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“Pro-life Feminists” Are Walking Contradictions

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.

"Women deserve better" sounds a lot more compassionate than "we think we know what every woman wants," but that's what they mean.
“Women deserve better” sounds a lot more compassionate than “we think we know what every woman wants,” but that’s what FFL is really saying.

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.

Votes_for_WHITE_women

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.

They must be joking. How is "Yeah BABIES" politically relevant? Do better, FFL.
They must be joking. How is “yeah BABIES” politically relevant? Even the person holding this sign looks ashamed of it. Like “fuck, maybe I should’ve come up with a slogan that offered at least a semblance of meaning.” Do better, FFL.

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.

 

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  1. I think the problem is that they truly believe it isn’t a misogynistic view. I’m glad you made this post, because maybe a pro-life feminist will see it and realize that it is a view rooted in misogyny and the patriarchy

  2. I hesitate to write this, as I’m sure it will not be received warmly. But I’m going for it anyway.

    Let me begin by saying we are on common ideological grounds. I am a feminist and pro-choice. I don’t think women should be incubators for children. I am an atheist. I place zero value on the “life” of a fetus, and favor free and legal abortions for all.

    That said, I cannot see any contradiction between being a feminist and being “pro-life.” Granted, feminism and “pro-life” positions rarely co-exist in practice, because the latter typically has religious roots, and religion is, almost without exception, inimical to feminism. But one could rationally hold a belief, grounded in a purely secular ideology, that life begins sometime prior to birth, and therefore view at least some abortions as tantamount to murder, while still being a feminist. Again, I don’t have that belief, but I fail to see how feminism commands or requires privileging the well-being of a woman over the life of an unborn child. To get there, you have to assume a fetus is not a “life” in some important sense. And while I think that assumption is very much warranted, it implicates scientific and philosophical questions that are extraneous to feminism.

    Saying it is alright to have moral objections to abortion but not to impose them on others also makes little sense to me, for the same reason it would not make sense to say “it’s alright to oppose murder, but not to prevent other people from murdering.” If you truly believe abortion is tantamount to murder, it would be *insane* to not attempt to bar others from having abortions; no rational person can hold the opinions “abortion is murder” and “abortion should be legal.” When we say it’s acceptable to be personally opposed to abortion as long as one is pro-choice, what we really mean is that a person should have some epistemological modesty about the uncertainty of their belief that a fetus is truly a “life.” And, again, I wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment — but, again, I fail to see how it is mandated by feminism.

    1. Thanks for your comment!

      The belief that life begins prior to birth is illogical considering many more eggs are fertilized than become humans, due to factors like failure to attach to a woman’s uterine wall. Because secularism is rooted in logic rather than religion, it makes no sense that a secular person would advocate for this belief.

      It doesn’t matter to me that some people equate abortion with murder. That’s a false comparison. I’m not going to stoop to the level of pro-lifers and argue in their imaginary world.

      Feminism argues against sexism which is the root of these illogical anti-woman religious beliefs, which is why pro-life and feminist ideology is mutually exclusive.

    2. I don’t believe religion and feminism can not coexist. My mom is pro-choice despite her religion telling her not to have an abortion because she recognizes that people have different morals and religious beliefs and that no one should be forced into having a child. Im pro-choice despite my religion because I know I would have one if I am ever put in a situation where I become pregnant without making the choice to become pregnant and because I know objections to abortion overwhelmingly stem from misogyny and refusal to understand science. Nonreligious people often jump to saying that religion and x y or z cannot coexist, but I’ve never seen that be true. People who are letting their religion get in the way of being aware of the world and acting against oppression are using an excuse to stay ignorant and be bigots. The major world religions have books which speak out against bigotry and oppression and teach peope to love, but religious teachers often ignore this to advance their own political agendas.

  3. I like the structure of your article. Very informative, concrete but still entertaining and intriguing. Consider working in exposé journalism, I think you’d be great at it.

  4. I just want to so say, I am a sophomore in high school. You have taught me more than my own fucking school. I am now more educated and I also came out as bisexual this year because you made me feel confident and comfortable enough to do so. So, thank you!

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