Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity Without Hierarchy. A Book Discussion. (Index here)
Part IV: Addressing the Issues (Hermeneutical and Cultural Perspectives)
Chapter 24 – Feminism and Abortion. Sulia Mason and Karen Mason.
The Mason’s open their essay noting that “Contrary to the prevailing feminist view, abortion rights are not necessarily linked to women’s rights. …Historically, the principles on which feminism was founded are just the opposite of those on which abortion rights are founded.” (414)
The Mason’s explain that historic feminism, dating back into the 19th century, had always been opposed to abortion. The change came in the 1960s and 1970s as a new feminist movement emerged that was grounded in different principles than historic feminism.
Drawing on the work of John Stuart Mill in the 19th century, the Mason’s show that the basic tenets upon which early feminism was founded are in opposition to the arguments used to support abortion. They give three examples.
1. “A woman’s value is determined by her humanity, not by the value a man places on her.” (416) The Mason’s write:
Prochoice feminists applaud the notions that neither a random selection of chromosomes nor utilitarian value should determine a woman’s true value; yet they acknowledge no inherent value of the unborn, only the utilitarian value the mother chooses to assign. (417)
2. “Differences between men and women are inconsequential to their humanity, which is the basis of their equal rights.”(418) Feminists challenged the “might makes right” perspective of many men; the idea that because they were superior in strength and power they ought to be able to rule over women. Feminists challenged the idea that “a man’s house is his castle” and that he has a right to privacy within his home as to how he treats his occupants. The pregnant women has herself and another human being in her “home.” Prochoice advocates argue that the child is weaker undeveloped human. The mother has a right to privacy in how she deals with occupants of her “home.”
3. “A best-case scenario is insufficient to justify a hierarchical system.” (420) Feminists argued that “…it was not wise to leave women unprotected in the law simply because some men will refrain from taking advantage of their male privilege.” (420) Yet the prochoice argument justifies abortion on demand on the basis of women who need it in the most dire circumstances (the “best case” scenario.)
The Masons write about the basis for equality for early feminists:
First, certain differences between the sexes can be acknowledged, because they are irrelevant to each human being’s inherent value. Second, our inherent value as human beings entails a moral responsibility, which is shared equally among all (equally valuable) humans. (422)
The Masons illustrate the self-defeating nature of prochoice feminist positions by highlighting three examples.
1. “Inherent in the argument for abortion is an implicit admission of male superiority and an existential downgrading of motherhood entailing an inferior position of womanhood.” (423) Prochoice feminists base there “equality” on erasing differences between men and women. Abortion downplays pregnancy and motherhood so women can be like men, thus denigrating to womanhood. Capacity to bear children is viewed as an imposed inferiority.
2. “The goal of equality is undermined when it is defined in terms of similarity in weakness rather than similarity in strength.” (423) The Mason’s use the analogy claiming to be a good basketball player because you can miss shots like Michael Jordan. Abortion equalizes men and women in abdication of sexual responsibility rather than calling on both to elevate themselves to responsible behavior.
3. In removing earlier double standards for male and female sexual behavior, the ethic of 'abortion rights' results in new, equally unacceptable double standards.” (424) The Mason’s write that "Christian morality, the morality of many of the pioneer feminists, sought to eliminate the traditional double standard by recognizing the equal moral responsibility of both men and women." (425) With prochoice feminism the irresponisbilty of men as fathers of the their children has been matched by equal irresponibiltiy on the part of women not excepting the responsiblity for children, except she is the one left to deal with physcial and emotional scars of abortion. While we moralize that fathers should except resposibility for their children no matter what the father's circumstances, we tell women they "cannot be good mothers except under ideal conitions." (427)
The Mason’s close their essay suggesting that biblical egalitarians ought to be able to hold the following nonnegotiables:
- The value of all human beings – women and men, born and unborn – is inherent and inalienable.
- Since one’s humanity is the basis of one’s rights, biological differences between men and women, born and unborn, are incorporated to human rights.
- It is appropriate to seek laws protecting women and the unborn from those who would abuse them, even though some in the oppressive class may not choose to abuse them.
- Pregnancy and motherhood distinguish women from men biologically but not in terms of equality of human rights.
- Equality of the sexes can – and should – hold both sexes to the same high moral standard, not absolve both from moral responsibility.
- The equal moral responsibility of both sexes in a prolife philosophy entails the elimination of all double standards between the sexes.
Karen Mason received her M.A. in philosophy of religion from Denver Seminary and was an instructor in writing as the University of Colorado at Boulder. She is a freelance writer and married to Sulia Mason.
Sulia Mason received his M.A. in philosophy of religion from Denver Seminary and has taught philosophy at Aurora Community College. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate in philosophy at the University of South Carolina and is married to Karen Mason
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