On June 4, various Verso Books social media accounts uploaded remarks from Sophie Lewis, author of “Full Surrogacy Now: Feminism Against Family,” regarding several topics, including abortion.
Lewis minces few words, painting the decision to terminate a fetus in the womb as “a form of killing that” pro-choice activists “need to be able to defend.”
We’re facing a really terrifying attack on abortion – in the U.S., where I live in Northern Ireland, and elsewhere. In the past, the strategies that our side has tended to use have included a kind of ceding of ground to our enemies. We tend to say that “Abortion is indeed very bad, but,” or we say, “Luckily it’s not killing; luckily it’s just a healthcare, right?” We have very little to lose at the moment when it comes to abortion, and I’m interested in winning radically. I wonder if we could think about defending abortion as a right to stop doing gestational work.
Abortion is, in my opinion, and I recognize how controversial this is, a form of killing. It is a form of killing that we need to be able to defend. I am not interested in where a human life starts to exist. I see the forms of making and unmaking each other as continuous processes. The other end of the spectrum is the process of learning how to die well and hold each other and let each other go at the end of our lives, as well as at the beginning.
But looking at the biology of the hemochorial placentation helps me think about the violence that innocently a fetus metes out vis-a-vis a gestator. That violence is an unacceptable violence for someone that doesn’t want to do gestational work. The violence that that gestator metes out to essentially go on strike or exit that workplace is an acceptable violence.
In response to Lewis’ comments, Abra Singleton, Southwest Regional Director for the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform (CBR), an anti-abortion organization, told The Daily Wire:
In a way, Sophie Lewis’ comments are refreshing. She is being honest about the fact that abortion is killing, although she makes it sound less horrid by vaguely calling it a “form of killing.” She understands that it is illogical for abortion proponents to deny that fact any longer – that abortion does indeed end a life. She even admits that the fetus is innocent. What she does not admit, however, is that her argument, when followed to its logical conclusion, also excuses the killing of born children who require the parents to give of themselves in order to care for them.
Anyone our society views as an inconvenience or a burden can be declared to be less worthy of life in order to justify killing them. Lewis also uses terms like “gestational work” to distract from the truth – that there is nothing unnatural about pregnancy, and there is nothing moral about dismembering tiny human beings.
Lewis is willing to admit that abortion is the “killing” of a fetus, which is more intellectually honest than most pro-abortion activists, as Singleton noted, but she doesn’t extend her argument to its logical conclusion.
If it’s true that abortion is the killing of a living thing, and that a woman has the authority to terminate this living thing due to the fact that it is encased in and relies on her body for the purposes of development and survival, then it must also be true that a mother has the authority to terminate her children at other developmental stages during which they require her care.
This argument even stretches into other areas, as there are individuals (young children, the mentally and physically disabled, those who have fallen into comas or vegetative states) who rely on others to survive. Should individuals who fall into these categories also be terminated by their caregivers because they require life-sustaining treatment in order to develop and survive?
Lewis has sent out a series of tweets seemingly in relation to her video, and as a means of further explaining her position on abortion:
Can everyone please just chill? And by everyone, I mean the fetus fetishists obv[iously].
The trolldeluge is forcing me to think harder about how/why it is that people so committed to the diminution of life (through military activity, ecocidal economics, anti-maternal and anti-child austerity measures etc) vindicate “Life Itself,” and make the fetus its ultimate avatar
Perhaps it’s fair to say the life-enforcement brigade espouse a kind of “quantity against quality” approach? I guess this is what Haraway is getting at with her term The Born (and “forced birth”). No embryo “wasted,” but every lived life laid waste.
It’s as [though] actually *living* ruins the substance “Life Itself” they’re so het (sic) up about. Lived lives lose the status of life itself. So, the fetus fetishists, like me, in the end, stand for life in particular: they want more life and less living of it. I just want more living.
When Twitter user @YayAnonymity wrote, “Admitting that it’s violence implicitly concedes that the fetus is a living being on its own,” Lewis replied:
No, it doesn’t. There are plenty of “living beings” in a human body, none of them “on their own.” To be human is to be (in) a multi-species relationship, teeming. The fetus is a human entity AND part of another human entity’s body. The latter is a person, the former isn’t.
While I’m at it, I didn’t say “necessary violence,” [and] I don’t “justify” killing fetuses with reference to their (innocent) violence to the gestator’s anatomy. Abortion isn’t righteous revenge on the a**hole fetus. No. I’m saying it’s health care AND a choice to kill AND I defend it.
Abortion is the withdrawal of gestational labor AND it is killing AND it is good AND the fetus is human ([though] not a person). I’m uninterested in judicial logics of justification. I’m interested in anti-violent collective practices of being responsible to [and] for the violences we do.
The Daily Wire reached out to Lewis for further comment, but as of publication, we have not received a reply.
[Abra Singleton of CBR is my sister]