Can a Pro-Lifer Be a Feminist?
I still believe in feminism, perhaps more than ever before. But there was a rosy day of innocence when I believed in feminists. ~ Dr. Phoebe Spinrad.1
What exactly is “feminism?”
The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines it as “organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests.” So our question becomes: do pro-lifers really have the best interests of women in mind?
The Bias against Pro-Life Feminism
Pro-abortionists, who seem to think that they have a monopoly on the word “feminist,” certainly don’t think that pro-lifers belong in the feminism club. As one writer for the pro-abortion feminist website Jezebel fumed:
There is actually no such thing as a “pro-life feminist.” Sure, you can be a feminist and make a personal decision to never get an abortion. But who the [very bad word] are you to actively work at taking away other women’s right to make their own personal decisions about their uteruses? You are not a feminist, that’s for sure.2
The new breed of radical feminists, or “neofeminists” as NARAL co-founder Larry Lader called them,3 have reduced the definition of “feminist” to one narrow sliver of social activism: whether or not you are “pro-choice.”
- Pamela Erens recounts that, since before Roe v. Wade, “Anti-abortion feminist groups have been banned from ERA rallies, rebuffed in their attempts to join consortiums of women’s groups, and forbidden to meet in campus women’s centers.”4
- Pat Goltz was a member of the Ohio chapter of the National Organization for Women, was forced to give up her NOW membership in 1972 because of her anti-abortion activities, and responded by founding Feminists for Life soon after.
It does not matter if you are a woman who is a leading supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment, pays equity, aid for poor and elderly women, and supports every other “plank” in the modern feminist agenda ― if you are pro-life, you’re out.
- During her entire career, seven-term congresswoman Mary Rose Oakar of Ohio was consistently refused endorsement by women’s organizations because she opposed abortion, even though she supported all of the other goals of the feminist movement.
- Talented and accomplished women like Phyllis Schlafly, an attorney, prolific author and founder of the Eagle Forum, have suffered abuse at the hands of “feminists” for decades.
- And any current Feminists for Life member can tell you about the verbal and physical abuse they suffer when they publicly reveal that they are pro-life women. Erens observes, “Most feminists, predictably, can’t stand them.”4
Not only do pro-abortionists call pro-lifers (including women) “anti-woman,” but they claim that we are all foot soldiers in the mythical “war against women!”
We can easily put the lie to this nonsense with a simple thought experiment I have used a number of times in discussions with pro-abortionists. Imagine you are a pregnant 16-year-old whose parents have kicked you out of their house. You have nothing and are in desperate need. Now imagine calling an abortion mill and telling them that you do not want an abortion, but you need prenatal care, housing, and baby clothes and formula in a few months. They will simply refer you to social service agencies because they are a business. As former abortion mill owner Carol Everett and many others have revealed, their job is to take your money, abort you, and push you out the door.
Now imagine calling a pro-life crisis pregnancy center and asking for help. The CPC will bend over backwards to help you with everything you need, as 3,000 of them do every day in every state and in many other nations.
The Pro-Life History of Early Feminism
Pro-abortionists attempt to dismiss the early history of feminism in the United States as “irrelevant” because the original American feminists were almost uniformly pro-life. These early feminists were against abortion because they knew that they would never be rid of their oppressors if they themselves oppressed others:
- The most famous early feminist, Susan B. Anthony, called abortion “the horrible crime of child-murder.”5
- Elizabeth Cady Stanton called it “infanticide,” “degrading” and “evil.”6
- Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for president, said, “The rights of children as individuals begin while yet they remain the fetus.”7
- Some things never change. Many men forced or intimidated women into having abortions a century and a half ago, just as they do today. In 1868, Matilda Gage said, “I hesitate not to assert that most of this crime of child murder, abortion, infanticide, lies at the door of the male sex.”8
- And pro-lifers had no more regard for abortionists and abortion mills now than they did then; Sarah Norton called them “child murderers” and “infant butcheries.”9
These and other quotes show that today’s self-proclaimed “feminists” have betrayed their heritage and have corrupted the honorable word “feminist” almost beyond redemption. In fact, they are doing exactly what they claim to detest the most: Putting themselves at the slavish service of selfish and exploitative men in the name of “sexual freedom.”
