About a week ago, my class had just finished and I was walking to the Starbucks in Gelman Library (affectionally known as Gelbucks and a place that has my whole heart). As I walked towards Kogan Plaza, I saw a strange sight- there was a group of white men dressed in some uniform with a red sash and holding up red banners and signs condemning abortion. It looked eerily similar to a scene from the Handmaid's Tale.
As I walked past them, one of the men tried to hand me a flyer but I refused. I was shocked that this protest was even occurring and right outside our library. Later I learned that these men were members of a right-wing Catholic organization called the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property, which is known for being not only anti-abortion but also anti-gay.
So to the men of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property:
I am a firm believer in freedom of speech and even though I completely disagree with banning abortion, I will defend your right to protest. As I've said earlier, the right answer to hateful/bigoted/problematic speech isn't censorship- it's more speech and that's why I was glad to see the emergence of counter-protesters.
However, there were several reasons why this protest, while certainly making a statement, probably did little to sway anyone and may have even hurt your cause. First, you came to a fairly liberal college campus and such a strange, military-like display surely wasn't going to win any converts.
Second, the sight of a group of straight white men protesting against abortion is somewhat laughable and ridiculous. I mean seriously, did no one think about the optics? You, as cisgender men, will never have to deal with the issue of unwanted pregnancy and it seems incredibly arrogant for you to tell women in a difficult situation what they're choice should be.
That's really the main problem with the pro-life political argument. I concede that abortion is a very difficult moral and ethical issue, and reasonable people can legitimately disagree about whether a fetus is a person or whether abortion is murder. And I am sympathetic to those like you who believe that abortion is wrong. I think this is a moral view that comes from a place of compassion for the weakest among us and a strong belief in the dignity of human life, which is completely rational and understandable.
These arguments make sense to me. In fact, during my freshman year of high school, I considered myself pro-life. I thought abortion was murder and that the state should protect the lives of the unborn. As an amateur animal rights activist as well, I saw the situation of a fetus as similar to the situation of animals, who are regularly killed but denied the moral status of personhood by most people. At the time, I saw nothing contradictory between being pro-life and being a feminist; so I called myself a pro-life feminist.
But over time, I've realized how incongruent this position is and I've since abandoned it. It is one thing to believe that abortion is morally wrong (as I did then and still do). But it is another thing to believe that the government should criminalize abortion. It took a YouTube video of a woman describing how difficult her pregnancy was for her to really open my eyes to how horrible it would be for the government to force women with unwanted pregnancies to carry their pregnancy to term.
The government would be controlling women's bodies and robbing them of the fundamental freedom to make their own health care choices. If that isn't big government, I don't know what is. Banning abortion would be downright authoritarian, essentially subjecting women to second-class status. Such a political position is incompatible with feminism.
Also, you call yourselves pro-life but it seems inconsistent to me that you are only concerned with the life of a fetus. What about the lives of black people who get killed by the police? What about the lives of the brown-skinned refugee children fleeing violence? What about the lives of the civilians in Pakistan killed by drone strikes? What about the lives of the innocent people on death row? Your group hasn't protested about any of those issues. Clearly, you don't give a damn about those lives. So in reality, you just care about telling women what to do with their bodies. And that's a message that deserves to be met with an eye-roll.