Jennifer Baumgardner is a well-known US feminist who has published books on feminist organizing, "third wave" feminism, and bisexuality. She coproduced a documentary on prochoice women's abortion experiences and invented the "I Had an Abortion" T-shirt. She has just published Abortion and Life, a collection of women's narratives about their own abortions.
Although I have yet to read the book, I have read Mindy Van Deven's interview with her about it. The interview is entitled Can You Be A Feminist and Anti-Abortion?. The question is posed seriously, not rhetorically, and the answer, fortunately, is "a resounding yes" rather than the accustomed big fat NO.
Baumgardner shares some discoveries she has recently made about abortion from listening to women's experiences. She remains an abortion rights supporter, but some of her discoveries sound...well, rather familiar to my ears and the ears of a buncha people I know. And to our hearts.
- Considering such stories "rightwing propaganda," she previously was "resistant to hearing that a woman had a bad experience with her doctor or that she was extremely sad or had regrets about her abortion." Now she feels that such stories are real, if (to her view) in the minority, and "to suppress them or not want to hear them is a position of weakness."
- She now believes that the use of the term "fetus" as opposed to "child" is for many women who have had abortions "limiting and even alienating...I have met women who think of the child -- their word -- every year on the day it was due to be born...[W]omen write prayers to their unborn babies, asking them to be guardian angels."
- While she formerly thought abortion was "removing inanimate tissue," after witnessing abortion procedures, she now considers fetuses to be "human life." And she is "not cold" to the taking of their lives through abortion. She calls upon "pro-abortion people" to assume the "moral responsibility" of not shiedling themsleves from the "thornier or grislier aspects of abortion."
- She seriously acknowledges the existence of women who do recognizably feminist things like directing the "Vagina Monologues" or helping with Afghan girls' education, who have in some numbers asked her directly if they can identify as prolife on abortion and still be feminist. She has learned that they are not inquiring "whether bombing an abortion clinic can fall within the realm of feminism," but expressing and defending their serious concerns for the value of fetal life.
- Although she includes some points such as supporting early and medical abortions (?), she identifies the components of activism she would name as truly prolife feminist. These includes creating social supports for women who wish to raise their children; supporting contraception and comprehensive sex education; "actively condemn[ing] violence" against abortion providers; and "truly[ing] understand adoption, and work[ing] to make sure the birth mother has a voice." She concludes that "finding more and better ways" to be a prolife feminist "would be, in a word, revolutionary."
Although these insights may be new to Baumgardner, and perhaps others in her prochoice feminist circles, prolife feminists have been thinking, expressing, and taking action on these very realizations for centuries, very often in response to women's own stories of abortion and other difficult reproductive problems.
The Nonviolent Choice Directory, including this blog, is all about such "revolutionary" activism. The book it grew out of, ProLife Feminism Yesterday and Today, Second Expanded Edition, documents the long, rich, culturally, religiously and otherwise diverse herstory of prolife feminists.
But I don't think "who got here first?" is the most important question, even if it needs to be pointed out and backed up with extensive documentation.
The most important question is this: "Now that we're on the same page about so many vital points, how can we cooperate together to reduce abortion and otherwise promote reproductive justice?"
That's the one that ultimately will make the most difference to real-life, flesh-and-blood women and children, the already born and the unborn.