Pro-life movement changing face of feminism

By 
  • October 3, 2008
{mosimage}TORONTO  - Sarah Palin isn’t exactly the role model that American feminists were hoping for.

But she could be the face of a re-branded form of feminism, says a former Alberta journalist.

Pro-life activist and former Western Standard magazine reporter Andrea Mrozek said Palin’s nomination as Republican John McCain’s vice-presidential running mate in the upcoming American election indicates an increasing momentum for the pro-life movement being seen as a pro-feminist or pro-woman movement.
Mrozek is now research and communications manager at the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada. About 30 people attended Mrozek’s Sept. 25 talk at the University of Toronto’s Hart House which was sponsored by the Toronto Right to Life Association.

Palin has energized the Republican voter base who share her pro-life, pro-family values. The 44-year-old mother of five decided not to have an abortion after learning that her baby would be born with Down Syndrome. Palin also supports the decision of her 17-year-old unmarried daughter to keep her baby.

In choosing Palin, the Republican Party appeared to be courting the potential pool of female voters up for grabs after Hillary Clinton lost out in the Democrat race for presidential candidate to Barack Obama. Clinton received 18 million votes during her campaign, said Mrozek.

Yet even with this new idea of linking the pro-life movement with feminism, Mrozek said the meaning of feminism needs to be redefined.

“Feminism doesn’t have much to do with women’s rights,” she said, referring to the second wave of the women’s movement in the 1960s which she said was based upon abortion rights.

Some of the gains women eventually won could have happened without a formally funded women’s movement, Mrozek added.

During the question period, a female student said second-wave feminists fought for pay equity and women’s rights and helped pave the way for Palin and her current rise to power. 

“By not giving women a say in reproductive rights, how can you say you are not anti-choice?” said the student, who declined to be interviewed, during the forum. “If you say abortion should be illegal, you’re giving the choice to the government.”

Meanwhile, Mrozek said there needs to be free speech on the abortion issue in Canada and compared the pro-life struggle with the anti-slavery movement in England led by 19th-century British politician William Wilberforce.

“I see it as an issue of abuse. It draws parallels to that, the abuse of women, women under the knife who find themselves in a bad situation,” said the 32-year-old founding director of the non-profit group ProWomanProLife, citing a Guttmacher Institute study which reported that 21 per cent of women chose abortion because they didn’t have enough money to raise the child and 11 per cent who said they were too young or not mature enough.

On the pro-life movement, Mrozek said it needs a make-over: A more compassionate face to the pro-life movement will help win more women to the pro-life cause, she said. The new generation of pro-life activists don’t harbour “some of the old animosity of 20 years ago.”

Mrozek said the negative stereotypes of pro-lifers that most are close-minded and “religious” need to be challenged. The language of human rights, she said, has been co-opted by the pro-choice movement and needs to be reclaimed by pro-lifers.

During the talk, Mrozek also suggested a new focus on the cultural front instead of the legislative arena.

“I want women to see abortion outside of the law,” Mrozek told The Register after the event.

Depoliticizing the issue will help to find some answers, she said, especially on health-related issues like whether there is a link between abortion and breast cancer.

On how to deliver the pro-life message to those without a religious background, Sr. Divino Amore of the Servants of the Lord and Virgin of Matara, said this is possible because the Catholic Church’s position on abortion is based on rational argument.

“Reason tells us life is sacred,” Amore said.

The 27-year-old missionary, who is originally from Kansas City, told The Register that she has seen this new wave of feminism in the United States which links being pro-life to pro-women’s rights.

Wagner Noura, 25, an exchange student from Brazil, said his country is facing a legal debate on abortion accessibility for expectant mothers who would be delivering babies with a brain injury. He said it was a welcome change to hear about Mrozek’s alternative view on feminism since he hasn’t heard it in his university in Brazil.

“Abortion isn’t a kind of remedy or drug. It’s not that. If we were concerned about human rights, we have to be concerned about the fetus,” Noura said.

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