Pro-lifers are the real progressives

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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.

A different choice

Fr Ray Blake said something that gave me pause for thought the other day.

We should recognise most women have abortions because of economic reasons, that controlling the size of families through contraception for most people is an economic decision.
We need to promote an authentic feminism (and masculinism) that is based on relationships, we need to promote the real rights of women to be parents, simply to be able to have children without the constant anxiety to find childcare and to be able to afford it.

I wouldn’t disagree with any of the above, but I think it’s worth unpacking and exploring a little further. Most women do have abortions for economic reasons, the increasing numbers of abortions performed on women who already have at least one child, as capitalised upon by BPAS in their recent advertisements for abortion claiming that 50% of women who abort are already mothers, indicates that for many this is an economic decision. Most women who have already given birth are well aware of the various stages of foetal development and the reality that this is an unborn child whose life they are choosing to terminate, but feel that they have little other choice.

Few women who abort their pregnancies take the attitude of Caitlin Moran who claims (and I would posit that she’s in serious denial) that she gave the matter less thought than choosing her kitchen worktops. Most women would not choose to abort if they genuinely believed that they were killing a living human being, which is why so much sophistry is employed by the pro-choice advocates as well as attempting to involve irrelevant scientific arguments about sentience. Either life begins at conception or it does not. If the latter, at what particular point in its development is a foetus deemed ‘alive’, at which point science is invoked to justify philosophy. The biology is simple. A new independent human being is formed at conception, with separate DNA and capability to develop itself to the mature stage of a human organism given the right environment.

It is precisely because the human conscience is pricked on the issue of abortion that women become quite so aggressive and defensive on the matter. If abortion is not the destructive of unborn life, then why do women get quite so angry about it and why are they bothered by the peaceful prayer vigils? If abortion is a difficult choice that isn’t undertaken without much soul-searching, why is that and why are they so bothered by the presence of people praying for them or trying to offer an alternative? Even the most well-meaning of pro-choicers will claim that abortion is an economic decision, women genuinely don’t have a choice and so abortion must be available for the most pragmatic and compassionate of reasons. The old “I wouldn’t have one myself but I wouldn’t deny it to those who need it” adage.

But undoubtedly there are a few women who abort, not solely for economic reasons but simply because a baby will not fit into their current plans. That’s not to condemn or cast judgement, society has to bear as much responsibility in that it implicitly encourages and coerces women into abortion, with babies being little more than a lifestyle choice, who aren’t fully alive until such moment as becomes convenient in the mind of the individual.

But regardless of whether babies are aborted because of lifestyle choice, economic necessity or even thoughtless recklessness in those rare cases where we see young women having undergone as many as 8 abortions, (I really don’t believe that many women have abortions because they can or because they are inherently cold-hearted or even evil) there is one factor in common and that is that a baby is seen as a burden or difficulty and never a blessing.

Whilst pro-lifers have to be careful not to overdo the sentimental saccharin schmaltz when it comes to the indisputable beauty of a newborn child, we have to ensure that we don’t fall into the opposite trap of over-emphasisng the gritty reality of child-rearing in an attempt to make our society equipped for unplanned pregnancies. The truth of babies is that they encompass both extremes. Having a baby does entail a lot of hard graft and often economic difficulty but it also brings with it an outpouring of joy, blessings and love to which no language can do adequate justice and which compensates for the difficulties. There isn’t a mother I know, not even mothers of severely disabled or terminally ill children, who wishes that her child had never been born, or that she hadn’t experienced the love of her child. Even mothers in the most challenging of circumstances wouldn’t wish away their children, but instead wish that their lives could be easier.

What pro-lifers need to do, is work for ways to make life tenable for women with unplanned pregnancies, whether that is the mother of 3, expecting her fourth child, the pregnant teenage mother, or the young woman with a career that seems to be going places.

