Privilege Safely Stowed. Now Can We Talk About Abortion?

Guilt goes a long way to getting results. Any Catholic priest can tell you that. To say nothing of those of us who grew up under the yoke of Catholic guilt.

I cast off that yoke years ago and I’m better for it, but guilt, insidious as it is still has power over me. And I resent that in a big way. I think that’s why I cringe at the insistence of some within the feminist and prochoice movement to constantly hammer away at the idea of privilege and its inherent dangers.

March For Life flyer from St Paul Catholic High School and voting station

I received a Facebook reminder yesterday for the pro-choice presence on Parliament Hill in response to the annual bullshit March for Life. I read the list of issues contained in the message (colonialism, ageism, dis/ability rights, education) each stated as being a “reproductive justice issue”.

*heavy sigh*

What I’m about to say is not going to be popular.

*sharp intake of breath*

Sometimes I feel that the need to appear progressive, cloaked in a show of inclusiveness, overshadows and ultimately endangers what we’re really trying to accomplish.

There. I said it.

*release of breath*

The issue is abortion access. If you say you understand abortion access and lack thereof, you must, or at least you should, understand that it is those who lack privilege (in all its variations, orientations, identities and degrees therein) in our society who have the most to lose when abortion access is limited/eliminated. That says it all.

But that’s not what I’m witnessing of late.

Instead we see the real issue: abortion/choice/reproductive and bodily autonomy piled on and confused with other, no less important, issues.

As a movement, we cannot do it all. Indeed, we do an injustice to all concerned if we even try. We also alienate people who would like to join the cause but don’t dare because they are being lead to believe they take on the weight of the world if they do.

What we get- indeed what we have- is a fractious group who are incapable of the focus required to move the issue of abortion forward. The resulting vacuum of coherence and over-arching vision in turn gets filled by right-wing zealots who do have the focus, and who organize effectively enough to rally a vote for a Conservative majority. They have a coherent vision, and it’s now frighteningly within their reach.

There is no doubt that the feminist movement of the past got many things wrong, not the least of which was a lack of inclusiveness and more than a smidge of elitism. This is indisputable. But have we so little faith in ourselves as progressive people and in the evolution of our movement that we need to constantly make a show of listing the marginalized?

Frankly, I find it beyond tacky.

We can be allies (a word I avoid because we are NOT at war and we minimize those affected by war when we use it), we can represent a myriad of voices, and we can welcome all into the fold and- here’s a novel idea- have them speak for themselves.

What we cannot do is misrepresent what we’re actually about. We have done exactly this and to the detriment of women’s lives. Guilt is a powerful thing, but it rarely brings about real change.

Only hard work can do that.