The corruption of original “first wave” feminism began more than a century ago. James Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore clearly recognized the beginnings of the radical feminist movement as a “moral sham,” a “pious fraud,” and one of the “socialist schemes which are so often undertaken ostensibly in the name of religion and morality, but which are subversive of morality and order, which are the offspring of fanaticism, and serve as a mask to hide the most debasing passions.”10
Pope Paul VI prophesied in his encyclical Humanae Vitae:
It is also to be feared that the man, growing used to the employment of anti-conceptive practices, may finally lose respect for the woman and, no longer caring for her physical and psychological equilibrium, may come to the point of considering her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment, and no longer his respected and beloved companion [¶17].
The vast differences between the philosophies of the true feminists and the neofeminists were best described by Margaret Sanger. Her credo of women’s rights, as stated in her book Woman and the New Race, was “to live … to love … to be lazy … to be an unmarried mother … to create … to destroy.”
Are Women Happy?
This brings us to the age old question: “What do women want?” Well, ultimately they want the same thing that men want — to be happy. So who tends to be happier, pro-life or “pro-choice” women?
A few years ago, some of the more insightful neofeminists finally began to realize that they have been sold a mess of pottage. Maureen Dowd asked, “The more women have achieved, the more they seem aggrieved. Did the feminist revolution end up benefiting men more than women?” Arianna Huffington wrote, “Women around the world are in a funk.” And Nancy Gibbs said that although women have “gained more freedom, more education and more economic power, they have become less happy.” She observes, among other fundamental changes in the lives of women, “the detachment of marriage and motherhood,” and says that “women no longer view matrimony as a necessary station on the road to financial security or parenthood.”11
A lot of this is just plain common sense. These problems have arisen largely because of the people who push the nonsense that men and women are not just equal, but equivalent. Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker, in their landmark 2011 study Premarital Sex in America, found, “A young woman’s likelihood of depression rose steadily as her number of [sexual] partners climbed and the present stability of her sex life diminished.” On the contrary, men who had more sexual partners were often happier.12
The results are obvious to any crisis pregnancy center counselor, all of whom have heard the heartrending stories of women who have been promised love but instead wind up raising children all by themselves in poverty and struggle.
It stings the soul to read what Kay Ebeling wrote in Newsweek Magazine back in 1990:
Today I see feminism as the Great Experiment That Failed, and women in my generation, its perpetrators, are the casualties. Many of us, myself included, are saddled with raising children alone. The resulting poverty makes us experts at cornmeal recipes and ways to find free recreation on weekends. At the same time, single men from our generation amass fortunes in CDs and real-estate ventures so they can breeze off on ski weekends. Feminism freed men, not women. Now men are spared the nuisance of a wife and family to support. After childbirth, if his wife’s waist doesn’t return to 20 inches, the husband can go out and get a more petite woman….
Feminism made women disposable.… in general, feminism gave men all the financial and personal advantages over women. What’s worse, we asked for it. How wrong we were…. The truth is, a woman can’t live the true feminist life unless she denies her child-bearing biology. She has to live on the pill, or have her tubes tied at an early age. Then she can keep up with the guys with an uninterrupted career and then, when she’s 30, she’ll be paying her own way on ski weekends too.13
The evidence that the “new wave” of feminism, or neofeminism, has destroyed the happiness of the women who have embraced it is not just anecdotal. Study after study has shown that the hookup culture is particularly damaging to young women. In general, the likelihood of depression rises steadily as the number of sexual partners increases and the possibility of an enduring relationship decreases. Using the best available surveys, economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers found that women in the 1970s “reported higher subjective well-being than did men.” Now, exactly the opposite is the case.
