This article begins our first series of the new year, “Pro-Life and Political”, in which several writers will explain how their different political opinions shape their pro-life views.
When I was asked to contribute a piece to this blog on being pro-life and socialist, I hesitated a little. Not because I didn’t like the idea of writing for Oxford Students for Life, quite the contrary! No, I hesitated because I have never associated my pro-life stance as being in any way linked to my self-proclaimed political position as a socialist. My anti-abortion thinking goes much more naturally with my faith as a Christian.
Some weeks later, I can sort of see why I was asked to bring these two sides together in a blog post.
Being pro-life is typically associated with right-wing, conservative thinking. That means politicians in the United States that go on about how everyone should have the right to have their own gun are often the same people that talk about the right an unborn foetus has to life.
The right-wing of the political spectrum is usually the side that prizes individualism, choice, and self-determination. It’s typically the left end of the spectrum, where socialist ideologies sit, that presses for equality, looking after the most vulnerable in society, and giving a voice to the voiceless.
If we think about it, being pro-life actually fits much more comfortably into the socialist end of the political spectrum than it does into the right wing. That’s probably why 46% of Labour supporters in the UK, in comparison with 40% of Conservative voters (and 38% of UKIP voters), think the unborn child ought to have some sort of “legal protection of its own”, according to a recent poll.
Why do I think that “pro-life” is the right-shaped piece to fit in the socialist jigsaw puzzle?
It goes hand-in-hand with equality.
Upholding the value of human life is in no way at odds with advocating equality. In fact, the two are rather comfortable bedfellows. The thinking which governs calls for equality is that each and every person is of equal value and should be treated as so, regardless of their race, gender, religion and so on. This is the same thinking which is behind those that back the foetus’ right to life: every person should be treated with dignity, respect and with value.
After all, this is a human right. The United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights underscores the ‘recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family’ as ‘the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world’.
Article 3 of this same document – the foundation of international human rights law – decrees: ‘Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.’ Another clause reads: ‘Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.’ These are the ground rules that govern the socialist rhetoric, which emphasises social solidarity and justice for all.
So why do people tend to disregard the unborn infant’s ‘inherent dignity’ as ‘a member of the human family’ and its ‘right to life, liberty and security of person’, as well as its ‘right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law’? Why, especially, should the school of thought that usually shouts the loudest for these rights for all people, suddenly abandon this thinking when it comes to the topic of abortion – shouting instead for the woman’s right to “choose” (ignoring the child’s right to live) and her right to go about her life without “the burden” of a baby?
It may not seem evident at first but in addition to being incompatible with the full recognition of human rights, abortion also has telling repercussions on the position of women in society.
The rhetoric of the self-styled ‘pro-choice’ camp fixates more than anything else on a woman having the right to choose whether or not she wants to have an abortion. But is it really a choice for that many women? Some of the top reasons that come up as having driven women to go through an abortion include fear that pregnancy and rearing a child will inhibit their career goals and the fear of not having enough finances to support a child.
I think we should be concerned about these concerns. Or what do you think: should we not be worried when women feel that the only way that they can get ahead in life and succeed in their careers is by ending their own children’s lives? The fact that so many women feel they must stop the pulse of the very lives breathing inside them shows that we have a long way to go in making women feel equal to men. For why should a woman’s unique and immensurable capacity to bring life into the world be something that she becomes ashamed of? Why should a child change from being a “gift” to being a “burden”?
And does it not say something about the inequality of our society when a mother feels that it is out of her reach to provide the monetary means for her child to live in this world?
Being pro-life and socialist actually shouldn’t be seen as a paradox at all. Being a socialist means desiring equality for all, looking out for the needs of the most vulnerable, and giving voice to the voiceless. Being pro-life means counting the unborn child as worthy of having rights – and that to life is the most important of them all. Being pro-life also signals a grasp of the reality that the foetus is a mute and defenceless human being who needs our voices and our law to protect it.
Ruth Akinradewo is a student at the University of Oxford and posts on her own blog, ‘The Change Channel’