Viewpoint: Pro-Life and Feminism Aren’t Mutually Exclusive

The new generation of pro-life women reject the notion that to be pro-woman is to be pro-choice

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Susan Steinkamp / Corbis

From its early beginnings, feminism was a young women’s movement. Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Alice Paul, Charlotte Lozier and so many others began their suffragist work in their 20s. These women — the original feminists — understood that the rights of women cannot be built on the broken backs of unborn children. Anthony called abortion “child murder.” Paul, author of the original 1923 Equal Rights Amendment, said that “abortion is the ultimate exploitation of women.”

So the pro-life movement hasn’t changed the meaning of feminism, as has been suggested. It was the neo-feminists of the 1960s and ’70s who asked women to prize abortion as the pathway to equality.

(MORE: Has the Fight For Abortion Rights Been Lost?)

Marjorie Dannenfelser, along with a group of mostly Democratic women, started the Susan B. Anthony List in 1992, the so-called Year of the Woman, when numerous pro-choice women were elected to Congress. Dannenfelser, then in her mid-20s, saw a need to support more pro-life women running for elected office. Twenty years since the organization’s founding, we now have two pro-life women in the Senate, 17 in the House, four in governorships and hundreds more in state legislatures.

Pro-life feminism has captivated a new generation of young women who reject the illusion that to be pro-woman is to be pro-choice. Gallup polling showed that among 18-to-29-year-olds, there was a 5% increase in those labeling themselves “pro-life” between 2007–08 and 2009–10. The past few years have seen the emergence of young leaders like Kristan Hawkins of Students for Life of America, who is responsible for organizing more than 675 pro-life groups on college campuses across the nation, and Lila Rose of Live Action, whose undercover video work has forced the abortion industry to confront and amend practices it cannot defend, as well as dozens of other future leaders who have assisted our organization as staff members and interns. During the past two summers we’ve had young female leaders join the SBA List from Stanford, Georgetown, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the University of California, Berkeley. These passionate defenders of women and unborn children return to their campuses ready to lead pro-life groups and educate their classmates on the tragedy of abortion.

(MORE: Why Radical Pro-Lifers Are Wasting Their Time)

Not only does this young generation of pro-life women shun the notion that abortion somehow liberates women; it views abortion as the civil- and human-rights cause of our day. Abortion is an injustice that permeates our society. Forty years after Roe v. Wade, we realize that a third of our peers are not here to share our progress and our hopes. It is our loss as well as theirs.

In his letter from a Birmingham, Ala., jail, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” It is in this same spirit of King and the original feminists that young pro-life women are rising up in increasing numbers to say abortion is a radical injustice that affects us all and must end. Achieving this will require more efforts to extend our understanding of the equal rights of the disabled unborn, prevent rape and make this crime against women a thing of the past, expand adoption and make the benefits of modern prenatal care and specialties like fetal surgery more available, so that even younger and sicker children can be spared an early death.

Our fight transcends elections and legislative battles because our fight is in our hearts. This is why, 40 years after Roe, our movement is still growing. We won’t give up; we can’t give up. Our fight is for life.

MORERead TIME’s cover story, “What Choice?” by Kate Pickert

378 comments
pro-plan
pro-plan

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pro-plan: the new dialogue
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cagneysmom
cagneysmom

The assertion is false that "the neo-feminists of the 1960s and ’70s ... asked women to prize abortion as the pathway to equality." Maybe you are not old enough to remember, but abortion was in no way "prized." What the feminist movement of the 1960s and '70s did was to shine a light on the conditions of "back alley" abortions and demand that women have access to safe, legal means of terminating a pregnancy. How quickly we as a society forget what it was like when abortion was illegal.

catechumenlinus
catechumenlinus

"A Nation Rises - March for Life" by Blackstone Films 

This is our first task: caring for our children. If we don't get that right, we don't get anything right. That's how as a society, we will be judged; and by that measure, can we honestly say that we're doing enough to keep our children, all of them, safe from harm?

I've been reflecting on this the past few days, and if we're honest with ourselves, the answer is no.

These tragedies must end.  We will be told the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true. But that can't be an excuse for inaction.  If there is even one step we can take to save another child, surely we have an obligation to try.

Are we really prepared to say that we're powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard? Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom? 

Natalia
Natalia

I guess I'm unique in that I would never have an abortion if it was the result of consensual sex. Even if the pregnancy would kill me. Since I consented to sex, in my opinion, I should do everything possible to save that child because it exists because of me. 


However, if I got pregnant from being raped, I do everything in my power to procure an abortion for myself. I don't care if it was legal or not or if it was risky. I'd simply induce a miscarriage at home, like women in my fathers home country. I would never under any circumstances, endure the pain and humiliation of giving birth to my rapists child. I'm not obligated to take responsibility for my rapists actions, and that includes any of his creations. My organs are mine, my rights are mine and I won't have them subjugated because I was raped. I would not ruin my body, my life and my sanity because of I was raped. Think of me what you will, because in that case I really don't care.

Hadrewsky
Hadrewsky

The crowd the believes the earth is 6000 years old shouldnt be leading any movement... They should be held accountable for the inability to divorce their faith from the ability to reason. Anybody whom is driven by faith to the point of rejecting decent science should be rightly considered incompetent to think.


If you allow women to choose whether or not they want to have an abortion you have a freedom develop... Women may or may not choose abortion but they should have the right to choose rather than having some toxic faith-heads ram their beliefs down their throats.