Bioethicist Sidney Callahan explains what is happening:
While the ideal has never been universally obtained, a culturally dominant demand for monogamy, self-control, and emotionally bonded and committed sex works well for women at every stage of their life cycles. When love, chastity, fidelity, and commitment for better or worse are the ascendant cultural prerequisites for sexual functioning, young girls and women expect protection from rape and seduction; adult women justifiably demand male support in childbearing; and older women are more protected from abandonment as their biological attractions wane.14
Abortion: Bringing Enslavement of Women
Neofeminists actually strengthen their perceived “oppressors” by corrupting and diluting the central principles of true feminism. They do this by embracing what they claim are typical patriarchal faults ― treating equals unequally and allowing the strong to oppress the weak. Nowhere is this more glaringly evident than with abortion.
At its core, abortion is not really about the right to choose, or about so-called “reproductive freedom.” It is more about a woman’s right to conform or to capitulate to a male’s idea of the perfect female ― a sterile woman of childbearing age. In other words, women can only be equal to men if they have surgery. Society in general ― and many men ― rejects women when they are pregnant. As Erma Clardy Craven observed, “Women are being seen as wombs to be deactivated rather than human beings with lives to be fulfilled.”15
Women who conform themselves to the male ideal of the pretty-sterile plaything are not at all free. If the neofeminists were thinking clearly, they would recognize just why there is so little authentic backlash from the male-dominated power structure. In fact, gigantic male-run foundations like Ford, Gates and Buffett are actually contributing billions to the activist groups that push abortion, sterilization and birth control on women. This is because the neofeminists are essentially conforming to the wishes of this same power structure by making themselves accessible and disposable to men.
Any man can now indulge in unlimited sexual gratification as often and with as many women as he wants, and then walk away from all of them. If there is a “problem,” the woman is left to travel to any of the convenient nearby abortuaries, staffed almost entirely by male doctors. She is left to pay for the abortion ― in some cases, for the rest of her life. Any counselor who has worked in a crisis pregnancy center or in an abortuary has heard this story many, many times.
Neofeminists are so fanatical about their pro-abortionism that they invariably defend those male abortionists who butcher or molest their “sisters.” There are many examples of this:
- The National Organization for Women vigorously defended Arizona abortionist Brian Finkel, and pro-abortionists ridiculed the more than one hundred women who were sexually molested by him by referring to them as the “Victim’s Club.”
- When Oklahoma abortionist John Baxter Hamilton was tried for crushing his wife Susan’s skull, pro-abortionists flooded the prosecutor’s office with death threats and demanded that he be set free.
- When California abortionist Bruce Steir killed Sharon Hamptlon by puncturing her uterus, the woman-run Chico Feminist Women’s Health Center abortion mill wore buttons at his murder trial that said “STEIR, OUR HERO.” The National Organization for Women, the Feminist Majority Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union and many other national pro-abortion groups not only defended Steir and raised money for him, but claimed that his prosecution was a “pro-life conspiracy!”16
One of the greatest tragedies that abortion has brought us is the murder of hundreds of pregnant women by their boyfriends and husbands because they refused to have abortions. Not one pro-abortion or neofeminist group has said a word about these dead women, because they do not want to cause damage to their abortion “super-right.” But let someone burn a paper bag of trash in the middle of an abortion mill parking lot in the middle of the night and their screams of outrage are heard from coast to coast.
Even some impeccably-credentialed neofeminists see the lasting damage being done to women by abortion. Simone de Beauvoir wrote in her classic 1949 The Second Sex:
Men tend to take abortion lightly; they fail to realize the values involved. The woman who has recourse to abortion is disowning feminine values, her values…. Women learn to believe no longer in what men say….the one thing they are sure of is this rifled and bleeding womb, these shreds of crimson life, this child that is not there.
