Non-religious, left-wing, feminist, pro-life and proud
Non-religious, left-wing, feminist pro-lifers exist in Cambridge.
How do I know?
I am one.
The past year has seen dozens of lazy stereotypes thrown around. Pro-lifers are socially conservative, right of centre, devoutly religious and probably Catholic. Not to mention fanatical, dangerous, older and disproportionately male.
A recent ComRes poll in England and Wales, though, suggests the very opposite of these stereotypes in terms of gender, political affiliation and age. 43% of women support a reduction in the time limit to 12 weeks, as compared to 32% of men. Gender does affect your view on abortion – but it seems to make you more likely to be pro-life. 46% of Labour voters think the fetus deserves some form of legal protection, as compared to 40% of Tory voters.
If you still have trouble buying this, look at me. I’m a progressive young woman, voted Labour in the election and don’t believe in any particular religion.
But I have to put up with lazy stereotypes perpetuated by other students – and even by those involved in Cambridge student organisations that are supposed to represent me as a student and as a woman.
One student wrote on the Women’s Campaign Discussion Group: “having snooped around a bit on Facebook I can tell you that Cambridge Students for Life is formed entirely of students from the Fisher Society”, the Catholic chaplaincy.
A prominent writer said that this issue is “entirely rooted” in a “patriarchal religion” and that “there is absolutely no scientific backing to support anti-abortion arguments”.
Someone else claims that “the very idea of personhood beginning at conception is religious”.
This is a load of rubbish – CSFL includes many Catholics – but certainly isn’t entirely composed of Catholics. I’m non-religious. Our Vice President is Muslim, and the President two committees ago was a liberal Jew.
It’s true, of course, that the religious are disproportionately represented among those who are morally opposed to induced abortion. But to think that we’re all devout Catholics is a wild generalisation – there is a great diversity of religious and political beliefs among people with a pro-life viewpoint, something I’ve personally witnessed here in Cambridge going to events organised by CSFL.
Slogans like “keep you rosaries out of my ovaries” – used by Amelia Horgan, last year’s Women’s Officer, at the Freshers’ Fair – are, aside from being anatomically inaccurate and disrespectful to people’s religious beliefs, pretty immature and unhelpful to the real question that we’re debating.
Pro-life, left-wing feminism isn’t a contradiction in terms any more than I’m a logical impossibility.
I actually find that being morally opposed to abortion is a viewpoint that is very compatible with feminism and with a left-wing philosophy. Protection of the most vulnerable in society – an idea that commonly comes up in left-wing discourse – is at the heart of the argument against abortion.
Although a pro-choice view has come to dominate mainstream feminism, I – as a feminist – feel concerned about abortion in terms of what it suggests about how society views women.
That parenthood can still hinder a woman’s professional aspirations doesn’t show we need abortion – it shows society and employers still have a long way to go in advancing gender equality in the workplace.
Identifying with a pro-life stance has, for me, come about from thinking for myself over the years about the question of what an embryo or a fetus is.
I believe it because I find the logic convincing and because of the scientific evidence of embryology – not because of any associated belief system, and certainly not because of any pressure put on me by anyone else.
I believe in a consistent life ethic and don’t just care about abortion – but about the many ways in which human life is being destroyed around the world, from barrel bombs in Syria to mass shootings in Nigeria. I also believe that we can question the morality of something and still treat women with compassion in every situation, remembering the pressures they are often subject to when making a decision like this.
Some people might be surprised by the mix of opinions that I have on different issues, since they may not be the ones that people conventionally think go together.
But it’s simplistic to assume that everyone’s going to fit into some predefined categories.
While the abortion debate is complex and of course is filled with religious, political and gender-related baggage, it ultimately comes down to the question of what that thing inside the womb is – and we should be able to negotiate this question on its own terms.