Sarah Palin: A Fatally Flawed Feminist

“We may not agree on abortion,
but surely we can all agree on reducing the number of unintended pregnancies”.
These words, spoken by Barack Obama, took on an ironic meaning yesterday
when it was announced that Bristol Palin, the unmarried teen age daughter
of Sarah Palin, the presumptive Republican candidate for vice president
was five months pregnant.

Integrity demands
that we are cautious in using other people’s lives to prove our political
points or in drawing conclusions about why Bristol Palin got pregnant.
We simply do not know if Sarah Palin’s politics caused Bristol Palin’s
pregnancy. Compassion and respect for the dignity of persons demands
that commentary strive to avoid hurting others. But commentary on the
life decisions of those who have chosen to be in the public eye is not
off limits. In fact, it is an essential component of how we learn. We
learn in part from analyzing the decisions others make. Our children
learn from how we explain decisions our leaders make. We learn when
we think about the decisions others make. It is too facile to declare
discourse about the Palin situation off limits and say that whatever
decision a woman makes is ipso facto the right decision. Some decisions
are good and result in health and happiness; others turn out unhappily,
analyzing those choices helps develop policy that is sensitive to facilitating
good choices.

Bristol Palin
has the right – and the responsibility – to make her decision about
this pregnancy, but knowing whether it is the right decision is beyond
our capacity to determine. Her parents have the right and the
responsibility to guide her in that decision and those of us who are
pro-choice would hope that she had full information on all the options
available including abortion, not marrying and raising the child herself,
adoption, and marriage and child bearing. We cannot, however, impose
the duty of full disclosure on her parents. We can comment on what we
think is ethical parental behavior and the elements that go into good
decision making about reproduction. The personal is political and reproduction
is a private act with public consequences.

Unwanted pregnancies happen
to teens who had great sex education and those who had none. Sex and
desire are messy, unpredictable and consequences are forgotten in the
heat of passion. They even happen to well educated, sophisticated adults
like Rielle Hunter.

Obama’s words and approach
to abortion are, however, in sharp contrast to that of Sarah Palin who
describes herself as a “feminist for life” and is a member of the
organization with the same name. I would contend that Obama’s who,
as far as I know, has never called himself a feminist is more in keeping
with feminist theories and values regarding sexuality, gender and reproduction
than Sarah Palin. In focusing on reducing unintended pregnancy rather
than making abortion illegal, Obama reflects the feminist value of providing
women with the choices they want – and not becoming pregnant when
you are not ready to have a child is high on women’s wish lists.

Feminists for Life, on the
other hand, have shown little interest in responding to women’s expressed
needs. “Preconception issues” such as contraception and abstinence
are not their concern. Their mission is to “serve” women who are
“already pregnant” In fact, their legislative program is almost
totally focused on the Elizabeth Cady Stanton bill, a little known measure
that would provide modest funding to colleges for resources to help
pregnant women stay in college.

From a feminist perspective
this approach misses the mark. The women’s health movement spent the
60’s and 70’s working to change cultural and medical values so that
women would be treated as full persons, not as uterine containers for
babies. FFL would have us return to a time in which women’s sexuality
is denied and they are seen only through the lens of motherhood. Sarah
Palin seems to have bought into this model both in her opposition to
comprehensive sexuality education and in her approach to her daughter’s
pregnancy. The solution to an unintended pregnancy is to transform it
into and unintended and perhaps unwise marriage.

For FFL and Palin,
women’s natural role is motherhood; while it may be premature for
that to occur to a high school senior; it is simply the early adoption
of her purpose in life. Likewise women are by nature more peace loving
and self sacrificing; thus to surrender to a pregnancy is what a good
woman does. In this context, one can deny women the right to an abortion
even if they have been raped. Both Palin and FFL argue the standard
anti-abortion line: “you can’t punish the ‘child’ for the sins
of the father”. But you can punish the woman. No real woman
would not sacrifice for the child of her rapist, they say. I am reminded
of the words of John Paul 2 who called himself the “feminist pope”
and sent a letter to the bishops of Bosnia Herzogvenia in which he urged
Muslim women who had been raped by Christian soldiers to turn the rape
into an “act of love” and bear their rapist’s child.

These expectations that women —
and women only — are required to undertake supererogatory acts of extreme
sacrifice has been rejected by main stream feminism and it is only its
re-emergence in FFL and fundamentalist Christianity that enables women
like Palin to call themselves “feminist”.

Serious feminism, developed
in women’s interest rejects such romantic notions and frames women’s
rights as human rights. A core tenet of feminism is the belief that
women are competent moral adults or agents. They are to be trusted to
make moral decisions and have both a legal and moral right to the conditions
that make such decisions possible. Not the state, parents or partners
or doctors can substitute their moral decisions for those of a woman.
Both Sarah Palin and Feminists for Life ignore this value and want to
restrict women’s moral autonomy by making abortion illegal, restricting
access to contraception and to sexuality education.

They are not prepared to trust
women in the one activity that they own – reproduction. In Palin’s
case, a feminist for life can love guns, war, and capital punishment,
but not women.

These are not new feminist
ideas, they are old patriarchal ideas. Palin is not about shattering
the glass ceiling (which was shattered 25 years ago by Geraldine Ferraro)
but shattering women’s lives. The Palin story is fast moving – I suspect
that Sarah Palin will not survive to be the Republican Party’s vice
presidential nominee. The behind the scenes pressure on her to withdraw
in the interest of her family’s privacy is probably intense. It would
be best for women if that pressure prevails.

