Anti-abortion activists descended on the National Mall on January 27th, just one week after the Women’s March where many pro-lifers were shunned. Protest signs at each event confirmed the rift between both facets of the women’s movement. At the March for Life, posters declared, “Pro-Woman, Pro-Life” and “Thank You Mom for Being Pro-Life,” a stark contrast from the previous week’s “Don’t Booby Trap my Uterus” and “Keep Your Mitts off my Lady Bits.”
But prior to both rallies, pro-life groups offered an olive branch when two organizations, New Wave Feminists and Students for Life of America, asked to participate in the original Women’s March. Their request was denied, signaling a disappointing lack of compromise and inability to work together, by pro-choice women, at such a crucial moment in time. With the new White House administration promising sweeping changes that affect all women, it is due time that pro-choice women bury the hatchet and work with pro-lifers to collaborate on furthering this historic women’s movement.
It is undeniable that the modern-day feminist movement is left-leaning when it comes to women’s rights issues, specifically abortion. The refusal by Women’s March organizers to partner with pro-life groups exemplifies this dichotomy. It begs the question — can one be pro-life and still be a feminist? Many pro-lifers think so. With a majority of millennials stating that they find abortion morally wrong, refusing to give pro-life advocates a voice in the women’s movement is a disservice to all.
The unification of both factions is needed now more than ever. President Trump has said that he will make repealing the Affordable Care Act a priority and has promised to defund Planned Parenthood. The ACA has made it possible for millions of women to obtain health insurance that includes coverage for birth control and prenatal care. And although both sides disagree on the ethics behind Planned Parenthood, they do agree that the organization provides crucial services such as cancer screenings, birth control, and low cost-family planning that directly service women.
“Pro-choice and pro-life groups have spent too much time being against each other instead of coming together,” says Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, founder of New Wave Feminists. “There is a missed opportunity to include pro-lifers. We share many of the same concerns.”
One of those concerns is the defunding of Planned Parenthood. The withdrawn financial support will not be earmarked for other women’s health care needs, which is viewed as problematic by both sides.
Lila Rose, founder of Live Action, argues that modern day feminists do not speak for most women. “I find it unjust and tragic that the Women’s March rejects half the population of women who respect a woman’s right to choose life. Part of being a feminist is fighting for the most vulnerable including the unborn,” says Rose, adding that most who call themselves feminists refuse to see life in the womb as equal.
In fact, early feminists opposed abortion because they believed the inherent right to control one’s own body did not include to right destroy another’s.
Much like Planned Parenthood, Rose’s pro-life organization offers educational resources for women and connects them with medical experts and health centers. Accessible comprehensive care for women and children is a cause pro-choice women have also fought for, demonstrating that there can be common ground between both sides.
A change in the way pro-lifers are viewed in the modern day feminist movement is needed. The current feminist movement is extremely polarizing. Rather than using abortion to divide women, abortion activists must be open to dialogue, and recognize that the women’s rights movement exists on a spectrum with an assortment of ideologies that can, and often do, coincide and diverge depending on the issue at hand.
Take for example Students for Life of America, another pro-life organization that was denied partnership with the Women’s March. The group focuses on making systemic change for pregnant college students so abortion isn’t the first answer, but it has many other initiatives which include fighting for higher wages for women, helping women with the cost of daycare, increasing pregnancy centers that give out free diapers and baby formula, and fighting for more maternity and transition homes for single mothers.
“Women have the ability to do so many things. Because you don’t support abortion means you’re not part of the ‘feminist club?’ That’s ridiculous,” says Student for Life president, Kristan Hawkins.
Only by accepting the diversity of thought among women can the feminist movement truly say it gives a voice to all women and the marginalized. In the words of feminist Audre Lorde, and as featured on the Women’s March mission statement, “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”