Looking at Abortion (Once Again) Through a Gender-Neutral Lens

“Should a woman be allowed to get rid of her fetus?” This is the rather sanitized (though, in my view, unbiased) way that I recently put the question to my three daughters (ages 5, 6, and 9) after showing them pictures of a fetus at each gestational stage. Without much, if any, hesitation, they all answered with a decisive no.

This isn’t to say, of course, that my parenting style had no impact on their responses.  Having taught them the importance of caring for the poor and elderly, it’s entirely possible that I indirectly shaped their attitudes on those who are even more vulnerable – unborn children.  But to my knowledge, I’ve never spoken to them directly about the scourge of abortion (this isn’t the first topic that normally comes up in a conversation with children).  Nevertheless, their answers didn’t surprise me a whole lot, as they hadn’t yet been taught by society to look at this issue through a gendered lens.  They haven’t been instructed to believe that the pro-life position is anti-woman.  So prevalent is this belief among adults that, to be perfectly honest, I express my pro-life views with some trepidation, as the last thing I would want is for my female friends to sense that I’m “waging a war” on them (as some abortion rights advocates put it).

But is the pro-life position really sexist?  If the answer is yes, then a substantial percentage of the country’s female population consists of self-loathing women, according to the most recent data from the World Values Survey (WVS).  On a 1-10 scale, where 10 means that abortion is believed to be always justifiable, well over half of American women (63%) chose a number from 1-5.  That figure jumps to 70% when we restrict the sample to women who have two or more children.  Furthermore, I’ve found no statistically significant difference between men and women in their attitude on the justifiability of abortion.

It could reasonably be said that the experience of motherhood awakens many women to the reality that the fetus isn’t a parasite, nor a “powerful intruder” requiring “deadly force to stop” it, but a human being deserving of love.  It is the experience that enables them to grasp a forgotten truth that my little girls still take for granted; it is the experience that unites mother and child in the understanding that life is precious. 

Of course, there are numerous surveys out there that contain items on abortion, and depending on how the question is worded, they don’t necessarily yield the same results (it’s worth noting that the WVS inquires on the perceived justifiability of abortion, which isn’t exactly the same thing as belief in the extent to which it should be legally curtailed).  Yet one needn’t look to survey research to understand why the pro-life position isn’t sexist.  For many of us, our position is simply a logical deduction from premises that, in themselves, imply nothing with respect to one’s view on women.  That is, if it is true that human life begins at conception, and if I believe that innocent human life deserves protection, then I am not being a sexist by concluding that abortion ought to be legally restricted – I’m simply being logically consistent.

So, honest pro-choice advocates should lay to rest the absurd - if rhetorically powerful - notion that a man’s view on abortion necessarily says anything about his respect for women. To suggest otherwise is to insult the majority of women who are to some extent pro-life, as well as the (who knows how many) little girls who haven’t yet been indoctrinated by the contemporary liberal establishment.

Amir Azarvan

Amir Azarvan is an assistant professor of political science at Georgia Gwinnett College.  He is the editor of Re-Introducing Christianity: An Eastern Apologia for a Western Audience (Wipf & Stock).