Most pro-choice people would agree with this, but not a group of 113 women in the legal profession who submitted an amicus brief in Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, the pending Supreme Court case about whether states can protect women’s safety in abortion facilities.
The brief argued that, without abortion, these women would not have become successful legal professionals. Their stories are heartbreaking and charged with emotion. I am sorry they had to endure those circumstances, but their conclusion is false.
I am not alone. I have dozens of friends and colleagues with similar stories. Here are my top five reasons women don’t need abortions to succeed as attorneys:
Many successful lawyers are pro-life
Judge Edith Jones is the former chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. Susana Martinez is the governor of New Mexico. Mary Ann Glendon is a law professor and former U.S. ambassador.
What do all of these women have in common? They have enormously successful legal careers and have taken public pro-life positions. Abortion is not necessary for a woman to have a successful career.
Misogyny imposes abortion on success
Proclaiming that women cannot be successful without abortion embraces female inequality. It says women must become like men by eliminating their motherhood. This is the opposite of equality. It imposes male physical norms on women.
Instead, women are equal and capable as women. Pregnancy shouldn’t be attacked but celebrated as a unique female capacity and privilege. Women can become successful lawyers, doctors, and engineers with or without children, pregnancy, or childbirth, even though men can’t get pregnant.
Anti-pregnancy is not a “bona fide occupational qualification”
In professional circles, pregnancy and motherhood are far too often regarded as an obstacle to competence and a setback in an otherwise successful career. This is wrong. Pregnancy certainly can present physical challenges to women. But it does not undermine women’s value as professionals. Challenges encountered by pregnancy should be accommodated and recognized as not hindering a woman’s excellence in the workplace.
Insisting that abortion is necessary for success abandons decades of hard-fought progress by women to stop pregnancy discrimination. The pro-abortion attorneys’ arguments in Cole essentially concede that pregnancy is an inexcusable workplace hindrance and imply that a woman is at fault for not removing the obstacle herself.
Feminists, of all people, should not treat pregnancy as a workplace taboo.
Early feminists opposed abortion
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul. You know them as early feminists and champions of women’s rights, but they also believed abortion is “the ultimate exploitation of women,” as Paul once proclaimed. Stanton stated that “[w]hen we consider that women are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit.” And Anthony said that for the woman who undergoes abortion, “it will burden her conscience in life, it will burden her soul in death.”
These founding feminists recognized that abortion empowers, not women, but irresponsible men. They themselves did not need abortion to succeed in leaving a lasting legacy of real women’s rights.
Women should be celebrated for becoming mothers—even unexpectedly
Women feel significant societal pressure to abort. This is exacerbated when people like these pro-abortion attorneys suggest to pregnant women, “You can’t be successful! A child will hold you back!”
Why aren’t we telling women that they can choose birth, rather than insisting they can’t? Why not support women in unexpected, ill-timed, economically insecure, or other challenging circumstances instead of abandoning them to abortion? It is truly brave to choose life in those circumstances—and such women should be celebrated.
Ladies, you can become lawyers, doctors, engineers, legislators, and scientists, even if you experience an unplanned pregnancy—perhaps even draw inspiration from it. You do not need abortion to be successful.
Graves is legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom and its Center for Life.