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  • invalid-0

    What was John McCain thinking? DId he know anything about Sarah Palin before he picked her to be his VP?

  • invalid-0

    Children are not a punishment.

  • invalid-0

    One simple question…

    Weren’t the original feminists against abortion? Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Mary Wollstonecraft, Alice Paul were all 100% against it.

    Even the modern feminist movement which historians say was started by the book The Feminine Mystique, 1963 does not address abortion.

    The National Organization for Women was founded in 1966 which once again started the modern movement did not take a stance on abortion until a year later. Then kicked out many of its members who disagreed including a founder.

    So to say that one cannot be pro-life and a feminist shows a lack of knowledge and an ignorance towards history

  • invalid-0

    Sarah P’s priorities trouble me… with a special needs baby and a pregnant daughter she doesn’t feel she has too much currently on her personal plate to take on the VP role? and yes I WOULD say the same if it was a man in her same position. If “family values” are so important why would she literally change her primary focus from her family to country – this is not some 40 or even 60 hr a week job..[I felt much the same about John Edwards pursuing the presidency when his wife was diagnosed as terminal, with 2 small children- PRIORITIES folks – family over EGO and POWER] We don’t need her as much as her own family does at this point in time. This woman doesn’t want any sex education in schools other than abstinence. We see how well that worked on the home front. The reason this is relevant is because if she gets to one day be president (God forbid) this is the type of legislation she would like in place. I hope this all wakes people up to how woefully unqualified she is to be sitting down with the likes of other world leaders.

  • invalid-0

    One of the things I love about RHreality is that those opposed to legal abortion rad it and comment. I learn a lot from those comments. Too often, however, the comments are generic and there is not an attempt to understand what people on the other side believe. I agree with “achild” children are not a punishment. But it is, in my opinion, a punishment to force a woman who does not wish to be pregnant and who believes that it is not moral to bring a new child into the world under certain circumstances to continue a pregnancy and give birth, especially if part of your reason is she never should have gotten pregnant if she did not want to have a baby.

    Children are a gift that women give to the world and to the child. Gifts must be freely given, not forced. We do not force anyone to give the gift of life to people who are dying and need blood, organs, food, shelter, etc. We understand the nature of gift giving as voluntary.

  • invalid-0

    “Children are not a punishment.”

    In this case they certainly are. Look at the photographs, it’s clear that Mrs Palin is punishing her daughter. She’s parading her 5 month pregnant daughter as a prop, parading her around the country and using her as a nursemaid for her special needs infant.
    It’s an extraordinarily cruel spectacle, Mrs Palin, in true social conservative form. is clearly punishing her daughter.

  • invalid-0

    It is true that some early feminists were opposed to abortion. And it is also true, that even up to today some feminist organizations do not work on the issue of abortion. I think it is possible for a feminist to believe that abortion is immoral and to work to prevent the need for abortion; even to encourage women to choose alternatives. The dividing line for me is the attempt to make abortion illegal and prevent other women from acting on the basis of their moral beliefs. A feminist who does not recognize women’s bodily autonomy and decision making capacity may be a feminist, but she is not operating on the basis of core feminist principles. Feminism has as its core a commitment to women’s well being and to non discrimination. Positions that cannot be defended as consistent with these principles cannot be accepted as feminist. I think feminists for life have tried to prove that abortion hurts women, but their evidence is weak and has been scientifically disproved. For example, the claims that abortion is dangerous, that serious psychological disorders are common, that abortion causes breast cancer. As each of these is disproved, the feminist for life simply ignores the proof. At the core of the position is a belief that the fetus is a person and has an absolute right to be born. That absolutism ignores consistently the variety of opinions women hold about the fetus and seeks to enforce legally the personal views of FFL on all women. FFL do not believe in real choice. They only believe in the choices they approve of.

  • invalid-0

    Sarah may be able to take her baby to work with her and nurse during a meeting as Governor of Alaska – a state with a population of 626,000 people. It is a different story being the VP of the United States. No CEO in any corporation would do such a thing. I think a woman with children is certainly capable of being the VP or president of the US, but I do question the judgment and “family first” priority of a new mother with a newborn having special needs.

    When it comes down to it, where will her allegiance be? With the MILLIONS of people relying upon her to lead the country, or with her children, whether they be pregnant, sick or whatever the issue? Will she be in the Middle East brokering a peace deal and suddenly have to fly home to attend to the health care needs of her infant son? She would be a cruel, heartless mother if she did no less, but she will be an ineffective, laughable joke of a world leader if she places her family priorities ahead of her country.

  • invalid-0

    Thank you for your insightful comments.

    As a pregnant unmarried woman in my 20’s I chose to have my child and subsequently married the father of my child. That was 19 years ago, my daughter is headed off to college this month and my husband and I celebrated our 18th anniversary this past June. However, I was and still am — Pro Choice! Because that is just what I had — the choice to make those decisions for myself. My fervent hope is that we let individual women continue to make those all important choices for their own lives!