Lesbian Beverly Wildung Harrison, the “mother of Christian feminist ethics” and collaborator with Catholics for [a Free] Choice, said:
Instead of being empowered by their abortion choices, young women having abortions are confronting the debilitating reality of not bringing a baby into the world; not being able to count on a committed male partner; not accounting oneself strong enough, or the master of enough resources, to avoid killing the fetus. Young women are hardly going to develop the self-esteem, self-discipline, and self-confidence necessary to confront a male-dominated society through abortion.
The male-oriented sexual orientation has been harmful to women and children. It has helped bring us epidemics of venereal disease, infertility, pornography, sexual abuse, adolescent pregnancy, divorced, displaced older women, and abortion. Will these signals of something amiss stimulate pro-choice feminists to rethink what kind of sex ideal really serves women’s best interests?17
Anti-prostitution activist Mary Rosera Joyce makes the obvious connections between women selling their bodies and then their babies to men. Her unique viewpoint caused her to realize that easy abortion has given women the opportunity to prostitute themselves to men not once, but twice:
Women are still big business for men. Abortion now provides a new multimillion-dollar business in another kind of feminine prostitution. In the first form of prostitution women are paid by men. But when women prostitute themselves to what is called the “baby scrambler,” the suction machine for abortion, they give the money to men more often than not…. If women were not so intellectually passive, they would be able to see through this so-called “liberation.”18
So what has happened to women?
They traded away happiness and deep contentment for fleeting enjoyment of the current moment and decades of depression and loneliness later. Unscrupulous and promiscuous men seized on the opportunity to exploit women ― with their full consent and cooperation. Women have been cheated on a scale never before seen in the history of the world.
Heck, we men could have told them that was going to happen.
But nobody bothered to ask us.
Neofeminism is insatiable and it will never stop demanding. Man was created by God to be satisfied only by knowing Him, and, since neofeminist ideology rejects God, the risk of spiritual harm grows exponentially. They are always restless, always dissatisfied, always unhappy, and always demanding change, because they hope that change ― any change at all ― may bring that elusive happiness that always seems to be just out of reach. For a true feminist, injustice means that women and men are treated unequally.
But the injustice for the neofeminist is being a woman.
The last century and a half has shown us that neofeminism was never really about improving social and economic conditions for women. The original feminist movement has undeniably done much to advance conditions for women, resulting in the betterment of society ― but the most important impact of neofeminism is to completely transform the morality of Western nations, which are in turn now trying to force this new morality on the rest of the world.
The richest data available to social scientists is the University of Chicago’s General Social Survey, a survey of Americans conducted since 1972. These show that conservative women are happier than liberal women, married women are happier than unmarried women, women who go to church are happier than those who don’t, and women with children are happier than the childless.
Just as God (and Nature) planned.
St. Augustine said, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” There is no rest in what is not true, and so the neofeminists will agitate endlessly for more and more change, caring not at all what ― or who ―they destroy in the process.
 Tracie Egan Morrissey. “There Is No Such Thing as a ‘Pro-Life Feminist.’” Jezebel, January 4, 2013.
 “No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her own body. Ms. Sanger taught me this…. Until then I had never grasped the implications of this principle. Whatever the original feminists demanded for women, or Betty Friedan and the Neofeminists today, whether equality before the law, in education, business, and professions…. all of these things were meaningless unless a woman controlled her own procreation. No woman could achieve these other freedoms without the basic freedom of birth control…. I was convinced that abortion must be completely legalized as a backup, emergency measure to contraception….the biggest step was to demand legalization as an inalienable right of women, protected by the Constitution’s Bill of Rights.”
Lawrence Lader. Abortion II, Making the Revolution. Boston: Beacon Press, 1973, pages 18 to 20 and 36 to 40.
 Susan B. Anthony said, “I deplore the horrible crime of child-murder. We want prevention, not merely punishment. We must reach the root of the evil. It [abortion] is practiced by those whose inmost souls revolt from the dreadful deed. All the articles on this subject that I have read have been from men. They denounce women as alone guilty, and never include man in any plans for the remedy…. No matter what the motive, love or ease, or a desire to save from suffering the unborn innocent, the woman is awfully guilty who commits the deed, but, oh! thrice guilty is he who drove her to the desperation which impelled her to the crime.”
