We in Western democracies value our freedoms highly; people have died to secure them, people have died defending them. We cry foul when one sovereign nation impinges on the democratic process of another, nations have gone to war to defend the freedoms of others, populations have risen up against their oppressors. Though many rarely use their right to vote, hard-fought and dearly won, they denounce any attempt to curtail it. We pretty much all agree that people are free to do whatever they want to their bodies, they have an inalienable right to personal freedom – we are all born free and equal in dignity and rights. Wear what you want, do what you want with your hair, get tattoos, augment your body, join a political movement, join a socially accepted sky-god cult, take drugs, binge-watch Game of Thrones, engage in relationships with consenting adults… Okay, some of these we are still working on, but you get my drift.
You agree that, in a civilized society, we are all free think as we wish and that in a truly free society our bodies belong to ourselves? You agree that for any organisation to interfere in your inalienable right to your individual sovereignty is tantamount to tyranny? You affirm the inviolable autonomy of the individual, and that the abrogation of this autonomy is a crime which should be immediately repudiated? Great! So you are Pro-Choice. Carry on about your day, support your local movement to defend this freedom (the Irish Repeal the 8th movement and the increasingly necessary defence of the Roe vs Wade in the US come to mind).
No? You disagree? You are “Pro-Life”? Fair enough, you have the right to your opinion. Just one thing:
Your opinion is wrong.
You have every right to your opinion, but it is wrong. I acknowledge you have the right to your opinion, but you are wrong. I wholeheartedly endorse the democratic ideal behind the fact that you can voice your opinion, but you are still wrong. Intrinsically, cosmically wrong. Denying half the human race the same autonomy enjoyed by the other half is unjust and wrong. There is no argument you can make to deny this. You cannot surmount this gross violation of human rights.
To be “Pro-Life” is to be pro-oppression. To be “Pro-Life” is to say that you possess the right to determine the use of someone else’s body. To be “Pro-Life” is to deny freedom to half the species. To be “Pro-Life” is to be on the wrong side of history with patriarchal religions and imperial oppressors. To be “Pro-Life” is to say that women are equal, except when they are chattel. To be “Pro-Life” is to be on the wrong side of humanity itself. To be “Pro-Life” is to say, “I know better. Listen hear, girly, you don’t know what’s good for you, but I do”. Who thinks so little of women that they deem them incapable of independent thought, of coming to a decision by themselves, of weighing the consequences, socially, mentally, and emotionally? Who would deny another human a freedom, the freedom to their own body, that they themselves enjoy? A misogynist, a tyrant.
I am not going to debate the ins and outs of the issue, it has all been said before, I really don’t think another male voice is going to suddenly bring the “Pro-Life” folk an epiphany. And, I have to admit, another version of this essay exists where I thought I was being helpful, but it came out all wrong. It was, to my shame, paternalistic (at best), a kind of sexism from the other end of the spectrum. I hit on some of the key points, but I lost the signal in the noise. Luckily, I have a good friend who gave me a (metaphoric) kick in the arse. I know that I am most likely speaking to people who already agree, but, who knows, one person who sits on the fence might come this way and find their reality suitably readjusted.
As the law in Ireland currently stands, it denies women the right to choose what to do with their own bodies, a fact that runs contrary to the very idea of democratic equality and puts their very lives at risk. Indeed, the right to individual autonomy is under attack in many societies which claim to be free. There is an increasing call to reform the situation in Ireland, which will require a referendum.
And here, in the exercise of making law, opinions come into play, which is to the deficit of the argument. There is no opinion in this debate. There is Right and Wrong. Not my opinion of what I think is right versus your opinion of what you think is right. Half the population is not being treated as free, equal, and sovereign. There is no type of oppression that is kinda okay, it’s not great but hey, it’s not the worst. From revolutionaries who rose against colonial overlords to slaves revolting against masters, one truth rings through the ages: you are free or you are not. Women, as the law stands in many nations, are not truly free. You either agree with the status quo or you don’t. You are either Pro-Tyranny or Pro-Freedom. The other arguments are window-dressing on this very simple premise.
So. Which are you? Liberator or oppressor?