  • invalid-0

    A core tenet of feminism is the belief that women are competent moral adults or agents. They are to be trusted to make moral decisions and have both a legal and moral right to the conditions that make such decisions possible. Not the state, parents or partners or doctors can substitute their moral decisions for those of a woman.
    If a woman is also intelligent she will understand how utterly meaningless, dishonest and diversionary this formulation is. Decisions regarding gun possession, narcotic use, self-mutilation, bedtime, schooling, tax and zoning compliance and countless other decisions are all “moral decisions” in some sense. But only the craziest of anarchists would argue that the will of an individual woman (or any person) trumps the right of the state, parents, etc. to interfere in such matters. We don’t “trust” everybody to do anything just because they’re adults, or magically transform their conduct into morally correct conduct by designating them, in a question-begging manner, as “competent moral agents.”
    The reason this formulation is so frequently trotted out is to avoid any real discussion of the morality of abortion. The abortion decision becomes unquestionable because the formulation places every decision beyond question. But even as to abortion, its most ardent advocates recognize its limits: it’s rarely argued that absent a health reason we should place our absolute “trust” in woman beyond viability (or birth), notwithstanding her status as a competent moral agent.

  • invalid-0

    Bristol Palin has already made at least one decision about the distance between her knees a few months ago. Was it a decision to take her chances or a decision to try getting pregnant and is there any official word from anyone? Is she a hapless innocent knocked up by her moron boyfriend or a little trickster trying to get away from mommy dearest? Have we had the last amazing announcement from Alaska yet or is there more dirty laundry needing a good wash and a few hours on the clothesline to dry?


  • marysia

    Frances, as always I appreciate the thoughtfulness and nuance you bring to this issue of abortion.

    But I think your picture of people who self-identify as prolife feminists is quite incomplete.  Yes, there are conservative women like Sarah Palin who identify like this.  Whether and to what extent they are feminist is a fair matter for (respectful) discussion.

    And then there are folks like myself who are unequivocally liberal or leftist *and* unequivocally advocate for contraception, comprehensive sex education, LGBT rights, and comprehensive social supports for parenting…you know, almost exactly the same spectrum of reproductive justice issues that you advocate for.

    Feminists for Life does good up to a point, by mobilizing resources for pregnant and parenting students.  As someone who was a pregnant and parenting student 20+ years ago, and someone whose daughter recently became a pregnant and parenting student….I can attest to the ongoing and crying need for such resources.  ..And please don’t discount what FFL does, simply because it is not all that is needed, and because it is undertaken from a belief in the intrinsic value of the unborn (as well as the already-born.)

    But of course!! much more is needed to address the root causes of abortion and otherwise realize reproductive justice for all (born and unborn).

    If you or anyone else here doesn’t believe there are prolife feminists with a more comprehensive vision/plan of action than FFL….kindly please pay a visit to the Nonviolent Choice Directory, and or to Turn the Clock Forward,  We are out here!!

  • marysia

    Frances, I have thoroughly researched and coedited a book that reprints many primary texts (along with some credible secondary source material) by/about prolife feminists from Mary Wollstonecraft up through Wangari Maathai. Prolife Feminism Yesterday and Today, Second Expanded Edition (FNSA, 2005). 

    Prolife feminism was the majority view among women’s rights supporters for at least two centuries, until the late 1960s.  Although it has become a minority view among feminists since then, it continues to evolve and remain quite relevant to present-day issues of women’s and children’s human rights.



  • invalid-0


    Ah, the violin argument…the last philosophical argument of pro-aborts: Women do not have a duty to provide life support. Perhaps, you can elucidate for us.


  • invalid-0

    What did Miss Palin do wrong to deserve punishment from her mother? In any case, Miss Palin has the constitutional right to make whatever decision she wants to. Where are your ideals if you are truly pro-choice? Are you claiming that Mrs. Palin is coercing her daughter into having a baby because she is pro-life? If that is the case, I mean if you admit to that, I seriously commend the hosts of this web site to report your URL to the Secret Service for your immediate investigation. Or you could provide evidence that Mrs. Palin is truly punishing her daughter in ways that would make her a criminal. I am serious here, Colleen. You do know that it is against the law to accuse a political candidate that she is abusing her daughter without evidence, don’t you?


  • invalid-0

    They haven’t really spoken on what physical needs her infant has, but a baby with Down syndrome can be anywhere from pretty much the same level of care as any other infant (my daughter had no major health issues, though I gave up nursing because of weak latching from poor muscle tone) to needing critical care. Up to 60% of children with trisomy-21 have heart conditions, particularly mitral valve defects; something like 80% have some level of hearing loss; there are also increases in gastrointestinal problems, bone and blood cancers, and respiratory ailments.

    You summed up the issues involved in her being an adequate parent (and I say parent, not mother- the father would be just as responsible for being there) and managing the vice-presidency along with a pregnant teen daughter. Even the US Air Force revoked my ex-husband’s orders to Saudi and Korea because of the concerns for our child’s health. I, as a parent, am frankly dismayed all around.

  • invalid-0


    Invalid argument. An individual does have the ability to personally define what an objective reality is. Life either is or it is not. I am sorry, but it is absolutely simple. Otherwise, all acts are permissible that ANY agent deems moral.


  • invalid-0


    You certainly have every right not to vote for her. Perhaps, you could also honor her right to make her own choices. Also, I do not think you have much to worry about with other world leaders. I know that they don’t generally consider it an asset that their adversaries are against sex education.

