Is there such a thing as pro-life feminism? In January, New Wave Feminists, an anti-choice organization, was briefly listed as a sponsor on the website of the Women’s March on Washington. “Intersectional feminism is the future of feminism and of this movement,” said Bob Bland, one of the event’s co-chairs. “We must not just talk about feminism as one issue, like access to reproductive care.” Leaving aside the question of whether Bland understands what intersectionality means—pro-life is a political stance, not an identity or a social position—can feminism, a social-justice movement for women’s equality and human rights, encompass the belief that women should carry to term every fertilized egg, no matter the consequences?
Lauren Enriquez, a PR manager with the anti-choice Human Coalition, thinks so. In a New York Times op-ed, “How the New Feminist Resistance Leaves Out American Women,” she argues that the movement’s “radical position on abortion” (i.e., supporting Roe v. Wade, the law of the land for almost half a century) cannot “unite American women…because it rejects the position that most American women take on abortion—that it should be completely illegal, or legal but with significant restrictions.” Never mind that the Knights of Columbus/Marist poll she cites is biased and that other polls show majorities in favor of choice (69 percent of Americans, according to Pew Research, support Roe), with only 15 percent supporting the Human Coalition’s position that abortion should be banned. Let’s also set aside the fact that the Human Coalition’s leadership is mostly male and heavy on conservative evangelical preachers, and that the group is closely tied to James Dobson, who promotes the Southern Baptist doctrine of wifely submission. Hard to see the feminism there.
It is probably true that many women would support stricter abortion laws than now exist on paper—although when they actually have to vote on such, as in New Mexico’s failed 2013 referendum that would have closed two clinics that perform late-term abortions, they have often rejected them. It is probably also true that some of those women support other feminist goals, like equal pay, more women in political office, and stronger action against domestic violence and rape. But does that mean the women’s movement should soft-pedal or even drop its support for legal abortion? Noting that young people are only a bit more pro-choice than older ones, the Times’s David Leonhardt agrees with Enriquez on numerical grounds: “the progressive movement will be stronger if it’s willing to welcome abortion opponents.”