Joanne Bagshaw Ph.D.

The Third Wave

5 Ways to be a Pro-Life Feminist

What does "pro-life" really mean?

Posted Jan 30, 2017

The Women’s March on Washington last weekend, followed by the annual Right to Life demonstration this past week, highlighted for some the controversy of whether or not a feminist could be "Pro-life”. I’d like to examine the term pro-life, and consider what being “for life” really means. Below are some examples of ways that I think someone could demonstrate what it means to be pro-life: 

1) Become a foster parent. The foster care system in the United States is a disaster. There are approximately 400,000 foster care kids in need of temporary homes. Seventy-five percent of whom have been removed from their homes due to neglect (read: poverty),and most children fare worse in foster homes, due to multiple placements, ongoing neglect, and physical and sexual abuse by their foster parents.You can help by becoming a foster parent and care for and love your foster child with the goal of reunification. If the biological parents aren’t able to care for the child permanently, you agree to provide a permanent loving home. 

2) Support medically accurate comprehensive sex education. Government funded abstinence only programs have done little but increase teen pregnancy rates, but comprehensive sex education tends to delay sexual activity, lowers incidences of STI’s and HIV, and help teens learn how to make healthy choices.

3) Support child care policies that help working parents stay home after child birth or adoption and have access to affordable, quality child care. Currently the United states is the only country out of 41 nations that does not mandate paid parental leave. Additionally, affordable quality child care programs reduce poverty by supporting access to employment, but access to child care programs is cost prohibitive for many families. Quality child care takes up a significant amount of a middle-class families budget, and is unaffordable for minimum wage workers. 

4) Support access to affordable, easily accessible contraception and emergency contraception (because sometimes birth control fails). Access to free contraception, like what is currently covered under the Affordable Care act significantly reduces unplanned pregnancies and abortion rates. 

5) Pro-life is pro-choice. There are either safe or unsafe abortions, as making abortion illegal doesn’t end the need for abortion. Women chose to terminate their pregnancies for many reasons, and not wanting a child is only one possible reason, which is why promoting adoption programs and abstinence aren't adequate solutions.

When abortion is outlawed, women are forced to terminate their pregnancies in ways that are dangerous and unsafe. In fact, abortion rates in countries where abortion is legal are the same as in countries were abortion is illegal. The best way to reduce abortions, isn’t to make them illegal, but to prevent unwanted pregnancy primarily through comprehensive sex education and access to free birth control.  

When abortion is illegal, thousands of women die every year, and the majority of Americans agree that abortion should be legal and Planned Parenthood should not be defunded

I like Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg's idea that pro-choice advocates should reclaim the term pro-life. The concept of what it means to be pro life is better reflected by being pro-health care, pro-contraception, and pro- a woman's right to chose parenthood. If you want to be an advocate for equality, then being pro-life can't include forcing women to risk theirs. 

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