Feminists for Life is so eager to prove itself as both pro-life and feminist (and that this is not a contradiction), it revises history to suit its agenda and skims over the facts rather than providing a balanced, comprehensive look at the history of feminism and the pro-abortion movement in the U.S.
The pro-life feminist version of history is tailored to its agenda of “rescuing” feminism from the pro-abortion movement and laying the blame for abortion at the feet of men alone. But the historical record, as well as plain old common sense, stand in their way.
The two above-discussed false claims pro-life feminists make about the history of feminism and abortion in the U.S. are typical of feminists—whether pro-life or pro-abortion: feminists fail to take responsibility for themselves and instead blame men for their problems. In both of these pro-life feminist claims note that men are bad and women are good. The idea that men convinced women to be pro-abortion supports the feminist idea that women are perpetual victims.
In their revision of history, pro-life feminists show their anti-male stripes by denying men their proper role of looking out for the good of the family and society. In their revision of history, they blame men for the evil of abortion—as if women throughout all of history are the perpetual victims of men, and that women are never vile, vicious, immoral killers themselves. Well, they can be.
Further, pro-life feminists obscure the real issue—abortion is not exploitation of women—it is murder and a sin against God.
The victim in abortion is the murdered child, not the woman who aborts—to focus on the woman as victim waters down the reality of what abortion is. Abortion is not caused by woman’s oppression as expounded by the early feminists. It is caused by a woman not wanting to bear a child because she doesn’t want one at that moment of her life, and the proper moral and legal restrictions that should be in place to deter her have been removed. Men sometimes play a role, but not the primary role.
Pro-life feminists exemplify the problem inherent in trying to “reframe” the abortion debate: when one tries to reframe the issue, in this case abortion as the exploitation of women, the moral absolutes—abortion is murder and a sin against God—are diminished in favour of discussing abortion within the new framework. Hence, the truth of abortion becomes obscured.
When we distance ourselves from the moral transgression that abortion is—we distance ourselves from the key to ending abortion—embracing the fullness of the truth about the human person which frankly, feminism knows nothing about. The truth is that we are made in the image and likeness of God, we have a fallen nature, and we are redeemed by Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross. We are to love God by following his commandments, including though shalt not kill.
Pro-life feminists celebrate the early feminists who they claim were pro-life. However, feminism descends from liberalism and its parentage, the Enlightenment. You can’t join two social movements that are based on oppositional ideologies and beliefs. It is intellectually dishonest to do so. Feminism is founded upon the Enlightenment ideals of liberty and rights, while the pro-life movement is founded upon the Catholic Faith with its belief in the sanctity of all human life. The Catholic Church opposes the Enlightenment philosophe’s idea of liberty—which America has fostered and feminists have applied to the woman question—as a false ideal that puts man in God’s place as the arbiter of all things. Although liberalism talks a great deal about liberty, it really just relegates the moral authority of the Church to the sidelines and imposes the power of the state on the individual. Pro-life feminism as espoused by FFL et al. is at heart an attempt to reconcile what is irreconcilable: the Truth as held by the Catholic Church and Godless liberalism with its false cry of liberty.
In 2015, America magazine published an article written by Feminist for Life President Serrin Foster titled, “The Feminist Case Against Abortion.” The article was adapted from a speech of the same name given by Foster at Wellesley College in 2004. The article contains elements of the claims made by FFL as discussed in this essay.
Beyond the faulty revisions of history that FFL employs to further its misguided agenda, there is much flawed with FFL’s reasoning about abortion, just as there was much wrong with early feminists reasoning that if women had the vote (a.k.a. more “freedom”) abortion would cease.
In the final section of Foster’s article, titled, “Women Deserve Better,” FFL states what could be considered pro-life feminism’s fatal flaw: “Abortion is a reflection that we have not met the needs of women—and that women have settled for less.” This statement is simply not true. This is not what abortion is. Abortion does meet the needs of the modern woman, because she has been taught—by feminism—to put herself first, that a career means more than family, that God’s law has no bearing on one’s life, and so on. And again, it wrongly absolves one half of the guilty party in abortion—the woman (the abortionist being the other half).
Foster then quotes an early feminist, Mattie Brinkerhoff, saying that Feminists for Life continues its “fight in the spirit of Mattie Brinkerhoff”:
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.
Unfortunately for pro-life feminism, this quote inverts the moral wrong of abortion—the wrong is done against the child and God, not against the woman. These early feminists got it wrong, as do today’s pro-life feminists.