Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Inherent Misogyny of the Anti Abortion Protestors

One of the biggest problems that women have faced over the centuries has been getting beyond being treated as mere objects ... or even outright property.

After reading some of Cardinal Marc Ouellet's comments at the "Fetus Festivus" event recently held on Parliament Hill. (and if that name doesn't creep you out, I don't know what will - the implications of it with respect to women's autonomy over their own bodies are staggering)

Cardinal Ouellet thanked the attendees at the march for defending the unborn and called on all to speak out also “in defense of life until the end.”

“I thank you for standing up in defense of the unborn – those who cannot come to life, those who cannot develop and enrich our country because their right to be born is negated,” he said. “The battle for life, the right for life, is a spiritual battle, so we pray. It is also a cultural battle, and it is a juridical battle, so that’s why we come together and we ask for justice.”

Uh huh ... no - it's a battle to control women's bodies. Let's call it what it is - anything else - whether you use the language of 'fetal rights', or 'right to life' is window dressing.

The fundamental issue underlying the anti-abortion movement is misogyny - and it is the misogyny that has been used against women for centuries - rooted in a masculinized worldview, and a long-held misunderstanding of female fertility and sexuality.

Referring to Dictionary.com, the term Misogyny is defined as follows:

   /mɪˈsɒdʒəni, maɪ-/ Show Spelled[mi-soj-uh-nee, mahy-] Show IPA
hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women.

This isn't outright hatred at play here, it's more like mistrust. Fundamentally, the fetus fetishists don't trust women to make sensible, intelligent decisions about their own bodies - and in particular the biological process commonly called pregnancy.

The anti-abortion arguments reduce the pregnant woman to an object - a mere vessel whose role it is to produce a baby at the end of gestation.

Consider Cardinal Ouellet's comments the other day:

Asked by a reporter about the Church’s teaching on abortion in cases of rape, the cardinal said: “the child is not responsible for how he was conceived, it is the aggressor who is responsible. We can see him (the child) as another victim.”

"I understand very well that a woman who's been raped is dealing with trauma and that she needs to be helped,” he added later. “But she needs to do so with respect for the being that is in her womb. It is not responsible for what happened. It's the rapist who is responsible. But there's already a victim. Do we need to have another one?"

There are some key observations that I want to raise here - and it is the assumptions in the Cardinal's statements:

1) Note that the Cardinal is talking about a rape victim as "needing help", but he is unwilling to allow that same rape victim the freedom to decide for themselves whether they should bear the child that some violent asshole has spawned in them.

2) The fetus as supreme over her needs as a human being. The Cardinal talks about "respect for the being that is in her womb", implying that the fetus has a status that overrides the woman's right to control over her own body.

3) The Cardinal's language treats the fetus as distinct from the woman, and in doing so disregards entirely the enormous biological - and emotional - price that pregnancy exacts for the woman.

Not only has the Cardinal repeated the oft-heard lines of the so-called "pro-life" movement, but he has shown us a window into the blatant and utter misogyny of this line of reasoning.

In the Cardinal's world, the woman is reduced to a mere biological vessel the moment she becomes pregnant. The reason she became pregnant doesn't matter, nor does her circumstances or desire to be a parent. In fact, her decision making with respect to the pregnancy ends at that point. In essence, a pregnant woman is seen as unable to make rational decisions about the progress of her pregnancy. In short, the woman is not trustworthy once she's pregnant. This shows a clear, and unmistakable mistrust of women - simply based on whether they are pregnant or not.

The "pro-life" types go a step or two beyond this and argue that even when the woman's life is at risk, that abortion is unacceptable:

The Bishop of Phoenix has announced that a Catholic nun and administrator of St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix has automatically excommunicated herself by approving an abortion on a woman who was 11-weeks pregnant, and whose life hospital officials allege they were trying to save.

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted said the excommunications apply to all involved, and lambasted the hospital’s defense of their decision by comparing the ill woman’s unborn child to a disease that needed to be removed.

The Arizona Republic reports that in late 2009, Sister Margaret McBride, then vice president of mission integration at St. Joseph’s, joined the hospital’s ethics committee in determining that doctors and the hospital would be morally justified in performing a direct abortion in the first trimester, because they felt that the mother’s life was at risk.

The woman, whose identity is anonymous, was reportedly seriously ill with pulmonary hypertension.

Just consider the moral and ethical stance that this represents. The woman's life was endangered by being pregnant, and the Bishop (who has how much medical training?) dares to condemn the decision providing her with an abortion.

To me, this just reinforces the rather offensive idea that women exist solely as vessels to produce babies. Everything else a woman may do or accomplish is secondary - the moment she is known to be pregnant, these people want to take away her right to make her own decisions about her body.

To reduce women to non-sentient vessels for bearing children the moment that they become pregnant is not just misogyny - it is the worst kind of misogyny because it perpetuates myths about women that have been used to hold them down to second class citizen status for centuries.

... and make no mistake about it - the so-called "pro-lifers" in Canada would happily legislate away a woman's right to decide her own destiny.

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