The Pro-Life Movement Is Not Pro-Woman: An Open Letter To Sarah PalinS

Dear Sarah Palin: I confess that in the past, I have made fun of you. But you keep claiming that curtailing women's reproductive rights empowers women, and I'm not laughing anymore.

The supposed benefit for women of an anti-choice ideology has been one of your talking points for a while now, but today's Facebook post on the upcoming March for Life represents a new low of anti-feminist doublethink. Allow me to respond point-by-point.

In the years following Roe, we were told that the issue was no longer open for debate and that we should get over it and move on.

This is an interesting complaint given the frequency with which feminists, especially those who try to make reproductive rights a campaign issue, are told to "get over it and move on."

[T]his peaceful, hopeful grassroots crowd of individuals, families and students comes to our capital every year [for the March for Life] to remind us that every innocent life is beautiful, precious and full of potential. These warrior souls come to show their dedication to the weakest among us: those with special needs, women without anyone to turn to, and children without a voice.

The claim that anti-choicers speak for a marginalized group — here, "children without a voice" — is a common cover-up for their effective marginalization of women. What's more unusual about your argument is your assertion that anti-abortion somehow help "women without anyone to turn to," when in fact, if you succeed, you will put millions of women in a situation in which they have no one to turn to. Except, that is, for service providers you approve of:

They run the helpful pregnancy resource centers, the counseling hotlines, the foster care facilities, the adoption services, and countless other outreach programs that offer compassionate assistance and friendship to women who are struggling.

If you truly want to increase funding for foster care and liberalize adoption to make it cheaper and easier for children to find homes, I agree with you wholeheartedly. But when you mention "helpful pregnancy resource centers," I believe you're speaking of the kind of crisis pregnancy centers that, at their worst, give misinformation, withhold birth control advice, and even coerce women into giving up their children for adoption rather than raising them themselves. At their very best, these centers still fail to offer women the abortion option they have the right to exercise, and your claim that removing this option helps "struggling" women is infantilizing rather than empowering.

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.

You seem to believe that your individual experience allows you to speak for all women. It doesn't.

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.

Many pro-choice feminists have fought hard to help women work and study while raising children. And in fact your philosophy of "government getting out of the way" fights against many of the programs that would make these things easier — reliable nationalized health care, for instance. Your attempt to recast the anti-choice movement as a movement for working moms is patently ludicrous.

[M]any of the earliest leaders of the women's rights movement were pro-life – women like Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Alice Paul, the author of the original Equal Rights Amendment in 1923, who said, "Abortion is the ultimate exploitation of women."

There is considerable dispute over whether Susan B. Anthony was in fact pro-life. And given the fact that abortion was actually legal in the US until the late 1800s, and that the debate over reproductive rights looked very different in the early days of feminism, it's difficult for anyone today to claim common ground with Stanton or Anthony on this issue.

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.

This line sums up everything that is disturbing about your post, and indeed much of your rhetoric in general. Using vague language and contorted logic, you attempt to make an uplifting platitude out of what is essentially an indefensible statement: that you are offering women more choices by offering them fewer.

Sarah Palin: Marching For A Beautiful Life [Facebook]