Since When Is “Protecting Women” from Making “Bad” Decisions Feminist?


There has been a very distinct surge in anti-choice activism abroad, particularly in the United Kingdom and Canada.

The United Kingdom is now in the midst of its own 40 Days for Life protests, complete with the “sidewalk counseling” and graphic placards and signs synonymous with anti-choice activities here. Women’s rights and reproductive rights activists are pushing back, an effort that can be watched day by day at the 40 Days for Choice tumblr.

The media, however, appear to be doing some of the anti-choicers work for them by couching the effort to curtail reproductive freedom under the guise of feminism.

News Presenter Cathy Newman speaks with Maria Miller, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. Miller, who is in favor of reducing the limits for women seeking to terminate pregnancies, has recently been appointed Minister of Women.

In a Telegraph interview, Miller states that she supports reducing the legal limit for abortion from 24 weeks to 20 weeks, on the idea that feminism is about supporting women and she is “driven by that very practical impact that late term abortion has on women.”

It’s one thing for a member of the right leaning Conservative Party of Britain to try to equate a desire to protect women from their own actions as somehow being a feminist trait. But it’s one that Newman appears eager to accept.

Difficult as my decision was [to terminate a non-viable fetus], if the law changes, women in similar situations might not have the choice I did. On the other hand, I do appreciate the Miller/[Conservative politician Nadine] Dorries argument that the trauma of a late abortion, or terminating a potentially viable pregnancy may leave women with emotional scars which never fully heal.

It’s telling as a society that we find it necessary to debate whether or not protecting women from the alleged repercussions of their own decisions is feminist. For one thing,  reputable scientific studies have found no link between abortion and adverse mental health outcomes. And for another,  I can think of no other situation where we legislate restrictions on a medical procedure to save a patient from potential regret. Doing so in a way that specifically targets women is about as far from “feminist” as you can get.

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  • thalwen

    I’ve really, really hated the right’s reframing their actions as “protecting women.” We’ve been protected in the past (well at least our naughty bits but that’s all that matters in a woman) – from well paying jobs, from college educations and political office. We don’t need protection, we need equality and we need to fight for it or be reduced to legal infants.

  • veggietart

    I need protection from the people who think they know what’s best for me and will diminish my rights in the name of “protection”.

  • give-em-hell-mary

    They want to force us back to the good old bad days of early deaths caused by killer baby milling (which is banned for dogs!) and hoodwinked domestic violence.