Pro-lifers often focus upon the idea of free or cheap state childcare in order to incentivise a woman not to abort her baby and to help her back into the workplace. I’m not so sure that this is the right answer, admirable though it may seem. The problem is that for the overwhelming majority of women, having a baby will have an enormous financial impact upon them if they are already in full-time work. Although women can now, quite rightly, enjoy up to a year’s paid maternity leave, most do not look forward to the idea of returning full-time. And who can blame them? You give birth to a beautiful child, you spend at least six months giving them your full attention, nurturing them, feeding them, helping them roll, sit, manage solid food, you know them, you can recognise the signs when they are tired, hungry, you know how they like to be settled or held, which is their favourite cuddly, they haven’t been out of your care for more than a few hours at a time, maybe 24 hours at granny’s at a push, then all of a sudden you have to hand them over to a stranger for at least 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. It’s no wonder that most women do not want to return to full-time work, but feel that they have little other choice. In addition it tends to be just as your baby is getting interesting, beginning to walk, talk and most mothers are devastated that they will miss their baby’s first steps or key milestones.

Perhaps because the state is becoming ever more intrusive or presumptive, but there is additionally, something a little sinister about having to hand one’s child over to state-approved childcare for the majority of the working day. For me the approach is summed up in our attitude towards single mothers who are expected to go out to work, as soon as is feasible after having a baby. The attitude of the former government was equally disturbing with Tessa Jowell trying to formulate policies to encourage mothers to go out to work and Patricia Hewitt describing mothers who stay at home with children under two, as being a ‘real problem.

Again we see how modern feminism has failed women, who are expected to be on equal terms with men in the workplace, to be able to work full-time, or work at all, as well as bring up children. I’ve been a working single mother and it was horrific. I had little other economic choice at the time, but on average I saw my daughter less than an hour and half a day, Monday to Friday, having to drop her off early in the morning before work and then having precious little time to spend with her in the evening, to ensure that she got a good night’s sleep. Quality time consisted of bathtime, stories and bed and I put myself through agonies of guilt. It meant that I had the worst of all worlds in that work saw me as not fully committed and I felt that I was selling everybody short. It is only now that society is realising that unless you are a wealthy fund-manager with a bevvy of nannies and housekeepers, that the idea of ‘having it all’ is nothing more than a myth.

So, what’s the answer, especially from a pro-life perspective? The problem with childcare, is that not only is it expensive and puts pressure on a woman to go out an earn her keep, but it also treats women as if they are only valuable if they contributing to society in a purely economic sense. I think if we are going to promote an authentic version of feminism, then we have to promote the innate value and worth of motherhood on its own. That’s not to denigrate women who do go out to work, but actually women need to be supported by economic policy to stay at home with their children, until such time that their children are of school-age, particularly if they are single mothers. Whilst this may seem counter-intuitive and contrary to normal feminist principles an authentic feminism recognises the value women have as mothers and how the opportunity to spend as much time as one can with one’s children, is actually of benefit to society.

It’s a difficult balance to strike, because clearly the state is not a bottomless pit and clearly one can’t have policies in place, be they encouraging mothers to stay at home, or work, which will encourage state dependence, but I think to a certain extent society has to bite the bullet and accept that a single mother is facing more difficult odds than a two parent family and so enable a mother with children under school-age (say 5) to stay at home, regardless of her marital situation whilst implementing policies such as, for example, forcing employers to be more flexible and creative in terms of the working hours that they can offer to mothers and phasing women back into employment when their children are of school age. It is a difficult balance and most of us know of families who do not work, simply because with the cost of childcare it is not in their interests to do so and who are as a result, reliant on the state.

This is not to attack mothers who do want to work, often women say that they need the stimulation of a work environment, that they lack the patience to stay home and several women are trapped in the situation where they need to work for economic survival, but I wonder, if we began to value motherhood more, if we began to give examples of how intelligent, educated women can be stay-at-home mothers, or work part-time and still be happy and fulfilled would it transform society? I think so. I often think that women who state that they don’t have the patience or wherewithal to full-time parent their offspring, under-estimate themselves and with the right examples and in the right environment, would surprise themselves. I can think of at least ten of my friends who have Oxbridge degrees but who have eschewed the work environment to be full-time mothers and who have never been happier.

One of the reasons that families are financially struggling is not only due to rise of consumerism and the idea that it is only through material goods that we can find fulfilment, but more importantly because the expectation that women will automatically work, regardless of whether or not they have children, means that two income families entailed bigger mortgages which fuelled the rise in property prices. Every family should be able to afford or live in a decent home with access to a small garden. Affordable housing alongside the removal of the expectation that a woman should and must earn her keep would be another small part of the strategy. If we have more mothers at home, then our communities which have been so fractured will begin to heal. It was traditionally women who were at home with the children, who provided a mutual support network, who passed on valuable skills and knowledge in terms of child rearing and helped each other in times of trouble, with babysitting etc instead of having to pay a stranger. It was also the same women who helped to look after the elderly, who had them either living at home, or who would drop in and help their neighbours, enabling them to be supported at home, instead of reliant on a government for care and assistance. I’m not saying that women should be expected to do this kind of work, but it is a natural by-product of what happens when we have communities and besides there is nothing demeaning about caring for other people.

