Today’s political discourse could have been lifted straight out of the pages of Animal Farm: progressive good, reactionary/conservative bad. Generally speaking whether one’s political sympathies lie to the left or right, all mainstream politicians are jostling to claim the ‘progressive’ mantle, whether it be David Cameron with his push for gay marriage or Ed Miliband’s ‘One Nation’ Labour party.
Like most political tribalism, this label is a simplistic one and it certainly looks as though the scales are finally beginning to fall from the eyes of former metro-libs, with even the very pro-abortion Diane Abbot MP decrying the hyper-sexualisation of today’s society. Not all social change or progress furthers the interests of the common good, whether that be the excesses wrought by the sexual revolution (of which the pedophile scandals of the sixties and seventies is a fruit), or the closing down of the industrial areas of the north with no replacement, by Margaret Thatcher. Progress for its own sake does not constitute a good. The majority of the UK population could be placed in the ‘reactionary’ category in at least one area of our views.
Watching some of the media coverage of today’s tragic fortieth anniversary of the Roe v Wade decision in which the US Supreme Court legalised abortion , it struck me that far from flying the vaunted ‘progressive’ flag, it is actually the pro-choicers who are the reactionaries here. They aren’t fighting for any social change, other than to retain the same old status quo that has been in place for the last forty years, one that has resulted in approximately 54 million US abortions, or missing children since 1973.
Perhaps that’s why, as Time magazine pointed out in its January edition, pro-choicers are losing the battle and pro-lifers are hopeful. Faced with an army of young grassroots pro-life activists, Nancy Keenan head of Pro-Choice America has resigned, stating that in order to successfully defend America’a abortion rules the movement needs to emulate the pro-life youth. The tactics of the pro-choice movement in the UK are certainly looking in need of a re-vamp, reverting to the same tired modus operandi of turning up to scream abuse, chant the same old stale slogans and wave the same placards every time they get an inkling that a group of pro-lifers might be getting together. As opposed to any sort of positive action that might actually help women and give them that Holy Grail of ‘choice’, all they can do is turn up like a bunch of rabid old reactionaries, resistant to any positive action that might actually help women chose to be mothers.
The treatment of @londonistar, who has recently set up the Marie Copes blog for victims of abortion to anonymously tell their tale in a safe, non-judgemental space, best exemplifies the attitude. Having discovered that her unborn child had Downs Syndrome and having been given an extremely negative outlook by the doctors, her and her husband took what was an extremely painful decision to abort a much wanted child. Her experience was utterly horrific from start to finish – she was let down by the medical profession who gave her a very limited and one-sided view of the condition and prediction of the quality of life of her child, leaving her with what she felt at the time, no other option. The procedure itself was botched, the nursing ‘care’ was brutal, leaving her in agony, needing reparative surgery, facing infertility and an unacknowledged need to grieve. The pro-choicers and feminists reacted in anger when she told them her story; instead of being outraged at her presented lack of choice and campaigning for better information for pregnant women with difficult diagnoses or even a better standard of care from the abortion clinics, they simply raged at her for having related her experience and daring to feel any grief. It was the pro-lifers, those whom one would expect to be judgemental and angry who reached out to her in a spirit of compassion and love, not only for her in her grief, but also so that they could better understand and learn from the needs and emotions of a woman faced with an agonising dilemma, whereas to use her words, the pro-choice feminists treated her like a ‘political pawn’.
Far from being solely concerned about the cute little baby, pro-lifers are intuitively concerned with the woman, the mother and her needs and rights, which is why at the Vigil for Life which took place in Dublin’s Merrion Square on Sunday and attended by 25,000 people, the crowd was awash with banners stating “Love them both. Abortion kills one, hurts another” together with a picture of a mother and her baby. It isn’t pro-lifers propagating the culture wars, pro-lifers are successfully engaging with women, with appeals to those attending America’s March for Life taking place this weekend, to avoid using graphic images in order not to distress vulnerable and post-abortive women. Equally at the 40 days for life prayer vigils, it isn’t the volunteers quietly and peacefully praying for those inside the clinic and offering help, who are upping the emotional ante, rather the vociferous, angry pro-choice opposition.
