The pro-life argument is, in essence, a refusal to see women as human – or to perceive women at all.
It’s easy to see this in terms of slavery. The pro-life movement is the heir of the aggressive, racist-eugenic fascism before WWII*: which in turn inherited so many of its beliefs from the calm white-centric belief that inferior people shall be slaves to their superiors. Women in this scenario are the slaves of men: women have no right to decide for themselves how many children to have, and when. The forms of contraception which the pro-life movement is most likely to passionately campaign against are the contraceptive pill, its younger sister emergency contraception, and the IUD: contraception which is under the control of the women who use it, and which a man is not likely to be able to sabotage and may not even be aware the woman who is “his” is using. Emergency contraception even enables a rape victim to take control of her body and say no, at the least you will not make me pregnant: naturally, pro-lifers oppose emergency contraception being provided automatically to rape victims as soon as they seek medical treatment.
*The aggression in pro-life attacks on Margaret Sanger speaks of an enmity far older than the modern pro-life movement: Sanger was a believer that even the poorest women should be allowed to “improve the breed” (yes, she was a eugenicist, as were the pro-lifers who opposed her then) by her passionate pro-choice support of even the poorest woman’s right to decide how many children to have, rather than – as in her day – being forced by denial of contraception and denial of the right to refuse their husbands, to have as many children as they could until they died of it. Margaret Sanger’s eugenics was a form profoundly opposed to the fascism inherent in the white pro-lifers who opposed her: who believed white women owed it to “the breed” to be forced to have as many children as they could, and let two-thirds of them die. The strongest would survive, these pro-lifers felt: why give women the right to decide?
Slaves are not allowed to decide when they will be bred, or how many children they will have: pro-lifers want to roll back the human rights movement to the days when a man could literally own the women he bred, and the children he produced.
But even a slave may be cared for by her owner, at least to the degree of concern that she should be maintained as a healthy breeder: for some pro-lifers, who openly maintain that when a pregnancy goes wrong, the woman should be forced to continue the pregnancy though she dies of it, and regardless of what damage the pregnancy does to her. This is thinking of a woman as an incubator – a cheap, easily replaceable machine, used to produce babies, use till it breaks.
But there is still another sticky undercurrent to the pro-life movement: the belief that women are morally equivalent to farm animals.
A few weeks ago a New Zealand pro-life blogger, Brendan Malone, published an outraged post in which he complained that a Green politician, who’s pro-choice, had recently
issued an official press release which passionately attacked the NZ dairy industry for inducing the premature birth of unborn cows, a practice which often results in the death of the calf.
Yes, you did read that right; unborn cows, and look at the language used by Kedgley when talking about this issue, and the sort of action she wants the government to take against it…
Brendan describes this as “unbelievably hypocritical”, because the same politician is pro-choice.
Now, if you’re pro-choice, you believe that the pregnant woman is the person who has the best right to decide whether to terminate or continue her pregnancy: it’s a basic human rights issue, a basic healthcare issue.
What does this have to do with humane farming practices?
Dairy farming is an inhumane business. Male calves are of no value to a dairy farmer: they’re sold young for veal. Female calves are taken from their mothers young, reared and fed indifferently by humans, so that their mothers can be milked for food for our use: milk, cream, butter, cheese. Cows are bred to produce far more milk than their calves could use, so much milk that if they aren’t milked twice a day they suffer terrible pain and eventually die. Dairy farming is emblematic of how we as humans treat animals as if we have the absolute right to use them at our will to provide for our needs, regardless of how this twists and distorts their lives.
What does this have to do with a woman’s right to choose? If you are pro-life, you believe that women can be bred against their will – but surely even a pro-lifer would see some distinction between a human woman, even one deprived of her basic human rights, and a dairy cow? Women do not, even in the most extreme pro-life fantasies, lead lives in any way resembling a dairy cow’s.
But apparently Brendan Malone, and multiple regular pro-life commenters who follow his blog, really see no difference at all between a pregnant woman and a dairy cow. To them, arguing that the farmer of dairy cows ought not to be allowed to induce the cow early to get the milk production started, because this is an additional layer of cruelty on top of the regular day to day use of a dairy cow’s life, is “hypocritical”, because this same politician who opposes a farmer’s mistreatment of cows, opposes pro-life mistreatment of women: she believes that women ought to allowed to decide for themselves about their pregnancies. But to these pro-lifers, and I wish I was joking, women are no more than cows.
Indeed, in a later thread on the same blog, a pro-lifer Mikestruth was insistently arguing a Dolcett-like belief that being vegetarian and being pro-choice was somehow “inconsistent”: as if believing women have the right to choose was somehow inconsistent with not eating meat. (Dolcett, if you didn’t know and I often wish I didn’t, is the eroticisation of cannibalism – specifically, men consuming women as meat. Sorry: my tolerance for human perversity lapses at that point, as it has firmly lapsed with Mikestruth’s belief that women are food animals and arguing for human rights for women is weird if you’re a vegetarian.)