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the Body Politic
Vol. 07, No. 06 - Jun 1997, Page 17
Copyright © 1997, 1999 by the Body Politic Inc.

Feminists For Life

By Nicole Youngman

The "Feminists for Life of America" (http://www.serve.com/fem4life) web page provides an interesting change from the usual rantings of many anti-abortion sites. The organization asks some important questions: Are we just letting men, especially rapists, off the hook by having abortion available? Wouldn't it be better if we had a society where women had more structural supports to make raising children easier? Why should a woman have to choose between having an abortion and reaching other goals in her life? Unfortunately, their attempts at answering these questions reveal an overly simplistic analysis that assumes women's essential nature is somehow being violated by terminating a pregnancy.

FFLA claims to be carrying on the work of feminist foremothers, providing quotes from many suffrage-era activists to demonstrate their support for pregnant women and their opposition to abortion. However, two important considerations are not mentioned: 1) Abortion was much more dangerous in that time period, and 2) Most "first wave" feminists were working from a position of "nurturant motherhood" or "municipal housekeeping"; while they wanted women to have a larger voice in the affairs of the world at large, they generally did not question the primacy of women's roles as wives and mothers.

Like the members of the Women's Christian Temperance Union who thought that men could be forced to act responsibly if alcohol were outlawed, FFLA insists that outlawing abortion will force men to take responsibility for their children, and will ensure that rapists are caught and brought to justice. Articles from Sisterlife, FFLA's newsletter, repeatedly portray abortion as violence: "a humiliating/denigrating procedure." Having a child, even one conceived through rape or incest, is the way to peace, harmony, healing, and overcoming trauma.

The rhetoric sometimes slips into typical "right-to-life" language -- women should be more responsible, get married, be nicer to the guys who "are denied the pride and self-worth of being a good husband and father." And if all else fails, there's always adoption. Nowhere is the idea that women might be empowered by the decision NOT to continue a pregnancy.

It is certainly easy to agree with the assertion that women are frequently getting a raw deal by trying hard to cope with a society and a workplace in which the male life cycle is considered the norm. But FFLA wants to have it both ways -- fix things so that women have an easier time balancing career and children, make the men more responsible, put an end to rape and incest -- but never mind what happens to women in the meantime, when abortion is outlawed and our new utopian, egalitarian society has yet to emerge.

And for a group that insists on a philosophy of non-violence, it seems strange to have their sites indirectly linked to the likes of Life Advocate and David Trosch.

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