Oxford Students for Life

Promoting a culture of life in the University and beyond

Category: pro-life feminism

Five things we learned from Fiona Bruce on sex-selective abortion

To conclude our Pro-life Feminism fortnight, last Friday, we had the pleasure of hosting Fiona Bruce, MP for Congleton in Cheshire, to hear about the huge impact sex-selective abortion still has in the UK as well as how ability-selective abortion laws promote extreme inequality. She told us about her attempt to clarify the 1967 Abortion Act, in order to raise awareness and prevent sex-selective abortion from continuing in the UK.

This is an issue which OSFL has discussed previously, and which has been making the headlines again in the last few weeks, and is always pertinent to the pro-life debate. For those of you who missed Fiona Bruce, here are five key points to take away from her talk regarding sex-selective and ability-selective abortion and the law:

fiona-bruce

It is very difficult for MPs to bring forward a matter they feel needs changing in the law.

Fiona explained that the main way MPs are able to bring an important issue concerning the law to the attention of parliament is to apply for a 10 minute rule bill, a type of private members bill. This is a chance to bring forward a bill to change or clarify the law by giving a ten-minute talk in the House of Commons on a Friday; around 20 bills for every 400 applications will be selected at random. The bill gives MPs a chance to raise awareness in the House and ask others for support, but does not itself actually lead to a change in the law. Fiona herself put forward a private members bill highlighting the ambiguity in the law regarding sex-selective abortion, and her arguments were so convincing that the bill won 181 votes to 1. Following from this, Fiona proposed an amendment to the Serious Crime Bill which read: ‘Nothing in section 1 of the Abortion Act 1967 is to be interpreted as allowing a pregnancy to be terminated on the grounds of the sex of the unborn child’. However, this was rejected in parliament. More information can be found here.

 

The 1967 Abortion Act is unclear on the matter of sex-selective abortion

The act does not mention the matter; this has led to some abortion providers such as BPAS stating that it is not illegal practice because the law is ‘silent’ on the matter. This is simply not true. The 1967 Abortion Act simply allows exceptions to legalise abortion under certain conditions. Sex-selective abortion is not one of these exceptions and therefore it is illegal.  Currently, the British Medical Association condones sex-selective abortion in cases where the sex of the foetus may have an impact on the state of the mother’s mental health; this feeds into the explicit element of the law concerning abortion on grounds of danger to the health of the mother. However, Fiona noted that the sex of the child in itself is not where the threat of danger to a mother’s health comes in – it is rather the abuse that she may suffer as a result of the sex of her child which is where the danger lies, and this is what we ought to be trying to change. Fiona stressed these women need help and support as a long-term solution to this problem.

 

Sex-selective abortion really does happen in the UK

Fiona told us two anecdotes regarding cases of sex-selective abortion in the UK; one involved a mother whose two eldest children were girls – as the eldest of six girls herself, remembering the upset and anger her parents went through every time they came home with another girl, she faced similar emotions and stress during her own pregnancy. She decided to abort her third child after she found out it was a girl to avoid bringing further dishonour to her family. The second involved a woman whose husband began to physically abuse her and eventually request a divorce after discovering that their unborn child was a girl. The issue with sex-selective abortion being under-recognised in the UK arises from women facing abuse and having to give alternative reasons for the abortion of their unborn child. It is important to stress that sex-selective abortion is not just practised within certain communities, either. ‘Family balancing’ has entered our terminology, for example. We have to tackle sex-selective abortion not simply on a legal level, but by recognising the root causes which lie in the devaluing of female foetuses, domestic abuse and misogyny: problems which are still present, if brushed under the carpet, in the UK.

 

There is currently a movement to change the law regarding abortion and disability

Although Fiona’s amendment to the Serious Crime Bill was rejected in the end this time round, there is now a new motion to change the law surrounding abortion and disability. Lord Shinkwin has introduced the Abortion (Disability Equality) Bill. At the moment, abortion is allowed up to birth for ‘serious disability’, however conditions such as club foot and cleft lip and palate, which are treatable conditions are included. The arguments involve the thoughts that the law promotes inequality and discrimination against disabled people, and is out of date since it does not recognise the essential contribution that people with a disability bring to the community. As society promotes equality for all, the abortion laws seem to contradict this. Support is coalescing around this movement at the moment, offering hope for the future. You can support and follow the Bill here.

 

Under UK law, medical practitioners have the right to not participate in abortion

The Abortion Act of 1967 states that no person must be made to participate in carrying out an abortion if they have a conscientious objection to the procedure, yet there is pressure on doctors and nurses today to overlook this, regardless of their beliefs. Fiona argues that we should discourage discrimination against those who wish to opt out from such procedures, and that more should be done to raise awareness that this is a right that people have.