  • invalid-0

    Frances, thank you for taking the high road with Miss Palin and trying to elucidate the behavior that we all should have about this issue. Miss Palin deserves her privacy. You did give her the benefit of the doubt. Only one reservation, her pregnancy may not have been unintended at all. It is none of our business, anyway. I think you conveyed that. As far as the rest of your article, it went right over my head.

  • invalid-0

    Many parents in our country may some day face a similar situation as Sarah Palin. Their child may announce an unexpected pregancy. If you beleive every life is valuable, no matter how old or young it is, and that your child needs your guidance and support, you may make the same decisions as Sarah Palin. Why wouldn’t Sarah Palin survive this situation? Obstacles in life make us stronger. We learn by wrong decisions. Any many Americans can probably identify with her.
    Her daughter made some wrong decisions and now faces a responsibility that she wasn’t planning on. I have known people in similar situations who have taken a positive turn in life with their families growing together in love.

    The comment about Rielle Hunter being a sophisticated woman lost in the heat of passion. Wake up! She knew she was going after a married man and she was no inexperienced teenager!

  • invalid-0

    She has the right to make her own choices. And every other woman deseves the right to make their own as well.

  • invalid-0

    Frances—- I’m wondering whose idea it was for Bristol Palin to marry. Hers or her mother’s? I have not seen any evidence that, prior to last Friday, five-month-pregnant Bristol intended to marry the putative father of her unborn child. If Sarah Palin forced her daughter to do so in order to salvage/advance her political career, then the so-called anti-choice value system has sunk to an even lower level of depravity.

  • invalid-0

    For FFL and Palin, women’s natural role is motherhood; while it may be premature for that to occur to a high school senior; it is simply the early adoption of her purpose in life. Likewise women are by nature more peace loving and self sacrificing; thus to surrender to a pregnancy is what a good woman does.

    This is what creeps me out about the whole forced pregnancy movement.
    If I don’t want to have kids I don’t want to have kids- simple as that. I am not less of a woman because I don’t have one. And I don’t have to “surrender” to anything.
    And women? More peace loving? I guess they’ve never been through junior high or high school then.

  • invalid-0

    We don’t “trust” everybody to do anything just because they’re adults, or magically transform their conduct into morally correct conduct by designating them, in a question-begging manner, as “competent moral agents.”

    Yes, we do- everyday in fact.
    We trust that people will continue to abide by the road rules that they were taught and continue to drive on the correct side of the road.
    We trust that people of a certain age will drink within reason at bars and abide by the smoking laws of each state.
    We trust that although people can buy a gun that they will not go out and use it upon random people on the street.

    There are so many more examples or how society DOES, in fact, trust the individual.

  • invalid-0

    Regardless of what you think about abortion in general, it is unfathomable to me how anyone can not support it being an option for rape victims. For a woman who has not been raped, you can say “well, she should have known that pregnancy was a possibility when she had sex — she’s responsible” (I disagree for various reasons, including that no one holds the man equally responsible, but I’m trying to make a point). No one can make such a statement about a rape victim. A rape victim had a life planned for herself and acted responsibly by all accounts. She did not want the sex that led to the pregnancy. She is in no way responsible. And yet there are those who would make her accept responsibility for the consequences of a violent act committed against her. That is shameful, and I cannot respect the opinion of anyone who would not allow a rape victim access to emergency contraception or the abortion pill (which only works in the first few months anyway, when the embryo is but a cluster of cells).

  • invalid-0

    I wonder how long the Republican Evangelical Christians are going to be continually fooled again into voting against their own economic interests by the Republican Party soley on the one issue of Reproductive Rights for Women?

    • invalid-0

      I believe in Christian Marriage and that life is precious – even at very early stages. I may be against abortion, but I agree with you on this point.

      I get so frustrated with my Christian friends who say they are voting for McCain / Palin because “they are anti abortion.” And that’s it. No other reason. Ugh! What about the fact that McCain (Bush) will continue to drive this country into decay and continue to destroy our civil rights? I always ask: who will be better at LEADING the country and who will be better for the USA as a whole? They have no answer. They act on emotion – not good when selecting the leader of the Free World. Frustrating.

  • sayna

    Must I have this conversation with you again?

    These early feminists were against legalizing abortion becuase in their day, abortion was more often than not extremely unsafe and female sexuality was still greatly misunderstood.

    You believe abortion is wrong and still be a feminist. You can seek to prevent abortion and still be a feminist–and this IS in fact what pro-choice feminists do. But when you tell your fellow women that only YOU know what’s best for them, only YOU can make decisions about their bodies and YOUR moral and philosophical beliefs are more valid than theirs and that their legal right to make their own reproductive decisions should be taken away: YOU ARE NOT ACTING ON FEMINIST PRINCIPLES. You are being absolutely as disrespectful and condescending as the men who told us that they knew better, that it was for our own good, and that it was best for us to sit down, shut up and let them do the thinking for us.

  • sayna

    Serious feminism, developed in women’s interest rejects such romantic notions and frames women’s rights as human rights. A core tenet of feminism is the belief that women are competent moral adults or agents. They are to be trusted to make moral decisions and have both a legal and moral right to the conditions that make such decisions possible. Not the state, parents or partners or doctors can substitute their moral decisions for those of a woman. Both Sarah Palin and Feminists for Life ignore this value and want to restrict women’s moral autonomy by making abortion illegal, restricting access to contraception and to sexuality education.

