Feminists for Life and the Privilege of Choice

Although it was founded in 1972, the organization Feminists for Life (FFL) gained its largest to-date profile in mainstream media and the general public when John Roberts was nominated to be Supreme Court Chief Justice and it was disclosed that his wife Jane was the former Executive Vice President of the organization.  Our South Asian correspondent Nabisco recently mentioned them in a posting here, with the predictable resulting thought of many of “Feminists for What?”

So who are they? Let’s take a look, shall we?

They have a hip, slick, and well produced (and obviously well-funded) website with their tagline “Refuse to Choose”® and they describe themselves as a “nonsectarian, nonpartisan, grassroots organization … shaped by the core feminist values of justice, nondiscrimination, and nonviolence” and that it “recognizes that abortion is a reflection that our society has failed to meet the needs of women.”  Their goal is “systematically eliminating the root causes that drive women to abortion — primarily lack of practical resources and support — through holistic, woman-centered solutions.”

Holistic? Justice? Nondiscrimination? Nonviolence? Holy fracking Feminist Studies, Batman! Wow, doesn’t that sound groovy to even a non-Gender Studies major? It makes me want to go star in The Vagina Monologues or something.  And Flying Spaghetti Monster knows that fewer and fewer women of my generation (Gen X), or those younger than me (Gens Y, Z, AA, Milennials, etc.) call themselves a feminist.  So isn’t it a good thing to acknowledge these women who are willing to drop the f-bomb and welcome them into the sisterhood of feminism?

In a word, No.  Please note, FFL, despite their gauzy and “Go Grrrrl” images on their website designed to make them look less innocuous, takes a position on abortion that is more extreme than groups such as National Right to Life.  The group believes abortion is an act of violence that is unacceptable under any circumstances.

Unacceptable under any circumstances. Including rape, incest, major fetal defects, and danger to the woman’s life.

FFL also attempts to tie their activism to the early leaders of the women’s movement from the late 19th Century.  They have all but dug Susan B. Anthony out of her grave and propped her up at their press conferences and on their website.  But there is considerable debate whether the Founding Mothers of the women’s movement even were anti-abortion. And in any event, as former Planned Parenthood President Gloria Feldt notes, “comparisons between contemporary and 19th century debates over abortion are meaningless because of the different cultural contexts.”


A quick history lesson on regulating the lady-bits:
Abortion was legal in much of the United States through the late 1800s, and was only outlawed in states because of (1) the crappy and crude state of medicine and surgery in general, (2) the professionalization of doctors threatened by primarily female midwives, (3) an anti-feminist backlash to the suffrage movement, and (4) an effort by eugenicists and industrialists to ensure that native-born white women were producing enough bodies to work in the factories versus the damn garlic and potato-eaters. (My thoughts on notions of the evolving idea in this country of what is “white” and ethnic identity politics in the turn of the last century will have to wait for another day and is a topic that I think JNOV has written much more eloquently than I could ever hope to).

/Ending history threadjack, back to my tirade.

Much like Sarah Palin’s desire to get a pat on the back for “choosing” to give birth to her baby with Downs’ Syndrome or for her daughter to be congratulated for “choosing” to give birth after an unplanned pregnancy derailed her senior year of high school, savvier anti-choice leaders are wrapping themselves in the “feminist” mantle of choice.

Palin’s Facebook missive on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade notes:

I know from experience the joy and blessings that come from embracing life, and I know how important their work is in helping women choose life despite less than ideal circumstances. The pro-life movement is pro-women, and it empowers women with the message that we are strong enough and smart enough to be able to pursue education, vocations and avocations while giving life to a child.  …Today, more and more young women agree with these feminist foremothers, for they know in their hearts that the culture of life empowers women by offering them real choices.

(emphasis mine, head banging on desk mine)

Holding aside for now the irony of someone whose teabagger philosophy of getting government out of the way would destroy many of the programs that could help young women to be able to “pursue education, vocations and avocations” while raising an unplanned child, Palin’s self-serving belief (like Pam Tebow’s) shows a stunning arrogance that her individual experience allows her to speak for all women, and more importantly, to restrict other women from exercising the right to make a choice – as she got to make a choice – of whether to carry a pregnancy to term.

Similarly, yet another white, privileged woman, this time FFL rally speaker Karen Sablin describes her opposition to abortion and her desire to outlaw abortion in terms of her personal experience.  Sablin uses her regret over once volunteering with NARAL and having an abortion as why abortion should be outlawed for all women.  And this idea that women will suffer debilitating “regret” because they don’t know their own minds was a jaw-dropping proposition cited without support by Justice Kennedy as justification for banning abortion procedures for the protection of women. 

While we find no reliable data to measure the phenomenon, it seems unexceptionable to conclude some women come to regret their choice to abort the infant life they once created and sustained. … The State has an interest in ensuring so grave a choice is well informed. It is self-evident that a mother who comes to regret her choice to abort must struggle with grief more anguished and sorrow more profound when she learns, only after the event, what she once did not know: that she allowed a doctor to pierce the skull and vacuum the fast-developing brain of her unborn child, a child assuming the human form.

Gonzales v. Carhart, 550 U.S. 124, 159-60  (2007).

Yes, some women feel regret after an abortion.  But since Justice Kennedy lacks “reliable data,” let’s look at study after study showing that most women feel an overwhelming sense of relief after an abortion.  Some women have more ambivalent feelings – relief that they were able to end the pregnancy but feeling occasional twinges of “what if,” oftentimes around the anniversary of the abortion or the time they would have given birth but for the abortion.   But you know what, every sentient human feels occasional twinges of “what if” – What if I hadn’t chosen my career? What if I hadn’t gone to a certain school? What if I had kissed that beautiful Italian woman who flashed a smile at me? What if I hadn’t gone to the doctor and had my cancer diagnosed?

And to preemptively answer the question anti-choice activists often throw around: “What if your mother had an abortion?”  My response is, “Then I wouldn’t be here.”  But you know what, it’s not about me.  What if my mother had a headache that fateful spring night of my parents’ coitus? What if the coitus were interupus? What if my dad came two seconds later? I wouldn’t be here either.  My existence or non-existence should not be the basis for restricting the civil rights of women around the world.

Do I think that you can be personally anti-abortion and a feminist? Yes, if you understand that your personal decision to oppose undergoing the procedure yourself does not mean that you have the right to restrict other women from exercising the choice as to whether to carry a pregnancy to term.  Reproductive choice and autonomy is a central component to women’s ability to be a full and equal member of society, the sine qua  non of feminism.  If FFL and Sarah Palin want to call themselves feminists, fine, they can call themselves peanut butter cups for all I care, but calling yourself something doesn’t make it true.  Actions speak louder than words, to pull out the tired saying.

Especially, especially, especially when…let’s go to the tape, shall we?

  • FFL and Palin refuse to stand up for increased access to contraception, including for teenagers through the Title X family planning program;
  • They refuse to stand up for medically-accurate and scientifically-based sexuality education and push a ridiculous abstinence-only gender-role-stereotyped religious message that has resulted in increased pregnancies, unprotected anal sex, rampant oral sex, and rate of STDs among teenagers;
  • They refuse to stand up for health care for all;
  • They refuse to stand up for increased funding for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families and foodstamps, housing assistance, or the extension of unemployment benefits;
  • They refuse to push for subsidized child care for low-income and middle-income women;
  • They refuse to stand up for increased funding for federal foster care programs and preventative services that reduce the likelihood of already-born children from being abused and neglected.

Those are feminist issues.  What these so-called feminists for life say and what they do are two entirely different things.

But, instead, they somehow find the time to put out materials and state on their website (as FFL does) that birth control such as the Pill (which they call “abortifacients”) cause breast cancer.  Or they find the time to get on the cover of People magazine with their teenage daughter and her baby and proclaim “We’re so glad we made our choice! Huzzah for us! Hurray for everything!”

So I guess I’m just sick and tired of privileged white women like Jane Roberts, Sarah Palin, or Karen Sablin demanding adulation for “choosing” to do the right thing, or “choosing” to criminalize and restrict the autonomy of other women to make what is a deeply personal decision to undergo a SAFE and LEGAL medical procedure.

In closing, and in light of the pending U.S. Supreme Court nomination to a court that recently stated that corporations are persons, so why not fetuses and embryos too, I would note that in 1965, prior to the legalization of abortion in the United States, at least 20% of maternal deaths in our country were due to illegal and unsafe abortions.  In countries where abortion is criminalized and thus unsafe and illicit, the maternal mortality rates are at a level that is a human rights crisis.

What would a feminist do?


I swear my next post will be about Michelle Obama’s outfits. Or a rant against jeggings.

I’m putting in for 1.0 hrs CLE now.

@SanFranLefty: You rock. I’ve never heard of these guys.


head banging on desk mine

And mine!


Thanks, y’all, but don’t expect me to produce something like this on a daily basis.

ADD: And you can imagine how much I hate the similarity between FFL and SFL. Gah!

Ooh, Nojo, Bloggie, FCS, even you Serolf- you got served.

Though that totally isn’t fair to say, since this is a kinda one-off, instead of the day-to-day you guys volunteer yourselves for. And all of it is WAYYYYY harder than sitting around making semi-literate and haphazardly-informed comments with a dash of panache, as is my wont.

Still, trash-talk and all that, so in your FACE, dudes!

Good one, Lefty.

These are the same people that would whisk their daughter off to Israel or Sweden to get an abortion, especially if daddy was, er, too brown.

wow, thanks – not sure I’ve had enough coffee yet to really grock the content, except that my original thought that the FFL was some wacky splinter group from the Mothership seems to have been off. Of course, I also thought the Nation was still printed on hemp.

@Tommmcatt Loves The Giant Floating Head: To be fair, the iPad kitteh was absolutely the best fucking way to wake up this south Asian morning…


Yeah, I abuse them because I love them so. How I ‘scape the banhammer is beyond me sometimes.

@Tommmcatt Loves The Giant Floating Head: You’re too damn cute for words with those red demon sheep eyes.

@SanFranLefty: I’m getting a “YES! I’m naturally pregnant!” ad….

From the Nation letter (I found the copy in my bag after all):

“…I became a prolife feminist thirty years ago when….I heard liberation theology speakers say that abortion does nothing to solve any social problem or change any social or economic relations. What it does is help maintain the economic, political and social status quo…” (emphasis mine)


“FFL believes that abortion degrades and exploits women through invading and objectifying their bodies, distorting their physiology, misdirecting their anger and obscuring the true causes of their oppression.” (again, emphasis mine)
– Sharon Long, FFL past board member etc.

As a vaginally challenged stinquer, I still can’t get beyond the People’s Judean Front/Judean People’s Front dialectic. Or the invocation of “dialectic” in a discussion of a woman’s right to choose, for that matter. WTF?

@Nabisco: It’s not a Judean People’s Front/People’s Front of Judea dialectic. It’s the utter and complete misappropriation of feminist theory not backed up by any action that would help women or children, and FFL’s rhetoric is based upon the idea that women are such helpless victims that they have no free agency to choose – that every abortion is forced upon a woman by her man or by The Man, and we are flitting about always under someone’s thumb and unable to make a decision for ourselves. *That* is not even close to basic fundamental feminist theory.

@SanFranLefty: I think I get it. But still, WTF? Here’s another quote “Abortion has become both a symptom and a symbol of alienation in the society and culture.”

Huh? That sounds like a total perversion of populist, leftythink. How much more alienating can it be to be forced to carry Uncle Larry’s whiskey drip baby to full term then work the rest of your young life wiping down tables and referring to your diner clients as “sugar”?

@Nabisco: I like the argument that abortion is genocide against black people. I mean, Jeez.

@SanFranLefty: Whoo hoo! You go, girl! Awesome post! Can I take just a teensy, tiny bit of credit since I recently bitched/called for a female Stinquer to post on the occasional V-Am issue?

Also, it’s mind-boggling to me that language like “degrades and exploits women through invading and objectifying their bodies, distorting their physiology, misdirecting their anger and obscuring the true causes of their oppression” is supposedly describing abortion and not…say…unwanted pregnancy.

True stinque: deep feminist thought and dick jokes on parallel threads.

@flippin eck: Or rape and incest. Those apparently do not degrade and exploit women at all.

@redmanlaw: I have no doubt that if you give it 20 minutes there will be dick jokes on this thread.

My dear Lefty: you rock. Also, I don’t wish to contribute to an aneurysm, but the Georgia General Assembly is working on shoving a law through that would make it a crime to “convince” a woman to have an abortion — part of the justification being that apparently abortion providers are encouraging Black women to seek them in a genocidal effort.

@rptrcub: Ahh, my head asplosions de jour started when Cynica directed our attention to the Nebraska bill (signed by Governor today) that requires the ladies have a complete mental and physical screening to determine if they were suffering “problems” or were “pressured” into obtaining an abortion.

And no, the words in quotes are not defined.

/back to martini

@Dodgerblue: I don’t want to hear about the size of your keyboard again, Dodger!

Great post: ranty, funny, thoughtful, eloquent, just a little unhinged: everything Stinque should be. Brava!

As for these people, aren’t they some Koch industry front? It’s a front for some damn thing. And they don’t write that shit. It’s total PR hackery.

@Tommmcatt Loves The Giant Floating Head: Calling it a “banhammer” is your first offense. They have been and always will be executions.

“…ranty, funny, thoughtful, eloquent, just a little unhinged…”

Sounds like everyone hanging around here.

@nojo: As long as there’s no disemvoweling.

I smell a theme …

Turns out the Quitter Queen didn’t give back quite all the clothes.

And with $12 million she can’t buy a better wig?

@karen marie: And with $12 million she can’t buy a better wigmerkin?


@SanFranLefty: Is that less than 20 minutes?

@Benedick: …ranty, funny, thoughtful, eloquent, just a little unhinged…

That’s good….more than good, that sings! I would buy a t-shirt that said that.

Well I had an INSANE instance of “Leggings Are Not Pants” on Monday, and you would not even believe what this poor woman’s teenage daughter was wearing…

@SanFranLefty: Damn, girl. Somebody ate their Wheaties this morning.

@redmanlaw: The only thing safe about Di in that mine action photo is the fact that she’s wearing flats*. Srsly, she looks more like she’s going for the jumbo lobster dinner at the Chum Bucket than getting anywhere close to an actual live mine. And that plastic thing over her face? What was she doing, some beekeeping on the side?

*officially exhausting my deep well of fashion savvy terminology.

@redmanlaw: Very classic look. You can’t really go wrong with it, unless you don’t have the legs for tapered pants.

May I go on record appealing to huddled stinquers and stinquettes everywhere that under no circumstances whatsoever should anyone refer to Sarah Palin as “peanut butter cup”? Lefty’s blog jacking liberties aside, I make two strong arguments for the motion:

1. I love peanut butter cups.
2. My biscuits’ school district is able to maintain generally high standards (including actual sidewalks, libraries, both arts and sports programs) due to taxes raised from one of the larger purveyors of peanut butter cup manufacturing in US America.

Can I get a second?

Brava, SFL!!! Hello all! Just this afternoon, I was on the elevator with another woman. The little tv screen broadcasting CNN was reporting on the Nebraska abortion bill. We looked at each other and shook our heads and she said, “Why don’t they mind their own damn business? Why are they so worried about what I do with my own body? How about fixing the economy? ” She was a black woman in her mid 30’s. I suppose I should have informed her that they were trying to protect her from committing genocide.

That’s what she said. And she was right.

@Nabisco: I’ll second that even though I’m kinda confused as to how we got onto this subject. But it’s late and I’m a little depressed so the preservation of peanut butter cups sounds like an excellent place to take a stand. Save the Cups!!!

@cassandra_said: Hey there! Long time, no see.

@TJ/ Jamie Sommers /TJ: Jamie, if you need to holla sometime, do so: I’m something like twelve hours ahead of you, so if need someone to jaw with shoot me a message on FB or in the clubhouse. I’ll bring the peanut butter cups…

@cassandra_said: yeah, welcome back, Lurquer Extraordinaire!

@cassandra_said: Welcome back. Those little TV news screens can lead to some interesting elevator talk, in my experience.

@Nabisco: No disrespect intended towards peanut cups.


beautiful lefty, beautiful (happy)

we’re STILL dealing with this issue (sad)

anyone else have the feeling this ride is going backwards?

Ok, I didn’t have time to read this whole thing (I will when I’m not under deadline), but I had a comment that’s gotta be said:

I’m pretty sure that any organization which feels the need to describe itself as “grassroots,” isn’t.

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