Sex-selective abortion is an issue which is unlikely to disappear as long as our culture fails to truly value women, and it is indicative of the way in which abortion is intrinsically linked to the oppression of the vulnerable: its victims are all too often women, or the disabled.

feminism-fortnight

Pro-life Feminism Fortnight was a great success: we have raised awareness of the intersection between the pro-life movement and feminism, hopefully demonstrating not only that it is possible, but that it is imperative to be both pro-life and feminist, and have raised money to support two at-risk babies for a month through ‘Women’s Right’s without Frontiers’, who oppose forced abortion, gendercide, poverty and other abuses of women in China. Next week we turn our attention to Assisted Suicide and will be hearing Peter D. Williams, Chief Executive of Right to Life, on the question of ‘What happens next after the defeat of the Marris Bill?’ Do join us on Tuesday 22nd November at 7pm in Harris Manchester for what promises to be a fascinating look at the future ahead.

Danielle Green is in her Second Year at St John’s studying French and Philosophy.

Advertisements

New Wave Feminists: 5 things we learned

As part of OSFL’s Pro-life Feminism Fortnight, we had the pleasure of hosting Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa and Kristen Hatten, the New Wave Feminists, via Skype last night. They describe themselves as ‘Badass. Pro-life. Feminists’ and that is exactly what we got. Destiny and Kristen demonstrated cogently and rationally, but with humour, the way in which our culture systematically commodifies women and sex, and the part abortion plays in a patriarchal system which makes women into objects and enables men to profit. Citing Alice Paul, the American suffragist and early feminist who said ‘Abortion is the ultimate exploitation of women’, Destiny eloquently made the case for being both pro-life and feminist. Their talk was filled with brilliant arguments and lots of helpful tips about how to put those arguments forward, but here are just five things to take away from the talk.

nwf-talk-2

 

  1. ‘Ye Olde Patriarchy’ has been defeated; it is against ‘The New Patriarchy’ that we must now fight.

Bringing down the patriarchy and its exploitation of women is crucial, but most feminists are fighting the wrong battle. ‘Ye Olde Patriarchy’, the system under which man marries women, woman produces children, children provide free labour, and marriage and children are both profitable and sustainable, is dead. Feminism has already won that battle, but the war continues with the battle against what the New Wave Feminists term ‘The New Patriarchy’. If anything, this patriarchy is more insidious and many women have been raised to be unconsciously complicit. Another term for this patriarchy, according to Destiny, is ‘Douchebag Utopia’: this is the culture of Cosmopolitan, which tells women how to look and gives them page after page of sex tips; the culture in which ‘fauxminists’ see porn and sex work as empowering women; the ‘Kulture’ in which Kim Kardashian feels the need to post naked selfies whilst pregnant to show she has value and is still relevant. Under the tyranny of ‘The New Patriarchy’, sex is a commodity, making women a commodity. Marriage and children are now expensive, so we have turned to hook-up culture, birth control and abortion, which enables men to commodify sex without the financial liability of children. And it is women’s bodies that pay the price. This is the patriarchy feminists should be fighting. And this is the patriarchy that we as pro-lifers must be fighting.

the-problem-with-feminism

Image courtesy of the New Wave Feminists

  1. The three groups who benefit most from abortion are not women, but men.

Destiny outlined the three groups who benefit most from abortion, and all of them are patriarchal.

  1. Men who exploit women, using them for sex, and then use their credit cards to deal with the unintended, but natural consequence, by sending women to abortion clinics and hence abdicating responsibility.
  2. Governments, which are still predominantly male, who find it easier to subsidise abortion than to pay for eighteen years of child support.
  3. Child predators who groom young girls and procure abortions for them to hide the evidence of their crime. To see how abortion is tragically used to exploit young girls, and the way in which abortion clinics are complicit, have a look at some of the case stories here.
  1. ‘Don’t be nuts’

In their zeal to do good, many pro-lifers seem a little nuts and crazy! And given the media’s hostility towards the pro-life cause, they inevitably pick up on the craziest pro-lifers, rather than putting the spotlight on those who are rational and logical. Kristen said that if we take one thing away from the talk, then it should be this: ‘Don’t be nuts. Be sane’.  Use cogent, intelligent and effective arguments rather than graphic images and condemnation.  And if you can be funny, then be funny. To get a taste of how the New Wave Feminists use humour to aid the pro-life cause, have a look at some of their videos! (Please note that, naturally, some of these videos discuss women’s bodies explicitly, but more importantly, accurately.)

nwf-talk-1

It was wonderful to see so many people last night. Thankfully, we all look quite normal!

