Not surprisingly, many of my recent conservations have turned to the subject of Sarah Palin and her views. When I speak to my feminist female friends about Palin, they always ask “as a woman, how can she be against abortion?” This questions raises many issues and is based on many assumptions.
While many feminists are quick to point out that there are many varieties of feminism, it is all too common for some feminists to assume that women must support abortion. Part of this is due to two general tendicies of people. The first is the tendency to think that what one thinks is right must be right. The second is the tendency to project that view onto groups one identifies with. In the case of abortion, the tendency is for some feminists to assume that it is right and then project their view onto all women. Hence, the shock that some women (like Palin) are opposed to abortion.
It can be replied that all women should be feminists and that a key part of feminism is a commitment to reproductive rights (including an alleged right to abortion). Hence, as a woman, Palin should support abortion rights.
Of course, another key part of feminism is that women should be free to choices other than those relating to reproduction. If this freedom includes the freedom of moral choice, then Palin and other women should have the freedom to oppose abortion. To insist that such women must be for abortion rights would certainly seem to be an attempt to deny them the right to make a moral choice. This certainly seems inconsistent with the notion that choice is a right.
In reply, it could be contended that by being against abortion, these women are opposed to the right of other women to make a choice about abortion. This raises the question as to which right should be regarded as more important: the right of moral choice or the alleged right to abortion. Naturally enough, this could be seen as a false dilemma. After all, it can be argued than women who oppose abortion should have the right to have that view but not the right to impose that view onto other women and thus deny them the right to make a choice about abortion.
As I see it, a woman can rationally regard abortion as morally wrong. After all, there are good arguments for that view. While the fact that a woman is a woman might be seen as affecting her view on abortion, to assume that gender must or should determine a person’s moral view is sexist. Hence, the question “as a woman, how can she be against abortion?” strikes me as a sexist question. I understand why people ask it, but it does bother me just a bit when I hear it. After all, sexism makes me uncomfortable.