    Thank you! I have been saying this again and again and I’ll type it out ’til I’m blue in the fingertips. Looks like I’m going to have to, as it seems that some people just do not understand this.

  • marysia

    Sayna, I will have this conversation with folks as often as necessary in order to achieve the respect and understanding that I and people like me deserve…the same respect and understanding you and other prochoicers deserve.

     may I suggest that, instead of attacking my character as "disrespectful and condescending"….that you look more closely at the evidence for the other side of this argument by actually reading the Prolife Feminsm book.  if you don’t want to buy it, you can find out what libraries have it at and get it through Interlibrary loan if your local library doesn’t have it.

    The book may or may not persuade you to become a prolife feminist yourself. That is entirely up to you. You may be prochoice as ever, or even more prochoice afterwards.  But whatever the case may be I think you would have more understanding and respect at the end of the day for the sort of historical interpretation and current-day position I am trying to explain and defend. 


  • invalid-0

    Every law that exists is based upon a moral principle. The purpose of law is to protect the rights of innocent people. Thos of us who are pro-life recognize that the abortion issue is not just a “woman’s issue” It is an issue of the most fundamental right that exists – the right to life. We don’t refrain from passing laws against homicide because “people are moral and can make their own moral choices ” about who should live and who should be killed. We recognize that without laws,some people, both men and women, will make choices that take away other peoples’ most fundamental rights.

  • sayna

    Sayna, I will have this conversation with folks as often as necessary in order to achieve the respect and understanding that I and people like me deserve…the same respect and understanding you and other prochoicers deserve.

    You’re right. I haven’t got a single scrap of respect for you or your cause. I have told you repeatedly that your personal beliefs do not govern the personal lives of others. I have told you repeatedly that by forcing women into the very narrow spectrum of reproductive options that you approve of, you are denying them everything that feminism is about. When you force women to live by your definition of womanhood and your idea of who they should be, you are commiting misogyny. I have asolutely no respect for those who do not respect women as intelligent, competant beings in control of their own destinies. I especially do not respect those that claim that limiting and outright subjugating women is for their own good.

    I don’t need to read your book to know your position. I don’t need to have your condescension and disrespect spewed at me to see it for what it is.

  • sayna

    Your argument is based on one very large unsupported premise: The idea that a fetus is a person. A fetus may be human and alive, but is this what makes a human a person deserving of rights? If those are the only qualifications, then the only thing that makes humans special is their DNA and we are essentially denying animals equal rights just because they’re animals? So is that it? Or is it sentience? Is it biological and cognitive independence?

    Even if a fetus is a person, when (if ever) do the rights of one non-sentient person to be born override the rights of the woman it inhabits? As I’ve said before, two living things occupying one body cannot have equal rights to that body. Either it belongs to the woman, or she ceases to have bodily domain the moment she becomes pregnant.

    Perhaps laws do have moral roots, but the question is, whose morality is valid and whose is invalid? How is it that you get to decide that my morality is wrong?

    Laws aren’t based on petty issues of personal morality. They are based on protecting the rights of citizens. Is a fetus a citizen? If so: whose rights are more important? The fetus of the woman?

  • marysia


    I think, honestly, that you greatly misconstrue what I and some other people are about.   Are we what you say just because you say so? No. 

     No more than you or prochoicers are the ugly things that some prolifers claim.

    But if you have already defined and dismissed me and people like me as inherent, by definition spewers of condescension and coercion and disrespect, then you have already made up your mind and closed it against me and people like me.  And there is nothing I can do about that except feel sad for the lost potential of human understanding between us.


  • invalid-0

    Parents are responsible for the children they conceive throught their own actions. They have an moral obligation to their chidren, born or unborn.

    Pro-choice people like to pretend that a mother, or a father, for that matter, doesn’t have any moral obligation to their unborn child.

    The most basic human right is indeed the right to life, yet all they know how to talk about is other, lesser rights.

  • invalid-0

    Isn’t it still illegal to have sex with a minor child? Why is Bristol’s boyfriend not being charged with rape? Was Bristol old enough to consent to sex? I don’t understand how he can be viewed as a hero instead of a villan.

  • heather-corinna

    Those who support choice are well aware of obligations to children, and most certainly do not deny that.


    In fact, that is a large part of the position of supporting reproductive choice.


    The issue is that one disagreement between those who do and do not support abortion lies with where and about what that obligation is. From many of our standpoints as people supportive of all reproductive options, it is a quality of life issue, both for women and children, and we do not see quality of life as a lesser issue, nor do we believe that being given life overrides being given a good life.  In conjunction with that, we do not see an existing, already-born woman’s life as secondary or irrelevant.


    If and when a woman feels that for herself and/or her existing children and/or a potential child that another pregnancy or birth will result in a poor or reduced quality of life, we trust her — trust ourselves — to make sound decisions about whether or not to continue a pregnancy insofar as it would or would not likely result in a sound quality of life — for herself and her children — or not.


    So, it’s not that we don’t know how to talk about what you see as the primary issue: rather, it’s that it is generally not ours.



  • invalid-0

    I agree that that pro-abortion women and men see it as a “quality of life ” issue, rather than an issue of life itself. But, the right to life is the essential right from which all other rights come- including quality of life. if you have been first deprived of life you have no chance to ever pursue quality of life or anythng else.

    The moral line in pursuing quality of life is drawn when we pursue it by depriving others of their rights. We don’t kill others, even if by killing them we could improve our own quality of life.

