Happy International Women’s Day to Pro-Life Women
Posted by Margaret Akers on 8 March 2019
This International Women’s Day, we can be sure to see one thing from abortion advocates: the insinuation that all women support access to abortion and that decriminalisation is the next logical step in the expansion of women’s rights.
I have never appreciated women being treated as one, monolithic voting block. It seems to imply that women are incapable of independent thought – or that we must toe the party line in order to stand in solidarity with the entirety of woman-kind. But, in fact, women throughout modern history have disagreed and fought back against the abortion agenda – an agenda which is at its core anti-woman. The culture of abortion belittles women, telling them they are not capable of having a child. Abortion puts women at risk of serious physical and mental harm (see Abortion and Women’s Health). Abortion is not pro-woman.
A Misrepresentation of History
It seems as though pro-abortion campaigners want us to believe the legalisation of abortion was inevitable – just as they suggest the decriminalisation of abortion is an inevitable next step.
This has been demonstrated in the current series of Call the Midwife, which has had three illegal abortion story-lines, only to reveal the person carrying out these botched abortion attempts was the grandmother of one of the midwives. Instead of calling attention to the cultural and social attitudes that pushed these women to desperation, however, the show seems to ask the question: "what else could they have done when abortion is illegal?". It portrays doctors with tied hands. It suggests legal abortion is the only solution to this terrible problem – and everyone seems onboard.
Of course, botched abortions are tragic for mother and child. But the statistics quoted for illegal abortions in the UK prior to 1967 have since been found to have been widely exaggerated. In 1966, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said: "It has been stated that as many as 100,00 criminal abortions are induced in this country each year, and a more recent estimate is 250,000. These and an earlier figure of 50,000, are without any secure factual foundation of which we are aware.’* (Read more on this, and other aspects of the history of the 1967 Act, in Abortion Matters, available in the SPUC online shop). Story-lines like those in Call the Midwife rely on disproven tropes in order to misrepresent history.
Similarly, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) campaign entitled "We Trust Women" put out a campaign video called: "On the Shoulders of Giants". This showed the 1967 Abortion Act as a great step in the history of women’s rights, which leads on to today – when the next step is total decriminalisation of abortion. It states that we as women "owe a debt of gratitude" to those who promoted and legalised abortion – that we should follow in their footsteps.
Narratives like these entirely misclassify what history looked like. There were men and women on both sides of the debate, and there were many brave women who stood up in defence of the unborn and their mothers.
Pro-life Women who came before Us
I think many of us have heard of the American women who have been pivotal in the history of the pro-life movement: women like Alice Paul and Susan B. Anthony. We are perhaps less well versed in those women who came from the United Kingdom. Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, for example, was the first woman on the General Medical Council – and was also an outspoken opponent of abortion. More recent history has also given us brave and bold pro-life women, some of whom have been instrumental in the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children.
In 1966, Elspeth Rhys-Williams, along with Alan Smith, sought to form a group to oppose David Steel’s abortion bill. From that, SPUC was founded – with multiple female founding members. Phyllis Bowman was also instrumental from SPUC’s foundation. She was the first National Director of SPUC and served in that position until 1996.To suggest that all women in the sixties were simply waiting for abortion to finally be legalised is to misrepresent history. Many women have fought against the abortion agenda from the beginning, and will continue to do so now.
A Misrepresentation of Modernity
The pro-life woman is often ignored in the modern abortion debate. This has never been clearer than in the demonstrations promoting the legalisation of abortion in Northern Ireland. Images of women with suitcases marching towards Westminster try to make one thing clear – "women" are calling on legislators to make this change. Of course, there was a large counter protest of pro-life women to this demonstration, but that did not receive nearly as much media coverage.
Being "pro-choice" is viewed as a prerequisite to call oneself feminist. Pro-life women’s groups were excluded from the Women’s March in Washington DC. Pro-life discussions on University campuses are being silenced in order to "protect women". But women are strong enough to have real dialogue and discussion, to engage with these issues in a way that is challenging and productive. It does not do anyone any good to silence the pro-life voice.
Pro-life Women of Today
Women continue to be at the forefront of the pro-life movement. Working together with men for the good of all - we promote a policy and a culture that supports women and protects unborn children. We recognise that legal abortion has not served us.
This International Women’s Day, let’s remember the diversity of voices in the history of women. There is not one way to think – one thing to believe – in order to be a woman. Here’s to all the pro-life ladies!
*Council of Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (1966). Legalized abortion: Report by the Council of Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. British Medical Journal, 1(5491), 850-854.