What’s in a feminist? Implications of the Roe v. Wade 40th Anniversary Celebration

On Tuesday, Jan. 22, the CMC “E-memo Digest” announced a Roe v. Wade 40th Anniversary Celebration to be held the following day. The flyer appended to the memo invited students to join Professors Amanda Hollis-Brusky and N. Ann Davis of Pomona College for a conversation followed by a question and answer session, and specified “Cake and refreshments provided!”

The Pomona College Gender & Women’s Studies, Intercollegiate Women’s Studies of the Claremont Colleges, Pomona College Women’s Union, and Pomona College Student Affairs Office jointly sponsored the event.

After four long months, I have finally garnered the boldness to express my unease with the Roe v. Wade 40th Anniversary Celebration. The mere occurrence of this event provokes in me great concern regarding the discourse surrounding reproductive rights at the Claremont Colleges. I write out of serious concern that the feminist dialogue at the Claremont Colleges has deemed it appropriate to celebrate abortion rights in a party atmosphere with cake and refreshments.

I do not intend to provoke debate about the ethical questions surrounding abortion and whether the government should control it. However, I do intend to question whether a party that celebrates abortion rights with cake is consistent with the sensitivity and respect for human dignity that the 5C community proclaims to uphold.

Whether we believe that abortion should be legal or illegal, federally funded or unfunded—that doesn’t really matter here. What matters is the nature of the circumstances that lead women to seek abortion in the first place.

It is tragic that any woman should ever find herself in a position in which she feels that she must or should terminate a pregnancy—whether because of a heinous crime that caused the pregnancy, a danger the fetus poses to the mother’s life, concerns about the baby’s health and well-being as potentially severely disabled, or circumstances such as poverty and destitution that render child-rearing an unfeasible task.  Sometimes the circumstances are less dramatic—a woman who could feasibly raise a child simply doesn’t want to, and thus terminates the pregnancy. This still does not seem to me a reason to celebrate.

To celebrate the right to procure an abortion with cake and refreshments trivializes the sadness and despair so frequently associated with the procedure. Abortion is not a decision made lightly, and often involves extensive suffering in a woman’s life. Whether we believe that the woman should be free to terminate the pregnancy isn’t relevant. What is relevant is that the circumstances that so often accompany the procedure render abortion hardly a cause of celebration.

But it’s not so much the event itself that concerns me. If a 5C pro-choice activist student group had hosted a Roe anniversary celebration on its own, I would find myself much less distraught. What is particularly offensive about this event is that Pomona College and the Intercollegiate Women’s Studies departments themselves sponsored it.

Such a department-sponsored “celebration” of abortion rights stifles the educational goals of creating dialogue and discourse regarding reproductive rights. The consortium’s educating authority on women’s studies hosting this event suggests that proper feminism necessitates the glorification of abortion rights to a degree at which it’s appropriate to celebrate with cake.  It’s to suggest that one cannot be a feminist or a scholar of women’s studies without enthusiastically supporting abortion. It’s to suggest that there’s a “right” way to do feminism—and that the way is to adopt a hard-left stance on reproductive rights.

The wealth of philosophical, psychological, medical, ethical, and theological scholarship that is less-than-enthusiastic about abortion rights and the Roe decision demonstrate that, in fact, there is currently no established “right” way to do feminism. To sponsor a Roe v. Wade 40th Anniversary Celebration party disregards such scholarship. This is not education, but rather ideological indoctrination. It should thus come as no surprise that the general consensus pervading the Claremont Colleges is that feminism necessitates enthusiastic support of abortion rights.

The Claremont Colleges proclaim to be bastions of women’s empowerment, but the Roe v. Wade anniversary celebration, complete with cake and refreshments, leaves me feeling anything but empowered.

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