    There are many people in our society who, if eliminated, would cause a better quality of life for those remaining. For example, we had an ill family member who drained many of our families resources financially, physically and emotionally. Would that have been an excuse to kill them? We would have all had a better quality of life that way, so you say?

  • invalid-0

    “What did Miss Palin do wrong to deserve punishment from her mother?”

    Miss Palin became pregnant. Her mother is punishing her by using her as a prop. Did you forget your original moronic comment?

    “In any case, Miss Palin has the constitutional right to make whatever decision she wants to. ”

    Miss Palin is a minor, you moron.

    “You do know that it is against the law to accuse a political candidate that she is abusing her daughter without evidence, don’t you?”

    Please report me to the SS, Tim.

  • heather-corinna

    That ill person in your family was already born.  If they felt it was best for them and you to be euthanized, personally, I would be supportive of that (however, the law isn’t with me on that) and feel that is their choice to make with their own life.  If, however, they communicated to you that they did not feel that was what they wanted, then you then have the choice of either continuing to aid them or not aiding them.


    Again, those of us who support choice do not see a woman’s rights as secondary or equal: we see them — being that woman is already born, being that it is through and in her body that all of this happens — as primary.  And to force a woman to continue a pregnancy she does not want and does not feel is best for herself or a child is where we see essential rights being deprived.  You’re correct: if women do not birth a child, that child does not have a chance to improve a quality of life a woman knows or presumes will be poor.  But child health and mortality rates aside (in other words, those who can try all they like, but not getting fed or having housing or being abused are kinds of things which children simply cannot always survive or survive well by force of will), we feel women have the right to make that choice for themselves and for their children before they are born, and trust they will make it soundly. 


    Too, we have no way of knowing how any of this works: neither you nor I cannot know, if my mother, for instance, had been able to abort, if I still would have been born to some other family or not.  For all we know, a woman choosing to terminate is only choosing that she will not be the onegiving birth or paretning that child.


    I personally don’t see much point in arguing or debating this disagreement (and I’m not going to), because we have heard all of the things you’re likely to say, as you have likely heard all that we are likely to say.  It is a very central disagreement.  And from our standpoint, where we want all women to be allowed to make that choice for ourselves — and thus, allow you to make it for yourself if you are a woman — that disagreement is a non-issue because a standpoint supporting all choices for women to make individually allows for women who feel differently to choose differently.

  • invalid-0

    Must I have this conversation with you again?

    These early feminists were against legalizing abortion becuase in their day, abortion was more often than not extremely unsafe and female sexuality was still greatly misunderstood.

    Sayna, you already made that accusation and it was already refuted by the fact that most of those quotes we have from them regarding abortion focused on the act of abortion as taking the child’s life, not because it was dangerous.

    Twice is nice, but is third time gonna be the charm before you stop spreading that lie?

    And once again, Marysia has decades of feminist action. You’re a teenager from suburban Southern California

  • invalid-0

    When people don’t abide by the rules of the road, they get in trouble. When people drink too much, they can get in trouble (DWI, DUI, public drunkeness, or whatever laws they may break while intoxicated). When people smoke inside a nonsmoking area, they get in trouble. When people buy a gun and use it on others, they get in trouble.

    Yes society trusts people to do the right thing, but when they don’t, they get in trouble. Its not like a judge is gonna say to someone “well farbeit from me to judge your situation that night, I’ll let this DUI slide.”

  • sayna

    ..You’re a teenager from suburban Southern California…

    Let’s see… in the past month of online forums and gameplay, I’ve been called… A forty-year-old woman, a yong male and now incorrect assumptions are being made about my living conditions.

    Sayna, you already made that accusation and it was already refuted by the fact that most of those quotes we have from them regarding abortion focused on the act of abortion as taking the child’s life, not because it was dangerous.

    When one makes a claim, one has to back it up. (If Marysia is a published author with vast amounts of knowledgeon the issue, she should be able to do what young adults in basic english classes are able to do.) The only anti-abortion quotes I’ve heard from early feminists were opposed because they thought it was harmful and dangerous to women. And even if that’s not the case, these women came from a time in which all people–even people with the radical idea that women deserved equality–thought that chilbearing was mandatory and unavoidable. That it was just a woman’s lot in life and that she had to accept it. Times have changed and the feminist movement has changed. We now know that not all women want to become mothers and not all women subscribe to the same idea of womanhood.

  • sayna

    Laws on age of consent vary. From what I understand, the older person has to be at least five years older than the younger person in California. And in some states, age of consent is lower than 18. I don’t know Alaska’s laws, but I would guess that it’s not a strict non-negotiable dividing line between 17 and 18.

    And it seems like a hasty and dangerous generalization to assume that someone is incapable of consent with an older person, or to call any sex, regardless of consent a “rape”. It assumes that perfectly consenual sex between a minor and an adult is as wrong as forced sex. There’s also a huge double standard with the way our society treats such relationships. Teenaged girls with an older boyfriend are assumed to have no sexual agency and therefore must have been pressured or forced into it, while teenaged boys with older girlfriends are assumed to be hyper-sexual and are “lucky” to be with an older woman.

  • sayna

    …But don’t you support making abortion illegal unless a woman has a life-threatening health issue?

    Unless you actually support keeping abortion legal and available, I haven’t misconstrued a thing.

