Although NOW and Planned Parenthood would have us believe otherwise, early American feminists such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were vehemently anti-abortion. With this in mind, by the 1970s many women began to feel disenfranchised by radical feminist groups like NOW. These women realized that they were not being represented by such extreme pro-abortion views, and decided to start an organization that supported the thousands of women across the nation who believed that true feminism should protect life from the earliest stages of conception.
Celebrate Life had the pleasure of sitting down with Serrin Foster, a woman who possesses all the courage and faith needed to daily combat the stereotypes that surround feminism.
What does Feminists for Life offer that is unique to other pro-life groups out there?
First and foremost is our ability to reach those at highest risk of abortion.
Feminists for Life’s College Outreach Program began simply as lectures on campuses, educating students about the strong anti-abortion views of our feminist foremothers—the dirty little secret of women’s studies programs across the nation.
But then I noticed that I didn’t see anyone who was visibly pregnant on college campuses. I began to ask audiences, “Do you know women who have been pregnant?” Well, they all had. Then I asked, “Have you ever seen a visibly pregnant woman or parent on campus?” For the most part they had not. But those who had been visibly pregnant reported being stared at like some sort of exotic animal crossing the campus.
My questions continued. What happens when a woman believes that she is pregnant? Where does she go? What is the response? That’s when I learned that most pregnant women were told by campus clinic staffers, “I’m sorry. Your test came back positive. Do you want to have ‘it’ or not? Here is the number for a local clinic.”
Well-meaning family and friends tell her that a child will ruin her life. Boyfriends tell her that a child will ruin his life.
No time to think. No support. No resources. No choice at all.
A board member told me about the time she became pregnant in grad school. She said, “Without housing, day care or maternity coverage, it isn’t much of a free choice.”
One of the things we find impressive about Feminists for Life is your constant promotion of education.
Thank you! We realized early on that we needed to bypass the mainstream media and go directly to college students who are at highest risk of abortion.
And thanks to a generous donor, we have placed ads at top colleges and universities across the country. We focused on top state, large Catholic and prestigious private colleges.
Furthermore, we focused on the states with the highest rates of abortion—California, New York, Texas and Florida.
In addition, all of our thought-provoking and striking ads can be downloaded from our web site, so pro-life student leaders can add their group’s name and put them out as flyers.
In the past two years we have reached millions of students!
In the nine years since we began our College Outreach Program, the abortion rate has declined dramatically— more than 30 percent—with women who have graduated college.
Do you ever worry that by taking the moniker of “feminist” (because the classic definition has been hijacked and altered) that it may marginalize your effectiveness as a pro-life organization?
Not at all. We proudly continue the traditions of Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and other early American feminists who without known exception opposed abortion.
The basic tenets of feminism are nonviolence, nondiscrimination and justice for all. Abortion is a betrayal of feminism.
Our name gives us entrée where other pro-life organizations have not been welcome.
Since you diverge so greatly from the contemporary pro-life feminist stance, what makes you different from other feminist organizations?
We have earned our feminist credentials working for the Violence Against Women Act, enhanced child support enforcement and against child exclusion provisions in welfare reform. Naturally we support opportunities for women in education and in the workplace.
Our focus has been on systematically eliminating the reasons that drive women to abortion. Our mission is to protect human life from conception until the natural end of life, by focusing on the unmet needs of women.
Abortion is a reflection that we have failed women—and that women have settled for less. Women deserve better than abortion, and every child deserves a chance at life. That is the big difference.
Feminists for Life has always proven to be an organization of foresight; just the fact that you were founded as early as 1972 is a testament to this. You are able to remain effective and constant in the ever-changing face of the pro-life movement.
Part of our changing face is attributable to the faces of courageous pro-life actors. FFL also has a celebrity outreach project that is led by our outspoken Honorary Chair Patricia Heaton. She has won two Emmys for her portrayal as Debra on the CBS hit comedy, Everybody Loves Raymond. And she is also a New York Times best seller. In real life she is a wife and mother of four boys. Her outspokenness against abortion has set her apart from many in Hollywood. She believes that “women experiencing an unplanned pregnancy deserve unplanned joy.”
Could you explain some of the newer projects that you are involved in right now?
In anticipation of the 30th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we began a major campaign called “Women Deserve Better.” We were sick of false promises made to women by abortion advocates, and we needed to change the direction of the debate.
The Knights of Columbus and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops sponsored ads in national publications and on the Washington Metro as we approached the March for Life. Anyone can download the ad and other materials and take action by going to the web site, www.WomenDeserveBetter.com. Along with our partner organizations, we are redirecting the abortion debate by asking key questions. Margaret Colin challenged members of Congress at a Hill briefing last summer to “Remember the woman” and asked, “Is this the best we can do?”
We have been meeting with members of Congress and their reaction to the campaign is overwhelming support. Who can argue with our message? Women deserve better than suffering through three days of coerced labor in partial birth abortion, or witnessing their own abortions by swallowing RU-486. Certainly, no woman deserves to be abandoned by those she counts on the most.
Do you see an end to this? What are you doing to bring an end to abortion?
We are working toward a National Summit on Pregnancy and Parenting, modeled after our successful on-campus Pregnancy Resources Forums. Experts in health and social services, education, and the workplace, would come together to listen to women who have had abortions and those who have overcome challenges to identify areas of need and create a blueprint for progress to make abortion unthinkable. Like the early American feminists, we want to systematically eliminate the root causes that drive women to abortion.
Serrin M. Foster is president of Feminists for Life, based in Washington, D.C. Her lecture, “The Feminist Case Against Abortion,” has been included in an anthology on “Women’s Rights,” one volume in a series entitled, Great Speeches in History. She has presented her lecture at top colleges across the country and internationally at Oxford, Cambridge and other universities, at Senate and House briefings, and at the Parliament Buildings at Stormont, Northern Ireland.