Understand, there are decades between me and the new arrivals to feminism. I’ve welcomed the Baby Boomers, the Gen Xers and now the Millennials. Each generation interprets the movement according to its values. For a time, there were those who thought being called a “feminist” was an insult and I feared the struggle to achieve women’s rights might die for lack of interest.
Thanks to the hostile policies of Donald Trump, the Women’s Movement seems to have found its voice again. The Women’s March in January 2017 was spectacular in its ability to reawaken hearts and minds. Still, divisions in ideology remain, the Millennials having brought a new vision to the table. That vision begins with a complaint raised against the older generations who defended a woman’s right to an abortion, arguing it was a regrettable but necessary right. Hillary Clinton took this view and is being criticized for it.
The new voices among us object to characterizing women who have abortions as victims. For them the issue is about personhood for the woman, not the fetus — the right to choose or not to choose to become a parent. These new voices want a fresh defense and question the efficacy of old arguments. Abortion, they say, should be defended on “economic and political grounds, not on the grounds of feeling and effect” (“Abortive Reasoning,” by Yasmin Nair and Eugenia Williamson, The Baffler, Summer 2017, No. 35, pg. 73.)
Perhaps they are right. Perhaps it is time to change the rhetoric of abortion. I’m willing to try. But I do wonder how easily each generation forgets it stands upon the shoulders of its predecessors. Mock Hillary Clinton and those like her who acknowledge there might be psychological costs to having an abortion while they defend a woman’s right to choose. But, like it or not, that cost is real for some.
I do agree that characterizing a woman who chooses to have an abortion as a victim doesn’t seem empowering. Nonetheless, in my experience, moral values rarely give way to economic logic. The new recruits will find that road paved with stones. If I could, I’d send each of them a stout pair of shoes.
Still, I applaud the new energy and new voices ready to take up the cause. I and the rest of the country are ready to hear their arguments. As they take us forward in this infant century, I ask them for a single charity. Do not look back with disdain upon those from a different era who, with different arguments, have brought us this far.
(First published 6/14/17)