By “wombless men” Erika Bachiochi, author of Embodied Equality: Debunking Equal Protection Arguments for Abortion Rights (2011) means the culture’s physiological prototype to which all men and women should aspire. “If pregnancy and motherhood are understood as burdensome conditions to women—experiences that represent our inability to compete with wombless men—they will never be given the respect and accommodation they deserve.”
In an online debate sponsored by the University of Notre Dame’s Center for the Study of Social Movements addressing the 40th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Bachiochi suggests that pro-choice and women’s equality movements will crumble of their own accord when their proponents realize that they stand on a foundation of inherent contradictions regarding three key truths.
The nature of abortion: It’s science.
. . . an entire fifth [of Americans] believe that human life begins at birth. This is ignorance of biology at its base, a situation that the media would gladly and rightly correct were the ignorance about, say, the age of the earth or whether women’s bodies can prevent conception when raped.
The nature of Roe V. Wade:
Roe was clearly defined in Doe v. Bolton, the little-known companion case the Court decided the same day. . . . when read together [they allow for] abortion for any reason throughout all nine months of pregnancy.
If polls reveal anything, it is that the majority of the American public is in favor of what they think Roe holds: restrictions on abortion after the first three months of pregnancy. The thing is, we’d have to overturn the 1973 case to get there.
The nature of women’s equality.
Sexual equality via abortion looks to cure biological asymmetry—the fact that women get pregnant and men don’t—by promoting the rejection of women’s bodies. Authentic equality and reproductive justice would demand something far more revolutionary: that men and society at large respect and support women in their myriad capacities and talents which include, for most women at some time in their lives, childbearing.
I agree with Bachiochi’s three points. That said, if pro-abortion claims are so illogical, why are we not any closer to overturning Roe? And it wouldn’t help to answer by concluding that all abortion supporters are bumbling irrational idiots who deny the Truth outright while looking it square in the eye. It’s more complicated than that.
Most pro-choice advocates truly believe that making abortions widely available will lead to less stressful family situations for young, low-income teens; more opportunities for solid high school and college educations and successful careers; stable homes for the children born to a woman when she is emotionally, mentally, and financially ready. And who wouldn’t want these outcomes, on either side of the debate?
Of course we can continue to make logical arguments to appeal to reason, but the problem in many of these cases is that fear, especially the mother’s fear of losing her own dignity (be it through the reaction of her peers or her own sense of failure), wins out over logic. What we need, along with appeals to reason, are more concrete displays of caritas, verifying the dignity of the whole person—and not just of an innocent human life—dignity that does not disappear even in the midst of sin, ignorance, or poverty.
Take the Sisters of Life for example. In working to uphold the dignity of innocent human life, they simultaneously uphold the inherent dignity of the mother, by first acknowledging in their prayers lives that they too are sinner, and then by showing the pregnant mother that she and her child are both worth it. Their Pregnancy Help page says
There are so many unanswered questions, so many seeming impossibilities. But the passion that has already given shape to your hopes and ambitions in life is what reveals the strength you are capable of as a woman, even in the most confusing of circumstances.
So many young women choose to abort not because they fail to recognize the dignity of their child, but because they are consumed by fear and a loss of their own dignity. What the pro-life movement lacks is a greater emphasis on the dignity of all human life, wether innocent or not.