Women are gathering and marching all over the United States, this week, to not only express their distaste for the current President and his administration, but to celebrate the strides women have achieved toward equality as well as to expose the areas still crying for redress: issues including the continued lack of equal pay for women, racism and sexual harassment, to name just a few. At least one Women's March is being promoted as 'non-partisan' and 'inclusive,' while including numerous platform speakers, namely, the Women's March, at the Women's Rights National Historical Park, in Seneca Falls, New York. Feminists are delighted.
The question is, however: Will their message genuinely be inclusive? Will the array of speakers include pro-life and pro-choice feminist voices? At bottom, feminism includes all people, regardless of gender, that support equal socio-economic and political opportunities for women. Pro-choice feminists as well as pro-life feminists believe in equality for women and oppose discrimination. Like many of the first American feminists, however, there is a growing population of feminists who refuse to recognize abortion as necessary to achieve women's equality.
Feminism contains diversity. Hence the need for inclusivity. Pro-life feminists, akin to several of the leaders of the American Women's Rights movement, recognize abortion as an instrument of oppression rather than empowerment. Unlike pro-choice feminists, pro-life feminists see abortion as an impediment to women's progress, not a vessel for equality. The pro-choice feminist seeks to deny the very quality that differentiates women from men, the ability to gestate human life, and does so by fighting for the 'right' to dispose of 'unwanted' unborn children. Pro-life feminism, instead, embraces womanhood and seeks to abolish the social, economic and political constructs that interfere with women's quest for equality, the ability to equally participate- as women and potential mothers- within civic society. The pro-life feminist refuses to elevate the womb-less male anatomy as 'the norm,' as 'the ideal,' by striving to behave more like men or potentially distant and separate from the responsibilities of parenthood, which abortion allows.
Pro-life feminists, like many of the foremothers of the Women's Suffrage Movement, also view abortion as a manifestation of patriarchy, yet another tool used by men to exercise control over women. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, from Seneca Falls, who orchestrated the 1st Women's Rights Convention, and arguably the most radical feminist in the 19th century, stated: "Women's degradation is in man's idea of his sexual rights." Men's control over women was also Stanton's justification for her opposition to abortion. She claimed: "When we consider that women are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat children as property to be disposed of as we see fit."
The early American feminists, who fought long and hard for the right to vote, did not agree on every issue. They were a diverse group of women who, nevertheless, utilized their diversity to find common ground. That was the secret to their success. Quoting Abraham Lincoln, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently stated in his 2018 State of the State Address: "A house divided against itself cannot stand." Pro-life feminists echo Cuomo's sentiment: A feminism divided against itself cannot stand.
Will the gathering of speakers at the Women's Marches scheduled to occur across the United States represent the diversity that exists within feminism? Will pro-life feminist voices ring alongside the voices of our pro-choice sisters from the podiums at these events- to not only promote women's equality, but the hope of finding common ground around one of the most divisive issues women face today, namely abortion? Above all, we are human beings, who, as history teaches, will never achieve true equality until the diversity of our voices echoes from platforms that espouse equal rights. Abortion is a cancer to the feminist politic. It destroys human life and therefore violates human rights. Susan B. Anthony said it best: "[W]e have always claimed that our movement was Human Rights-not Woman's Rights- therefore we need not confine ourselves... but enlarge our borders..."
Let's hope that the Women's Marches, at least those slated as 'inclusive' —will deliver.
Michele Sterlace-Accorsi grew up experiencing poverty and, at times, homelessness. She quit high school when she was 17. She later earned her GED and graduated magna cum laude from New York University, while working full-time. While a mother of four young children, at age 37, Michele's experiences inspired her to advocate for vulnerable populations. She completed her Juris Doctor degree from the University at Buffalo School of Law.
In November 2017, the Board of Feminists Choosing Life of New York hired Michele as its Executive Director.