By Theresa Whitfield
Feminists For Life of America (FFL) President Serrin Foster visited Catholic University to enlighten all who came to listen on the feminist case against abortion. This speech, which the anthology Women’s Rights dubbed as one of the “great speeches in history,” was given Wednesday night and successfully captivated every individual in the audience throughout its entirety.
The event was hosted by the Cardinals for Life, and it took place in Keane Auditorium with an audience of about 30 to 40 people. While most of the attendants were female, there was also a small number of males present at the talk as well, either with their girlfriends, with other male friends, or by themselves.
From the moment she walked through the auditorium doors, Foster immediately commanded the attention of all and presented herself as a warm, friendly person. She smiled and kindly greeted the first person she saw as she bustled into the room. Foster asked her what her name was, shook her hand, and proceeded to greet every person in the room and thanked them for being there. She then went around and asked why everyone decided to come to her talk tonight and showed genuinely interested in what each person had to say. This first impression Foster gave to the audience set the tone for the rest of the night.
The night began with a prayer by a priest in the audience, followed by a brief introduction of Foster given by Cardinals for Life President Jeanne Marie Hathaway.
She started her talk by stating her goal with FFL is to “free women from abortion,” and by defining feminism in the same way that the first suffragists for women’s rights believed it to be. These females, such as Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Alice Paul, all fought for women during a time when society did not recognize them as equal to men, and while they fought for the rights of slaves and women as a whole people, they also fought for the rights of mothers.
Foster provided many instances where these women and many other of the original founders of the women’s movement repeatedly spoke out for the rights of mothers. She also clarified that while these women celebrated mothers, they recognized that “not all women need to bear children to join in celebration of womanhood,” as Stanton herself never had any children.
After educating the audience on the history of the feminist movement, Foster transitioned to speaking on the modern feminist movement, and how its view on abortion has completely shifted from that of its roots. The change occurred in the 1970’s when two men created the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (NARAL), and convinced leaders of women’s rights organizations that employers will see pregnant women as burdens and being pregnant will not allow them to succeed at their jobs. Lawyer Sarah Weddington also spoke on how pregnant women were being discriminated against in public, in schools, and in the workplace, and that they need “relief from pregnancy.” However, Foster pointed out the mistake in this way of thinking, and that “women don’t need relief from pregnancy, but relief from injustice.” They need relief from the belief that the only way they can succeed in the workplace is if they are like men, she stated.
Foster then laid the hard facts of the abortion statistics. Foster asserted that no woman gets an abortion out of convenience, no matter what other people may believe. According to statistics from the Guttmacher Institute, three fourths of women who have abortions are the poorest among us, and these women need our help the most.
“Abortion is a reflection that we have not met the needs of women,” said Foster.
From here, Foster shared about the work she does with FFL and their advocacy for resources for pregnant college students. She gave multiple examples of forums held on colleges campuses where students came together to discuss resources they could provide on their campuses. The first forum they held to advocate for women was at Georgetown University, and today they have the Hoya Kids Learning Center, which allows students, faculty, and staff to balance their work life while having a family.
After sharing about the accommodations that Georgetown and other schools like it have made, Foster then asked the audience if they knew of any resources Catholic University has for pregnant students. Everyone timidly looked around at each other and shook their heads. Foster then asked if anyone would be interested in having one of these forums here at Catholic. Immediately, every hand in the room went up.
Foster’s talk differed from a typical pro-life talk because she pointed out the failing of the community to provide resources and support for women with unplanned pregnancies. This point is something that both pro choice and pro life supporters can both agree on and where they can come together to find solutions.
“Abortion is a failed experiment,” Foster explained, and “it is our responsibility to come together for the betterment of women.“