Feminism in the 21st century has become synonymous with abortion, contraception and obscene hats and is a far cry from the first wave of feminists. First-wave feminism occurred in the late 19th and early 20th century as a push for women to have the same rights as men, such as the right to vote, own property, control their own money, and the right to pursue higher education. These earliest feminists such as Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton believed that men and women were intrinsically different yet deserved the same rights and opportunities.
These beliefs did not just pop up in the 19th century with the rise of the suffragette but rather in 1792 with the publication of A Vindication of the Rights of Womenby Mary Wollstonecraft, decrying the sexual exploitation of women. In her book, Wollstonecraft condemned those who would “either destroy the embryo in the womb or cast it off when born,” saying: “Nature in everything deserves respect, and those who violate her laws seldom violate them with impunity.” Wollstonecraft later died giving birth to her second baby girl who went on to write a book about the dangers of violating nature: Frankensteinby Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelly. Even in 1792, without the scientific evidence and ultrasound technology we have today, women knew that abortion killed an unborn baby and that it harmed women in the long run.
While feminism today has been hijacked by the sexual revolution and now focuses on abortion, contraception access, and LGBTQ rights, there are groups such as New Wave Feminists, Feminists for Life, and Susan B. Anthony List, who are trying to take back the label of feminism to reflect the values of the first wave feminists organizations.
These three groups all focus on different aspects of the pro-life movement. New Wave Feminists (NWF) focuses on a consistent life ethic which is the belief that “human beings should be free from violence for the duration of their lifetime. That means we’re anti-war, anti-death penalty, anti-torture; and we extend this philosophy to our earliest moments of existence by also being anti-abortion.”
The NewWave Feminists website continues: “Many would say that the fetus is actually the most vulnerable member of the human family and yet, because it is smaller, weaker, and can’t tell us to stop, we’ve decided it’s okay to dispose of it however we see fit. It’s the ultimate in “might makes right thinking, which women were subjected to for most of history, and in many parts of the world still suffer under. Because men were stronger and had most of the power and resources, they were able to treat us as property.”
NWF’s goal is to make abortion unthinkable and remove the perceived need for abortion by targeting the root causes of abortion such as poverty and lack of support. They achieve this goal by various social media campaigns that provide supplies to mothers and families-in-need as well as raising awareness for issues such as the migrant crisis at the border. The group teamed up with Abby Johnson’s organization “And Then There Were None” to launch a huge “bottles to the border” campaign which delivered thousands of diapers, shoelaces, water bottles, pull-ups, formula, and feminine hygiene products to a refugee centre in Texas.
NWF recognizes that the worth of all humans beings and consistently defies the stereotype of pro-lifers as just pro-birth and not caring for the mother and child.
Feminists for Life (FFL) is a nonsectarian, nonpartisan, grassroots organization that seeks solutions to the challenges women face. Their members work with low-income women to reduce poverty, violence, and coerced abortion while encouraging the support of fathers in the lives of their partners and children. They advocate against violence against women including coerced and unwanted abortions. They are responsible for the FFL’s College Outreach Program, which strives to meet the needs of college-aged women, the demographic that has the highest rate of abortion. Since the FFL College Outreach Program began in 1994, there has been a dramatic 30 percent decrease in abortions among college-educated women.
The final Group, Susan B. Anthony List, works to end abortion by electing national leaders and advocating for laws that save lives, with a special calling to promote pro-life women leaders. They combine politics with policy while educating voters to ensure the election of pro-life politicians, keep the public up-to-date with pro-life laws and bills while advancing the cause through grassroots campaigns and direct lobbying. These groups focus on helping women and electing pro-life candidates that share their vision of making abortion not only illegal but as unthinkable as any other human rights violation.
This new wave of feminism has become very popular in the last couple of years among the younger female pro-life demographic as some have gotten tired of the “pro-choice” narrative that women need abortion to be “equal” to men and that a woman’s liberation comes at the cost of her child.
Pro-life feminism recognizes the real oppression of women in the Middle East and Asia due to religious laws and sex-selective abortions that target baby girls in the womb, which is largely ignored by our western society. Pro-life feminism is about having consistent life ethics for all humans and fighting for the basic rights and protection of women including those in the womb. Pro-life feminists are tired of the “feminist pro-choice” narrative that they are pro-women and pro-lifers are anti-women when pro-lifers are the ones that care for all women right from the moment of conception.
Shania Fernandez was a summer intern atThe Interimand Campaign Life Coalition and is a political science student at Glendon College at York University.