True feminism should allow women to have the choice as to whether or not to enter the workplace (something I’m hugely in favour of, if women want to work then they should and on equal terms) but equally, a real authentic feminism values motherhood as a vocation in and of itself.

We need to stop looking at motherhood as being demeaning, inadequate or beneath a woman’s dignity and celebrate it as a worthy vocation, one that benefits her, her children and society as a whole. We need to re-gear society to remove the current expectation upon women to work, unless and until men have the ability to bear children in their wombs! There is nothing innately sexist in stating that as women give birth to and nuture their infants, then they are best placed to provide the primary care. By all means allow women to work on equal terms, introduce legislation that gives women watertight protections to allow flexible working, allow women to reach the top of their profession, but by no means force a woman to work or define success in purely professional terms. Staying at home to help one’s children reach their potential, is not demeaning by any means.

A pro-life society does not buy into the notion that a child is a burden or economic problem that needs to be overcome, but celebrates motherhood and enables women to have real choice as to how best to raise their children, instead of expecting them to be handed over to someone else from an early age. And if this puts more responsibility on men to work and provide for their offspring – sorry but them’s the breaks. No wonder so many men identify themselves as “feminists”. Authentic feminism recognises motherhood as an innate good and children as a gift, flowing from the consequences and blessings of being part of the feminine sex. It recognises our ability and responsibilities as bearers of life, given to us from the Creator himself.

Feminist dissonance

A new and positive discourse seems to be emerging in Catholic circles, not just in the UK, but also amongst young Catholics in all continents, including the developing world, as to how Catholicism can counter the poisonous and popular narratives of misogyny propagated by the media and white chattering classes, and demonstrate that Catholicism offers an authentic and compelling vision of womanhood, one that offers total freedom, empowerment and is the only way that a woman may fulfil her true potential as a human being, created equal with men in the image of God.

Of concern is the way that a very narrow-minded definition of feminism, one synonymous with the misnomer of bodily autonomy, is now being globally evangelised with all the zeal of a nineteenth century missionary with the same patronising and even misogynistic attitudes, that accompanied the colonisers. If only these women in the developing world knew what was good for them, they would stop having so many children! Leaving the population agenda aside, these attitudes have been disturbingly crystallised by the Melinda Gates foundation, despite the fact that contraception is neither wanted nor needed by women in the developing world, as this open letter by a Nigerian women pleadingly testifies. Those wanting to help the plight of women in developing countries would do much better to actually listen to the voices of women in impoverished countries, rather than condescendingly deciding what is in their best interests – reinforcing and entrenching the disempowerment brought about by poverty.

The illogical, harmful and dissonant values of western feminism and sexual liberation were perfectly encapsulated in this characteristically vulgar pro-choice defence written by the 40 days for choice apologists. I’m going to disseminate it, not only to highlight the incoherence but also to ask, are these really the values that we want to be promoting to our children and exporting across the globe?

I’ve had sex with many different guys – in relationships, as one-night stands, in threesomes and foursomes and twosomes, in beds, on beaches, on trains. I’ve never had an unwanted pregnancy. – sounds like you’ve been very fortunate by all accounts, because the sexual behaviour and lifestyle would fall into the at high risk of pregnancy and/or STDs category. That’s not, to use society’s favourite verboten concept ‘judgemental’ or attacking your morals, it’s a statement of fact.
Thanks to the sterling work of teachers and parents, I’ve been taught about sexual health – great news! So you are well informed that you are participating in risky behaviour, you’ll know the risks of non-exclusive, non romantic and early sexual activity. You’ll know for example that you are at increased risk of cervical cancer, STD-related infertility, antibiotic resistant gonorrhoea and so on, before you’ve even thought about an unplanned child.

