Abortion: whose debate?

There are probably too many thoughts for one post here, but here goes.

Following on from the discussion about women bloggers (see here here and here), liberal conspiracy brings us this post, which is full of interesting points. In particular, the author makes some observations about the fact that strategies for tackling domestic violence, and provision of services for survivors of domestic violence, are woefully low (if at all) on the list of local council priorities:

  • ‘In terms of the numbers of councils choosing it as a priority, domestic violence services are somewhere on a par with tackling litter, graffiti and fly tipping.’

Also observed is the shocking fact that

  • ‘rape doesn’t appear to be included in targets for tackling serious violent crime (go figure???), and while I found the target I’m still looking for a council, any council, that’s put rape support services up as priority any time in the next three years.’

How does this relate to the abortion debate? Bear with me, I’m getting there…

The author insightfully writes that one of the contributing factors to these distorted local council priorities is that such matters are usually dicated by knee jerk reactions to media attention and public opinion , and that the issue of violence against women just doesn’t get the coverage or the public outrage that would push it up the agenda. Thus the author calls on women and feminist bloggers to do more in raising the profile of such issues:

  • ‘Okay, so this is, and should be, a two-way street in which male bloggers should have no qualms about flagging up news items that are, perhaps likely to be more of interest to female bloggers but, to some extent, I think there’s some justification for the rest of us to look to the feminist sector and say ‘well, how about it?’ simply in recognition of the fact that people are naturally inclined, in following their interests, to pick up on stories that the rest of us might well miss’

In particular, (and I’m getting to the point now!) he prompts writers to start something up with the amendments to the abortion act on the table and up for debate (see here for more details), and writes, addressing feminist bloggers:

  • ‘the lead on this has to come from women and from the feminist sector – this is the point in this debate where women need to take centre stage, not just because its the right thing to do but because we’re at the point at which the key reference points for the debate lies on ground that women, and feminists in particular, are likely to be most comfortable and most effective… on the issue of supporting the liberalising amendments that are shortly to put to parliament, this is unequivocally your show.’

Ok, so here’s my concerns:

Of course, it is right that whether, and when, and how easily women have access to abortion are issues that need to be considered in light of the impact of pregnancy and potential parenthood on women’s lives. And in this respect, right on, women’s experiences and voices in the debate need to be attended to, and heeded.


First, that women and feminist bloggers have had trouble getting their posts and blogs noticed has been mentioned (and experiences on this are still coming in). So the assurance that this is the ground in which feminists and women can be more effective is unclear; this will only be so if their lead is, in fact, taken up.

Second, whilst pregnancy and abortion has obvious and significant impacts on women’s lives, this doesn’t mean that it is an issue that *only* concerns the interests of women. Having an unwanted pregnancy is often the property of *a partner*, and unwanted pregnancies yield children with *fathers*. Perhaps male bloggers who are pro-choice can think a bit about how women’s lack of access to abortion might impact on their lives too, and give voice to that.

Third, and this plugs in to the previous point about flagging attention to violence against women; feminist issues are not just issues of interest to women! Stopping rape, stopping violence against women, stopping enforced pregnancies because women can’t get access to abortion within the prescribed time limit… all of this should be of interest to men as well as women.

Indeed, the author, unity, shows his sensitive eye for catching feminist issues (see top of this post). It has been asked how men might engage with feminist blogs. Here’s some advice for left liberal male bloggers: Notice that feminist issues are your issues too, and start blogging and campaigning on them!

 Final note: LC piece links this pro-choice site. worth flagging up!

9 thoughts on “Abortion: whose debate?

  1. Caveats caveats caveats:
    1. i don’t mean this post to be too agonistic, wrt LC! the LC post is v interesting, i enjoyed reading it, and recommend others do too!
    2. of course, I’m not suggesting that men should take over the abortion debate, that women’s contributions need not be heard: but that the pro-choice view is something that men and women can argue for together.

  2. Great points, Stoat! I’d note also that the bloggers who don’t think abortion is their issue probably don’t have the same hesitation about e.g. blogging about the Iraq war even if they aren’t soldiers; or blogging about poverty even if they’re not poor; or blogging about torture even if they haven’t been tortured, etc. So why the hesitation to blog about abortion even though they haven’t got wombs?

  3. One experience I’ve had recently has been finding out how little so many guys understand. I find it difficult to deal with since for a number of men their openness to women’s issues seems to lead them to feel a certain exemption from any criticism.

  4. I think violence against women is truly a men’s issue, since most often men are the ones who need to stop perpetrating violence against women. If they do not stop feeling individually threatened by political discussions, however, this won’t ever happen. Even if an individual man is non-violent, that doesn’t mean he should be “exempt” from considering the issue, because what’s needed seems to be a male culture of non-violence toward women. It doesn’t help much to ask feminists to raise the issue and then stand back and say “yes, we approve! And furthermore we will protect you from other men!”

