After an MP received a death threat for pushing for NHS provision of Abortion for NI Women in England, Taryn De Vere shares some personal experiences of her life and work to illustrate how the self-styled ‘Pro-Life Movement’ is anything but, and is actually closer to anti-women extremism.
Domestic abuse is about two things – Power and Control. The mindset of an abusive person is informed by a sense of superiority coupled with entitlement. I work with survivors of domestic abuse and a survivor of abuse myself. I am also an abortion rights campaigner. Through the course of my work I’ve noticed a connection between the mindsets that inform abusive people as well as those who define as pro-life.
Pro-life advocates have a sense of superiority – they believe that they know what is best for other people’s lives, bodies and families. Their core sense of entitlement leads them to believe that it is ok to push and enforce those views onto others.
Both the domestic abuser and the pro-lifer have a desire to have power over someone else. The domestic abuser wants to control his partner and the pro-lifer wants to control women, women’s sexuality and what they do with and to their bodies. They exert this power through some shared tactics also, using male privilege, coercion, threats, intimidation, minimising, denying, blaming, economic and emotional abuse and sometimes even physical violence.
It is largely men in Ireland who have been creating the laws that have left women with so few options when it comes to exercising their reproductive rights. These men enjoy their largely unacknowledged male privilege. They feel over confident about making decisions about the bodies of the women they are supposed to represent. Some of them are also active pro-life campaigners.
Their apathy has led to 11 women a day leaving the country to access abortion services elsewhere, with at least one woman a day choosing to illegally take abortion pills and risk a 14 year prison sentence for doing so. The men who make these decisions will never personally be affected, will never sit bleeding in a dirty bedsit after a 4 hour trek across London (as relayed to me by one woman recently). They will never feel the signs of an unwanted and dreaded pregnancy happening to their bodies as they work at a minimum wage job, in an effort to finally save for a trip to England, all the while knowing they could’ve had an abortion weeks ago in Ireland had the politicians cared enough about women like them.
Likewise the largely older, male demographic that makes up the bulk of pro-life movement will never experience directly any of the consequences of an unwanted pregnancy. Yet these same men feel they are entitled to exert power and control over the bodies of thousands of women and girls. Much the same as a domestic abuser feels entitled to exert power and control over the body and life of his partner. In neither case does the offender have any empathy for their “victim(s)”.
Pro-lifers have threatened the physical safety of abortion campaigners (and in some countries fanatical pro-lifers have physically hurt and/or murdered people), they have sent mail threatening to “cut the throat” of Pro-Choice TDs and they actively campaign to suppress the human rights of other people. Their position on reproductive rights is extreme and is in opposition to international human rights standards.
Patriarchy lies at the centre of both the pro-life movement and domestic abuse. Men feeling entitled to control women, their bodies and sexuality is an expression of a gendered imbalance of power. Can you think of anywhere on earth where women are actively campaigning to suppress the rights of men, trying to control them and their bodies?
The domestic abuser terrorises the individual and the pro-lifer terrorises the collective. One is a scaled up version of the other.
Both beliefs are rooted in a patriarchal and unhealthy sense of entitlement and superiority. It is time that we started seeing pro-lifers, as society should view domestic abusers – for the dangerous extremists that they are.