Q: Can you be a feminist and oppose abortion in all circumstances? Can you be a person of faith and support abortion in some circumstances?
Generally, I’m willing to accept labels people give themselves. So if Sarah Palin wants to call herself a feminist, though very different from feminists I know, I’ll go along with it.
In my experience, feminists who have worked for social, political, and economic equality of the sexes have often been called aggressive, arrogant, intolerant, militant, and mean-spirited. In most cases, such accusations have been false; but I think they ring true for Palin feminism.
Sarah Palin isn’t the only one who knows exactly what God wants of humans, and she isn’t the only one who wants to outlaw any actions that she or he knows with absolute certainty would displease God (see which of the above feminist accusations fit). Palin calls herself a “frontier feminist,” but she sounds more like a “Pat Robertson feminist.” The two of them are guided solely by their unshakeable certainty about what God wants. The good news, in this regard, is an equality of the sexes; the bad news is that both sexes can be sadly and dangerously mistaken.
Speaking to members of the Susan B. Anthony List, Palin described how she’d had doubts about whether she would be able to handle a baby with Down syndrome. She “chose” to have the baby because of her certainty that “God will never give us something we can’t handle.” Similarly, Sarah Palin said of her unwed and pregnant teenage daughter, “For Bristol, choosing life was not an easy decision.” Note the implication that both members of this advantaged family had the choice on whether to have an abortion, and chose not to. Sarah Palin claims that her God made sure these choices worked out well for her family, and she would like to see other families prevented from making a different choice. However, “One choice” is an oxymoron.
Palin failed to mention the countless deaths of women who knew their lives would be in danger unless they had an abortion, or the women who wanted to prevent their hopelessly deformed fetuses from being brought to term only to suffer and die soon afterward. Palin may sincerely believe that those dead pregnant women and deformed babies pleased God and today are frolicking in heaven, but that does not give her the right to feel morally superior to other women with very different theological views.
I don’t know if Sister Margaret McBride considers herself a feminist, but she is closer to my brand of feminism than Sarah Palin. McBride had the courage to agree with the ethics committee at her hospital to allow an abortion that would save a mother’s life. For this heroic act, McBride was “automatically excommunicated” from her church. Interestingly, this nun would have remained a Catholic in good standing had she, instead, molested a child and confessed her “sin.”
The bishop’s reaction to an abortion that saved a mother’s life is just one more example of why thinking people should ignore or run as fast as possible from immoral and heartless teachings of the Catholic Church.