Susan B. Anthony. The Revolution, July 8, 1869.
 Elizabeth Cady Stanton said, “Abortion is to be classed, as with the killing of newborns, as infanticide…. There must be a remedy even for such a crying evil as this. But where shall it be found, at least where to begin, if not in the complete enfranchisement and elevation of women?”
Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The Revolution, February 5 and March 12, 1868.
She also said, “When we consider that women are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit.”
Elizabeth Cady Stanton. October 16, 1873 letter to Julia Ward Howe as recorded in Howe’s diary at the Harvard University Library.
 Victoria Woodhull. Woodhull’s and Clafin’s Weekly, December 24, 1870, page 6.
 Matilda Gage said, “This subject [abortion] lies deeper down into woman’s wrongs than any other…. The crime of abortion is not one in which the guilt lies solely or even chiefly with the woman…. I hesitate not to assert that most of this crime of ‘child murder,’ ‘abortion,’ ‘infanticide,’ lies at the door of the male sex.”
Matilda Gage, The Revolution, April 9, 1868, pages 215 and 216.
 Sarah Norton said, “Child-murderers [abortionists] practice their profession without let or hindrance, and open infant butcheries are unquestioned…. Society has come to believe it an impertinence in children to be born at all…. throughout the entire city there are few landlords who do not stipulate for childless couples. This partially explains why people in cities might not want children, but is totally inadequate as a reason for the murder of them, and it cannot be considered at all in relation to the fast increasing crime of feticide throughout the country, where space is ample…. Is there no remedy for all this ante-natal child murder? Perhaps there will come a time when an unmarried mother will not be despised because of her motherhood, and when the right of the unborn to be born will not be denied or interfered with.”
Sarah Norton, Woodhull’s and Clafin’s Weekly, November 19, 1870.
 James Cardinal Gibbons. The Faith of Our Fathers. Baltimore: The John Murphy Company, 1876. Reprinted by Tan Books and Publishers, Rockford, Illinois, in 1980, pages 21 and 60.
 Nancy Gibbs. “A Quiet Revolution: What Women Want Now.” Time Magazine, October 14, 2009.
 Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker. Premarital Sex in America: How Young Americans Meet, Mate, and Think about Marrying. New York City: Oxford University Press, 2011, summarized in Ross Douthat. “Why Monogamy Matters.” The New York Times, March 6, 2011.
 Kay Ebeling. “The Failure of Feminism.” Newsweek Magazine, November 19, 1990, page 9.
 Bioethicist Sidney Callahan. “Abortion and the Sexual Agenda: A Case for Pro-Life Feminism.” Commonweal, April 25, 1986, pages 235 to 238.
 Erma Clardy Craven, quoted in ALL About Issues, July/August 1980, page 5.
 For documentation and more details, go to the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine and search for www.prochoiceviolence.com for Human Life International’s Pro-Abortion Violence website.
 Beverly Wildung Harrison. “A Feminist-Liberation View of Abortion.” In Stephen E. Lammers and Allen Verhey. On Moral Medicine: Theological Perspectives in Medical Ethics.Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Erdmans Publishing Company, 1998, page 631.
 Mary Rosera Joyce. “The Sexual Revolution Has Yet to Begin.” In Thomas J. Hilgers and Dennis J. Horan (editors), Abortion and Social Justice. Thaxton, Virginia: Sun Life Publishers, 1980, pages 224 and 225.
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Dr. Brian Clowes has been HLI’s director of research since 1995 and is one of the most accomplished and respected intellectuals in the international pro-life movement. Best known as author of the most exhaustive pro-life informational resource volume The Facts of Life, and for his Pro-Life Basic Training Course, Brian is the author of nine books and over 500 scholarly and popular articles, and has traveled to 70 countries on six continents as a pro-life speaker, educator and trainer.