You might have recently seen a poster around campus discussing the necessity for childcare on campus for student parents. I want to draw attention to how these seemingly well-intentioned and non-controversial demands indirectly support the pro-life anti-abortion movement.
The poster states, “They say I have a free choice, but without housing on campus for me and my baby, without on-site daycare, without maternity coverage in my health insurance, it sure doesn’t feel like I have much of a choice.” It goes on to discuss how Feminists for Life—likewise endorsed in Sharpie on the poster by Students for Life at Geneseo—hopes to secure “non-violent choices for women.”
These are mostly non-controversial opinions at face value; everyone knows that pregnancy can delay progress in one’s education and career. There are few policies in place to help mothers in this respect—you would be hard-pressed to find a feminist who doesn’t think that women should be able to raise children without worrying about daycare, health coverage and housing. The problem is not in the proposal itself, but in the subtext of the proposal.
The subtext of the argument is as follows: abortion is immoral. At present, women opt for abortion when they are left with no perceived choice in the matter. If women had a fuller range of choices—such as having daycare available at their university—they would not have to opt for an “immoral” choice such as abortion. So, we should institute these policies in order to decrease the rate at which women must choose such an immoral option, thereby eliminating the need and justification for abortion.
This subtextual argument is apparently not obvious to most people, just as many insidious pro-life tactics do not immediately seem pro-life on the surface. Many of the “pregnancy resource centers” run with pro-life agendas make their pamphlets and marketing nearly indistinguishable from those of Planned Parenthood. These tactics are deceitful and exploitative of those who are already in a vulnerable position.
Pro-life groups are in the business of rhetorical manipulation. The proposals on their poster seem positive, but the poster’s implications are considerably more dubious. It is important to remember that expanding choices in one area does not compensate for the obliteration of another choice: the choice to have an abortion.
Even if all of these policies were instituted—daycare at universities, housing for mothers and their children, maternity leave and so on—there would still be women who would not want to have a baby at all. She might not want to give up time she devotes to academics, athletics, activism, service or any other endeavor. The pro-choice movement wants to ensure that there are options for those who wish to be mothers and for those who do not wish to be mothers.
In debunking this poster by Students for Life, I speak as someone who is unwaveringly pro-choice. I also speak as someone who dislikes the manipulation tactics of the pro-life movement. As much as I wish for all women to have the right to choose, I wish for people—especially those on our campus—to know what they are supporting in addition to the policies on the poster when they support Students for Life.
This poster is a shameful attempt at conniving and deceit. It certainly makes you wonder about what they are hiding beneath all of that rhetoric.