Not an Odalisque

Confessions of a Feminist

with 5 comments

I feel the need to come out. There’s something I haven’t told you about myself. You may have made assumptions, if you read this blog, because I’m feminist, I’m pro-sex and I’m always prepared to get angry with men who don’t let me have my way, but here it is: I don’t believe in abortion. I think abortion is wrong. Very wrong. In the same category as rape and murder. Mostly because I think it is murder.

I can cope with the fact that the world disagrees with me. This is hardly the first area in which I have maintained a belief in the face of public opinion. I’m a feminist. I’m a vegetarian (something many meat eaters seem to regard as a personal insult to them). I wear a white poppy for Remembrance Sunday. I don’t particularly like ice-cream. I hardly shy away from making controversial statements; it’s different, though, with abortion.

There are communities I rely on to cater to my beliefs, sometimes literally, with hommous sandwiches, groups of people who respect diversity and value every individual. It’s just lovely. Whether I’m socialising or reading a blog, it is comforting to know that people share core beliefs, that I don’t have to be constantly defensive as a woman, was someone who sleeps with women, or even as someone who chooses not to eat meat. That feeling isn’t something I get in mainstream culture, but I find it among feminists, kinksters, campaigners and other groups. They accept me, and all my quirks, except this one.

Take this discussion at The F-Word, for example. Anyone who expresses an anti-abortion viewpoint is likely to get responses like this:

“stop pretending you’re a feminist. Anyone who supports a blastocyst/embryo/foetus over an actual living breathing woman is not a feminist. There is no anti-choice argument which does not eventually lead to: shut up and get back in the kitchen because God Said So.” (Politicalguineaupig)

Or this:

“Please don’t call yourselves ‘pro-life’ or feminist because you are neither. Condemning a woman to give birth to a child even if it costs her her own life is not pro-life. It is anti-woman and anti-feminist. […]Pro-life is all about taking away the rights of women. That’s all it is about and that’s all it ever was and will be about. […]shut up, go away and don’t make other women’s difficult choices even more difficult with your cruel, stupid, judgemental behaviour.” (Paula)

You can see why I didn’t persist after my one, feeble, contribution. So here I am, in my space, giving an explanation.

First of all, let’s clear up some misconceptions. I’m not religious. I was not brought up in a religious household, and I am not currently under the influence of any religious nutters. I don’t believe in God. So my objections to abortion do not originate with a pronouncement by the Pope or deep-seated repression. If, however, you thought that I must be religious because anyone who disagrees with you must be convinced through faith, rather than reason, then you ought to be mightily ashamed. Religious people do great work, and are as much possessed of rational faculty as you are. I know some pretty dumb atheists, too. I, on the other hand, have a degree in philosophy, which included in depth study of ethics. I am not irrational, I am not uninformed.

I think women are great and I think sex is great. I think that sex with women is great fun, too, but that’s another matter. I certainly don’t believe that women should be defined by their reproductive abilities, and I think that you could come to that conclusion very quickly by scanning through other posts on this blog. I don’t disapprove of sex, or believe that it should be punishable by babies. More sex would be good, actually, if you’ve got any to offer, do get in touch.

Are you convinced yet? Do you acknowledge the possibility of an irreligious, feminist, sex-positive woman who has come to the considered opinion that abortion is wrong?

I’m not on a moral mission. I haven’t joined any campaigning organisations, I don’t picket outside clinics or berate teenagers who want abortions. You have to pick your battles and I’ve got other issues to get angry about. Since we’ve got this far, though, I’ll tell you what I believe.

Killing people is wrong. Choosing an arbitrary moment when something ceases being a thing and becomes a person is ridiculous. I know that it is wrong to kill a baby at birth. How long before that is it right? Is there a magical moment, is a switch flipped? No. It is human life from the start, and killing people is wrong.

I recognise that some people think killing people is right. They support the death penalty, join armies, become arms dealers, they get elected and start wars or roam the streets looking for victims. I’ve met many people in the armed forces who I respect, who are trying to do good, but I have no problem with saying that we disagree. It’s a personal belief, that killing people is wrong. Lots of people agree with me, though.

