Intersectionality and the ‘Second Victim’ Narrative

There is a prevalent belief among pro-lifers that mothers are the “second victims” of abortion—and it is time to consider the origin of this narrative as a product of social justice ideology.

Intersectionality is defined as the complex, cumulative way in which the effects of multiple forms of discrimination—such as racism, sexism, and classism—combine, overlap, or intersect, especially in the experiences of marginalized individuals or groups. Take, for example, this diagram from the Association for Women in Science showing the supposed automatic oppression of women and other groups.

In other words—just by being female, every woman can be thrown into the category of “victim” due to their membership in a purportedly oppressed societal group. Due to the rapid rise of this ideology and worldview, intersectionality has crept into the abortion issue and created a monstrous problem—even among professing conservatives and Christians.

Intersectionality has enabled the belief that women are victims of abortion regardless of their individual actions, meaning that they should not be punished for murdering a human being made in the image of God. Beginning in discussions about the tragic cases of rape and incest, the label of victim quickly became attached to every other reason for why women seek abortions. With the massive influence of the social justice narrative, this shift was natural.

The main reasons for why women have abortions have little to do with becoming pregnant against their will, but for reasons of convenience. Having a baby could dramatically change the lifestyle of the mother by interfering with education or career. In other cases, a mother may not be able to afford a baby because she is not married, is a student or planning to study, or is unemployed. Perhaps she does not want to be a single mother or does not want to have relationship problems when there is uncertainty about the father of the child.  

In all of these cases, the woman is erroneously categorized as a victim. A baby would interfere with her career, so she kills her baby. That’s a victim? There is uncertainty about the man and woman’s relationship, so she kills her baby. That’s a victim? She simply does not want to be a mother right now, so she kills her baby. That’s a victim?

She is not a victim in any of these circumstances. Even in the area of rape and incest, she is not a victim with particular respect to the choice to not have the baby—which is separate from being a victim of the rape or incest. What further shows this falsehood of victimization is the fact that for many women, abortion is even more of a deliberate choice in the face of more restrictions following the overturn of Roe v. Wade.

The rational mind should be able to see the fallacy of the second victim narrative. It is obvious. Instead of receiving an automatic declaration of innocence due to their biological sex, women—just like men—have the capacity to make moral and immoral choices, to sin against God, to be held responsible for those sins, and to receive forgiveness. The Christian must see this fallacy as heresy that rips the gospel away from sinners who need to hear the good news of eternal life through the work of Jesus Christ—and who need it to live upon as they follow Him in this fallen world. This heresy is the monstrous problem that many professing Christians have bought into without discernment. We take the second victim narrative as a given because ideologies like intersectionality have crept in unnoticed and deceived us. 

This fallacy has quickly become a prominent focus and defining tenet of the pro-life movement. In the context of a woman ordering abortion pills through the mail, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem recently said, “I don’t believe women should ever be prosecuted. I don’t believe there should be any punishment for women, ever, that are in a crisis situation or have an unplanned pregnancy.” Texas Right to Life’s Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn ordinance says that women will not be punished when an abortion occurs. The recent pro-life confession is heavy on this point, with most leading pro-life entities declaring that they “do not support any measure seeking to criminalize or punish women” who seek abortions.

There is no other reason for why the second victim narrative has influenced the issue of abortion beyond the influence of intersectionality. It has crept in unnoticed and, with respect to this particular issue, is appealing because it sounds compassionate.

Yet this belief is neither justice according to God nor loving and compassionate toward women.

The law of God is good and righteous. The law of God is just in equal weights and measures. The law of God is clear on murder. The law of God is a restraint for sin. The law of God is to be a mirror that shows us our sin before God. The law of God opens up the way to the glorious truth of the gospel, where we have a righteous advocate—Jesus Christ—who stands in the place of sinners as their substitute, so that justice would be poured out on Him in order for mercy to be poured out on them. In Him alone we are forgiven, justified, reconciled, and free, delivered from the wrath and judgment of God and given new life. From then on the law of God is the path by which we walk, with a new and growing desire to live in obedience to our God as we follow Christ and deny self in all of life.

When the victimhood heresy takes root, it strangles the purpose of God in the law and the gospel. This byproduct of intersectionality conflicts with the core of the Christian life. Would we want that for anyone, let alone the ones who have such a glorious purpose from God to be mothers? Practical punishment of sin is for our own good and the good of our neighbors—which is why civil law should reflect the law of God.  

The sad reality is that this oppressor-and-oppressed dichotomy of intersectionality places the blame on everyone else but the supposed victim—but worst of all, the ultimate oppressor in the issue of abortion is actually the child of the woman. The child, according to intersectionality, is the reason for why she is ultimately having the abortion. The child is seen as a burden on the woman’s life for one reason or another. Therefore this child is oppressing her, which is truly what makes the woman a “victim.” This utter foolishness, however, is firmly rooted in the unrighteous assumptions behind intersectionality.

Contrast intersectionality with the words of the apostle Paul: “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them” (Romans 1:28-32).

This is why the idea of victimhood must be recognized as spiritual warfare and dismantled in a way that honors God. “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).

Believers must “answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself,” and instead “answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes” (Proverbs 26:4-5).

Written by Matt Kenitzer.

 Matt Kenitzer is a husband to his wife, Shea, since 2008 and a father to three girls. He has been senior pastor at St. John’s Reformed Church in Friedensburg, Pennsylvania, since 2018.