April 9, 2013

Abortion: The Personal is Political

Photo Credit: AUL

By Aaron Gaglia (@GagliaAC)

“How do you fight abortion?” said Charmaine Yoest, “I want to put a really radical notion on the table. Go on a date”

Charmaine Yoest, the President and CEO of the pro-life organization, Americans United for Life, exhorted Wheaton College chapel attendees to challenge our society’s hook-up culture, which leads to many abortions.

“Do you want to change the world? Strike a blow by defending life by remembering that the personal is political and go on a date because that’s where it starts.”

Rather than focusing on legislation or typical pro-life arguments, Yoest looked at abortion through the lens of the Feminist slogan, “The Personal is Political.”

Yoest summed up the term in this way: “And what they meant by that, is that women as individuals, as people, personally, in their personal lives lived desperate lives of patriarchal oppression…and that the only redress was through collective action politicizing their personal grievances.…That sense of oppression was rooted in differences between men and women. And it really fundamentally shows itself in motherhood, in the sexual difference between men and women, in the immutable fact that becoming a mother is a far different experience for a woman than becoming a father is for a man, and so too is the sexual experience different for men and women.”

Men do not experience the same consequences for sexual behavior as women.  They do not become pregnant from sexual intercourse; they can just walk away. Therefore, in order for men and women to be fully equal, some would say this difference has to be erased. Enter abortion.

“Women had to be able to walk away just like men, and that’s the nexus, it’s at this nexus, at that very, very fine point in the debate that abortion sits very uneasily in our culture today… in its guise as reproductive freedom, abortion becomes the irreducible minimum of feminine empowerment.”

Yoest then quoted the Third-Wave Feminist Rebecca Walker to show an example of this thinking. In an article that appeared in Harper’s when she was in her 20’s, Walker wrote: “I hope that the speech I’m going to give you will encourage you to see that your abortion can be a rebellious and empowering act…It is a surgical operation with a mission. My hope is that after your abortion you will commit some part of your life to making sure that others are able to claim their own rights.”

President Obama also champions this way of thinking. During his first presidential campaign, he said, “A woman’s ability to decide how many children to have and when without interference from the government is one of the most fundamental rights we possess. It is not just an issue of choice but equality and opportunity for all women. “

Yoest then quoted from Justice Kennedy to show abortion being linked to economic and social equality for women; and then she quoted the Center for Reproductive Rights, who links reproductive rights “to ensuring global progress toward just and democratic societies.”

There are some feminists such as Naomi Wolfe and Mary Beth Williams who argue for abortion rights within a framework that admits that a life is ended with abortion. In the article , “So What If Abortion Ends Life?”, Mary Elizabeth Williams writes, “Here’s the complicated reality in which we live: All life is not equal…And I would put the life of a mother over the life of a fetus every single time — even if I still need to acknowledge my conviction that the fetus is indeed a life. A life worth sacrificing.”

Far from seeing abortion as merely a controversial political issue, Yoest sees the practice of abortion as tyranny, as being about “brute power.” “Throughout history, whenever those in power have wanted to assert their dominance and pursue a culture of death, they begin by defining their victims as outside the community of caring, beyond human compassion, they ostracize them as the other, over there, beyond community. A person becomes subhuman or an inferior race, a blog of tissue morally equivalent to a tonsil, or a non-autonomous entity.” She sees abortion as a great injustice that must be stopped.

“This is the great human rights struggle of our day. We are fighting for human rights for human beings. Here’s the thing, without a deep reverence for common humanity, the quest for power becomes a chasing after the wind, and in that vacuum…in the place of nothingness, they’ve inserted this twisted veneration of abortion. They’ve rooted women’s power not in creating life, but in its destruction.”

After revealing the darkness of abortion, Yoest argues that the revitalization of community and our romantic/sexual relationships can help wage war against abortion.

She argues that abortion is very much due to the breakdown of relationships. “Increasingly we’re living alone. A woman does not go to an abortion clinic because she wants an abortion. She goes to an abortion clinic because she feels alone, because she feels she has no choice. That’s what strikes at the heart of human community. Abortion, at the end of the day, leaves us alienated from each other and it leaves women and men both alone.” Our hyper-sexualized culture that has moved past sex in the context of the covenant of marriage is feeling the deep alienation of such a move.  And this brings us to her exhortation: “Go on a date.”  The rebuilding of our romantic/sexual culture will not solve this problem, yet it will help immensely.

By analyzing a strand of pro-abortion rhetoric, Charmaine Yoest simultaneously showed us the horrors of abortion and the beauty of rediscovering true community. A woman’s decision to have an abortion, a man’s decision to indulge in non-committal sex, a man’s decision to respect a women’s body, and a woman’s decision to remain faithful and committed to her husband even when the times get tough are all personal decisions with communal consequences. Our society is made up of individuals in such a way that are personal lives are meaningful not just to our loved ones but also to our broader society. Our decisions are felt and they matter. The sum of these decisions and lifestyles make up the fabric of our society. No matter how small our role, we are substantive characters in the narrative of our society. Let us rediscover true community and intimacy, thus paving the way for the rediscovery of a society that values and protects life from conception to death.

2 Responses to Abortion: The Personal is Political

  1. Kay Glines says:

    After hearing about Wheaton giving its approval to a gay group, glad to hear the college hasn’t completely lost its way on all moral issues. Charmaine Yoest is an eloquent spokesman for the pro-life cause. I like the way she uses the argument of “power,” a favorite tool of the liberal side, and turns it on the liberals themselves. Indeed, what is a more brazen abuse of power than killing of what cannot protect itself? No wonder the feminists with their constant harping on power gloat about the empowering aspect of abortion.

    Regarding the quotation from feminists Wolfe and Williams and their “all life is not equal.” As usual for the pro-abortion side, they frame their argument as “life of the mother” versus “life of the fetus.” We all know that very few abortions are actually done to preserve the life of the mother. The fact is that the typical abortion is not about saving the mom’s life but about the baby being an INCONVENIENCE to the mom – but somehow “convenience of the mother” just doesn’t pack the punch of “life of the mother.” Anyone with kids knows that kids are inconvenient – and so are parents, spouses, close friends, as co-workers, but, thankfully, we don’t kill people for being inconvenient. Yoest is so right: “This is the great human rights struggle of our day.”

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