Thanks to the men I’ve slept with, I’ve never had to fight to get them to use condoms. – do most men in the Western world refuse to use condoms? Is it a struggle to get men to don prophylactics? Anecdote is not the plural of data, do we have any stats on that? Are we implying that most men are ignorant selfish misogynistic apes who don’t care whether or not they transmit disease or impregnate a woman? If we reverse the genders in that statement and say thanks to the women I’ve slept with I’ve never had to fight to get them to allow me to use condoms, does that not imply that a woman has to take sole responsibility for the consequences of sexual encounters? As does the original statement. It accepts that whatever may or may not result from sexual intercourse, it is always a woman’s responsibility. Doesn’t sound very empowered on in a woman’s favour to me. The men get off scott free!

Or, if it is a struggle to get men to use condoms, whether in the Western world (which I doubt) or more plausibly in the developing world, where there are cultural barriers to condom use, that implies that they are rather ineffective as a method of contraception. There seems little point in flooding developing countries with condoms. If one has to fight to get men to use them, sexual education is clearly not working, especially for men. So Nadine Dorries may actually have a point with her extra SRE targeted at girls then?

Thanks to sheer good luck, I’ve never been raped. – Let’s be charitable and attribute this to clumsy phrasing, but it is nonetheless offensive. Rape victims are undoubtedly victims of circumstance, be that the woman who is raped on the street, the woman who had something slipped in her drink, the wife whose husband has had one too many and refuses to take no for an answer and so on, but this just perpetuating the rape culture myth. Gender violence does undoubtedly exist and is a problem, but it is not the binary concept implied by this term. To state that it is lucky that one has never been raped, following on from a description of high risk sexual behaviour, like it or not implicitly victim blames. Is it due to her behaviour that she’s lucky never to have been raped? Or is it that all men are somehow pre-disposed to rape and she’s just fortunate never to have been a victim? In this context it is at best glib, ill-considered, and typical of the feminist genre.

It’s important to recognise the myriad things that could result in an unplanned pregnancy – the different bases that we have to cover, the balls we have to juggle, (ha unfortunate pun or turn of phrase considering the subject matter)to make sure that sex remains just sex. But most important is the base we just can’t cover – luck.

Best bit of unwitting Catholic sexual apologetics I’ve seen in ages. A tacit admission that sex is not designed to be a mere leisure activity. It is designed to be unitive, to reinforce pair bonding and procreative. Having sex could well result in pregnancy whatever you do. Stripping the emotional intimacy and potential for pregnancy from sex requires mental gymnastics and sophistry, it requires one to attempt to re-programme one’s innate inbuilt emotional responses, to condition oneself not to care about the other or get emotionally involve and it requires at least two methods of contraception or sterilisation to ensure that one doesn’t get pregnant or a disease, and even then it’s not guaranteed.

Wouldn’t a much better solution be a society in which monogamy, chastity and fidelity were valued and desirable concepts to reduce the risks of disease and in which women could be aware of their natural peak times of fertility and together make an informed choice with their partners as to whether or not to take the risk of pregnancy? If its all such a juggling act to keep sex as just sex, shouldn’t that tell us something? Sexual empowerment seems to be much harder work for women than it does men. All those threesomes, foursomes and one night stands are worth pumping one’s body full of huge doses of synthetic hormones, risking one’s long-term health and the killing of an unborn child?

Pregnancies are not solely caused by your own decisions. – yes they are. A woman who doesn’t have sex is not going to get pregnant.

As women who are desperately trying to get pregnant can tell you, one of the key deciding factors is luck. – yes, there is undoubtedly an element of circumstance when one is trying to achieve pregnancy, there are a myriad of measures one can take to attempt to maximise one’s chances of pregnancy, but there is nothing that one can do to guarantee that one becomes pregnant. There is however, something that one can do to mitigate the chances of not becoming pregnant. If you have sex and you are fertile then engaging in sex is something of a gamble, admittedly with measured risks. As the writer goes on to say: Can we beat the odds?

And so, what can we do when something as essential as sex is risky enough to make or break people’s lives? – so sex is essential now is it? We live in a culture whereby sex is essential? What happens if people don’t have sex? Do they turn into this?

No-one has ever died from not having sex. Sex is essential on a macro level for the promulgation of humankind, but not a micro level. Sex is pleasurable, feels good and is certainly important in terms of increasing intimacy in a committed relationship, but it’s not essential in terms of life or death or even overall well being, unless the writer is claiming that the significant proportion of the population who are not having sex are somehow deficient either emotionally or physically.

