Feminists can be pro-life

Pro-life feminism is not an oxymoron, according to Sally Winn.

At Yale Law School last Friday, the senior communications specialist for the Feminists for Life of America argued that resources for pregnant students and staff at universities need to be more available so they do not feel that abortion is the only option. While some students in the audience questioned whether, as Winn claimed, a true feminist could be pro-life, four of those interviewed said Winn presented a side of the abortion debate that they had not previously heard.

At Yale Law School last Friday, Sally Winn addressed an audience of 20 on behalf of Feminists for Life of  America. The organization focuses on making resources available to pregnant students.
Joseph Breen
At Yale Law School last Friday, Sally Winn addressed an audience of 20 on behalf of Feminists for Life of America. The organization focuses on making resources available to pregnant students.

In her talk before an audience of about 20 people, Winn reexamined nearly 200 years of feminism through a pro-life lens, beginning with the early 19th century.

Winn was particularly skeptical of the history of the National Organization for Women (NOW), a nonprofit feminist advocacy organization founded in 1966 by Betty Friedan. She scoffed at the notion she attributed to NOW that abortion is the “most fundamental right of women, without which all other rights are meaningless.”

Asked Winn: “Does this mean that my right to be protected from marital rape is meaningless?”

Furthermore, colleges must adjust to modern-day reality of pregnancy and high rates of abortion among students, Winn contested.

At a northeastern college health center that Feminists for Life works with, Winn said, 6,000 pregnancy tests were done in a single year and 300 of those tested positive. But only six babies were born to those students.

“Where have all the pregnant college students gone?” Winn asked a quiet audience.

High rates of abortion — perhaps because students feel they have no other choice — have prompted Feminists for Life to develop their college reach-out program, said Winn. The program has resulted in decreased abortion rates among college graduates of the participating universities, according to Feminists for Life.

Winn speaks from experience: She became pregnant in college and had to decide “what the four-letter-word to do.”

Winn had the baby, but experienced difficulties finding off-campus housing, parking spaces sufficiently close to school and affordable day-care services.

“Why should I have to violate my body to achieve my education and career goals?” she said.

Winn said she believes most women do not want to have an abortion but do so simply because they lack the necessary resources to consider otherwise.

Yifat Bitton LAW ’09 questioned how Winn’s support for alternatives to abortion leads to the conclusion that women should not be able have abortions at all.

“Are you saying that women shouldn’t have the choice?” she asked.

Winn replied that Feminists for Life promotes resources as its primary focus but that the organization also believes abortion hurts women. Winn said she personally thinks abortion should be illegal.

When asked how this viewpoint could coincide with feminism, she asserted that abortion is violent and that violence breaks the tenet of feminism.

“There are a lot of things I think should be allowed, for instance, piercings,” she said. “But this infringes on the rights of another person.”

Amanda Machin LAW ’11, on the other hand, said she was pleasantly surprised by the talk, since she said Winn did not make the typical pro-life feminist argument but instead focused on creating a supportive environment for pregnant students.

Feminists for Life of America does not take a stance on the issue of contraception.


  • Yale '10

    Thank you Sally! I completely agree!

  • Hieronymus

    You go girl!

    Options abound: why, for example, is adoption downplayed these days? Loving families go to great lengths--and different countries--in order to adopt. Why the rush to abort, say, a potential future Yalie?

    The bulk of the "support" one receives on campus, when pregnant, is of the "outpatient" kind, i.e., "We support your termination of this human foetus." Why not a little support of the other variety? Let's celebrate LIFE!

  • Yale09

    There is no culpability to assign to the child. The child is innocent.

    While pregnancy and childbirth may be painful burdens, this pain does not outweigh the life of a child.

    Adoption is always an option.

    I would rather live in squalor, in destitution than not to live at all.

    My mother could have aborted me as a single mom, but she didn't, despite the burden I was on her.

    I am eternally grateful and ended up at Yale!

    Looking for real HOPE and CHANGE?!?!

    Then protect life in every instance.

  • Bosch

    It's mind-boggling that Ms. Winn campaigns to make child-rearing a more feasible choice for young women while also explicitly seeking to criminalize the choice not to give birth. Pretty depressing, actually.

    Then again, it's kind of funny that Ms. Winn seems to think she has the upper hand in the debate. As long as we agree to outlaw abortion, she'll let us have piercings? Don't be so generous, Sally!

  • Hieronymus

    I wonder whether "times have changed." That is: time was that abortion was promoted as an "option" in part because pregnancy was such an outright social disgrace. Access to abortion was supposedly to end "back alley" procedures.

    These days: no one is denied access to birth control and pregnancy certainly is no longer even, well, noticed. Perhaps for the large majority of terminations, i.e., those used as a form of post hoc birth control, the pendulum could swing a ways back in favor of the unborn.

    Yes, yes: I can hear you now: "BUT WHAT ABOUT RAPE AND INCEST?!"

    First off: I rather doubt anyone is seeking to ban abortion when the health of the mother is in question or when a foetus has some irreparable deformity, so get off the ledge there, folks.

    That said: even the product of a rape (and, seriously, exactly what NUMBERS are we talking here, hmm?) is still 50% the biological progeny of the mother, and 100% worthy of love to any number of adoptive families. Just something to think about.

    Lastly: the most sickening aspect of the abortion discussion at a place like Yale is that the Liberal youth (educated, if not affluent) are the least likely to face the decision OR they are, post graduation at least, the most likely to support abortion PUBLICLY while privately they say "of course, *I* would never have one!" (Examine yourselves readers: how many support OTHER people's abortions, hmm?)

    Why do I point this out? Because liberal abortion laws are effectively a campaign of genocide against minorities and the poor--the women who REALLY have the bulk of abortions (and NOT because of the dreaded "RAPE AND INCEST!"). How nice that, as usual, you backhandedly condemn (or at least encourage) the less privileged to death.

    Too bad college is out of the conscience biz…

  • MandyV

    This piece offers an interesting perspective on this issue as well: