Feminists for Life’s Imaginary World

Sarah Palin cheerfully trots out her affiliation
with the anti-choice organization Feminists for Life in order to back the claim that she’s pro-woman" — and
because I did so much in-depth
examining of this organization that I created a tag just for them at
— I thought
I’d take a swing at FFL, specifically, how little there is for women in their supposed "pro-woman"

In the course of my research,
I learned that the definition of "feminism" that FFL works with
doesn’t resemble the kind of feminism that you or I know and love. 
Their "feminism" doesn’t involve equal
rights for women.
Their "feminism" defines women as
uniquely incapable of handling freedom.
Their version of "feminism" is one where women don’t deserve real
health care, but a substandard version based on lies that could get
you killed.
Theirs is even a "feminism" that belittles rape by
suggesting that it’s as bad or worse for women to have rights than to
be raped.
Theirs is a "feminism" that rewrites feminist history
to deceive modern women.

Despite their claims
to be an organization that’s broadly opposed to abortion, they put
most of their efforts into convincing one specific demographic to take
one specific path. I took a screenshot
to give you an idea of what demographic they’d like to see take which path
. A young, hip-looking (nose ring!) woman against language about reaching out to student leaders around the country. The sidebar–where the only outreach mentioned
is college outreach–and the ad campaign should clue you in, too.  Still guessing? 
When answering the question about what they do to make bringing pregnancy to term a more viable option for unintentionally pregnant women, Feminists For Life details its outreach
to college women.
  Low income women was something of an afterthought. 

It doesn’t make sense, if
you take FFL at their word.  They emphasize statistics suggesting that many women cite economic reasons for aborting as evidence
that abortion is always "coerced" and never actually wanted by women. 
(FFL are "feminists" who think women are far too stupid to know
what they really want.)  Since they profess so much concern for
low-income women aborting pregnancies they’d probably bring to term
if they had the means, why do they put most of their efforts
into convincing young women who have the privilege of college education
not to abort? 

It doesn’t make sense. 
If any group of women choosing abortion isn’t one to feel too sorry
for, it’s college age women choosing abortion.  Compared to women in more socioeconomically stressful
circumstances, many college women who had an "oops" have it easy. 
On average, they’re young and looking forward to a financially secure
future (if they stay in school), and they’ll be able to have their
babies down the road, under circumstances that are better for them,
their children, and their families.  Lower-income women aborting
otherwise desired pregnancies under financial duress need a
lot more sympathy….and help.  

Far be it for me to cast suspicion
on the motivations of FFL, but — hell, what am I saying?  Of
course I want to cast suspicions on their motivations.  Their actions
(trying to convince college women to have kids while they’re still
in school) don’t match their rhetoric (which exploits the trauma of
poverty to justify their anti-choice views).  And considering that
Sarah Palin’s pregnant daughter fits right into this demographic, the story becomes more interesting. 
That she’s taking the choice FFL pushes — marry the father, have the baby, hope for the best — means that
we should look at the likelihood of that scenario working out as planned. 

FFL paints, to their college-aged
audiences, a rosy picture of how great it can be to have a baby while
trying to get your undergraduate degree. They push for more married
student housing and more on-site day care. (There’s not really a need
for the former, but I agree that the latter would be nice, even if I
disagree with FFL’s motivations.) And with a handful of resources, the
ideal life for you at 18 will be downright easy, wouldn’t you know? 
You can get married to your 19-year-old boyfriend (who will no doubt
be thrilled to give up single life so young), and start playing
house while all your other friends use their college years to experiment
and have fun.  And sure, FFL will say, you can totally finish your
degree and have that great career that you planned before you got pregnant.  

I’m not so certain. 
Raising babies is expensive, and students don’t have much in the way
of money.  And with financial aid being as meager as it is nowadays,
with ever-increasing amount of reliance on loans, dropping out of school
to get that job will be a lot more attractive that FFL lets on. 
Marriage is no cure for that problem, either.  Once you’ve set
up house and the baby is crying all the time and there’s not much
money, it’s going to seem harder and harder to justify taking out
loans for two college degrees, when one person could be working
to put the other through college.  And the man’s degree is going
to seem a little more valuable for the same reason that men’s jobs
seem more valuable when it’s time for one parent to start staying
at home full time. 

It’s extremely anti-woman
for FFL to mislead college women about the wisdom of the choice to have
children young.  Sure, for some it works out.  But the younger
you have kids and the younger you marry, the higher the risk
of dropping out, earning less, and divorcing.
What kind of "feminists" refuse to extend women the basic respect
required to be forthright with someone?   

As an avid wingnut watcher,
I have to admit that I love FFL, or love to hate them, to be precise. 
Their focus on the most privileged group of likely candidates for abortion
reflects the larger priorities of the anti-choice movement, which isn’t
to save "babies," but to remake America into their idealized version
of the fifties, with a pretty white submissive 19-year-old housewife in
every house.  College education and career aspirations for women
directly threaten this ideal, so it’s no wonder that FFL tries to convince college women to make decisions that will cause
many of them to give up on their dreams of degrees and careers. 
Under the banner of feminism, FFL tries to deceive women into letting
go of the very things feminists fought for women to have.  If that’s
feminism, then "South Park" is a children’s show.  

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  • invalid-0

    Thanks for a very cogent set of arguments. I plan to use some of them in an upocming debate.

    When I clicked on this link: “I took a screenshot to give you an idea of what demographic they’d like to see take which path.” I got a response from flikr that said, “This page is private. Oops! You don’t have permission to view this photo.”

    Can you change the permissions to make the screen shot public?

    Thanks again.

  • amanda-marcotte


  • kirsten-sherk

    Thanks, Amanda.  Marcy Bloom wrote an excellent post about what Palin’s membership says about Palin — but you really expose the inherent dishonesty in FFL’s position.  I think, to go one step further, it can not be said enough that Feminists for Life, like so many anti-choice organizations, really don’t care about preventing unwanted pregnancy.  Their web site says nothing about preventing unwanted pregnancy.  Their president, Serrin Foster, has no interest in promoting programs that prevent unwanted pregnancy.  They just want to compel women to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term — at least college-aged women.  Apparently, their brand of feminism does not include helping women make life choices, including delaying childbearing, or finishing college, or former a partnership because you want to, not because you have to.  

  • invalid-0

    Even without an unintended pregnancy and children, college was nearly impossible for my husband and I to afford. We had to go one at a time (I did go first since I was more successful our first semester there) and we have starved and sacrificed literally everything to get to where we are today. My parents made too much money for me to qualify for scholarships or grants even though they refused to pay for any of my education and his parents made just enough money to disqualify him for most scholarships and grants but not enough to help out in any real way. WE were the couple FFL is targetting (more because we are white, from middle class families, ostensibly will be returning to that class one day, grew up in “christian” families, and while neither of us are conservatives, we both work in conservative industries).
    I think focusing on college Women isn’t going to work unless those Women are personally prolife to begin with. During college, I would not have let anything stand in the way of my education. If I had become pregnant in college, I would have sacrificed that pregnancy in order to secure a future for myself and my family. So the good news is that I don’t believe for one instant that the FFL’s message is actually effective for Women like me, of which there are a lot in colleges all over the nation. Even if FFL believes Women cannot make a decision for themselves, Women are actually a lot more pragmatic than they view us. And many of us know before we ever become pregnant whether we will be able to afford to bring a new life to the planet through our bodies.
    So, I say let them waste their money on outreach programs because Women aren’t actually the way they view them, especially not ambitious, confident college Women.
    Peace, Jenna.

    • invalid-0

      Yeah, Jenna – don’t let that “christian” upbringing get in the way of your ambitious, confident college education – you poor dear, your folks made too much money for you to qualify for financial aid (I’m sooooo sorry). You sound like a selfish, spoiled brat who parrots the platitudes of the new feminism (translated “pro-aborts”). You would have murdered a child just because you wanted an education more. Shameful.

      Bottom line: abortion is bad for WOMEN. Science supports this statement, check it out. Another little-known fact, the early feminists (in America, at least) were pro-life! You have been duped!

  • invalid-0

    This may seem a bit off-topic, but it’s important to point out that the far right, which this group is a part of, also opposes emergency contraception for rape victims.

    They even have claimed that some raped women who bear their rapists’ babies have come to love them and have found it to be a transformative experience. Well, if we are to be fair, that could possibly be their choice.

    But let’s change the equation: Let’s introduce this problem into a stable, nuclear family like the ones they so admire.

    It’s your twenty-three year old, newly married daughter. She is assaulted in the parking lot at work. She didn’t “ask for it,” and she didn’t see it coming. She isn’t using birth control because she and her husband are thinking about starting a family. She becomes pregnant as a result of the rape.

    What is that pregnancy going to do to her? What is it going to do to her husband? What is it going to do to you, the parents, the in-laws? What is it going to do to that child?

    My prediction (based on years as a social worker) is that the marriage will not survive. Although she will do her best, she will have tremendous ambivalence toward the baby. She may cut herself off emotionally from her husband as well. God help the child if he or she resembles the rapist. The young husband may want to stay because he loves her, but the baby’s presence is going to tear him apart. His rage and thoughts of violence may frighten him so that he has to leave to keep himself from harming someone. He will hate himself for leaving; his life may spiral downward. The in-laws will struggle with their violent feelings about the pregnancy and the baby, and however sympathetic they may be toward your daughter, they will not be able to accept that baby as part of their family. And you, her parents, (her siblings too) may withhold love from that child as well– even though you don’t mean to do so– because you know what your daughter has gone through. As for the child–what will the knowledge of his/her beginning do to the child? Wait until adolescence!

    There is a very simple solution here: make sure that all emergency rooms, no matter how they have to manipulate their staffing (thanks to the current HHS discussion):
    1)treat her without forcing her to pay for a rape kit (don’t we want these monsters off the street?),
    2) offer her emergency contraception.
    3) make sure she has access to counseling, and her husband does too.

    Another point: Repeated mass rape of women and girls was a major tool of ethnic cleansing in the Balkan conflicts in the ’90s. By forcing women to bear children who were not of their own ethnic background, the aggressors were able to get rid of a “pure” ethnic population.

    Forcing any woman to bear her rapist’s child is oppression, pure and simple.

    I think the problem is that women in FFL and similar groups think about rape victims as “asking for it” and as “someone else.” They deliberately exclude people with other life experiences from their circles so they never have to examine other truths.

  • http://www.turntheclockforward.org/ invalid-0

    This post is sheer nonsense. Up is down, black is white, helping pregnant and parenting students complete their education is undermining women’s college and career aspirations.

    When the FFL College Outreach Program came to my campus, community leaders who I know to be solidly feminist (and for that matter, solidly pro-choice) participated in the panel and enthusiastically contributed their ideas on how to make our campus a more welcoming place to pregnant and parenting students. Were they in on this stealth plan to convince women to give up their ambitions of college and career?

    • invalid-0

      The problem with RH Reality Check is that they don’t want parenting to be one of the choices. . .

  • http://inowrite.blogspot.com/ invalid-0

    You would have murdered a child just because you wanted an education more

    Do you enjoy twisting words?  Changing facts?  You must since you clearly take no issue with doing just that.  Nobody mentioned murdering children (aside from those in the anti-abortion camp… sick, really) so take your shame and just put it in a sock. 

    Bottom line: abortion is bad for WOMEN

    No, it’s not (and why put women in all caps?)  Abortion was good for me and there are plenty of women who agree.  Science has never supported any of the favorite anti-abortion myths… although, pseudoscience has come in real handy for them.

    Another little-known fact, the early feminists (in America, at least) were pro-life!

    You’ve been duped… always, always, always consider your sources!

  • invalid-0

    NO- they don’t want parenting to be the ONLY choice.
    But then someone who is so focused on being right rather than being a decent human being to the people on this earth rather than in the womb wouldn’t bother to actually READ what’s on this site anyhow.

    Bugger off.

  • invalid-0

    Too many people want women to ignore the reality that having an abortion rips up women emotionally. It is a terrible thing to have an unwanted pregancy. An unwanted pregnancy, however, is not nearly as disabling as living with the realization you have allowed a doctor to cut open your body to cut open a developing human being inside it.

    Until women, and men, acknowledge that abortion, like war, is a violent act, this debate about legalizing it or not will continue to be ridiculous. Women who are for or against legalization should stop arguing with each other and realize that abortion is something women turn to because they are at a grave economic and social disadvantage in our society. By joining in the chorus of women arguing against each other’s positions, you all are just wasting energy that would be better spent in working to help women worldwide become more empowered. Men love abortion, for good reason. Don’t give in to the male model of what society should be.

  • invalid-0

    “An unwanted pregnancy, however, is not nearly as disabling as living with the realization you have allowed a doctor to cut open your body to cut open a developing human being inside it.”

    I get it that you folks like to engage in the most manipulative and over the top language possible but the fact of the matter is that most women aren’t “ripped up emotionally” after an abortion. I know that you wish that we were but it’s just not true and it’s not true because we do not share your beliefs and what’s more we are grateful wer do not share your beliefs. The women I know who have been forced to give birth and then have been forced through circumstances to adopt the child out are far more haunted than those I know who have had abortions. Indeed when women and girls are forced against their wills to carry a child to term and than had the infant forcibly removed (as was the standard practice when abortion was illegal and it was illegal for unmarried women to have contraceptives) were the most damaged.
    Oh, and FYI very few abortions involve a physician “cutting open” one’s body. Likewise, I fail to see how forcing women to carry to term against their wills could possibly be considered ’empowering’

    “Men love abortion, for good reason. Don’t give in to the male model of what society should be.”

    Good lord.

  • invalid-0

    I think it is lovely how you only manage to see what you want to see. I would be here all day if I listed all the examples, so I will only list a few. First of all, you say that FFL only advocates that women marry the father and have the baby. That is not true. The website clearly says that they support any option that includes giving the baby a chance at life. This includes marrying the father OR not marrying the father and raising the baby on your on. You also seem to imply that FFL believes it would be easy to have a baby and continue college. FFl supports housing for parents (which you said there is no need for and then continue to talk about the financial burden living off campus puts on parents, which seems to support the point that on campus housing is needed).FFL also supports other programs that would make it easier for women to make the choice of having the baby. FFL does not ignore poor women who are forced to have abortions because of economic circumstances. Just because they have a college outreach program does not mean they ignore every one else. That is a false argument. They explain on their website that they have a college outreach program because statistically women in college are the most likely to get an abortion. What is wrong with having an outreach program that targets the people the most likely be the victim of what you are trying to prevent.
    You also conveniently ignore their argument on choice. Is it really much of a choice if there is no help when you find yourself pregnant and there is nowhere to live, no where close to campus for daycare, and no one that seems to care that the bieng living inside you is a person (a very tiny, undeveloped person) that deserves the chance at life too. Sure, there are tons of people like you on campus who is willing to give them a ride to the abortion clinic, but where is a support system that supports the “choice” of keeping the baby. It seems like the only choice that pro-choicers seem to advocate is abortion. I dont see pro-choice groups lining up to support on campus daycare and housing for single moms. All I hear is the rhetoric of how horrible a baby is to a young mom. You think FFL implies that women are too stupid make the choice they want to make and then you degrade the choice of keeping the baby and make it seem like life is over if the baby is kept.
    I got pregnant my sophomore year with someone I was not in love with. When I went to the on campus health clinic I was told where I could get an abortion, but no one told me where to sign up for Medicaid to pay for prenatal exams and helthcare for my son after he was born. I lost my scholarship because I took a semester off to have my son and be at home with him for the first couple months. When I contacted womens rights groups and told my womens studies professors at school no one seemed interested that I was discriminated against because I had a child. I did not stay with the father and your right I am racking up college loans because of the lack of my scholarship, but I can look at my sons face everyday and know that I made the right decision to give him a chance at life. In my womens studies class people give me weird looks when I mention my 2 year old. So while your on your high horse, just remember that “pro-choicers” are just as judgemental and have an agenda just like most “pro-lifers.”

  • http://www.automatedfitness.com/ invalid-0

    What do you consider Feminism? You bring up some very curious points, especially re:Sarah Palin. I think anyone who does not support women’s rights cannot be considered a feminist.

  • http://my-student-loan-consolidation.com invalid-0

    College people are not at all ready nor prepared for having and raising kids. Very true. The flip side is that often times we grow and mature through situations that we didn’t plan for and have no control over.

    I’ve seen many do it (young pregnancies), and have gone through the extra level of (mandatory) discipline in life versus those party through college without a care. It’s really hard to say who comes out better. We cannot generalize as it’s probably 50/50. Some will become well-disciplined, responsible adults and benefit from early pregnancies, while others will resent the situation and end up a lot worse. In that sense we really should let people choose as we cannot claim to know what side of the 50/50 they are on. – Serina