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November 30, 2023

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Feminists find new common ground

The message, “Women deserve better” is spreading across the nation’s universities as speaker Sally Winn entreats students and faculty to “refuse to choose” between women and children when faced with an unplanned pregnancy.

Having accepted Falcons for Life’s invitation to speak at Bowling Green State University, vice-president of Feminists for Life, Winn will speak to students on April 18 in room 1007 of the BA at 8 p.m. confronting the issue of abortion from a pro-life view point while simultaneously working to find common ground with pro-choicers.

University students are targeted audiences because FFL says college-aged women are most likely to abort.

According to the Allen Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit organization focused on sexual and reproductive health research, over half the abortions in this country are done by women ages 15 – 24.

Thirty-three years ago, it was not possible to find common ground. In 1972, the National Organization for Women backed the lawyers for Norma McCorvey (then known as Jane Roe) as they presented the case to legalize abortions before the Supreme Court. This decision to aid the Roe case stirred passionate opposition within the organization itself and people dedicated to the women’s movement walked away.

However not everyone gave up the life of an activist. A couple of the former NOW members created Feminists for Life and centered upon the abortion debate, especially after the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize abortion in 1973.

When one of the top priorities of the Feminist Majority is to keep abortion legal, it is difficult for many pro-lifers including Falcons for Life’s President Katie Riddle and its adviser Mary Alice Newnam to consider themselves as feminists. Both women said given Webster’s definition of feminism: the theory that women should have political, economic and social rights equal to those of men, they would call themselves feminists.

With that definition, Riddle said, “To be a feminist doesn’t mean you have to be pro-choice … To be a feminist and pro-life makes sense.”

Dr. Colleen Coughlin, affiliated faculty member of the Women’s Studies department teaches theories of feminism. She said Webster’s definition relates closely to the ‘liberal feminist theory’ and can be applied to pro-lifers. The ‘liberal feminist theory’ is the most conservative Coughlin said, and the group most people belong to, including second-wave leaders Gloria Steinem and Betty Freidan.

On how the abortion debate fits into feminism, Coughlin said it is “like comparing apples to oranges.” She said one side argues for the unborn rights and other side questions how far citizens should let the government make laws about their personal lives.

The feminist theory professor considers herself to be pro-choice.

“Ultimately, I would like to live in a world where abortion wasn’t necessary, where men don’t rape women, where adults don’t sexually abuse children and where women and men have access to safe and effective contraception. I also don’t ever want the responsibility of making that decision for anyone else, and I don’t want anyone making that decision for me.”

Director of the Women’s Center Dr. Mary Krueger said there is room for diversity in the feminist movement.

“People have the right to define themselves,” Krueger said. “They know best who they are. Just because I don’t understand or share their view doesn’t mean that it isn’t someone else’s truth.”

Krueger said the pro-life movement “tries to reduce a complex individual (personal) issue to some simplistic black and white, good or bad.” Krueger adds, “I also think they are trying to impose their values on others who do not share their values. Legalized abortion allows both sides to act on their values.”

Where is the common ground between the pro-choice and pro-life feminists? Winn, Krueger, and Coughlin all agree that finances, youth and abuse are contributing factors to abortion and need to be dealt with. In her address to students on Monday, Winn seeks to attain some common ground with her suggested alternatives to abortion that everyone can agree is best for women and men.

The Falcons for Life are bringing Sally Winn to campus to provide a different point of view with the hope that people will leave the speech feeling differently toward the issue.

“If nothing else, with everything going on this year, an election, Terri Schiavo, the war in Iraq, you need to learn this is a big issue. This is about life and death and the worth of human beings and how you value life in society.”

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