Monday, January 25, 2016

2016 March for Life Promotes Faux Feminism

The 2016 March for Life took place on Friday, January 22nd on the National Mall in Washington D.C. The March for Life is an annual gathering of anti-abortion activists, including conservative religious figures and political leaders. The March for Life rally included speakers such as Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, Focus on the Family president Jim Daly, Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser, and Southern Baptist Convention ERLC president Russell Moore.

This year's March for Life included several satellite events, such as an anti-abortion expo and the 34th Annual Rose Dinner. The March for Life Conference featured keynote speech was entitled "Why the Pro-Life Movement Is the Authentic Women’s Movement", while the March for Life Youth Rally included workshops such as "Regret and Aftermath from Planned Parenthood Abortions" and "Pro-life Activism: Street, Online and Undercover".

I was astonished that thousands of participants marched in Washington D.C. right before an impending blizzard. The next day, when heavy snow made roads impassible and air travel impossible, many of those demonstrators probably found themselves stranded. I hope the march was worth it.

*   *   *   *   *   *

I observed the march in person in 2011 and blogged on the 2012 and 2015 marches from afar, and found the rhetoric repetitive and disconnected from reproductive realities on the ground. This was equally true for the 2016 gathering, which was oblivious to women's wants and needs.

Speakers at this year's march promoted a faux feminism, assuring their followers that denying reproductive rights to women actually empowered women. Anti-abortion figures claimed historic feminist champions as their own, insisting that the women's rights movement has always been anti-abortion. Activists who seek to protect abortion rights follow a "perverted feminism" that pits women against their children, they claimed. 

Presidential candidate Carly Fiorina combined the usual anti-abortion rhetoric with faux feminism. At the 15:02 mark of this C-SPAN video, Fiorina attacked Planned Parenthood funding, referred to a discredited smear campaign that accused Planned Parenthood of selling fetal tissue, and claimed that the Democratic platform says that "a life isn't a life until it leaves the hospital". Your nose is growing, Pinocchio, I thought.
"In less than a year, there will be a new president in the White House, and that next president will have the awesome responsibility to pick up to four Supreme Court justices who will decide issues of life and religious liberty. She will decide ... whether we force taxpayers to fund the political arm of the abortion industry, whether we as a nation believe, as the Democrat platform says, that a life isn't a life until it leaves the hospital. Yes, that is the Democrat platform, that a life isn't a life until it's born, and they call us extreme. It is Democrats, the pro-abortion industry, that is extreme.

The next president of the United States will have a lot to say about whether a baby only a month, only a month from being born is only as good as the organs you can sell from it. Make no mistake, ladies and gentlemen, this fight for the character of our nation."
Fiorina took swipes at Hillary Clinton and the left's "perverted" form of feminism at the 17:39 mark. She sneered at the idea of a war on women and of abortion as a vital health service.
"As we stand here today, Hillary Clinton is in New Hampshire giving a pro-abortion speech. She is saying that I, as a conservative woman, that all of us as conservative women, don't count. But here's the truth. The left has perverted feminism into a political ideology where women are pitted against men and used as a political weapon to win elections ... Being empowered means having a voice, but ideological feminism now shuts down conversation on college campuses and in the media. If you are a pro-life man or, heaven forbid, a conservative woman who doesn't believe the litanies of the left, then you are waging a war on women, or you are a threat to women's health, or you are variously described as 'window dressing' ... or 'offensive' as a candidate."
Sue Ellen Browder, author of Subverted: How I Helped the Sexual Revolution Hijack the Women's Movement, also promoted faux feminism at the march. At the 49:46 mark, Browder claimed that "pro-life family feminism" was responsible for women's suffrage and second wave feminism. The anti-abortion movement is the true champion of women because it refrains from "pitting the rights of a mother against the rights of her baby", she argued.
"In 1969, I was fired for being pregnant. I went on to get a job at Cosmopolitan magazine, where I promoted abortion as the royal road to women's freedom. Now I have written this book, Subverted, to say I was wrong. I was wrong about abortion.

Women are most empowered and most free when we are interconnected in love with others. Your branch of the women's movement -- pro-life family feminism -- gave women the right to vote. Your branch of the women's movement -- pro-life family feminism -- launched second wave feminism in the 1960s. And your branch of the feminist movement -- pro-life, family feminism -- is still here today, marching in the streets, hundreds of thousands of strong, defending the bond of love between a mother and her baby.

