It is common in our culture to hear the sentiment “I wouldn’t do XYZ but it’s not for me to tell others what to do”. Not only is it a statement devoid of any substance or personal conviction, but it is generally unhelpful or even harmful to the “others” it references.
It is a statement that seeks to be “non-judgemental” and “accepting” but which often simultaneously dismisses and ignores the struggles others are facing. It is possible to denounce and discourage harmful behaviour and still love and care about others – in fact it is usually the more loving approach.
As Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, the President of New Wave Feminists, has written on social media recently, when it comes to the issue of abortion, such a statement also entails a sense of privilege and opportunity that “other women” who “choose” abortion don’t have.
Below is her post in full:
“I could never have an abortion myself, but who am I to tell other women what to do?”
Let’s take a moment to unpack the privilege in this popular statement...
Women who are facing unplanned pregnancies and considering abortion are not a monolith. We dehumanize their very real and unique desires and struggles when we “other” them by lumping them all together into this generic population of faceless women void of emotions regarding such a permanent decision.
Here’s a thought experiment that’s helped me quite a bit. Consider why *YOU* would never have an abortion.
Write down those reasons.
Perhaps it’s because you have the support you need at this life stage to choose to parent. Perhaps you believe the unborn person - your child - is fully human. Perhaps you know someone who terminated and really struggled with it.
Whatever your reasons - write them down.
Now, do you honestly think these women don’t have those same thoughts? Fears? Concerns?
Unlike you, they might simply lack the level of support to choose life which you have, but that doesn’t make the whirlwind of emotions they’re feeling any less valid. That doesn’t mean they’re excited about having an abortion. Most of the post-abortive women I know talk about how trapped they felt... pushed into a corner with no real, practical support. Their “choice” to abort was often anything but.
Studies have shown that over 60% of women who “choose” abortion do so because of financial constraints. It might not be a person coercing them into that decision, but rather a system telling them it’s the only option for their survival.
So, what if instead of pushing for access to the one thing you would never personally do yourself, you dig a bit deeper... and see how this is a systemic issue for so many women globally. Women and unborn children are living in a world that wasn’t designed to work for them... one that for far too long has seen both people merely as property.
What if instead, we worked to tear down those old outdated system of violence and objectification? It would certainly take a lot more effort than validating women’s “right” to abortion. And, yes, it would be a much bigger strain in all of our resources and time. But in the end, it’s the only ethical thing to do.
We must use any and every bit of privilege we have to fight for those with none... because simply erasing them, while acting as though it’s the compassionate solution, cannot be the answer. We must progress as a society toward true empowerment for women and unborn children, and violence can never be a part of that future.
Women’s Forum Australia is an independent think tank that undertakes research, education and public policy advocacy on issues affecting women and girls, with a particular focus on addressing behaviours and practices that are harmful and abusive to them. We are a non-partisan, non-religious, tax-deductible charity. We do not receive any government funding and rely solely on donations to make an impact. Support our work today.
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