  1. Sometimes it’s enough just to be yourself

Going on marches and getting heavily involved in activism is great, but sometimes simply going about your business being quietly pro-life is a better witness as it proves that pro-lifers are regular, ordinary people too, and not the crazies the media would like to present us as (see Point 3…). People will probably eventually realise that you are pro-life and that way you will be able to have important, private conversations while simultaneously demonstrating that you are a normal human being.

  1. The ‘forced pregnancy’ argument can be defeated with both reason and statistics.

One argument with which pro-life feminists are constantly confronted that of how one can call oneself a feminist whilst ‘forcing’ women to carry a pregnancy to term. Destiny punctured this argument persuasively and using logic that many would struggle to combat. First of all, we are all (hopefully!) intelligent human beings! We know where babies come from: babies are a natural consequence of fertility and sex. Surely that shouldn’t be such a surprise to everybody! To talk about ‘forced pregnancy’ in the context of pregnancy as a result of consensual sex is therefore a misnomer. If somebody has chosen to have sex, then they can hardly claim that pregnancy has been forced upon them. They had a choice, and that choice was made when they chose to engage in sex. On the other hand, there are tragic cases of rape, through which women had no choice about becoming pregnant. However, such cases only account for 0.06% to 1% of all abortions in the US, so this argument can only be used in the tiniest proportion of cases and hence one cannot argue that pro-life feminism forces women to be pregnant when in 99% of cases, this flies in the face of logic . This does not, however, diminish the appalling crime of rape nor the suffering that it puts women through and all cases must be treated with the utmost compassion. Yet the radical  bodily autonomy argument, which suggests that all human beings, including foetuses,  possess bodily autonomy right from the moment of conception, still applies even in cases of rape. For a nuanced discussion of the question of rape and abortion, have a look at Kristen’s video here.

nwf

Image via the New Wave Feminists

We learned such a lot from the New Waves Feminists and hopefully this will make us reconsider the way in which we discuss both abortion and feminism whilst also demonstrating the imperative of being pro-life and feminist. If you missed the talk and would like to find out more about the New Wave Feminists’ position, this video offers a great introduction to their ideas on pro-life feminism. You can find their website here, like them on Facebook here, follow them on twitter here, or check out their wonderful blog here.

feminism-fortnight

We hope that you will join us for some more of Pro-life Feminism fortnight. Next Tuesday we will be having our Pro-Life Feminism Fundraiser, venue to be confirmed, and on Friday 4th November Fiona Bruce will be talking at 6pm on sex-selective abortion. To get the latest details, and to see lots of inspiring quotes about Pro-Life Feminism, have a look at OSFL’s Facebook Page.

Preview: New Wave Feminists Skype Talk

Today marks the beginning of Pro-Life Feminism Fortnight! Over the next two weeks we will be exploring the question of whether it is possible to be pro-life and feminist. Spoiler alert, the answer is an unreserved yes!

feminism-fortnight

On Wednesday, OSFL will have the pleasure of hosting the New Wave Feminists. Part of the pro-life generation, they are fully committed to women and fully committed to life, and are eager to reclaim feminism from those who perverted it. They write ‘It’s time for the return of common sense feminism which refuses to exploit women in the name of liberation and create victims while settling for equality. Instead, we will live up to our full potential and demand others rise up to that level as we embrace how strong and bad ass women truly are.’

We had the privilege of hosting Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa and Kristen Hatten last year and these radical, articulate and hilarious feminists demonstrated uncontrovertibly for us the extent to which abortion is just another way in which the patriarchy controls and exploits women. The unborn child is just as much a victim of the patriarchy as women are, but society often fails to realise how abortion harms and takes advantage of women. The New Wave Feminists are part of the changing face of the pro-life movement and belie the false stereotype of pro-lifers as staid, religious, women-hating old conservatives – just wait till you see their hair! To see how young and vibrant the pro-life community can be and bust all these stereotypes have a look at this article from Slate.

skype-talk

Using their own brand of humour and rhetoric, the New Wave Feminists will be speaking to us via Skype and will prove to us not only that one can be feminist and pro-life, but that to be feminist is to be pro-life, and that to be pro-life is pro-women.  Join us this Wednesday at 7pm in the Prestwich Room in St John’s to hear them speak (and bring your friends who believe that to be feminist is to be pro-choice). We promise it will be a wonderful event and are looking forward to seeing you there.