Abortion vs Reproductive Freedom

28 Sep


I was having one of those mornings where everything infuriates me, which happens to include the group of pro-life ralliers gathered outside the hospital on my street–proudly shouting and poking their picket signs at me. If I wasn’t already running late to work, I would have pulled over and gave them an earful.  I think what angers me most about the debate on abortion is the people who fail to realize that it is not only about a woman’s right to choose, but also the conditions of women’s liberation.

There is a great article by Susan Sherwin called Abortion Through a Feminist Ethics Lens.

Feminist analysis of abortion differs from most other perspectives because feminist analysis focuses on how the woman got pregnant. Sherwin points out that the pro-life movements have argued that women can avoid unwanted pregnancies by simply avoiding sexual intercourse. Sherwin believes that currently and historically women sometimes have little control over their sex lives, and therefore have little control over the decision to become pregnant. She adds that women are often subject to rape by strangers and those known to them. She says sexual coercion is a common practice, and often isn’t even realized by the woman.

Feminists are not concerned only with free access to abortions, but they are also concerned with the factors that make women choose to abort a wanted fetus. An example of these factors would be a lack of financial and social supports.

Sherwin’s most successful argument, I found, discusses the feminist view of the fetus. As the debate currently stands a competition has been established between the rights of the women and the value of the fetus. In the feminist perspective the value of the fetus is relational rather than absolute.  This argument is important in that it deals with the age old debate of what is more important, the rights of the woman, or the right of the fetus she is carrying. The feminist perspective argues that what is valued about persons is not existence, but instead personality. Therefore fetuses must not be viewed as morally significant because they have not developed sufficiently in a social relationship.

Sherwin adds that feminists are not pro-abortion. Instead they support reproductive freedom, which she defines as “the condition under which women are able to make truly voluntary choices about their reproductive lives”.

It is my hope that men and women alike realize that abortion is deeper than simply a black or white choice; There are grays in between, and while they may  be easy for some to dismiss, they must never be discounted.

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