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Reproductive Rights

Dear Amy,

Here's my issue. I feel that in my heart, I am a feminist. I've encountered and fought sexual harrassment, workplace discrimination and constant confrontation of my views as a woman. I believe that women shouldn't be afraid to ask for what they want. I don't believe any woman should have to "pay their dues" the way they used to. I *get* all of that.
What I don't get and can't seem to make peace with is the fact that I don't think abortion is necessarily right. Now, I DO NOT think the government has a role in reproduction. If we allow them to outlaw abortion, what else will they take from us? Going through the experience of abortion seems harsh enough - why bring the law into it?
In addition, in cases of rape and incest, I think individuals have a choice to  make. And if you are a minor-particularly one uninformed about birth control, you have a right to terminate an unexpected pregnancy. I could just never abort a child myself. And, as I contemplate becoming a mother myself someday, I just don't feel like it's a morally sound choice. I've seen those close to me struggle with infertility issues, and I've seen the right to abortion abused. My personal experiences have caused me to feel that it is a morally wrong action when there are other choices available.
Does this mean that feminists are not my peers? Am I doomed to be labelled Pro-Life? Any thoughts?
Erin in Wisconsin



Dear Erin,

Over the past year I have actually increasingly received a number of letters from people who share your exact concerns or exact confusion, on how to be a feminist and be pro-life. Like you, most of the people who write to me are genuinely feminist and not opposed to abortion to the extent that they would protest clinics. In these instances, I don't at all see a conflict between your feminism and your anti-abortion stand.

Historically, I think that the feminist movement has been too rigid on this issue, mostly in direct response to fears that giving in to any perceived compromise would further jeapordize women's access
to abortion. However, I think that this rigidity is hampering feminism to the extent that this shouldn't be a litmus test issue -- yet it has become
that. It is counter to feminism's goals of opening up choices for women.

For instance, the entire goal of feminism is the freedom to make choices, not so much what choice we make -- yet this seems to defy that.This access to choice though works on both sides of the issue and I think is the subtle difference within feminism.It's okay to be pro-life and be a feminist, but to deny that choice to someone else by picketing a clinic or some other form of denial or public protest -- is counter to feminism's goal of opening up choices to others.

Some of the further confusion comes because truely anti-choice people have attempted to claim the word feminism in order to deceive people -- specifically the group Feminists for Life -- however, these women aren't really feminist and thus are falsifying that presumption. This is why you might face some resistance, when you describe yourself as a "pro-life feminist," people might wrongly assume that your feminism is false, not your view on abortion.



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