On April 25, Serrin Foster, President of Feminists for Life (FFL), gave a lecture on abortion in St. Mary’s Hall. Her lecture, called “The Feminist Case Against Abortion,” explained her position as a pro-life feminist on the controversial topic of abortion.
The program was organized by the Nitze Scholars Program and was meant to be part of a growing “spirit of diversity” on campus, as well as to show a “different side of gender politics not normally heard,” according to lecture organizer, sophomore Maria Smaldone, in Foster’s introduction.
Serrin Foster, whose lecture has appeared in the anthology “Women’s Rights,” began her discussion by explaining what it means to be a pro-life feminist. She explained how being both a feminist and a pro-life supporter can be viewed negatively. “Being pro-life can be seen as being anti-woman” said Foster. She discussed why this was a false accusation and noted what FFL has done for women’s rights.
Foster defined abortion as “an escape for people’s problems.” She listed one of the main reasons that women seek abortion is due to “lack of resources or support.” Foster claimed that as a supporter of nonviolence, she viewed abortion as “discrimination against the child.”
In the lecture, Foster gave evidence for her case from early feminists such as Susan B. Anthony and Mary Wollstonecraft. She noted that these two well-known activists were against “destroying embryos and violating nature.” She gave information from their writings and from the work of early activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Like Stanton, Foster discussed that abortion is a “form of infanticide” that can be avoided if the government does more for women’s needs.
Emily Buetow, a sophomore, felt uncomfortable about Foster relying mainly on the testimony of first-wave feminists, saying, “It’s a bad foundation when you create your argument on women living in the 1800s.”
Serrin Foster argued that the best approach to making sure that women’s needs were met was for “pro-choice and pro-life supporters to come together and find solutions.” She expressed that at times both parties share the same goals for women. “People don’t fit into perfect little boxes on either side of this debate,” she explained. Foster stated that women are being so mistreated that they look to abortion as an answer to their problems. “Abortion is a reflection that we have not done enough for women” said Foster.
Foster explained that she was not attempting to vilify pro-choice supporters or people who have already had abortions. “That’s not why I’m here,” she announced to those in attendance. She said that her main goal was to make sure that people understood how pregnant women were being treated in the workplace and in schools. “There should be no exceptions to equality,” Foster stated while discussing how young women have been forced to choose between getting an education or following through with their pregnancies.
Foster appealed to St. Mary’s students to get the word out about the campus accommodating the needs of pregnant women.“Women have been greatly wronged if they have to get abortions,” said Foster. She expressed her hopes that her lecture would change how the campus approaches pregnancies on campus.
Students had mixed reactions to the presentation. Buetow said, “I think she made a lot of good points about what we should do for women who want to have children and don’t have resources available to them. But when it came to women who had unwanted pregnancies there was no conversation about why she was pro-life.”
Natalie Neil, a junior, had a similar response, she said, “She made the assumption that everyone who is pregnant would prefer to have their baby.”
However, some students felt reassured by the presentation. Junior Ame Roberts responded by saying, “I’m a pro-life feminist, and I really wanted to see what others thought about this issue… I wanted to learn other people’s reasoning so I could better talk about what I believe and maybe get involved.”