Speaker helped increase awareness
Observer Viewpoint | Sunday, December 5, 2004
We would like to thank Notre Dame Right to Life for bringing Pro-Life Feminist Sally Winn to campus Wednesday. In spite of a low and almost exclusively female turn out Winn gave a powerful presentation on the history of American feminism, reminding us that our feminist foremothers, women like Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Mary Wollstonecraft, were without exception pro-woman and pro-life. These radical suffragists fought for a truly feminist society in which the basic rights of all human beings were upheld.
In the tradition of pro-life feminism, Winn urged her audience to acknowledge that abortion is not a solution but rather a symptom of a social disease that sees women as defective males who persist on getting pregnant despite the inconvenience to bosses, boyfriends, neighbors and friends.
This system does not take seriously the fertility of women, nor does it offer them real reproductive choices. Rather, it forces them to adopt a (necessarily not pregnant) male-model for their lives; coercing them into surgery, so that their condition can be cured, when they are not sick. Society has failed women. In particular, college age women, as one in five abortions is performed on a college student. Women are too often asked to choose between their offspring, their education or job, and their self-respect. What kind of choices are these?
Clearly we need to reform society, giving real choices and real support to men and women facing unplanned pregnancies, and we need to begin here at Notre Dame. Being pro-life should be about more than restricting access to abortion. It should be about creating a community that is welcome to women and children. What is the womb if not the first and most generous welfare state?
Our culture will not be a truly life affirming one until it fully supports those who choose to parent, offering them access to daycare at work and school, maternal health coverage, time off for delivery and shame-free emotional and financial support. There is a considerable state interest in enacting pro-family policy that includes all families, not only financially secure husbands and wives. Arguments that this kind of policy encourages promiscuity have allowed the perfect to become the enemy of the good, and historically have been more oppressive to feminine sexuality than preventative of unplanned pregnancies.
The current antagonism is politically paralyzing. The Rev. Jerry Falwell’s renaming of NOW, the National Organization of Women, as the “National Order of Witches” is hateful to women. However NOW’s contention that abortion is “the most fundamental right” of women, is not only narrow-minded, it is capitulation to patriarchal and laissez-faire capitalistic norms – literally the antithesis of feminism.
Abortion hurts women. Partisan bickering doesn’t seem to help them. Maybe a truly feminist society could.
Anna Nussbaum and Martha Patzer
Farley hall, off-campus