Originally posted on Damian G's blog Unpleasant Accents.
Pro-Life and Feminist: Protecting Both Mother and Child
|New Wave Feminists representin' at the 2013 March for Life|
The pro-life movement is frequently lambasted by its critics as "anti-woman". Anti-abortion activists, the argument goes, are nothing more than sexist religious zealots, who wish to rob women of their bodily autonomy and have no business dictating women's medical choices, because they will never get pregnant, and they don't have wombs. Well, except for the ones who do.
In keeping with our popular series of interviews with unlikely pro-lifers, we shift from those who oppose abortion yet do not believe in God, to those who oppose abortion specifically from a pro-woman, pro-child perspective. "Feminist" is not the first word one often associates with campaigning for the rights of the unborn, but there are many who do self-identify as both feminist and pro-life. In fact, full disclosure: Yours Truly is currently an intern at Feminists for Life and participated in New Wave Feminists' #WhatWomenNeed social media campaign. Not that I have a bias, or anything...
Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa is a wife, mother, feminist, and proud Texan (because duh, what other kind is there?). When she's not writing for New Wave Feminists, she's usually ranting in the pages of The Dallas Morning News. She loves queso and hates typing in third person.
How would you define what a "feminist" is?
To me, a feminist is someone who demands equal rights as a human being, but also embraces her natural biology, fertility, and the amazing capabilities unique to our gender. Our womanhood is our birthright, not something to be sacrificed at the altar of equality. A feminist is someone who celebrates all of his or her inherent strengths and abilities while not just making this world a better place for our daughters, but striving to create a culture that honors women and men, and respects the dignity of all human beings, no matter their gender or size.
New Wave Feminists started in 2007. We were actually "New Wave Femmes" back then because we did not want to be associated with the Radical Feminist movement. Then, around 2010, we decided to take Gandhi’s advice and go the whole "be the change you want to see" route.
I was driving down the highway with my 5-year-old son when a giant breastaurant billboard caught both of our attention, and from the back seat I hear, "Mommy, that’s not very appropriate." I was thinking the exact same thing while being visually assaulted by two half-dressed women pressing their dairies together in an attempt to get drivers to stop in for a beer. Obviously, advertisements like this are nothing new. We're bombarded with them daily to the point we feel so overwhelmed we simply accept defeat and move on. But in my opinion, this time it’d gone too far. I contacted the city, spoke before city council, wrote a letter to the franchise, and ultimately set up a meeting with the billboard owner. I knew there was power in numbers, and so rather than going in alone, I found a group of friends who were also appalled by the signage and formed a very unofficial "group." I went and met with the billboard owner and told her that NWF did not want to take further actions, but if we were forced to, we would. Then, I went home and hoped she wouldn’t call my bluff.
Two weeks later, there was a giant banner obscuring the offensive part of the sign, and thus, NWF was officially born.
After that, it didn’t take long for us to add our pro-life views to the NWF vision. We all firmly believe abortion is an intricate cog in the oppression and exploitation of women and children.
Why are you specifically a pro-life feminist?
I spent a majority of my formative years being groomed for the role I have now, and I don’t mean that in a good way. I had to go through the fire in order to see how this world burns women.
I started reading Cosmo around 10 and was a sex-kitten-in-training by 14. I thought my sexuality was my greatest asset and the key to unlocking all of my female power. Rather than respecting and honoring my body and all it is capable of, I used it as a weapon to control men. I began objectifying myself in the name of liberation at a very young age, and it took me way too long to even figure it out, because I thought I was such a bad-ass I’d never let a guy "use" me. No, instead, I just used myself. And ultimately, because of the "liberated" lifestyle I was living, I became pregnant at sixteen. Single two weeks later. My mother had gotten pregnant with me at twenty while attending the University of Texas, and if anybody knew better than to repeat her mistakes, it was me. But here I was. However, knowing how easily I could've been aborted, doing that to my child was not an option.
