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Catholic Social Teaching and Pro-Life Feminism

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Notre Dame chapter.

In her recent article, “My Problem with Catholic Social Teaching,” Katrina Linden condemns the hypocrisy of those who describe themselves as Catholic yet do not recognize the full scope of Catholic Social Teaching. This point is an important one, because as Catholics we are called to support the entirety of church teaching on the dignity of all human beings.

Linden specifically addresses pro-lifers, saying that “Many fail to realize being pro-life… is about ensuring the well being of every individual, no matter his or her income level or citizen status.”

I wholeheartedly agree, and ask – is there anything more important to a person’s well-being than his or her life or death? Therefore, the argument that abortion may be a better alternative to a child being born into poverty remains essentially discrimination against the poor. Is a life not worth living if lived in poverty? We must absolutely continue to promote aid for the poor, but even in their circumstance, to allow abortion is to promote violence as a justified solution to social problems.

As Pope Francis writes in Evangelii Gaudium, “It is not ‘progressive’ to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life.”

He continues, “On the other hand, it is also true that we have done little to adequately accompany women in very difficult situations, where abortion appears as a quick solution to their profound anguish, especially when the life developing within them is the result of rape or a situation of extreme poverty. Who can remain unmoved before such painful situations?”

Women deserve better. This is the motto of the national Feminists for Life organization, which is “a nonsectarian, nonpartisan, grassroots organization that seeks real solutions to the challenges women face … [whose] efforts are shaped by the core feminist values of justice, nondiscrimination, and nonviolence.” Feminists for Life advocates for women-centered solutions to the issues causing women to consider abortion in the first place.

FFL President Serrin Foster describes these views further in her speech, The Feminist Case Against Abortion, in which she also explains why the first feminists (including Susan B. Anthony) understood abortion as harmful to women. Therefore, being both pro-life and feminist, is actually in accord with the early history of the feminist movement. Somewhere along the way, this definition of feminism got lost, but we seek to reclaim it.

Another organization promoting pro-life feminism is New Wave Feminists. These self-proclaimed “Badass. Prolife. Feminists.” fill their blog and Facebook page with blunt, yet thought-provoking material.

Feminists for Non-Violent Choices is an organization that promotes not only a pro-life pro-woman ethic, but also holds stances against human trafficking, the death penalty, and war.

Besides the numerous groups promoting the pro-life stance as a feminist cause, there are many others that address the suffering women experience after abortion. Organizations such as Project Rachel, Rachel’s Vineyard, and Women Hurt offer a place for women to share their stories and find healing and support after abortion.

Thousands of women have experienced such feelings, and they deserve whatever support they need. Many women have also experienced “conversions,” such as Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood director who had two abortions herself and writes about her experience in her book Unplanned. It is also little known that Norma McCorvey – the “Roe” in Roe v. Wade – is now a pro-life activist; her book is called Won by Love. Stories like these reiterate that even among those closest to the issue, abortion is not ultimately good for women.

Abortion also has physical ramifications for women. Numerous studies have shown that women who have had an abortion have an increased likelihood of developing breast cancer. There have been 74 studies on the relationship between breast cancer and abortion. Of these, 57 show a positive correlation between abortion and breast cancer (and 34 of those show statistically significant results). Other risks of abortion include uterine perforation, cervical lacerations, increased likelihood of placenta previa (a life threatening condition of pregnancy), endometriosis, and subsequent infertility. Beyond the moral question of abortion, the physical and emotional risks prompt the question – is abortion truly advancement for women?

Feminism has always advocated for progress for women. Linden writes that she finds pro-life feminism to be “counter-intuitive,” and this is true – for people with a particular view of feminism. If women’s equality remains hinged on our ability to function biologically like men, then yes, abortion is a necessary key. But I refuse to concede to violence as a way of promoting equality (and a single-sexed definition of equality, at that). Women deserve better. Further, if we accept the “Your Body, Your Choice – Your Responsibility, Your Problem” rhetoric that frees men from responsibility and leaves women alienated and without real options, can we truly call ourselves feminists?

Pro-life feminism remains an essential and foundational part of Catholic Social Teaching. It reminds us that no matter the circumstances, violence is not a solution, and that no matter how burdensome we are to one another, we are a human family – all with equal dignity and rights. As Catholics, we believe that together, we reflect the Body of Christ. We are all called to support the dignity of each and every individual, from the pre-born to the elderly. But each of us has our own strengths and passions that fit towards some specific goal. Some of us are called to aid the homeless, some to speak out against discrimination, some to promote the rights of workers, and some to oppose violence towards women and children. It is crucial that we support each other while answering our own call, recognizing that human dignity issues are undeniably interconnected, and that although individually we are limited, together we can work towards peace and justice for all.

 The pro-life position is often exploited as part of political campaigns, but the truth of its movement runs much deeper:

Frequently, as a way of ridiculing the Church’s effort to defend [unborn babies’] lives, attempts

are made to present her position as ideological, obscurantist and conservative.

 Yet this defense of unborn life is closely linked to the defense

of each and every other human right.

It involves the conviction that a human being

is always sacred and inviolable,

in any situation and at every stage of development.

Human beings are ends in themselves

and never a means of resolving other problems.

– Pope Francis

Know someone on campus who is pregnant? Notre Dame Right to Life recently won the national “Pregnant on Campus Group of the Year” award for promoting the vast resources available to pregnant and parenting students on campus. Learn more about these resources here.  


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Sam Stempky

Notre Dame

Sam is a Senior Accounting and Theology major from Indianapolis, IN.
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Sara Spitt

Notre Dame

Meet HCND's current Campus Coordinator and Editor-in-Chief! Originally from outside of Chicago, Sara is a Senior Peace Studies, Theology, and Italian major at Notre Dame (yes, that is three majors; no, she doesn't have any free time). When she isn't painting her nails, Sara enjoys cooking vegetarian friendly dishes, taking pictures for The Dome yearbook, and reading for fun. Sara began writing for Her Campus Notre Dame in May of 2013 and quickly fell in love with the site and it's staff! After writing for the inagural editorial staff (shout-out to AnnaLee, Katie, and Lex!) for a semester, Sara decided to branch out and become an editor. She particularly enjoys doing interviews and sharing travel expereinces, as well as connecting with the HCND reader network through thought-provoking social commentaries. If you like what you read from her on a weekly basis, this self-proclaimed "Queen of Social Media" has several accounts for you to follow - twitter, instagram (@saraspit22), tumblr, and a blog!