The fight for bodily autonomy is as intrinsic to feminism as the regulation of the womb is intrinsic to the maintenance of patriarchy. That’s why so-called “pro-life feminists” are walking contradictions. Organizations like Feminists For Life are wolves in sheep’s clothing, hiding their anti-woman conservative morals under the guise of feminism.
The FFL website implores you to “walk in the shoes of your feminist foremothers,” referencing the suffragettes who opposed abortion. Now, the first-wave feminists were game changers in terms of women’s rights, but it would be remiss to put their 19th century form of feminism on a pedestal. Progress wouldn’t be served if we stayed within their bounds. For example, if we were to blindly follow our “feminist foremothers,” feminism today would be a hell of a lot more racially divided.
The uncomfortable truth is that 19th century feminist analysis rarely acknowledged the intersection of racism and sexism. Carrie Chapman Catt, Founder of the League of Women Voters, once reassured America that “White supremacy will be strengthened, not weakened, by women’s suffrage.” Frances Willard, MVP of FFL and founder of the National Council of Women, remarked that “The colored race multiplies like the locusts of Egypt.” And in 1868, Susan B Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton accepted money from a pro-slavery democrat to start a women’s rights newspaper, The Revolution. I could go on, but at this point you’ve probably cringed enough.
Thankfully, due to feminism’s progressive nature, the movement changes with the times. Feminists today realize that to keep women’s rights moving in a forward direction, we must analyze our history, see what was left unfinished, and learn from our shortcomings in order to rectify our mistakes. That’s why modern feminism fights for the right to choose abortion as well as equality for people of color.
By taking history in context, modern feminism moves forward in a way that Feminists For Life doesn’t. On top of glorifying 19th century feminism, FFL’s activism starts and ends with limiting reproductive rights. They don’t do anything to stop rape culture, close the wage gap, take on cat-calling and body shaming, or put an end to any other form of patriarchal control. This is what leads me to believe they’re a trojan horse; FFL uses their pretense of feminism to trick women into thinking they’re a progressive organization, when in reality they just spew the same conservative misogynistic bullshit that anti-feminists have been spewing for ages. They are a regressive one-issue organization, and that does not a movement make.
The American Feminist, FFL’s magazine, argues that abortion is the result of the “wombless model of success society has foisted upon us.” However, this view perpetuates the sexist notion that women are nothing more than incubators. Popping out a baby every year regardless of our health and circumstance seems less like sticking it to the “wombless model of success” and more like conforming to a patriarchal idea of womanhood.
There are plenty of feminists who would never get an abortion themselves, but recognize the reality of the situation: safe and legal abortion is essential for those who need it. If FFL had their way, the notion that women aren’t intelligent enough to make their own decisions, even when it’s regarding their own reproductive systems, would be eternally upheld. These “pro-life feminists” stand for nothing in the struggle for women’s rights.