I wish I could say after the birth of my son that's when I straightened up and got my act together, but if anything, it only made matters worse. Now, to reach the almighty "sex kitten status," I had to offer even more of myself to the guys I dated. In my mind, I had to make up for the fact that I had a child, and stretch marks, and a baby sitter I had to rush home to. My fertility was nothing but trouble, so I poisoned myself to suppress it and enjoyed the added benefit of empty exploits, since sex had no real consequences anymore. It wasn’t until years later, when I was sabotaging my marriage as fast as I could, that I became pregnant with my second child, this time a daughter. I don’t know what happened, but after giving birth to her, I snapped out of it. I saw it all for the pile of bullsh!t it was. The blinders came off. I saw everything through new eyes: her eyes. And I realized how the world was determined to chew her up and spit her out, just like it did with me. I wanted to change that. I wanted to change the world. And as I grow older, and the world keeps looking bleaker and bleaker, I realize I might not be able to do that, but I can at least show my children, my daughters and sons, what true strength, liberation, and empowerment looks like. It’s the exact opposite of everything you’re sold in the pages of Cosmo and on MTV.
Our sex-obsessed culture and the radical feminist ideology leads to destruction, regret, and emptiness. It’s the antithesis of true feminism. It steals your womanhood and sells it to the highest bidder. It is the epitome of misogyny. Just think about it: Radical feminism prides itself on promoting, what? Commitment-free sex, abortion on demand, and demeaning men so we can rule over them. Rather than raising women up to a higher standard and encouraging men to follow suit, we stoop to the basest human level possible and rot in a porn-saturated pit all in the name of “women’s liberation.” The sad irony is we’re doing exactly what the patriarchy wants. I mean, hell, you have a PORN STAR calling herself a feminist on every news channel that will listen right now.
Just for one minute, imagine the douchiest, grossest, greasiest misogynist you can, and tell me what his ideal utopia would look like. I imagine he’d get to screw chicks without worrying about investing any time, attention, or true intimacy into the relationship (Because, "Tonight you’re perfect, I want to fall in love but only for the night," right?). He wouldn’t have to call the next day because she’s just as liberated as a guy (whatever the hell that means), so there are no pesky emotional strings attached through the act of sexual intercourse. And gawd forbid a female ever feel bonded to someone she’s sleeping with (he’ll make sure to mock her relentlessly for being so "needy" and "clingy"). Oh, and if she gets knocked up, he can just walk away, and hopefully, she will, too ("Here’s $500, take care of it… It’ll be empowering, or something…").
As I look back on the cluster#*$% my life once was, I can only thank my lucky stars I knew better than to abort my child. I wouldn't be where I am now, because odds are I wouldn't have made it out alive. But like I said, it took going through the fire to see not just the scars I have, but the burns so many of the women in my generation bear because of this perverted version of “feminism.”
Reality is, the NEW "patriarchy" views women as an expense, a liability, and a responsibility they don't want anything to do with. And rather than smash that sect of men, radical feminism has given them everything they want on a golden platter. We have reached the pinnacle of exploitation, thanks to that bassackwards movement. A bunch of fauxminists is all they are. And that, THAT, is why New Wave Feminists is here, to take back feminism from those who have corrupted it. Oh, and to smash douchebags.
Were you ever in favour of abortion?
No. I’m also not in favor of the Canadian way you just messed up a perfectly good word.
Would you say that self-described feminists who support abortion are "bad feminists"? Or is there room for differences of opinion within the feminist community on abortion and related issues?
Many of my friends, some self-proclaimed feminists, some not, support a woman’s right to choose abortion. I get that, and I wish many of my fellow pro-lifers would, too. These people are not our enemy or evil. They simply think they're doing what's best for women. They think they're making the world safer for them. Many of these people don’t realize how many women are still dying each year from this supposedly "safe" and often elective procedure. They don’t understand the long-term emotional damage it can do to the women and men who participate in an abortion. They don’t realize the physical ramifications that it can have on women years down the road. They just see it as a good enough solution to a crisis situation. We on the other side see it merely as a Band-Aid that costs a human life.
I don’t know if abortion will ever be illegal, and honestly, even if it is one day, it will still exist. What both sides need to understand is what's at the root of the problem, because we can work together when it comes to that. Abortion is merely a symptom, the endgame of a society that uses women and then throws them and their children away once they become inconvenient or a burden. Laws can only do so much, and until we realize some of these "pro-choicers" are actually more compassionate towards these women in crises than some of us are, we will never be able to bridge that gap and show them a better way to support women. So, no, they're not "bad." They’re simply looking for a quick and easy solution to one of the many struggles women face these days. And while their intentions might be good, there is a better way that truly empowers and supports these women without putting them into long-term emotional bondage because they were made to choose their own life over their child's. Until they no longer feel they must make such a choice because they have the resources and support they need, until a choice like that becomes unthinkable because there’s no reason for it whether it's legal or not, all feminists must unite and continue to advocate for those not yet strong enough to stand up for themselves.