That’s why I don’t believe in abortion. It’s that simple. I’m not unaware of the pain and suffering that pregnancy can cause. Getting pregnant is one of my worst nightmares, and I have advantages many others don’t. I have a lot of sympathy for women who don’t want to be pregnant, just as I have a lot of sympathy for people caught up in conflicts. That doesn’t make their actions right, though. No one is born with an urge to harm others, that is a product of circumstance. I can empathise, but I can’t agree.

I’m not trying to get into an argument on abortion rights, there are plenty more unambiguous villains than pregnant teenagers which we can agree to tackle. While we’re doing that, perhaps you would be good enough to recognise my existence. I’m feminist and anti-abortion. Get over it.


Written by Not an Odalisque

June 30, 2010 at 12:52 pm

5 Responses

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  1. Hi
    A very brave post. I am glad you have stood up to say that being a feminist doesn’t necessarily mean you have checked a set of tick boxes on the ‘are you a good feminist questionnaire’.

    I will take issue with one thing though. I also have been called all those horrible names and had my feminism questioned on the F word and in other places, for being kinky, for challenging notions of ‘rape culture’, for not being a ‘proper feminist’. It’s not just abortion that turns some feminists into hateful attackers of their fellow (feminist) women…

    Quiet Riot Girl

    July 1, 2010 at 11:00 am

  2. I think its too complicated to say abortion is right or wrong. It’s horrible, but I’d hate to see it outlawed because of the resulting health and safety implications for those who feel its their only remaining option. Plus, if you can call the deliberate termination of a fetal or embryonic life “murder”, I think you’re opening up the possibility of manslaughter or similar in unfortunate circumstances where the fetus is harmed due to things like bad diet or other risk factors. Would miscarriages need investigating? I couldn’t have one, and I elected not to test my unborn child for downs syndrome for that reason. But I would support someone’s choice, even if I thought it was wrong.

    I’m glad you posted this. Surely we’re all pro-life and pro-choice to varying degrees. I believe in choice before conception.


    July 1, 2010 at 1:49 pm

  3. Thank you both for your comments.

    Quiet Riot Girl, you are entirely right that there are some feminists ready to pounce whenever you say anything they don’t agree with. I chose to write about abortion because that’s the one topic about which I feel silenced, but for other people I’m sure there are many others.

    Impeus, I think all ethical decisions are complex and there is rarely an absolute to appeal to. In this case, I think we have to question the system which makes abortion the only remaining option. As an analogy, condemning a starving man for stealing seems less helpful than creating a system in which he can afford food (jobs, unemployment benefit, whatever). We don’t decriminalise theft, but we accept that society has some responsibilities to the poor. I’m not trying to paint all women who have abortions as evil murderers; we all participate in the system in which they make their decision. Interesting point about miscarriages/ manslaughter. I don’t know how places which have made abortion illegal have dealt with that one.

    Thanks again,

    Not an Odalisque


    July 1, 2010 at 2:24 pm

  4. First of all, you have a right to have your own opinion on any matter, including abortion and including feminism, without being told to shut-up.
    Second, I think most people agree that killing a human being is wrong and immoral, but the debate here is exactly about the point of becoming a human being. So, after your long introduction, I guess I was expecting a more logical and different explanation on the matter of abortion besides “it’s just wrong”.


    July 24, 2010 at 4:41 pm

  5. Thanks for the comment.
    Any argument can be won or lost by redefining the scope and terms of the debate. I don’t know that I ever promised anything “different”, but then your argument isn’t anything new, either, you didn’t invent the sorites paradox. I assure you that my position is logical. I could write it out as a syllogism if you like. I could even express it using the symbols of formal logic. All of that could lead you, a posteriori, to the conclusion that it is logical.
    Just because it is logical doesn’t mean it is true, of course.


    July 31, 2010 at 8:38 pm

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