Recent conversations about abortion in Australia and in the United States have made it clear that it is not enough for a woman to be a woman, nor is being a feminist suffice; one must also publicly support abortion. A woman may reach the zenith of public office but it is apparently redundant if they are not promoting a particular type of womanhood. It is not enough for a woman to be woman (which I assume is insulting to many women), but you have to be a woman who talks to and represents a particular agenda.
Last week the world witnessed over 3 million Americans marching through their cities, protesting the Presidency of Donald Trump. These protests are understandable given the unacceptable views on women that the new President has expressed. I want to emphasize how appalled I am by his comments about women. However, not everyone who wanted to march in support of women was welcomed, those who describe themselves as ‘pro-life’ were excluded.
The new Minister for Women in NSW is Tanya Davies, and within moments of giving her first press conference as minister, numerous journalists and social commentators began calling for her removal. The reason? What atrocious deed is lurking in her wardrobe? The problem is, Tanya Davies is pro-life.
“Personally I am pro-life … but in my role I am there to support all women and I will support all women, and I will listen to all women and I will take on board all the stakeholders’ comments and feedback … and ensure the best outcome for all women is secured,”
In today’s The Age, Jenny Noyes made it clear as translucent silica that one cannot be Minister of Women if one does not support a woman’s right to abort her children,
“the appointment of Tanya Davies as the new Minister for Women was immediately soured when she admitted during the press conference to being “personally pro-life.”
“This simply is not good enough…NSW needs a Minister for Women who will actually fight for women’s rights, who is willing to put reproductive rights on the table – not to wind them back…”
The comment that I found most troubling was this one,
“The so-called “pro-life” movement says a life that hasn’t even begun is more important than the self-determination of a living, breathing woman.”
First of all, let’s not fudge the facts: life has already begun. Treating unborn children as pre-life and pre-human counters what we know to be true scientifically and ethically. To grade human beings according to levels of humanness is gross and immoral, and reminds us past generational ideologies which rightly cause us to shudder. Life does not begin at birth; our children are living sentient beings inside the womb. They are feeling and thinking and feeding and growing, responding to music and to touch.
Noyes’ also misrepresents the “pro-life” paradigm, painting an either/or fallacy. It is possible to be both for unborn children and for women. But in the highly charged individualism which so much feminism has now adopted, room isn’t permitted for women (or men) to both support a woman’s health and life, and the health and life of the child in her womb.
In Ancient Rome, baby girls were often abandoned and left to die in the open. Today, it is not sexism and misogyny that is responsible for most abortions in Western countries (although evidence suggests that the majority of world-wide aborted babies are girls), and neither is it the endangered-life of the mother, but the endangered life-style of women who are encultured to smash more glass ceilings.
The irony is, Tanya Davies is cracking another panel, but it is not one that some women want broken.
As a Christian I can’t help talking about Jesus, for I reckon he is more relevant to these discussions than we often think. We know Jesus’ views of women countered the norms of his day, which angered many men who sought to subjugate women. Jesus also taught us to welcome and care for little children. A healthy and mature society will do both.
I wonder, instead of women and men jumping to break more ceilings, what if we learned from Jesus, and stopped climbing on our step-ladders and shattering glass all over those underneath us? How often in advancing our own dreams we sacrifice others whom we leave below? Jesus accomplished the greatest act in the history of human rights, not by asserting his position but in laying down his life out of love for others. He flipped on its head the alleged axiom of ‘power verses abuse’, when he chose to serve those with whom he held strong disagreement. And instead of discarding those whom we perceive as holding us back, Jesus gave them dignity and called them to walk with him through life. At least to me, this sounds like a better way forward.