As a person of faith, have you found that your feminism causes conflict with your fellow Christians?
I actually joke about this now whenever anyone asks me what I do. I answer that I run an extremely polarizing group that’ll definitely offend you no matter where you stand. We're too "religious" for most feminists (even though we never mention God and use the word "sh!t" way too much), and we're too worldly for the church (I guess because we never mention God and use the word "sh!t" way too much). Maybe we’re freaks, or maybe we’re pioneers. Guess you’ll just have to wait and see.
How do you argue against "hard case" abortions, like rape, to fellow feminists?
The very idea that telling a woman she should terminate HER baby, end HER child’s life, have someone force his way into HER body again because she has been raped, disgusts me.
My heart breaks for women who have become pregnant from something as vile and evil as rape. However, the fact that society tells her that HER child is now vile and evil is unacceptable. It’s such a default answer most people don't take the time to really examine what they're saying — the stigma they are attaching to these women and THEIR children. So, my question is, where are the feminists telling her she IS strong enough to bring beauty out of such a disgusting violation? And rather than calling it her "rapists' baby," where are the feminists telling her that child is just as much hers? In that vein, where are the feminists fighting to overturn the laws in 31 states that say a RAPIST has RIGHTS to that child? If you truly want to be there to support women who have be assaulted in this way, stop working so damn hard to get the rapist off the hook by washing away his crime, and actually stand up for the women and subsequent children who are the victims of this assault.
I have had my body used against my will, and it steals your power. However, letting this horrific event also steal the life of your child is not the solution, and it’s not even a Band-Aid. It only serves to deepen the wound. Overcoming that evil act and doing perhaps the strongest thing you will ever have to do, that is what gives you your power back.
Because I have never conceived a child out of rape, I can only listen to the women who have, and the children who have been spared from abortion in these circumstances, and it absolutely disgusts me that women and children that courageous are being used to propagate the lie that abortion will make what happened to them easier. Nothing will take that horrific violation away. Nothing. But as these courageous women prove, choosing life for THEIR children, even in the most dire circumstances, is empowering.
What is your rationale for opposing early-term abortions? Isn't assigning personhood so long before viability an article of faith?
If by faith you mean science, sure.
Look, spiritually, none of us truly knows when life begins; it’s time we admit that. The Bible and other religious writings will wax poetic all day long about when we came into being. Because of that, we have no choice but to turn to science, which clearly states when life begins: at conception. That’s not even up for debate anymore, and people who try to argue that point only look like fools, which is why they’ve now moved on to viability. And as a lover of science and technology, part of me is almost okay with pro-choicers picking that patch of sinking sand to stand on, because it’ll just keep getting closer and closer to conception.
I believe those who still support capital punishment undermine the intelligence of the whole human race, not just pro-lifers. I’ve heard the arguments for how you can be pro-life and still support the death penalty, and honestly, it just makes me roll my eyes. I find it much more difficult to believe you can be an intelligent, well-informed human being and still support it, given all we know about the past and the innocent people we've killed in the name of "justice." It’s faulty, ineffective, and expensive. A friend posed this question once while discussing the issue, and I thought it was very insightful: How many abortions are too many? Obviously, we would all answer "one." And why? Because it’s the taking of an innocent life. However, when it comes to capital punishment, one innocent life lost is just not enough for most people. They will rationalize all day long (especially here in Texas), without ever looking at the facts. Did you know it costs the state more to execute a prisoner than to incarcerate him for his entire life because of the lengthy trials and all the appeals and legal fees for those facing death row? And do people honestly believe criminals draw the line at crimes that would make them eligible for the death penalty? No. Because they don’t ever think they're going to get caught. Like I said, it's not a contradiction to one's pro-life views; it’s a contradiction to his or her intelligence.
Do you have anything else you would like to say to our readers, which we have not yet addressed? Thank you very much for your time!
Yes. I woke up grumpy this morning, and so my answers probably came off as stereotypically feminist and angsty. Which I’m not. I'm actually a pretty funny, laid back chick. So, please kindly stop picturing the Molotov cocktail hurling man-eater that odds are you're imagining me to be. I just need more coffee; that's all.
Also, readers, please note that Damian’s the one who ended with that capital punishment question. That doesn’t even have anything to do with pro-life feminism. I think he just wanted to poke the bear.
Editor's Note: This interview was conducted via email and was edited only for grammar and punctuation, not content.
Feminist Pro-Life Resources: