Are Women Human? "Feminists for Life" Doesn't Think So

When trying to think of an angle to write for Blog For Choice day, I was lucky enough to get this email from a reader asking me to look over a new attempt by Feminists For Life to recast anti-choice politics as somehow feminist-friendly, by arguing that allowing women to control their own fertility is a human rights violation. Now, I realize that most of us tend to think that “human rights violation” is traditionally about violating someone’s rights—their liberty, their freedom, their autonomy—and thus the argument that taking away women’s rights is saving women’s rights doesn’t quite make sense. But we’re from the old school feminist camp that believed that women are humans, with rights similar to those traditional human rights.

But FFL basically argues that we can’t frame women’s rights as human rights because women don’t have the agency to enjoy freedom.


However, we differ with Amnesty’s call upon all nations to ensure access to abortion for any woman who becomes pregnant as a result of rape, sexual assault, or incest, and would strongly urge you to consider the concerns and perspectives expressed in this and subsequent paragraphs. FFL supports the protection of women from abortion, which is itself a form of violence against women, and for this reason we appreciate Amnesty’s consistent efforts to protect women from coerced abortion. We therefore urge you to reconsider this aspect of your recently adopted policy on abortion, which we believe does not protect the rights of women and children.
We understand that your position is one which advocates access to abortion particularly in countries where rape has been used as a deplorable tool of cultural oppression and where the pregnancy may produce further discrimination and even persecution. This position was captured well in one of your press releases: “…Our policy reflects our obligation of solidarity as a human rights movement with, for example, the rape survivor in Darfur who, because she is left pregnant as a result of the enemy, is further ostracised by her community.1″ However, abortion is not an expression of solidarity with this woman; it will in fact compound her suffering and is an endorsement of her community’s unjust view of her. The rape survivor in Darfur deserves much better than abortion.
Rape is not just traumatic because people are mean to you afterwards, but this letter implies that’s the main issue. Considering that rape is a tool of genocide—the idea being that you’re forcing the hated people to bear the children of their oppressors—I’d suggest that women seeking abortion after a genocidal rape probably have good reasons outside of just “caving into pressure”. But FFL imagines women as single-minded baby-making machines, and any choices we make that go against that must be the result of oppression or force, because a woman can no more choose not to have a baby right now than a bird can choose to quit flying and get around with a teeny-tiny Volkswagen bug.
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