    Sorry if I’m ranting; this is what so many of my male students often say…

  5. First off ‘sensitive eye for catching feminist issues’ is quite a compliment – thanks, although I should admit that’s it probably more that I learned a good while ago that good strategy when dealing with both the press and politicians is to look at what they’re up and ask myself ‘what’s missing from this picture?’

    Having picked up the low priority on DV services from a comment in the Metro, it wasn’t too much of stretch to question whether something similar might apply to rape support services – oh, and I’ve since discovered that a total for four councils have taken that on as priority target, although one is a County Council (Cornwall) which will influence the work of district councils.

    Four… not good enough, is it?

    And If I can throw in one clarification as I’m not sure I expressed the thought that well in my original post…

    On the issue of flagging up unfiltered news, one thing I’ve not personally run across in the feminist sector is much by way of what tends to get called either ‘link-blogging’ or ‘drive-by’ blogging – blogs that tend to keep the opinion content down and focus a high throughput of short ‘have you seen this’ type posts often containing little more than a link, a quote and and very short, and pithy, comment.

    There are a few blogs like that I check-in on regularly simply because they’re good at throwing out ideas and pointer to interesting stories and blog posts, particularly where I know the blogger to have a good eye for a particular type of story or issue. For me, blogs like that are both a good source of information and ideas and a major convenience – if I can subscribe to one or two rss feeds and a get broad overview of the main run of traffic in a particular ‘sector’ on the net a couple of times a day, whether its the politicals or the techies, then that feeds my need for information and its often stories I pick up via those kinds of sources that set me off either to write something or starting digging into a particular issue.

    The majority of feminist blogs seem – unless I’ve missed something (in which case throw me a link) – to have much more an opinion/editorial focus and if that’s true then there’s perhaps a gap in the ‘market’ for a decent aggregator blog or two of the kind that generates ideas, picks up an moves stories and seeds discussions. that doesn’t need to be a coordinated thing, in fact most of the best aggregator blog tend to be just an ad-hoc thing put together by an individual blogger.

    One thing I certainly should have done in the original, however, was flag up the regular Carnival of Feminists round-up, which I do make an effort to catch even if I’m pushed to keep up with individual sites.

  6. Hi Unity,
    interesting idea re the feminist aggregator blog. I can’t say I know if there exists such a blog or not.

    One thing that strikes me, however, is that maybe it is more natural to have a feminist blog that offers extended analysis/editorial content simply because what’s wrong with some story, from a feminist point of view, sometimes needs a bit of spelling out and argumentation (though not always, for sure (as with the blogs linked in this post here https://feministphilosophers.wordpress.com/2007/09/17/domestic-violence-sentencing-what-to-do/).)

    If you come across such blog please do let us know (and we’ll do likewise here)!

  7. I think The F-Word does a pretty good job staying on top of relevant issues in the UK, and mixes extended analysis with quick hits.

  8. Great post and good discussion and links, so thanks, as usual.

    Just wanted to add that, when I challenged Barack Obama’s feminist creds in comments on a (male) blog that I still like, the blogger pointed me to Obama’s record on being pro-choice on abortion. For one thing, I’m not as convinced as NARAL is that Obama is pro-choice in as thorough going a way as I’d like.

    But more to the point for me, sometimes, as here, the abortion issue is taken to be the only thing that women/feminists care about; if you get that right, you’re good. While I’m happy that Obama has pretty good creds on abortion, the truth is that I almost take that for granted. After all, if you don’t have that, you’re missing a lot. But I find myself really peeved at the narrowness of the view that some people have about what is a woman’s issue? what is a feminist issue?

    If our concern is specificially women’s oppression, “our” issues range from the reproductive through the productive, the artistic, social and cultural. It seems to me to be awfully ignorant to see it feminist theory, research and activism in such a unidimensional or one-issue way. When I see “progressive” or “liberal” blogs with more than one contributor and I don’t see a feminist writing on the broad spectrum of feminist issues, and I do think we see a lot of those, I wonder how they think they’re entitled to the word progressive. If feminists had been in editorial positions on those kinds of blogs during the Clinton campaign, maybe they’d have been forced to try to come to grips with the issues of sexism raised during that time. And maybe some women would be more ready to “move on”.

    I know of one feminist blogger who left one of the better known liberal blogs during the campaign because she just couldn’t make herself heard.

    It would be pretty pro-feminist and pro-woman if those blogs had regular feminist commentators. Or maybe “we” should be inviting them to join US.

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