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For Women

January 20, 2017

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I find I don’t know quite what to say. Today our nation inaugurated a new president. Tomorrow there is a Women’s March scheduled to protest that president’s position on a variety of issues. Many close, dear friends of mine– kind, thoughtful, faithful, educated and good people that I love and respect and cherish and admire– are rallying behind the event because they are understandably and deservedly upset about things that have been said and done, and things they fear might happen. I share in their pain, in their outrage, at having any kind of human being deemed to be less than human. I believe in the dignity of all people. We ALL deserve to be respected as human beings with the same God-given rights. The organizers and sponsors of the March say that they “believe that Women’s Rights are Human Rights and Human Rights are Women’s Rights.” And the reason I’m troubled by this March is precisely because I agree.

Women are humans, and therefore the same rights that apply to humans apply also to women. I believe this is part of the transitive property of equality, or some kind of logic equation whose name escapes me. I also believe this is common sense, but since that is sadly not always so, it needs to be said. No one kind of human person is better or more valuable than any other human person. Humans all have the same basic rights, regardless of any other variable. If human, then rights. According to the Guiding Vision and Definition of Principles of the Women’s March (which you can read in its entirety here), these rights include ‘Reproductive Freedom,’ and as the explicit position of the organizers states, “this means open access to safe, legal, affordable abortion and birth control for all people, regardless of income, location or education.”

Now, hold up right there. Why did they have to put that in there? I have to imagine that the people who put together these ideas are truly trying to look out for the disenfranchised, the weak, the vulnerable. I believe they have noble albeit misguided intentions, and are legitimately (justifiably) afraid that the new president does not equally respect the rights of all people. These are feelings we share, and it is absolutely right to stand up for the weak, for the helpless. But there is a real problem with this Guiding Principle– it does not stand for all people. “All people” means just that, ALL PEOPLE, whose human rights cannot be negated by the preference of any other human. Human babies who are at any given moment growing in the womb are a part of “all people.” They have beating hearts and human DNA– DNA which is unique to them and was present from the moment of conception– and they have just as much right to be protected and respected as any other person. Moreover, there is no such thing as a “safe” abortion. Fact: in all cases, an abortion leaves at least one person dead. And I say ‘all’ because sometimes it does not work– in the rare case that the baby survives, it is no longer an abortion, but a birth. Words. So ‘safe’ ≠ ‘abortion’, and these two things shall never cross.

And this is the hangup for me. I cannot understand something which claims to defend the rights of all people, and at the same time declares that some people are not people in the same way that other people are people. Isn’t that the very thing that this movement is protesting? I do not want to give the impression that women’s rights are not important to me– I am pro-human, which makes me pro-woman, because human rights are women’s rights, and on this we all can agree. I know that abortion (and life, and how the two intersect) is something complicated. But a person is a person, so in that sense it becomes much less complicated.

I fight for the rights of humans. What’s more, so does everyone else who thinks as I do. Feminism does not preclude this. Plenty of pro-life people are participating in this Women’s March because of this, because they want to support women regardless of their stage of life. Some, such as the New Wave Feminists, even tried to partner officially with the event, so great is the desire for solidarity and justice. The organizers of the March then felt the need to not only remove the group from the list of partners, but also to write clauses in the Guiding Principle that explicitly excludes it, and anybody who shares its position that human life is worth defending. What does this have to do with standing up for women, for humans? Which is it? Pro-all-the-people, or pro-only-some-of-the-people? Pro-life is pro-human is pro-woman, so therein lies my confusion. Or maybe my suspicion. This event is partly sponsored by Planned Parenthood and NARAL, and other abortion advocates, to the point where their principles have been intentionally built into the principles of the event. An event in support of defending all people and their inalienable rights. Something is not right.

To be absolutely clear, in no way do I oppose the coming together of people or groups who have differing opinions. Unity is key, we are all people deserving of respect, and in the defense of civility and dignity, we must all unite as people. So I can– and do– coexist lovingly with plenty of people who are, among many other things that do not define them, pro-choice and supporters of Planned Parenthood. What troubles me is the inclusion of an exclusion such as this in the stated principles of the movement. This exclusion troubles me greatly.

Do I think that plenty of amazing and committed people still will and should want to support such a movement despite this, and because there are other worthy and important issues at stake? Absolutely. But does it give me pause? Without a doubt. The big picture is crucial, but the devil is in the details.

To all my loved ones who are fired up to support the rights of women and all other people in danger of being demoted to lesser citizens: I share your passion and your belief, and I applaud you and support you in your pursuit of justice and peace and equality. We must never waver when standing up for the weak, or when giving a voice to those whose voices have been muted. But I pray that, despite all the noise and the propaganda, we will keep ever-present and at the forefront our shared humanity. Let OUR guiding principle be love.

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