Pro-Life Feminism is Not a Tactic, No Mere Strategy
August 26, 2010
Today, 90 years after the U.S. Secretary of State certified the adoption of the 19th Amendment on August 26, 1920, and 190 years after the birth of Susan B. Anthony on February 15, 1820, we celebrate Women's Equality Day.
Every time we exercise our right to vote, we honor the women and men who went before us, many of whom, like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, did not live long enough to see their most cherished goal--women's suffrage--become a reality.
With so many of the original grievances outlined by an ambitious Stanton at Seneca Falls now addressed in the U.S., how do we choose to honor these remarkable women? As Feminists for Life, we work to fulfill their unrealized dream to systematically address the root causes that drive women to abortion.
Ever since Feminists for Life was founded in 1972, we have rejected the belief held by some people on both sides of the abortion debate that pro-life feminism is "just a strategy" or rhetorical device. Some pro-lifers think we are being clever. Many pro-choice activists think it is disingenuous.
Let me be very clear about this. Feminists for Life is no mere tactic. Pro-life feminism is not simply a strategy.
I have said on a number of occasions that we would be pro-life feminists even if our foremothers were silent on the issue.
In fact, when FFL was founded in 1972 by Cathy Callaghan and Pat Goltz, our rich pro-life feminist history was not yet common knowledge. But FFL's founders knew that abortion advocates were hijacking the women's movement. Abortion is at odds with basic feminist tenets of nondiscrimination, nonviolence, and justice for all. True equality doesn't come at the expense of anyone else. As former Board President Rosemary Oelrich Bottcher once quipped, that would be "Animal Farm feminism."
Thankfully there have been pro-life feminist historians such as Mary Krane Derr, Lisa Bellecci st. romain, Suzanne Schnittman, and Cat Clark who have worked to uncover the truth about our feminist foremothers. And we are proud to have sparked a new discussion about authentic feminism--educating both the feminist and pro-life movements about our legacy that began more than two centuries earlier with Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.
You can see the impact of our efforts in way other groups who take up our banner!
Certainly we should be proud of our successful, decades-old effort to educate the pro-life movement about our rich feminist legacy, but we have gone further with a proven track record of accomplishments of advocacy for practical solutions for women:
You and I know that it is not enough to say "no" to abortion, or even to explain what should be obvious that "abortion hurts women." Of course, Feminists for Life has done both these things: You may remember our early efforts to "Remember the Woman" and listen to "Voices of Women who Mourn." But as we were successful in that arena, and women who had abortions were increasingly "Silent No More," FFL's focus became more progressively directed toward solutions.
Pro-life feminists say "yes" to life, especially the most vulnerable, in meaningful ways. The essential discussion includes solutions that challenge the status quo to help pregnant women, parents and families, birthmothers, poor women, victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, working women and women in college who have the highest rate of abortion.
Rather than using pro-life feminism as a weapon, FFL rolls out the red carpet and welcomes all those who Refuse to Choose® between women and children and instead wish to focus on holistic, woman-centered solutions.
Our invitation to join extends to young women and men who have never known a day without legalized abortion, those who felt forced to choose between their education and career plans and their families, those who have personally experienced abortion, and those who felt that pro-lifers are incapable of answering a simple, direct question, "What about the woman?"
When listening to women and men faced by the challenges of pregnancy and parenting today, people can still hear Mattie Brinkerhoff and other great early feminists. "When a man steals to satisfy hunger, we may safely conclude that there is something wrong in society--so when a woman destroys the life of her unborn child, it is an evidence that either by education or circumstances, she has been greatly wronged." Abortion is a reflection that we have failed to meet the needs of women. Both our words and work proclaim Women Deserve Better.®
As Feminists for Life, we work each and every day to right this terrible wrong against women and children. We do this through a combination of efforts at the federal level, in the workplace, and at schools, supporting services and the direct empowerment of women and families--for example, through our recently published guide to free and frugal resources "Raising Kids on a Shoestring."
Thank you for walking in the shoes of our great feminist foremothers and keeping their revolution alive. The celebration doesn't end today on Women's Equality Day. Rewarding, joyful work remains ahead of us.
Because women deserve better,
P.S. If you didn't get your latest issue of The American Feminist, entitled "March Forth!"-- which also includes our new brochure, "Voices of Our Feminist Foremothers"-- please renew or join today.
Alice Paul, the author of the original Equal Rights Amendment also called abortion "the greatest exploitation of women." She was victorious in her effort to pass the 19th amendment because she was able to help suffragists understand the need for financial support.
Never take our work for granted. Please consider your "fair share" with an extra gift so that we can pass this gift onto the next generation. Let's solve this mess left to us by Sarah Weddington and the founders of NARAL. Look at how far we've already come--thanks to supporters like you who know pro-life feminism is no mere strategy.