Anti-choice reasons for abortion

// 7 February 2013

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Isobel Greener exposes the sexist values behind the anti-choice position that women can only have abortions if they have been raped.

 At the back of my mind, there are always the conversations and debates and arguments I’ve occasionally had, and the things I “should” have said. Usually, I’m good at letting it go, but a few months ago I had a brief debate around abortion rights which won’t leave me alone.

I’d been doing a lot of reading and thinking on the topic back then, around the time when Mehdi Hasan’s article on abortion had stimulated a massive debate. I put up a link on Facebook to one of the articles I’d found especially interesting, along with my declaration that I believe very strongly in easy and stigma-free access to abortion. A female friend immediately commented, stating the opposite viewpoint, on the basis that “foetuses are people” and that killing them is murder. Abortion should be impossible, she said, beyond twelve weeks’ gestation, and even then, only allowable in extreme circumstances, such as rape.

It didn’t strike me at the time, but this get-out clause “you can have an abortion if you were raped” is so freely used that its underlying meaning gets lost. My generally left-wing, pro-human-rights friend obviously thought it enormously unfair to force a woman to carry and give birth to her rapist’s baby. However, this doesn’t sit comfortably with her argument about foetuses being people and abortion being murder. A baby conceived through rape is, after all, still a baby.

In the context of her argument, which focuses on the foetus rather than the woman’s rights and autonomy, the only difference between a baby conceived through rape and one conceived through consensual sex is that the woman is more likely to not want the pregnancy.

There are innumerable reasons why a woman may not want a pregnancy, but what my friend seems to believe is that a pregnant woman cannot make this decision for her own reasons. We need legislated, state-approved reasons, because women can’t be trusted to decide for themselves. Pregnant by accident? It’s a human being and you have no right to destroy it. Pregnant by rape? Oh go on then, you can get rid of that one.

What it boils down to is the age-old practice of shaming and punishing women who are sexually independent. Whether or not a foetus can be considered a person is open to debate, but the idea that this changes according to your opinion of the conduct of the woman carrying the foetus is transparently sexist bullshit.

Photo of a protester’s head entirely covered in the hood of their orange jacket, with a sticker reading “ABORTION ON DEMAND AND WITHOUT APOLOGY” stuck to it, by World Can’t Wait, shared under a Creative Commons licence.

Comments From You

Elisa // Posted 7 February 2013 at 3:25 pm

Well said.

I think one of the scariest underlying reasons why people who are anti-choice will sometimes generously make allowances for pregnancy as a result of rape is the idea that consenting to sex is consenting to pregnancy. A logical extension of that view is that women who wouldn’t feel able to support a child – so a lot of women already marginalised, such as poor women – shouldn’t have sex at all. And if we legislate on the view that consenting to sex is consenting to pregnancy (by making abortion illegal except in cases of pregnancy as a result of rape) then saying these women *shouldn’t* have sex becomes actually *not allowing* them to have sex.

There’s an awesome article on how invalid the foetus-focused anti-choice arguments are, which the “except in cases of pregnancy as a result of rape” get out clause also demonstrates, here:

Ania Ostrowska // Posted 7 February 2013 at 7:00 pm

Thanks for this post that show well how anti-choice abortion options are toxic options.

In Poland, where I come from, abortion is illegal, unless:

(1)it’s very probable that a woman will die or will be severely disabled if she continues pregnancy; (2)it’s very probable the baby will be born severely disabled or with a terminal disease; (3)a woman was raped (if this is proved and decided in the court of law). At the same time, the same “any termination, at any point, is murder of an unborn human being” opinion holds sway.

The consequences are: (1)quite often women are made to give birth anyway, even if this threatens their health and/or life, see:; (2)nobody seems to notice eugenic overtones of pre-natal examinations allowing abortion if the baby is deemed unfit, while in other situation it is forbidden; (3)given the conviction rate for rapes, even if the act is declared such, it is too late to lawfully terminate pregnancy (it’s 12 weeks limit).

So unfortunately, depending on a context, it’s worse than “Pregnant by rape? Oh go on then, you can get rid of that one.” If you believe that “foetuses are people”, the law to allow abortion in case of rape can be a fig leaf to shut up liberals, but not the one that really is obeyed :(

Sarah - Eve's Voices // Posted 8 February 2013 at 10:06 am

The big fear of conservative minds here seems to be that, once abortion is a legal right, women will go ahead and abort in millions. To give women that right is just like telling them to go wild (sexually) without restrictions. First of all, women aren’t ethnically or intellectually limited beings. We fully understand what it means to abort, and I’m sure that the decision is not taken lighthearted.

I say, the real big fear here is INDIPENDENCE & LOSS OF CONTROL. The discussion in the end boils down to two facts:

*women are seen as not sound of mind, or fully responsible for their action and therefor need guidance or a guardian to decide for them. This somehow is just a pretext for the next point, which is the real problem.

*women shouldn’t have control over such an important issue, which is to give life or not, since handing over such a power is a loss of control over women in a patriarchal system, where men are supposed to be sole to decide.

Note: It you state that a fetus can be killed in certain circumstances but not in others, then I ask you WHONhas the wisdom and insight to decide in which circumstance an abortion is legitimized, if not the woman.

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