But this isn’t simply about the words. Pro-lifers are also attempting to progress women’s rights in a way that leaves the traditional militant feminists way behind. Feminism tends to treat children as an encumbrance or a burden to equality and seeks to circumvent them, in order that women may be seen to compete on an equal footing with men. A pro-life feminism embraces motherhood and child-rearing as being an authentic part of a woman’s femininity and actively campaigns for solutions which means that a child is no longer an obstacle to an education or to a woman being able to be financially self-supportive. That’s not to say that an authentic feminism rejects men as unimportant or irrelevant in the process of child-rearing, but accepts that in today’s increasingly feckless society, women are often faced with no other choice than to raise a child alone.Feminists for Life is a good example of how pro-lifers in America are reaching out to college students.
In the UK, the Alliance of Pro-life students has, in a short period of time, made enormous progress. Speaking last week at the launch, Eve Farron, their 22 year old leader, talked of how they have made common cause with feminist groups on campus, forcing them to address the lamentable lack of provision for pregnant students and working together to ensure that college students really do have a choice if faced with an unplanned pregnancy.
She described how young freshers are handed a welcome pack consisting of a free pizza voucher on one side with an advert for Marie Stopes at the back. That was certainly the case for me when I started at the University of Sussex recently. We were given a compulsory talk by the ironically named Student Life Centre who made it clear that there was an abundance of sexual health-care services, including abortion on offer. When I went to them to ask for help in terms of essay deadline extensions, being 9 weeks pregnant with three existing children and incredibly sick, they were not exactly forthcoming, neither were the faculty staff. The baby was due in the summer holidays and when I asked whether or not I would be able to bring her to lectures and seminars, as the creche would not take babies under 6 months, and breastfeed, obviously taking her out if she caused a disturbance, the answer was a resounding no. I could not quite believe how a university, that prides itself on its diversity, that strives to teach everything through a prism of feminism, gender and queer theory, could be quite so obstructive. Furthermore, the creche was scheduled to close, due to cuts and not being cost-effective, before finally being out-sourced to a private provider after a huge outcry. When I approached the student body for help, I was told it probably wouldn’t be worth pursuing the matter, it would get me a bad name, the best thing to do was defer, and of course, be liable for the new higher tuition fees. Had I not been of a strong Catholic and pro-life persuasion, I could well see how having an abortion would have seemed the only feasible choice in that situation and where were the feminists then? Any advocacy was totally non-existent.
I digress, but it goes to show that by contrast to shouting catchy slogans, the pro-lifers are actively working for social change, not only by convincing people with the overwhelming scientific evidence and intellectually rigorous arguments but also by their deeds and actions, whether that be the peaceful, non-confrontational outreach on the streets to women in need, advocacy for students and young people, or working for political solutions and social change. Pro-lifers also seek to advance the rights and cause of the disabled, recognising that every life is of equal dignity and worth and that the two causes are immutably entwined.
Pro-lifers don’t want to turn back the clock to a time when abortion was illegal, they want to strive for a society where abortion is unthinkable and unnecessary. Pro-lifers want a society where women can have children at an early age and yet still be educated and professionally successful, we want a society where fathers are held accountable for their children and not let off the hook by abortion. We want women to contribute to society, through child bearing and also through professional employment, if that is their choice. We want an authentic feminism that allows women to fulfil their natural vocation as mothers, not one that makes work and child rearing mutually exclusive, which is what current strands of feminism and pro-choice rhetoric seek to reinforce. The most exciting thing about this – it is being led by women themselves!
Pro-lifers are the real progressives, working for true social change, one that supports and upholds the dignity of women whilst protecting the right to life of all our unborn children. We recognise that for a society to be welcoming of life, a myriad of complex social problems need to be solved, not least that abortion disproportionately affects the poorest and are working for a better society for all, instead of banging a single issue drum. Whereas the pro-choicers are clinging to their outdated mantras of the seventies, fretting over fripperies such as gender appropriate lego and squabbling over internal victim hierarchies, pro-lifers are solidly working for a radical solution so that no unborn child ever need to be killed in utero again.
This is why the pro-life movement should wave its progressive credentials with pride.