Here’s a new one for your list of oxymorons: Pro-life feminist. The terms may seem mutually exclusive; however, Serrin Foster, president of Feminists for Life of America, tried with limited success to show that such a thing exists by invoking the names of past feminists and championing the pro-life movement.
Tuesday, April 24, Foster spoke in Corwin Pavilion about her organization and her cause as a feminist who supports outlawing abortion. She cited a philosophy that dates back to some of the earliest feminists of our nation. Foster’s explanation was that feminism means to respect all forms of life on all levels and aims to end injustice through nonviolent means. Her beef with abortion is that it’s murder – a form of discrimination against the unborn.
Perhaps the most significant point that Foster made is that what drives most college-aged women – a group that Foster focused on almost exclusively – to have abortions is pressure placed upon them by outside groups. These women are given the belief that having a child will ruin their life; often this belief comes from family and friends. Other pressures cited were boyfriends who battered their girlfriends into getting abortions, or men who refused to pay for child support but would be willing to fund the operation.
These are some nasty images. Foster said the only way to alleviate these pressures is to outlaw abortion and show women that pregnancy is a viable option. She endorses adoption and starting programs on college campuses that would provide services and support for women who choose to keep their baby. It’s a good plan; it makes sense and should be implemented. In fact, such services already exist at UCSB and more information about them can be found at the Women’s Center.
Foster, however, spent the better part of two hours on this one topic and failed to address important preventative issues – like sexual education and contraception – that would have a dramatic impact on reducing abortion. This is a fatal flaw in her ideology. To champion one program while ignoring other issues that could have a dramatic impact on the abortion situation is shortsighted. Her position on these issues only came to light during the question-and-answer session, during which time Foster only succeeded in providing roundabout responses and displaying a notably shaky stance.
More problems began to surface during the question-and-answer session, punching more holes in Foster’s ideology. One audience member asked how Foster was able to call herself a feminist while denying women the freedom to choose an abortion. Foster dismissed the dissonance, resorting to her basic definition of feminism and providing lots of spin. After another question concerning the beginning of life, it became clear she was basing all of her arguments on the belief that life starts at conception while providing little support for her ideas other than personal anecdotes.
None of this is dismissing Foster – to do so would be stupid; she has a lot of good ideas and definitely has a lot to contribute to the problem of abortion. Her call for both the pro-life and pro-choice sides to work together in reducing and hopefully ending the need for abortions is a wise one. Most people forget that both sides have a common goal. However, Foster seemed more intent on outlawing abortions than disposing of the need for them. Perhaps it is possible for a woman to be both feminist and pro-life, but anyone who chooses to take on the label needs to at least recognize that there are many productive ways to eliminate abortion besides just making it illegal.
If America is to become a just nation, we have to learn responsibility by working out issues like these; it can’t be given to us through restrictive legislation. The true sign of a responsible society is one where the people have the right to make complex moral decisions on their own, not one where even their freedom to do so is denied.