Responding to Virginia Mollenkott’s Article “Reproductive Choice”

by Jacob Allee

In her essay, Reproductive Choice: Basic to Justice for Women, Virginia Ramey Mollenkott argues for the pro-choice side of the abortion debate. Mollenkott, a self-proclaimed evangelical Christian and Feminist, states that if a woman “wishes to accomplish anything other than child birthing and childcare during her lifetime, she must learn to control her fertility.” Mollenkott argues that since a healthy woman has the potential to carry to 30 children to term in her life time that if she doesn’t master her fertility then it will master her. So then, in order for women to have freedom to do anything besides mother then they must have total freedom of their own reproductive system, including whether or not to carry a conceived pregnancy to term.

Is this a good argument for the pro-choice stance? I don’t think so. For while I will concede that if a woman desires to have a career or to continue her education that she may have to control her reproductive capabilities, abortion is hardly a necessary default position. The most basic means by which women can control their reproductive system is through the decision to be abstinent. So then really this discussion is not about freedom of choice to not have more children, it is about the freedom to have sex and not worry about the responsibility that is inextricably tied to sexual intercourse. But, even so, abortion need not be the default option with numerous forms of birth control available today (although some methods, namely those that are hormonal based, can actually cause spontaneous abortion in wanted pregnancies  among other side effects. Other methods such as barrier methods carry no such side effects).

Mollenkott continues by lamenting that there is such a strong pro-life movement that is upholding the notion that a fetus is a human person from the moment of conception and so all abortion (except perhaps that which is necessary to save the life of the mother) should be outlawed. Whether it be an unplanned pregnancy, a case of rape, incest or fetal deformity, the pro-life movement believes that women ought to be legally obligated to carry the pregnancy to term. Mollenkott describes this position as “frightening in a society where ‘rape is so common that one in three women is likely to be raped during her lifetime,’ and where ‘anywhere from 9 percent to 52 percent of women were sexually victimized as children.’” She notes that “unprotected intercourse results in pregnancy about 4 percent of the time” and that it doesn’t matter if that intercourse is in a loving stable relationship or if it is rape, that statistic remains the same. Mollenkott states that the pro-life movement, if it has its way, will force victims of “sexual terrorism” to have no choice but to carry out a pregnancy that they don’t want. And didn’t ask for.

However, this discussion is rather beside the point because the vast majority of abortions are not due to rape, incest or fetal deformity, but they are due to social issues. Planned Parenthood would hardly be satisfied if a compromise were made that only abortions that are due to rape, incest of fetal deformity would be legal. No, the pro-choice advocates like to use this kind of argumentation to speak to our sympathy towards women who have undergone horrible things (and so we ought to extend sympathy to such women!) but this is really just a red herring because the pro-choice lobbyists aren’t willing to settle for abortion only in cases such as these…

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