Here’s a cheering thought about 2017: It’s gonna be a banner year for comedians.
It’s also shaping up to be a surprisingly good year for pro-lifers. Not because Trump has done anything whatsoever to help save babies or protect women. Maybe he’ll take the trouble to reinstate the largely symbolic Mexico City policy, maybe he won’t; but so far, his pro-life credentials are exactly zero, if you’re generous. [ETA: Shortly after I wrote this, Trump reinstated the Mexico City policy. Credit where it’s due.]
But never mind him, because people who are actually pro-life aren’t waiting for him to remember there’s such a thing as us. Women in seven continents turned out for the Women’s March, to protest his election and to support causes dear to women — causes like education, healthcare, racial justice, protection and respect for the disabled, and, well, everything else. Women are interested in all kinds of things; and even progressive women have more on their mind than abortion abortion abortion. That’s the nice thing about a protest: You show up and say what you want to say (even if you can’t even talk yet).
Yeah, the protest was organized and funded by pro-choicers. Yeah, “abortion rights” became one of the planks of their platform, after a stink was raised in some quarters. But tons of pro-life women showed up anyway, because pro-life is a feminist cause ne plus ultra. As the giant banner said — the banner that led the march, because Students For Life decided to run right out in front — “ABORTION BETRAYS WOMEN.”
So there were pro-life feminists there. In some venues, they were attacked and screamed at; in some venues, they were greeted with respect and support, even from women who didn’t agree with them. These are the reports from the women I know who were actually there.
Even more heartening than this reception is what happened on Saturday Night Life. You can see the entire segment here, but here’s the money part:
Did you catch that? The man just told his audience that pro-lifers are feminists, and that they absolutely belong in a pro-woman march, because a feminist is simply a reasonable person. He used the phrase “pro-life,” not “anti-choice” or “anti-abortion rights.”
Here’s the transcript of this segment:
It was an amazing show of support for feminism, but some feminist groups were asked not to march because of their pro-life views, which raises the question: “What makes a feminist a feminist?” It’s confusing.
My mother raised seven kids by herself and she’s the strongest woman I know, so I asked her if she was a feminist, and she said, “Boy, God made Adam and EVE,” I was like, “That’s not what that means.”
A feminist is really just someone who believes in rights for women, and that’s easy to get behind. Until you get behind a feminist wearing a uterus hat and then you’re like, “There are levels to this.”
I just think it’s weird to have a special name for just being a reasonable person, because that’s all it is. Believing in equality just means you’re not a dick, and for me, that enough.
Folks, Donald Trump is a dick. Not because he claims to be anti-abortion, but because he treats women and children, and anyone else who seems vulnerable, like dirt to be trampled under his feet.
Shall I tell you what I want, as a feminist?
I want no girl, teenager, or woman to feel that she has to have a sexual relationship she doesn’t want.
I want no girl, teenager, or woman to feel pressured to act out the porn that’s shaped the desires of a generation.
I want no girl, teenager, or woman to be mocked, pressured, or chided by her friends, her boyfriend, her doctor, or the culture at large for deciding not to have sex with someone.
I want every woman to know that, if she gets pregnant unintentionally, the father of the child will behave like an adult — not just ponying up a few hundred dollars and a ride to the abortion clinic to erase his mistake, but taking on real, shared, self-giving responsibility. I want women to know that the pregnancy is not just her problem.
I want rape victims to be treated with dignity and respect, not suspicion and blame and aggression from schools, from the legal system, and from their neighbors.
I want unplanned pregnancies to stop meaning stigma, shame, and horror.
I want unplanned pregnancies to stop meaning that a woman’s education must end.
I want unplanned pregnancies to stop meaning that a woman is doomed to poverty.
I want unplanned pregnancies to stop meaning the end of a career.
I want women carrying a disabled unborn baby to know that her child has a shot at being treated with dignity by the world, if she’s allowed to be born.
I want women carrying a black unborn baby to know that her child has a shot at being treated with dignity by the world, if she’s allowed to be born.
I want women carrying an unborn girl to know that her child has a shot at being treated with dignity by the world, if she’s allowed to be born.
