The Demand for Consistency in Ecofeminist Ethics: Abortion, Animal Advocacy, and Female Genital Cutting (FGC)
Feminists today are internally divided on the question whether they ought also to advance the interests of non-human animals. Some scholar-activists such as Carol J. Adams and Josephine Donovan understand vegetarianism to be a necessary outcome of feminism. Others are non-committal or even hostile to that view, for fear that arguments for animal advocacy will be transported to the abortion debate in a manner unfavorable to "choice". This paper holds that ecofeminists — who themselves disclaim any sharp ontological distinction between humans and animals — will be guilty of moral myopia if they do not either concern themselves with all creatures (be they fully developed or still in utero), or fail to establish important discontinuities between animal and fetal "rights". Moreover, feminists who lobby to keep abortion safe and legal on prudential grounds alone (i.e., "it's either the hospital room or the back alley") will remain vulnerable to charges of inconsistency if they do not argue on similar grounds with respect to the de-criminalization and medicalization of Female Genital Cutting (FGC). In short, this paper critically engages various arguments for animal advocacy (e.g., reverence for life, ahimsa, sentience and other utilitarian considerations, moral status and other deontological considerations, sympathy, "care" theory) insofar as they may inform the debates surrounding abortion and FGC. I ultimately contend that a consistent moral vegetarian/"pro-choice"/anti-FGC ethical stance is possible, but that it is most persuasively and coherently advanced from what is called a "contextualist" perspective.
Keywords: Ecofeminism, Animals, Vegetarianism, Abortion, Female Genital Cutting (FGC)
Dr. Grace Kao
Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, Department of Interdisciplinary Studies, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech)