There’s a phrase that you’ve probably heard before when it comes to pro-life arguments. Thankfully, it seems to be on the decline, but every now and then, you may still see it on an online thread or worse, hear it spoken in person. The phrase I speak of is the following (or a close variation of it):
“If women don’t want to be pregnant, they should keep their legs closed!”
As the abortion debate continues to heat up around the nation, I’ve been witnessing a resurgence of this phrase (and I truly cringe every time I hear it or see it). Here are four reasons to avoid it completely:
This line is undoubtedly vulgar. We can speak about being responsible without using words that graphically describe a woman’s body in relation to sex. It’s the other side of this argument that has a stronghold on crudity. From pink hats to signs that say things like “If I wanted a politician in my uterus, I’d f*%& a senator,” let’s allow them to maintain a monopoly on vulgarity. As pro-lifers, we can do better and use clean and respectful language (even when talking about difficult topics).
It’s Not Helpful In A Crisis Pregnancy Situation
If you encounter a woman with an unplanned pregnancy who is still on the fence about whether or not to have an abortion, this phrase is moot. The pregnancy has already happened! Reproduction (and the resulting new human being) have already occurred! Of course, part of our efforts as pro-lifers needs to be helping young women and young men make responsible choices in their personal lives, but in the moment, it is not helpful at all. At that point, it’s our responsibility to love her and her child, step it up, and provide resources to help meet her needs in a life-affirming way.
As much as I despise this phrase, I understand the intended meaning behind it: pregnancy can be a natural outcome of sex, so if pregnancy isn’t desired, sex can be avoided. Teaching the principle of chastity is certainly a way to reduce abortion and is a worthy goal to pursue (pregnancy resource centers frequently teach sexual integrity programs). But when a woman is already pregnant, the first priority is to help her in her current situation, not lecture her about her decisions.
It Puts All The Responsibility On the Woman
Pro-choicers argue that abortion is a woman’s issue, but we know better. Only women get abortions, but this is a human rights issue that affects men and women: Both boy babies and girl babies are aborted, it took both genders to create a new life, and the repercussions of abortion affect family members for generations.
Sadly, we know that a great deal of women choose abortion because they didn’t have the necessary support of a man. Benjamin Watson is a father of 7 children, former NFL star, and outspoken champion for life. At the 2017 National March for Life, he spoke specifically to men and their responsibility in this cause:
“Now men, all you men out there. Men: it is past time that we be the leaders, caretakers, and providers that we were meant to be. We as men must stand up for the lives of the innocent and their mothers in crisis. As important as women have been in championing this cause, you men, must rise up and lead the charge. Even if it wasn’t demonstrated for you by a father, you can be different. You can change the course of generations. Men: we can be silent no more.”
Ending abortion will take everyone: it will take women and men making responsible choices, women and men committing to the safety and well-being of their unborn children (even in difficult circumstances), women and men leaving their work in the abortion industry, etc. Don’t give the other side fodder for their argument by using a sexist phrase that implies abortion only relates to women.
It Reinforces Negative Stereotypes About Pro-Lifers
Keep in mind that many pro-choicers literally believe they are living in “The Handmaid’s Tale” where women are being forced to reproduce. We know this is ridiculous (as Matt Walsh recently pointed out, “No one is suggesting a woman should be forced to reproduce. What we’re arguing is that no one has the right to kill a human who has already been produced”), but as we’re trying to win over hearts and minds on the issue, we should seek to craft our message in a way that doesn’t fit the caricature the other side has painted of us.
By and large, pro-lifers don’t believe that sex is only meant for procreative purposes. We don’t advocate for celibacy in marriage except when trying to conceive. We recognize that even married couples experience unplanned pregnancies (and sadly, even married women get abortions). Insinuating that a woman should have just “kept her legs closed” makes us sound like the judgmental prudes the abortion lobby would have their followers believe that we are.
Friends, please don’t make these kinds of comments (online or in real life). We must do better with our language.
Katherine Bright is the Advocacy Journalist for Pro-Life Utah