Last Thursday, Sally Winn, vice president of Feminists for Life, gave a lecture on the relationship between feminism and the pro-life campaign in Paresky Auditorium.
Feminists for Life is an organization that “recognizes that abortion has failed to meet the needs of women” and aims to “eliminate the root causes that drive women to abortion, primarily lack of practical resources and support.”
Winn began the lecture by stating, “pro-life feminism is not an oxymoron. It is completely congruent with feminist history.” She then gave examples of women throughout history who were both extremely active in feminist causes and who also supported pro-life views. Winn noted that these women were not particularly conservative; women like Susan B. Anthony, one of the leaders of the Women’s Rights Movement, believed that abortion was simply another form of female exploitation imposed by society.
In the ’60s, however, the feminist movement started to identify abortion as an important right of women. “The suffragists tried to change society to accept women. The second wave of feminists tried to change women to be accepted by society,” Winn said
The movement’s attempt to change women instead of society in this way is one of Winn’s main quarrels with abortion. She used a variety of statistics collected by Feminists for Life to demonstrate that, oftentimes, women concede to abortions because they are lacking “emotional support and financial resources.” According to Winn, 69 percent of women who get abortions qualify as economically disadvantaged. From this data, Winn posed the question: “How in the world is this [abortion] a free choice?” when so many women “resort” to abortions because of larger problems with society. Some of these problems include general poverty, lack of provisions in the workplace for mothers and general societal stigmas against young mothers or unmarried mothers.
Winn also highlighted that 44 percent of abortions are performed on college-aged women. The high percentage can be attributed to the commonly held view that women who are students cannot simultaneously take care of children and successfully complete an education, according to Winn. “Parents say ‘don’t give up your education, take care of it, you can have kids later.’ But why do we have to choose? Why not be a mom and get your education?” Winn said.
As an example, Winn discussed her own pregnancy during her junior year of college. At the time, Winn explained, she was pro-choice, but decided to have her child and began to look frequently for ways to “accommodate” her child. However, the university provided little to no aid for student mothers. “I would have no place to live, no daycare and on top of this, I would have to deal with all of the other expenses that come along with having a child.” While most colleges will pay for birth control, and some institutions will even pay for abortions, there are few colleges that will provide aid for student mothers. Winn asked herself again whether “the choice” was free after all. She posed several questions: Was it the ultimate emancipation? Or was she being pressured indirectly to conform to what society wanted?
In the end, Winn chose to have her child. Her parents and family helped with childcare while Winn pursued her education. However, Winn recognizes that many women do not have this basic network of family support. If workplaces, schools, families and friends are not providing support to women, Winn explained, then abortion is in no way the emancipation of women. Rather, it reflects the failures of society to recognize and provide for women’s needs. Winn stated that her organization’s goal is not necessarily to take “the choice” away from women but rather to provide increased access to the necessary resources for women who choose to carry their pregnancies to term.