I want a world where it doesn’t even occur to people to consider abortion, because there are so many, many alternatives. Pro-lifers and pro-choicers can work together to provide these alternatives. And that’s what we have in common.
If pro-choice feminists agree with even part of this, then you’re damn right we are sisters. You’re damn right we belong marching together.
Don’t underestimate the power of popular culture to change hearts and minds. It’s already becoming more acceptable to be pro-life. It’s already becoming more evident that there is more to us than “no, no, no.” Today’s young adults are looking around at the cultural wasteland left behind after the sexual revolution, and they’re thinking, “Well, that didn’t work. What else can we try?”
Some of them are trying on pro-life feminism. I think it looks pretty good on them — and apparently, so does Saturday Night Live.
So, you folks who are stamping your feet and huffing and puffing over the scandal of pro-lifers turning up at a pro-choice march? You Catholics who are up in arms over pro-life women inflating the numbers of the march, and giving aid and comfort to our ideological enemies? Check it out:
Pro-life feminists who marched got Saturday Night Live to utter the phrase “pro-life,” and to call them reasonable people, to admit that they are feminists, too. Tell me how you were planning to achieve that by sitting at home in your MAGA hat, annotating your list of Catholics We Find Upsetting.
While you were busy taking incriminating screenshots of your neighbor to send to your priest, pro-lifers feminists were bringing their message home. And they’re changing the culture.
Keep marching, sisters.
Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa posted this excellent article from New Wave Feminists on Facebook. It’s an open letter she wrote to a fellow who insists that it’s essential to use large, graphic photos of aborted babies outside abortion clinics. There ensued a lively discussion about whether or not this practice is (a) appropriate and (b) effective. The fellow to whom the open letter was addressed boasted that he’s been a pro-life warrior for twenty years, and insisted that it was both right and effective.
O wonder of instantaneous social media: Abby Johnson responded. Johnson is the founder of And Then There Were None, which ministers directly to people who want to leave the abortion industry. She says that, while these graphic images occasionally do change people’s minds, they also often do something else: they tip the balance toward abortion.
She should know. She once managed an abortion clinic, and for many years saw protesters march around with their gory posters. Johnson says (emphasis is mine; and she gave me permission to reprint her comments here):
I watched them be ineffective for many years … from inside the abortion clinic. A perspective that most do not have. I watched for several years as women would literally run away from those holding graphic signs. They would come into my office and ask us why those people were holding them. We used that as an opportunity to point out how crazy the prolifers were and that they would do anything to prevent women from making the choices they felt they needed to. It was an AMAZING way for us to build camaraderie inside our clinic.
Then I saw the signs come down…and I actually saw women changing their minds. They started approaching the people on the sidewalk, asking questions…and then leaving our parking lot and going to the crisis pregnancy centers. Once the signs came down, we started to have volunteer escorts so that we could try to convince the women coming in not to talk to the sidewalk counselors…because they were having such an impact. When the signs were out there, we LOVED IT!!! No one was approaching them. We didn’t need escorts.
Read that again: they liked it when the gory pictures were out there. It made their job easier. Women literally ran toward abortion.
As I have said many times before, these graphic images are essential for showing ignorant or apathetic people the true horror of abortion . . . as long as the images are used in the right context. Waving them at women in emotional turmoil is the wrong context.
We are several generations past Roe v. Wade. We have the luxury of speaking to women who have lived with abortion for many years — women who can tell us what it’s like to make that choice, and who can tell us what would have changed their minds. We can talk to women who can tell us what doesn’t work. If our goal is to protect women and babies from abortion, then in God’s name, we must listen to people who know.
Note: I am closing comments because the last time I talked about the proper use of graphic images, I was subjected to months and months of incredible nastiness from people who consider themselves pro-life. I spend part of every day crying for my lost baby, and I am not up for another round of hearing that I’m not really pro-life. Please note that I will not respond to any emails on this topic, and anyone who comments about it on other posts, here or at the Register, will be banned. I have already heard what you have to say, and the rage and condescension only persuades me further that the pro-life movement needs to be purged of misogyny if it will ever gain ground.