As for make or break, if sex really does have the ability to ruin one’s life, then abstinence sounds like the most advisable option. The idea that sex can totally transform one’s life for the better is delusional. The best sex is not merely physical but requires a level of mutual intimacy, love and trust. A relationship where sex does not constitute a stressful plate spinning act but a mutual and consensual outpouring of love.

For as long as we walk the planet we’ll be having sex. And as long as we’re having sex there will be unwanted pregnancies. As long as humankind exists, it will continue to have sex and there will always be unplanned or even unwanted pregnancies, no-one is disputing that, least of all me.

The lucky ones will avoid them, the unlucky ones won’t, but right now we’re lucky enough to have a safety net. Let’s keep it that way. – a new euphemism. Abortion is a ‘safety net’ – destroying an unborn child is a safety net when all other attempts to avoid pregnancy have failed. If the safety net is required, one needs to ask oneself why. Ultimately we need to have a safety net so that we can indulge our own selfish pleasures. A safety net implies that it is a method of last resort, there is no other option available. That means that women who are in poverty, who have been raped, who are in all kinds of reduced, straightened or desperate circumstances need a safety net as they have no other choice other than to abort their children. That’s not a status quo worth keeping and we should fight for change, otherwise we accept and promote injustice. And in all of this, where is the humanity of the unborn child? Its cloaked in euphemisms of safety nets and choices. Being killed before you have a chance to live does not sound like much of a safety net or choice to me.

According to this typical feminist perspective, being a woman is all about being a fatalist, a victim, the weaker sex. That isn’t something that chimes with my experience nor is a central principle of the pioneers of feminism, who recognised that women were equally strong, resourceful and powerful as men, but in different ways.

The early feminists fought for equality of opportunity – for women to have access to the same level of education, the same rights in the workplace, the rights to access the same choices as men. It was only through education could women begin to be on an equal playing field and enjoy equal status in society to men. That is why every woman is at heart a feminist, we don’t see ourselves as lesser beings or worthy of less opportunities.

But not every woman wants to identify as a feminist, in that some of us, I would argue most of us, do not see man as the enemy, the potential rapist of the typical feminist tropes. Our fathers, brothers, husbands and sons deserve better than being pathologised as potential rapists and aggressors. They also deserve better, as do we as women, than the sexual objectification of both genders that takes place in today’s society as a result of the libertine attitudes that prevail and dominate the sexual discourse. Sex can never be free of responsibility, this is an unobtainable Utopian ideal.

If sex cannot come without consequences, then the responsibility should always be mutual. To frame the issue as women’s bodily autonomy, (aside from the fact that bodily autonomy does not exist, a doctor won’t just cut one’s arm off because one asks him to) absolves the men from any responsibility for sex and leaves women co-opting with their own oppression. Lack of fidelity and monogamy exposes primarily women and children to poverty and exploitation and turns both genders into sex objects – simply means to require objective ends.

Francis Philips recently wondered whether or not the term feminism carried too much baggage amidst efforts to reclaim it. I think she’s right. I am leaning towards womanism, coined by the author Alice Walker, which has none of the negative connotations of white middle class feminism. Ultimately we have to recognise that women will always have different bodily functions and responsibilities to men. Men cannot bear children, nor can they breastfeed newborn babies. If we want a woman and child-friendly society, one that does not treat women as inferior, one that does not abandon them or their children to a live of poverty and deprivation, a society that acknowledges the dignity and contribution of all women to society, not just in our role of mothers, then we need the active support, co-operation and collaboration of men.

As a Catholic woman I want the same for my four daughters as for myself; access to equal education and the confidence that they can achieve whatever goals they set their minds to. I want them to take responsibility for their own fertility and bodies and I expect them to enjoy equal civil rights under the law. I want them to face every single challenge and setback that life may throw at them with confidence and grace; that they keep going in faith, hope and trust, no matter how difficult the odds.

What I don’t want is to raise weak women, who blame men for everything and who place themselves at the mercy of some fatalistic victim culture, or to expect special treatment or favours as a result of their gender thereby perpetuating a different form of inequality.

Whilst feminism continues in this vein of self-pitying victimhood and encouraging hatred of men, our companions in humanity, then strong women, who want to fight for a better future for all those struggling from oppression, should have nothing to do with it.