I was previously unaware that October 16th is the Pro-Life Day of Silent Solidarity. Although my college campus is for the most part quite liberal, there were quite a few fliers and supporters decked out for the occasion I found myself angry at the Pro-Life supporters who waved fliers with slogans like: “1/3 of our generation didn’t make it”. Some of my friends were involved, wearing red duct tape with the word LIFE scrawled in black sharpie.
What surprised me the most though, was not that the campaign was going on, or that I had friends who participated, but that I was angry at these individuals. My own reaction frightened me. I am used to being able to debate calmly, accept the views of others even if I inherently disagree, but I couldn’t as soon as I saw the posters and the duct tape.
I hated the flyers, where a woman’s mouth was taped over to emphasize the silence of the generation who “didn’t make it”. Why silence the mother? Why not have a poster with a baby with the tape? The advertisement tells me that women should be silenced. I can’t reign myself in when this is the promotional material of the opposing argument. My friends who are women were in support of the day and saw nothing wrong. If our moralities contradict so clearly is it wrong to be upset?
The argument between pro-life and pro-choice sometimes seems as silent as the Pro-Life Day of Solidarity. Political candidates won’t breach the subject because their opinions are so clearly split down party lines. Why would a democrat need to say he or she supports pro-choice when their opinion is written in between the letters of their party? I am angry at this day of solidarity because I do not feel that communication between the two sides is open and I fear that even if it were nothing would be accomplished. I’ve talked to other, far more vocal, women in support of pro-choice who tell me horror stories of debates with those in support of pro-life where the pro-life individual calls them a baby killer and the debate ends there. I’ve had conversations with people who think abortions (like birth control) are a girl’s ticket to be a slut so the government should not support it. In their words: let women claim responsibility for their actions.
I feel I need to address these two arguments separately, and although these are not the only arguments made, I feel I must address the baby-killers in a different manner than the slut shamers.
First, the baby-killers. Perhaps this is why I fear opening up communication: even the labels people choose to identify themselves with put each other more than at odds. If we are at odds, the two sides would either be Pro-Life and Pro-Death, or Pro-Choice and Con-Choice (for lack of a better word). But instead by choosing Pro-Life and Pro-Choice it doesn’t feel that we’re even having the same conversation. I personally hate the term Pro-Life because it implies anyone who is of the opposite opinion, must be Pro-Death. Now, I know a lot of liberals and none of them are racing off to kill babies, neither before they are born or after. The ‘you’re a baby-killer’ argument fails on multiple accounts: it not only distances the two groups from having any semblance of a reasonable discussion, but it also uses the wrong terminology because the fetus is not yet a baby, and perhaps not even yet a fetus. So long as these lines are up, separating those who believe in life and those who believe in death there can be no open dialogue.
But perhaps if the labels were changed there could be a discussion with the Pro-Life supporters of the above argument. Things get a bit more complicated when the second argument comes into play. Denying women access to abortions because they deserve to be taught a lesson for having sex is rooted in a deep seated misogyny rather than in labels. Though the two arguments of baby-killing and slut shaming are very often entwined, I feel I must separate the two because my anger feels quite different for the second argument. Perhaps I can forgive those who are bound by labels and associate Pro-Choice with choosing death, but it is much more difficult to forgive those who not only deny women access to reproductive health care on multiple levels, but justify through the age old belief that women’s sexuality is dangerous and immoral. I do not believe that when people make the argument that a woman needs to pay a penalty for having sex that the issue is actually about the unborn child. It is so much more likely that the issue is about controlling women and what better ruse to hide behind than the sanctity of life? Pro-Life then has the advantage of both a religious moral high ground and being on the opposing side against feminists. It makes me sick the lengths people will go to in order to keep women domesticated and sexless objects for the sexual pleasures of one man.
Until I got to college I knew I was Pro-Choice, but I didn’t know why. I would not have gotten angry at those of Pro-Life. I hoped writing this would help me understand my anger, and it has helped to get my thoughts out. Still, I do not know if my anger is justified. I want an open dialogue, but I do not know if I am ready to have this discussion. I present my thoughts to you with the question of anger and where it belongs in morality and politics.