological advances in medicine enable us to know increasing amounts about the unborn child. Research into DNA has made it impossible to deny that from the moment of conception, the unborn child is a unique and individual human being. Technology now allows us into the womb, where we can track with wonder the development of this miraculous, tiny creature.

Despite this, many still argue that the right of the pregnant woman is paramount, and that any restriction of abortion laws is tantamount to discrimination against women. Women have a right to control over their own bodies, many argue. Is this true? How can we respond to such arguments?

Our modern sense of equality and justice is much more highly developed than in the past. Unjust discrimination has become something that is no longer tolerated. The pro-life movement has an image of being ‘backward’, fundamentalist’ and discriminatory towards women. It is often portrayed as a movement, which consists mainly of fundamentalist white males, who want to oppress women by denying them the so-called ‘right’ to abortion.

This is an argument which we must debunk. A mistake that the contemporary feminist movement makes is thinking that in order to be equal to men, women have to be the same as men. The psychoanalyst Erich Fromm in his popular secular work “The Art of Loving” argues that true equality between men and women is not achieved by the elimination of difference. Equality is achieved through ‘oneness’, rather than ‘sameness’. The polarity between men and women is what makes love possible.

The early feminists did not advocate abortion. Instead of being the cornerstone of women’s rights, as many contemporary feminists fanatically believe, abortion is in fact the downfall of authentic rights of women. As Alice Paul, an early US Feminist and author of the original Equal rights amendment in 1923 said: “Abortion is the ultimate exploitation of women”

Often, the most visible opponent of Pro-life movement are the so-called women’s rights groups.  At parliamentary hearings and debates, and in the media, it is most often women’s groups who lobby most voraciously for ‘freedom of choice’, for abortion to be a legal option for women. In fact many argue that abortion should be a ‘human right’. Ironically the rights of the smallest, the most vulnerable human persons are overlooked. In the fight to free women from domination, they in turn seek to dominate and oppress a victim with less power than themselves – the unborn child.

In fact, women who embrace abortion rights have abandoned true feminist values and embraced the worst aspects of patriarchal standards – seeking power through control, condoning violence on the grounds of personal privacy and using killing to resolve conflict. By insisting on abortion as a necessary component to equality, we have capitulated to a traditional male worldview. In effect, women must become wombless and unpregnant like men to fit in, and they must resort to violence to do so.

Women have always and continue to bear the consequences of sex. Not only can they fall pregnant, but the effects of sexually transmitted diseases are far more serious than they are for men, leading to sterility and cervical cancer. Women are much more likely to contract sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, than men, for simple anatomical reasons. Women ‘liberated’ by the contraceptive pill, subject themselves to daily doses of artificial hormones, which have serious side effects, without asking why.

Women have been duped. Instead of liberating women, the need for abortion in a society in fact says that opposite – that we have failed women. Falling pregnant unexpectedly is considered a terrible tragedy, because there are no resources out there available to women. Universities do not cater for pregnant students, or mothers. Workplaces are intolerant of women with children; there are few facilities, such as affordable and quality day-care, especially in the lower income brackets.

Rather, abortion has liberated men from obligations to women and children. Child abuse has escalated since the availability of abortion, and instead of shared responsibility, more of the burden of child rearing and poverty has shifted to women. By giving in to abortion instead of working for social changes that would facilitate combining children and career, we have relieved society of its obligation to accommodate the real needs of women.

The world has not got easier for women, it has got harder. Society congratulates itself that it now gives women ‘choice’. But when no other options exist, how can something be a choice?

True equality will only come when we embrace the differences between men and women, and offer women real choices, and support. In this age of ‘rights’ and ‘equality’ women have never been so violated and disrespected.  Abortion has not brought women closer to the goal of equality. Rather it has been a tragedy for them, for our society as whole, as well as for

their unborn children.

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