You, not Planned Parenthood, not NARAL Pro-Choice America, represent the authentic women's movement of the 21st century ... We need to stop pitting the rights of a mother against the rights of her baby. Whatever harms the baby harms the mother."
The willful blindness was astonishing. Browder appropriated second wave feminism for her cause, ignoring the many second wave feminists who advocated for abortion rights. She flatly ignored the fact that control of one's reproductive destiny -- control over if, when, and how often one bears children -- is seminal to women's empowerment.

Underneath all of the pseudo-feminist rhetoric of the march was the belief that women should be mothers. Former NFL athlete Matt Birk couldn't imagine why a woman wouldn't want to have a baby, or why mothers might regret having unintended children. At the 57:17 mark, he had this to say.
"We march because I've never heard a woman give birth to a baby and then say, 'I wish I'd had an abortion'. That's why we march. Because I've never heard somebody say, 'I wish I'd had fewer kids'. That's why we march."
I have heard people say those things. Matt Birk really needs to get out more.

Marguerite Duane, co-founded of the Fertility Appreciation Collaborative to Teach the Science, was appalled that women might choose to delay childbearing or take measures to be "free to have sex without pregnancy". At the 1:02:03 mark, she claimed that abortion devalues that which "makes a woman truly unique".
"Being pro-life is pro-woman because the pro-life movement affirms what is unique and special about every woman in all phases of her life, personally and professionally as a daughter, a mother, a sister, a single person, or a married woman.

As a physician, I have seen the effects of the segment of our society that does just the opposite, that does not affirm the dignity of women, but instead convinces women that in order to be equal to men, we need to be just like them, free to have sex without pregnancy, and to succeed in their lives professionally, they need to delay having children, or if they get pregnant, destroy their unborn baby. This does not empower women! Instead, it devalues or destroys what makes a woman truly unique."
Let that sink in. According to Duane, society tells women that in order to be men's equals, they need to be "just like them, free to have sex without pregnancy". What is Duane saying here? Does she see pregnancy as women's punishment for having sex? It wouldn't surprise me, since anti-abortion activism seems less concerned about cherishing life than about punishing women for being sexual.

The March for Life shows us how the anti-abortion movement has adapted its tactics. More and more Americans are realizing that the War on Women is real, and that opponents of reproductive freedom are not acting in women's best interests. The march's faux feminist rhetoric tries to distract women from those facts. Oh, we're treating women with respect by forcing them to carry pregnancies to term. Oh, we're actually celebrating women by pressuring them into unwanted motherhood.

Give me a break.


  1. This tactic of turning the meaning of something on its head is amazingly effective -- amazing because it's so clearly deceptive, you would think that more people would catch onto it.

    Yet, in a former life where I was raised on doublespeak, somehow it made perfect sense.

    1. Agi Tater -- The far right has a knack for reversal. They always play fast and loose with word definitions.

  2. Zosimus the HeathenJanuary 26, 2016 at 7:31 AM

    I have to admit that abortion is something that has always squicked me out somewhat*; that said, I can only agree with the argument a pro-choice woman (and mother) once gave me for keeping it legal: namely, that ultimately there's always going to be some conflict between the rights of a woman, and the rights of any unborn child or children she happens to be carrying, and that the only ethical stance is to give the former individual's rights precedence over the latter's. For that reason, I don't think there can really be such a thing as "pro-life feminism", at least not a kind that seeks to deny abortion to all women, regardless of their own views on the matter (this goes double if the "feminism" in question also seeks to deny women access to reliable birth control, as I'm sure is indeed the case in most instances).

    We've got our share of "pro-life feminists" over here, one of the most prominent being an individual by the name of Melinda Tankard Reist, who's a big popularizer of the (largely bogus) medical condition, "post abortion syndrome". From what (admittedly little) I know of them, abortion laws here vary from state to state, with few (if any) states offering abortion on demand. That said, I understand the laws are fairly easily skirted, and the issue isn't one that comes up often in the national political discourse.

    On the subject of people who claim to be feminist while espousing decidedly un-feminist viewpoints, there's a science fiction author (and all-round crank) called John C. Wright, who once put forth a model of anti-feminist feminism called "fifh wave feminism" that's so blatantly regressive, it's almost funny. To read it in all its idiotic glory, go to

    *For this I put much of the blame on the (apparently inaccurate and misleading) anti-abortion documentary, The Silent Scream, which I was shown as a teenager at my Catholic school.

    1. Zosimus -- Ah, The Silent Scream. I haven't seen it myself, but I understand it's an anti-abortion classic here in the U.S.

      "Post-abortion syndrome" comes up in anti-abortion rhetoric over here as well. Anti-abortion activists insist that abortion triggers emotional turmoil and regret in women, despite evidence to the contrary.


All comments are subject to moderation. Threatening, violent, or bigoted comments will not be published.