The problems of false comparions: Animal discourse and the anti-choice movement.

Nicole Power


Advocacy for the protection of animal welfare and women’s right to reproductive choice have little, if anything, in common. It is productive, then, to question the recurring association of these unrelated ethical issues. If one feels compassion for the plight of the nonhuman animal, the argument goes, then it is morally inconsistent to neglect the fetus. An understanding of the incongruous political contexts at play between abortion and animal welfare effectively repudiates this argument, but a more important question must be answered: why is this strange argument so pervasive? In brief, it is the uniform legal marginalization of women and animals that animates this false comparison, which is instructively analyzed through the theoretical lens of ecofeminism. The leading Canadian judgments of R v Morgentaler and R v Ménard exemplify the socio-legal contours of ‘otherness’ outside the locus of patriarchal dominance. This renders a broadly transferable framework of oppression at the hands of the law; examining jurisprudential examples of displacement of agency, fragmentation of the self, and instrumental objectification, in both contexts, provides a useful starting point in a consideration of the broad intersections between the legal treatment of women and animals.

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