Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sex, lies, and the pro-choice movement

I'm pretty sure anyone who knew me in high school would be stunned to hear that I volunteer for a pro-life organization. As a teenager, I was staunchly pro-choice, and vocal about it. (The last four words of that sentence will come as no surprise to anyone who has known me longer than five minutes.)

But my change to a pro-life stance is not the subject of today's post.

Instead, I'd like to talk about the mindset behind the pro-choice position. Regardless of where you stand on the issue, it's important to understand the philosophy on which the pro-choice position is based. Without that understanding, it's impossible to have a real discussion of the issue.

In an article entitled Sex, Lies, and Abortion, author Dinesh D'Souza points out the philosophical conflict at the heart of the pro-choice movement. (You'll want to read the article — he makes an excellent point. OK, I'll give you a hint: it has to do with social justice.)

D'Souza asks, "Why then, in the face of its bad arguments, does the pro-choice movement continue to prevail legally and politically?" The answer, he writes, is that "abortion is the debris of the sexual revolution... [and] is viewed as a necessary clean-up solution to this social reality."

He continues:
In order to have a sexual revolution, women must have the same sexual autonomy as men. But the laws of biology contradict this ideology, so feminists who have championed the sexual revolution—Simone de Beauvoir, Gloria Steinem, Shulamith Firestone, among others—have found it necessary to denounce pregnancy as an invasion of the female body. The fetus becomes, in Firestone's phrase, an "uninvited guest." As long as the fetus occupies the mother's womb, these activists argue, the mother should be able to keep it or get rid of it at her discretion.

D'Souza hits the nail squarely on the head. By the 1970s, feminism's original cause (professional and social equality) had bled over into relationship ethics.* If men could have sex with impunity and without commitment, women should be free to do the same; there was no equality without sexual freedom — so went the party line. That philosophy fueled my own worldview, and that of many of my friends.

A generation later, even that twisted rationale is lost. Many girls and young women seem to passively accept and even willingly participate in the hypersexualized culture that demeans and objectifies them. They accept it without question, in the same way my peers and I accepted our right to vote, never pausing to consider that it had not always been this way.

(However, unlike the vote, the last few decades' transition in values has actually made women more enslaved to the dominant male culture, rather than less. Need proof? Just look at the exponential increase in pornography, both in volume and demeaning-ness. I doubt that was what the suffragettes were fighting for.)

D'Souza concludes his article by pointing out that, in light of this reality, pro-life arguments that focus only on fetal humanity and viability are unlikely to make much headway, because they address the wrong issue:
Rather, the pro-life movement must take into account the larger cultural context of the sexual revolution that invisibly but surely sustains the triumphant advocates of abortion.

It won't be easy, but somehow the case against abortion must include a case against sexual libertinism.

As I reflect on my own philosophical evolution — no, more like revolution — on this subject, it strikes me just how misguided was that aspect of the feminist ideal. I can't argue with the goal of gender equality. But the "freedom" that feminism held up as the standard for both sexes has turned out to be nothing more than irresponsibility.

Equality may have been second-wave feminism's goal, but it seems to me its method has resulted in a further devaluation of women, and a loss of dignity for both sexes.

And we are less free than ever, because we're looking for freedom in the wrong place.

"...through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death." Romans 8:2

*Carolyn McCulley gives an excellent overview of first, second, and third-wave feminism in this short video.



  1. Pam, thank you so much for bringing this back to the ultimate point: that the central wish of the feminist heart (freedom) is not wrong in and of itself-- it is merely a matter of looking to the wrong source for that liberty. Christ truly is the only one who can bring it! Liberty chased after in any other context will only bring consequences.

    And, as a side note, I think the part of me that knows a woman's true need for freedom is the part that could never look upon a feminist scornfully. How can I do that, when my own desires are so similar? Instead, I pray my mission will be to come alongside women and redirect those desires while still affirming them.

    I hear ya, sisters!

  2. Exactly. Thanks, Rachel.

  3. Ooh, this is a great post. I'm going to be sharing this.


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