Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PP) and Planned Parenthood Action Fund, is scheduled to give a talk at Georgetown University, this Wednesday April 20. The organizations seek to provide health care and education around reproduction and sex to women, men, and young people throughout the U.S. with about 700 facilities, as well as around the world. Their pregnancy services are notoriously biased towards abortion, as PP performed 160 abortions for every one adoption in the 2014-15 fiscal year. Not to mention the organizations’ embroilment in scandal around the selling of aborted fetal tissue, which broke out a mere nine months ago.
Some of my peers may be very excited about this. However, as a Catholic, pro-life, female at Georgetown, this event has (sometimes literally) shaken me to the core. It, again sometimes literally, keeps me up at night to know that the face of the pro-abortion movement will be given an unchallenged platform to promote her agenda to a room full of my fellow Hoyas, whom I hold dear to my heart as my sisters and brothers. This concerns me primarily because this is a matter of life and death. Women and men who go into the event without a definitive stance on the issue, or who perhaps are facing an unintended pregnancy, will be exposed to a message that overwhelmingly encourages abortion, coming from a woman who treats it as nothing of consequence. This very event could lead audience members down the irreversibly devastating path of abortion.
An equally pressing concern of mine is the fact that Richards sincerely believes that abortion is a necessary component of women’s liberation. As someone who considers herself a feminist, I recognize and do my best to fight the feminization of poverty and all forms of oppression against women. However, I also firmly believe that we cannot free women by encouraging them to resort to abortion. Contrary to what Richards will likely tell us on Wednesday, and what many of you may hold to be true, abortion is not necessary to and in fact stalls women’s empowerment.
For my pro-choice feminist readers out there, this probably seems like quite the paradox. However, the true contradiction lies in pro-choice feminism, as it actually plays into the hands of the patriarchy. To tell women that abortion is an acceptable method of achieving equality with men is to tell women, specifically poor women and women of color, that in order to achieve success or evade poverty they must make their pregnant bodies un-pregnant. As the body that does not get pregnant is the male body, the message of pro-choice feminism necessarily tells women that they must continue to ape the male body, along with masculinity, in order to be ‘free’. Indeed, this does not sound like true freedom: to be told that we must chain ourselves to the idealization of the male body and masculinity in order to achieve ‘success’. Rather, this sounds like an endorsement of the patriarchy: the social, political, and economic world order that continues to drag women behind men, as if in chains.
At a recent undergraduate student debate at Georgetown regarding pro-choice and pro-life feminism, a pro-choice student addressed the pro-life women in the room. She stood and said that our being pro-life is akin to slaves being in favor of slavery. To the surprise of none we are deeply concerned – not to mention, slightly offended – that our classmate would consider our position to be so inherently contradictory and offensive. Perhaps you agree with her. If so, please know that pro-life feminists do in fact exist, and we ask that you might join us in dialogue on these issues.
And perhaps that is one good that has come from this event: that Georgetown has been able to engage in dialogue around Richards’s speaking at Georgetown and the implications for her audience members, the campus community, and the women of Georgetown. We have been challenged to think critically about what it means to be a feminist, to live and work in solidarity with the poor, and to truly find community in diversity. Finally, I hope you will join me in remembering that we do not eliminate poverty by eliminating the poor. Likewise, my sisters in life, we do not free ourselves by eliminating our children or our fertility, the natural results of our femininity, but rather eliminating that which seeks to destroy our femininity.
Justine Worden is an undergraduate student at Georgetown University.
Views expressed on the WSFT blog are original to the authors and may not always reflect the opinions of the WSFT organization and staff.