Women's Rights or Human Rights?



As a woman, there are just some days when I bury my head under the sand and cringe at what my fellow gender is doing and saying. In particular, the pendulum swing seen among most feminists has caused many to throw the word out all together (i.e. WomenAgainstFeminism, etc.). As the voice of equality reaches a fever pitch, it seems we’ve forgotten what the fight was really for.

When it comes to abortion, many want to believe that women’s right are in direct conflict with children’s rights. I can’t get my brain around, “It’s about a woman’s body, and her right to it” kind of banter. It’s not like getting surgery to remove a tumor or your appendix, we’re talking about a human creation being cradled in the life-giving center called the womb.

Our fore-mothers of equality surely would have been outraged if they were to see us now. Nineteenth century feminists unanimously cried out against abortion. Elizabeth Cady Stanton referenced it alongside infanticide, and proclaimed that if it was degrading to treat women as property, it was no better for women to treat their own children as property.

Where did we decide that in the attempt to become free, equal in rights and opportunity, we would destroy ourselves and our families in the race to get there? The worst part of it all? Out of any operation, abortions are the only operation that people go into without wanting to know the details of what’s going on. Abortion rhetoric paints the child as an unborn lump, a glob, a mere bundle of tissues, which many are happy to believe. In actuality, at five weeks the little thing already has hands, feet, a tiny mouth and vocal chords.

"If it was degrading to treat women as property, it was no better for women to treat their own children as property."

In high school, a group of us were preparing a presentation on abortion. A girl walked over to our group, curious to see what we were working on. I handed her the stack of notes we were using to present when suddenly she broke into tears.

“I can’t believe that’s what a baby looks like at that stage. No one told me that’s what it looks like.”

I soon found out that the young student standing in front of me had an abortion some time in the past. Without the proper information, she was led to believe that what was growing inside of her wasn’t really a baby yet, and she had no need to strain her conscience when it came to killing a life.

Now, in our struggle for safe procedures, equal rights, etc. the question remains: do women really want to have abortions? It’s safe to say that it’s not like when you want a latte or a mortgage-free house. Like James Franco from 127 Hours sawing off his own arm, a woman who seeks an abortion is trying to escape a situation by an act of violence and self-loss. That’s the favourite example, isn’t it? “Well, what if she’s raped?” Is that a sign that she is free, doing what she really wants, or a sign that she is desperate to be free of the painful memories?

In an ideal society, one that supports and respects women, we might find resolve through preventing an unplanned pregnancy. How? By returning to morality, perhaps, and returning to sexual responsibility. A child isn't welcome in your home and you don’t want to get pregnant? Maybe you shouldn't have sex. Maybe you could use some family planning methods. Birth control isn't by any means a solution, but we can try to be more aware as a society. When lives are unintentionally conceived, we could respond maturely and responsibly: getting married, providing child support, even putting them up for adoption is a better alternative to death. As the saying goes, “It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all,” one could say, “It’s better to have lived in trials than to never have lived at all.” We deny basic human rights to someone (the unborn) when we’re too concerned with our own.

"Like James Franco from 127 Hours sawing off his own arm, a women who seeks an abortion is trying to escape a situation by an act of violence and self-loss."

Children are conceived by no fault of their own, and it’s the pinnacle of brutality to demand the right to kill her (or him) in order to continue having sex without commitment or consequence.

If child-rearing is going to be seen as less of a burden to a woman, our society must change in the way it values experience, talents and abilities. A woman who stays at home with her children should be recognized for her training that occurred during those years. We also need faithful, dedicated men who support these women – both on the board, and in the home. Flexibility and respect in the workplace might be a good place to start, but by no means end there. Manageable hours, time off, benefits, etc. are some ways to ensure that women are celebrating the opportunity to have a child, not fearing it.

Women shouldn’t need to be men in order to have equal rights and opportunity. And they shouldn’t need to chant, “it’s my body so I’ll do what I want with it.” But in order to get there, we’re going to have to make just a few slight changes to the way we live.

-- Leah Sookoo (intern)