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These Anti-Abortion Women Say They’re the Real Feminists: ‘Feminism Includes Women Who Aren’t Born Yet’

WASHINGTON — When tens of thousands of people poured through the streets of Washington D.C. last week at the nation’s largest annual anti-abortion gathering, numerous protesters wore a lilac beanie with a defiant slogan: “Pro-Life is Pro-Woman.” Many outside the American anti-abortion movement still associate it with bloody images of supposedly aborted fetuses, or with…

These Anti-Abortion Women Say They’re the Real Feminists: ‘Feminism Includes Women Who Aren’t Born Yet’

WASHINGTON — When tens of thousands of people poured through the streets of Washington D.C. last week at the nation’s largest annual anti-abortion gathering, numerous protesters wore a lilac beanie with a defiant slogan: “Pro-Life is Pro-Woman.”

Many outside the American anti-abortion movement still associate it with bloody images of supposedly aborted fetuses, or with people calling women who walk into abortion clinics “baby killers.” But in recent years, many of the movement’s leaders and youngest followers have increasingly adopted the imagery and lingo of progressive social justice, focusing not only on the supposed rights of the fetus but also on the woman who carries it.

This vanguard of activists argue that they’re the real defenders of women’s rights — and some are even using the f-word: feminism.

“I think we should take things back. Femininity is beautiful and that’s what a feminist is.”

The theme of this year’s March for Life was, in fact, “Pro-Life is Pro-Woman,” in honor of the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which guaranteed women the right to vote. Signs that sought to highlight women’s roles and rights were everywhere, often evoking progressive tenets.

One fuchsia, hand-lettered sign read, “Women deserve better.” Another played off of a famous feminist slogan, asking, “If the future is female, then why are we killing them?” over the image of a feminine Venus symbol.

READ: How women are training to do their own abortions.

“I believe that feminism includes women who aren’t born yet,” said college student Amaya Durand, who carried a crimson sign that read, “A true feminist would fight for the rights of unborn women” as she protested in front of the Supreme Court. “I think the word, unfortunately, has been skewed and the color pink has always been associated with supporting Planned Parenthood, but that’s not the case. I think we should take things back. Femininity is beautiful and that’s what a feminist is.”

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For conservative millennials and members of Gen Z, raised on social media and steeped in social justice in particular, the terminology deployed by anti-abortion feminists is familiar. It doesn’t even sound all that different from the arguments used by those who support the right to abortion.

“Pro-life feminism is this belief that we should be using our strength and liberation to fight for the marginalized, for the oppressed, for the vulnerable,” explained Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, the purple-haired founder of the group New Wave Feminists. The group has chapters throughout the United States and Latin America. Herndon-De La Rosa doesn’t want women to stay home and raise babies; instead, like generations of career-minded women before her, she wants them to “have it all.”

In her view, men offer women abortion instead of working on real solutions to societal problems.

“Instead of getting a piece of the pie, we’re basically settling for crumbs and saying, ‘OK, abortion’s the solution? Abortion’s how I’m gonna have a successful life and career?’” Herndon-De La Rosa said. “That just seems like B.S. to me.”

Young women who spoke to VICE News at the March for Life echoed Herndon-De La Rosa.

“If you’re gonna say, ‘I believe in women’s rights, I believe in all these things,’ do you also believe in their right to have children?”

“I believe that women should have absolutely everything men have, and that includes their bodies being supported in a way that supports all of them,” added Evan, a college student from Georgia who called herself a “very nontraditional feminist.” (She asked that her last name not be used.) At the march, she carried a sign that read, “Life empowers women.” “If you’re gonna say, ‘I believe in women’s rights, I believe in all these things,’ do you also believe in their right to have children?”

When abortion foes are criticized for being only “pro-birth” and failing to help new moms and babies, anti-abortion feminists frequently point to their work building programs for young people who are pregnant or parenting. Feminists for Life, the grandmother of the movement, runs the “Women Deserve Better” website, which compiles what it calls “practical resources and inspirational stories from women and men,” largely on parenting.

But while opponents of abortion argue that the procedure undermines women, there’s evidence that denying women abortions can rewrite the course of their lives. Research from a study by the University of California, San Francisco has found that women who are turned away at clinics can see their risk of living in poverty quadruple. They are less likely to have aspirational plans for the next year of their life and more likely to remain with abusive partners.

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