How would feminists feel about a Baby Friendly Abortion Initiative?

Abortion is a Personal Decision

Imagine if hospitals invited a Baby Friendly Abortion Initiative organization (BFAI) to implement abortion policy.

This might be the BFAI Mission Statement:

Abortion stops a beating heart and therefore is not optimal for any baby; every mother should be informed about the risks of abortion and the benefits to the baby of continuing her pregnancy to term.

The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative uses coercive tactics to deprive women of choice and violates their bodily autonomy.

These might be their Ten Steps to successful pregnancy continuation:

  • Have a written anti-abortion policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff.
  • Train all health care staff in the skills necessary to implement this policy.
  • Inform all pregnant women about the benefits of pregnancy continuation
  • Help each mother to initiate the baby friendly abortion policy within one hour of learning she is pregnant.
  • Show mothers how to continue their pregnancy even if they don’t want a baby.
  • Give no information about pregnancy termination, unless medically indicated.
  • Practice rooming in – force women who are continuing unwanted pregnancies to live together away from society to hide their shame.
  • Encourage pregnancy continuation.
  • Give no information about pregnancy termination or testing for anomalies.
  • Foster the establishment of anti-abortion support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or birth center.

How would feminists feel about a Baby Friendly Abortion Initiative?

I suspect they would be outraged.

They would immediately recognize that such an initiative uses coercive tactics meant to deprive women of choice and violates women’s bodily autonomy.

So why don’t they recognize that the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative, designed to promote breastfeeding, also uses coercive tactics meant to deprive women of choice? Why don’t they decry the fact that the BFHI violates women’s bodily autonomy?

They don’t recognize the similarities between a policy designed to prevent abortion to the BFHI policy designed to prevent formula use because they’ve fallen prey to the same sexist myths about motherhood that have captured the larger society.

1. They romanticize motherhood.

It’s a curious failing when you consider that feminists don’t romanticize pregnancy. Pregnancy is the “natural” result of sexual intercourse and pregnancy is “what women’s bodies were meant to do,” but feminists have no trouble understanding that a woman might not want to be pregnant and might not want to take on physical labor and responsibility that inevitably ensues from pregnancy.

It’s even more surprising considering that feminists have become deeply involved in preventing the coercion of pregnant women into giving birth in whatever way is “best” for babies. They are front and center (as they should be) in legal cases involving forced Cesareans and resisting (as they should) efforts to criminalize addiction to drugs during pregnancy. They understand that babies have no recourse in those situations, yet they promote maternal choice despite the potential harm or even death of the unborn child.

It should be obvious to feminists that a woman’s right to control her own body even at the expense of the unborn baby who has no recourse seamlessly extends to her right to control her own breasts after birth, especially considering that babies have recourse to formula — an excellent alternative method of nutrition. Instead they blithely accept the romantic notion that mothers can and should endure anything — violation of bodily autonomy, pain, and mental anguish — so their babies can receive breastmilk.

2. They romanticize nature.

Feminists have no problem promoting the right of women to breastfeed in public. Babies need to eat and breastfeeding is the “natural” way feed them. Hence women have unrestricted rights to expose their breasts in public regardless of whom they offend. Feminists react with shock and horror when women are shamed for public breastfeeding but utterly ignore the ongoing shaming of women who don’t want to breastfeed.

Even worse, they (like the general public) ignore the injuries and deaths of babies caused by aggressive breastfeeding promotion. Breastfeeding nearly doubles the risk of newborn hospital readmission; it is the leading cause of kernicterus (jaundice-induced brain injury) and it is responsible for literally hundreds of cases of newborn babies being smothered in their mothers’ hospital beds or fracturing their skulls from falling out of those beds. It’s as if feminists don’t understand, or refuse to acknowledge that just because something is natural doesn’t make it best or even safe.

3. They have no interest or energy for anything beyond abortion rights.

Many feminists appear to believe that abortion rights are the sum total of reproductive rights. They argue against coerced C-sections because it is but a short step to coerced pregnancy continuation. They argue against criminalizing addiction in pregnancy because it is but a short step to criminalizing abortion. But they are unable to connect a woman’s right to control her own breasts with the fight to maintain abortion rights, so they simply ignore it.

It doesn’t really matter, though, why feminists have ignored the misogyny of breastfeeding promotion efforts. It’s time they recognize their mistake. Feminists should view the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative to promote breastfeeding the same way they would view a Baby Friendly Abortion Initiatve: as a coercive attempt to deprive women of choice and a violation of their bodily autonomy. Anything else is hypocritical.