  • sayna

    You’ve just shown that illegalizing abortion is about punishment. Congratulations on coming clean. To you, this is about punishing behavior that you think is wrong. You think that having sex outside of your narrow version of “the rules” is wrong and ought to have a punishment attached to it. You’ve just went on about how we punish people for all sorts of other things and expressed dismay about how we don’t punish sex. If I’m wrong, you’ve got some explaining to do.

  • marysia

    I’m not going to give you a sound byte response to the question that you can then wave as QED proof of what a horrid, horrid person I am. 

    Although I may still be horrid in your eyes after all is said…It will take me a while to explain. Because it is complicated.  This is a complicated issue.  Recognizing complexity is essential to dealing with it.  Everything is not all cut and dry and self-evident despite what partisans on both "sides" insist.

    My focus, personally, is on alleviating the wide-ranging root causes of abortion.  I leave it to others to concentrate on arguing the well-trod ground of the legalization/illegalization debate.

    Whether and to what extent it is legal/illegal is not the deepest and most decisive question about abortion.  It is the wide array of difficult, inhumane circumstances in which women become pregnant when they’d prefer not to, and then face the "choice" that someone I know, a woman who herself had an abortion, termed "abortion–OR ELSE."

    Whatever the law says about abortion, women will be in these inhumane circumstances unless all of us, prolife and prochoice make a concerted effort to alleviate them.  I am aware of people on both "sides" doing admirable and necessary work in this direction.  May there be much more of it.  There is such a crying need.  That’s why I focus my own personal energies here.


    I am not someone who thinks that simply overturning roe v wade and passing a legal ban will make everything all hunky dory.  see above–these horrific situations women struggle with will not be touched at all by that.  same with the present situation of mere abortion legalization, without the rights of pregnancy prevention and choosing among parenting, adoption or guardianship firmly established in the law and making the leven larger moral and financial claims upon public, governmental commitment that these rights should be making already.


    to craft humane abortion laws, both "sides" of the abortion debate will first need to abandon the paradigm of woman lethally pitted against fetus.  this country would do well to model after the abortion laws of western european nations like germany and the netherlands. 

    although they permit early abortion in some circumstances, such countries have comparitively low abortion rates because they substantively fund sex ed, contraception, and comprehensive social welfare policies, as well legally and in reality recognizing women’s, already-born children’s, and unborn children’s rights to life and wellbeing.  and–something that is also quite missing from the good old us of a–insistence on *male responsibility.*  for example, for about a century, if i remember correctly, scandinavian governments have assumed the responsibility of collecting child support, instead of throwing the burden upon the mother.


    The legal, ethical, and spiritual/religious questions surrounding abortion are of such complexity and difficulty that thoughtful, compassionate people can disagree about them. 

    Evidently you do not see things the same way, Sayna, but in my experiences as a prolife feminist & reproductive justice activist for over 20 years, including plenty of prolife and prochoice dialogue, formal and informal, this is what I personally note.

    and something else: demonizing one another only creates more hatred, as well as inattention to reducing the root causes of abortion and to cooperative action to accomplish that.

  • marysia


    Early feminists were indeed concerned about the health effects of abortion upon women.  But that hardly nullifies their other ethical reasons for opposing it.

    Also, they did *not* share the culturally prevailing belief that motherhood was mandatory and unavoidable.  While valuing motherhood, they wittily critiqued the masculinist mystique about it and called for real social support of motherhood.

    They originated the belief of "voluntary motherhood" which for all of them meant women’s right to choose whether and when to have sex…still a radical demand, considering that one in three women globally has been sexually abused, and considering how many women and babies die from HIV/AIDS now because of this abuse.

    And for many early feminists, voluntary motherhood encompassed the right to use contraception, practice outercourse, and/or live in same-sex partnership ("Boston marriage").


    I don’t know where to begin or end in presenting primary-text evidence on this point…that’s why I recommended the ProLife Feminism book.

  • marysia

    prolife atheist,

    thank you for defending me on this point.  but whether sayna is or isn’t a teen from socal is beside the point and i’m someone else is besides the point.  she has as much right to have and express her opinion as anyone.

    the issue is whether her opinion on this one issues of early feminist beliefs is fully informed.  and whether she is willing to consider another take on the early feminists.

    now, i personally conclude her understanding is incomplete.  that is based on my years of research and activism…but, again, she has the right to state her case, however valid/ivalid it may turn out to be.

    thank you.

  • invalid-0

    Well, Timothy, if it’s so simple surely then all soldiers of war should be arrested, correct? Six children were killed by American soldiers in Afghanistan last week. That’s simple, no? Shouldn’t the soldiers be arrested? 

    I understand that for you it is simple – and that you come to your own conclusions based on that. For millions of others, however, we come to a completely different conclusion: legal abortion is a necessity because women get to chose, based on the concern for both herself and her child-to-be/fetus/embryo, whether she is going to carry her pregnancy to term. WE have decided as a society that until viability women have the right to make the decision about what happens within their bodies – not you, not religious extremists, not George W. Bush, not anyone except the individual woman. After viability, we have decided, as a society, that abortion is only legal in cases where the woman’s life or health is in danger because at that point a baby can live without the need for the mother’s body. This is called thoughtful, caring, clear balance of both the mother and the baby’s needs. 

    There will come a time when we look back on this period – when we look back on those who fought so strongly to ensure that women and their families don’t have the right to make the decisions they deem best for themselves – as the human rights issue that it is. 

