Feminists for Life President Serrin Foster spoke Tuesday night in Cabot Auditorium about the importance of bringing together pro-life and pro-choice advocates to address the root causes of abortion.
Throughout her presentation, which was sponsored by Jumbos For Life, Foster encouraged feminists to shift their attention away from securing abortion rights, an effort that she said can prove extremely time-consuming. Instead, she said, the energy should go toward addressing the social issues that create the need for abortions.
“I’m not here to condemn someone who has had an abortion, and I’m not here to criminalize women,” Foster said to the 25-person crowd. “I’m here because I believe that abortion is a violence against women which violates the basic tenets of feminism.”
Foster called for feminists to “get ahead of the misery” by focusing on the reasons women choose to have abortions.
“As feminists, we should be looking at reasons that poor women have [for having abortions] and why women are being bullied to have abortions by men,” she said.
“If women are having abortions, it means that we have not met the needs of women,” she added. “You don’t have a choice unless you have the resources.”
Foster argued that this lack of resources is a reality for college-aged women, who account for half of all abortions. She urged Tufts students to evaluate and increase the amount of support available to pregnant women on campus, including creating a pregnancy resource center.
Foster used Georgetown University as an example of a school that has risen to this challenge by revamping its campus to make it more mother-friendly.
Along with providing a toll-free pregnancy phone line for students, Foster said, Georgetown recently built an on-campus child care center and reserved several townhouses for student mothers.
Foster said that she first recognized her opposition toward abortion while growing up in the 1970s in Washington, D.C. She talked about how living across the street from a midwife who performed abortions had an enormous impact on her views today.
“I would see men drop off young women who would go into the building crying, be inside screaming, and then leave crying,” Foster said. She added that, in the ’70s, the effects of abortion on women were often left unexamined.
Foster said that growing up, she still felt out of place as a feminist and a pro-life advocate. She admitted that it took her a while to finally recognize that “not all feminists are pro-choice.”
In her presentation, Foster recounted the historical origins of the pro-life argument, which she said some of the world’s most renowned feminists created and adopted.
“If you look back at the movement’s history, which began a couple of hundred years ago, you can see that feminists like Mary Wollstonecraft were some of the first people to decry [abortion] as a sexual exploitation,” she said.
Foster explained that Wollstonecraft’s argument caught on with American feminists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including suffragettes like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Victoria Woodhull.
“It is our country’s foremothers who argued that all humans have rights by expanding notions of freedom and responsibility that people hadn’t thought about before,” Foster said. “It was women like Victoria Woodhull who said, ‘If every woman is free, then she will never wish to murder an unborn child.'”
According to Foster, abortions were so popular during this time that they were the most common advertisement in women’s magazines.
Feminists for Life member Jane Rohan told the Daily that she hopes Tufts will take Foster’s advice to increase resources for Tufts mothers, and Tufts Democrats President Doug Helman agreed.
“Although I strongly disagree with the mission statement of Feminists for Life, I thought Ms. Foster had a lot of positive suggestions for dialogue and activism on both sides of the debate,” said Helman, a sophomore. “Pro-life and pro-choice groups should work together to increase the resources available to pregnant women to decrease the number of unnecessary abortions.”