These organizations, following in the footsteps of the first feminists, are as proudly pro-life as they are pro-woman.
I’ve been on the fence about identifying as a feminist for a while now. It just depends so much on that term “feminist.” To some, it comes with an ugly pile of connotations: a spirit of anger, victimization, selfishness, and obscenity, along with a staunch support of abortion laws. But that’s not what feminism means to everyone — to others, feminism is committed to opposing violence, upholding human dignity, and speaking out against the inequality that’s rife in this fallen world. If that’s what feminism can mean, then sign me up. Maybe if enough of us use the word to reflect its authentic meaning, the world will see that the choice between feminist or pro-life is a false one.
A Woman-Centered Approach to Ending Abortion
The first feminists, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B Anthony, Alice Paul, and other courageous women, were staunchly anti-violence, and therefore, pro-life. Abortion, after all, does violence to both the mother, and to the child who is killed. These five organizations, following in the footsteps of the first feminists, are as proudly pro-life as they are pro-woman.
Established a year before the Roe v, Wade ruling, this group doesn’t directly fight abortion laws. It wants to address the root of the problem. Its mission declares that “abortion is a reflection that our society has failed to meet the needs of women. We are dedicated to systematically eliminating the root causes that drive women to abortion — primarily lack of practical resources and support — through holistic, woman-centered solutions.” Members proclaim that “Women deserve better,” and work to show women that there’s always a better option than abortion.
This group doesn’t fight the legal battles either — instead, it proclaims that “We work to make [abortion] unthinkable and unnecessary. And we do that by getting to the root of the need for it.” If the culture changes, they say, then everyone wins. So … “Let’s work towards a culture that tells her ‘You Can,’ ‘You Are Strong Enough,’ and ‘If You Need Some Help — We Are Here,’ because that is what the sisterhood is all about.” Like the first feminists, NWF believes in the consistent life ethic: that “all human beings should be free from violence for the duration of their lifetime.”
SBAL does fight in the legal sphere. It “exists to pass laws that protect unborn children and their mothers from abortion,” according to the mission statement. Members work toward voter education, so that voters understand the views of who they are electing, as well as direct and grassroots campaigns to advocate for pro-life laws. While not specifically feminist, they named themselves after Susan B. Anthony, whose feminism was intended to “empower women through their strength to give life even in the most difficult and unexpected circumstances.” It was Anthony herself who said: “Sweeter even than to have had the joy of children of my own has it been for me to help bring about a better state of things for mothers generally, so that their unborn little ones could not be willed away from them.”
Is the “New Feminism” Just the Same Old Selfishness?
RI is a “non-profit human rights organization dedicated to creating a culture of peace and life and in so doing, to bring an end to all aggressive violence against humanity through education, discourse, and action.” They publish the Life Matters Journal, run the Life/Peace/Justice Conference, and provide resources for sidewalk advocates, among other things. Where does feminism come in? They explain, “[the first feminists] simply rejected the notion that the fight for women’s rights requires women to also be at odds with their children. Now, as modern human rights activists, we return to the roots of feminist thought and the central principles of feminism: equality, nondiscrimination, and nonviolence.”
This organization takes the consistent life ethic as its guide, and works against abortion, child-trafficking, egg donation, domestic violence, and the sexual objectification of women. The core of their pro-life feminism comes from “the belief that all people, by virtue of their human dignity, have a right to live without violence from conception to natural death,” and they too, take as their role models the early Feminists, especially Susan B. Anthony.