    As long as women still have the ability to procreate, women will also have the ability to chose whether or not to carry life into this world. Women understand this wholly and completely – we understand the complexities inherent, we understand that life is not as simple as you wish to make it – there is war, the death penalty, euthanasia, allowing children to die from starvation and hunger around the world while we do nothing to stop it, we understand there are 150 million orphans in this country alone destroying the absurd argument that every single woman in this country who gets pregnant and does not want to raise the child (or can’t raise the child)- and man that helps to get her pregnant – should  give their baby up for adoption knowing the child will get adopted into a wonderful, happy home. 

    It’s simple for you, Timothy, maybe. Maybe you’ve never experienced this before and so don’t have a frame of reference – that I understand. Maybe you have experienced this before – and it was difficult for you and so don’t want others to experience teh same – that I understand. What I don’t understand is blindly deciding for all women, men and families in this country what you’ve decided is right and good and forcing that onto all. 


    Amie Newman

    Managing Editor, RH Reality Check

  • sayna

    Stop going on tangents. Stop changing the subject. Stop plugging your book.

    Some early feminists may have opposed abortion, but that does not mean that being pro-life is feminist. That they were the first feminists does not mean that they were the only “real” feminists. Even if it did, not all early feminists were opposed to legal abortion.

    Allowing women a full spectrum of reproductive and sexual options means allowing them the options you don’t agree with. By saying women can’t have abortions you are cutting out a part of that spectrum.

    “No mandatory motherhood” doesn’t just mean for women who don’t have penis-in-vagina intercourse with males. It means that no woman should be forced to become a mother. When abortion is outlawed, pregnant women are forced to have babies against their will.

  • sayna

    If you don’t want abortion illegal, I have no issue with you. What I won’t stand for is legally or socially compelling women with unwanted pregnancies into carrying them to term against their will.

    You can be personally opposed to abortion, but unless you’re harrassing/lying to women or trying to make it illegal, I really don’t care. All that matters to me is that the decision is left up to the individual woman and she is given access to the full range of options. Women who choose to abort should not be punished or condemned and women who choose to give birth should be given respect and support. And, as I think most people would agree: It’s best to support contraception and comprehensive sex education so that women can avoid unwanted pregnancy in the first place.

    It’s not the prevention of unwanted pregnancy or the assistance of women who choose to carry to term that I have an issue with. Those things I great. What I see as inherently anti-feminist is when someone tells women that they know what’s best and that their choice is the only valid option. As long as you respect a woman’s right to choose what option is best for her, you’re pro-choice.

  • invalid-0

    You are coming off like another UNEDUCATED PRO-LIFER!
    You are trying to write as though you have intelligence, but your posts are full of grammatical errors. I suggest that you learn how to construct a sentence before you try to argue a point.

    Get a life lady!

  • invalid-0

    “In any case, Miss Palin has the constitutional right to make whatever decision she wants to.”

    Let’s keep it that way.

  • invalid-0

    Your MySpace and Facebook locations are San Diego, and you’re 19.

    I apologize if it appears I’m just making personal attacks. Yes, everyone has a right to hold and proclaim their beliefs. However, when it comes to you and her, you hold a track record that she is too young to have accomplished. Its not a personal attack – its a comparison of merit. If I wanted to go after her I would’ve come up with something much more creative ;)

  • invalid-0

    No, I’ve shown that should something be deemed wrong or illegal, society enacts a punishment. I know the past two years have seen the rise of the “gotcha!” question: “So what punishment should women who have abortions receive?” That video from Chicago pro-choice activists who interviewed members of the Pro-Life Action League spurred it on, and bloggers and organizations began pushing the question as a way to ensnare pro-lifers into looking like either monsters who just want to punish women, or hypocrites who don’t really see fetuses as equal.

    I don’t have a problem answering that question, though. I think if abortion was made illegal, there should be a time period where the punishment – for breaking the law – should be waived. This isn’t because I don’t view the embryo/fetus as equally deserving of the right to life; its an acknowledgment that the overall society needs time to move towards a point where the life of an embryo/fetus is viewed as equal. If someone is hearing conflicting messages from society and they’re in a difficult situation, there should be leniency should they make a bad decision (as with other “criminal” actions…especially drug offenses).

    Yes, abortions will still occur, but the rate will eventually go down as opinions change and contraception is made more readily available; without being able to attack Planned Parenthood over abortion, pro-life groups going after PP will lose much of their support from mainstream individuals and Planned Parenthood will most likely see a swift growth, much as they had before the legalization of abortion.

    And for the record, I have no problem with sex. I’ve never expressed that, and no matter how many times people say that all pro-lifers want to do is punish sex, it won’t become true.

  • invalid-0

    Of course, children are not “punishment,” especially if it a planned pregnancy. But if you have been raped, the victim of domestic assault, or incest, it IS a punishment. NO woman should be forced to carry a pregnancy to term if she is not ready to.

    Abortion and birth control have existed throughout time (illegal and legal). If you want women to be healthy and safe then support a woman’s right to choose and full access to reproductive choices. No one is asking you to have an abortion.

  • invalid-0

    To me a feminist is someone who consistently advocates women’s rights and works hard at breaking that sterotypical image of women that is holding them back. Palin has done very little for women and I don’t see any reason to call her a feminist.