Who is Surprised a Fake Clinic Operator Is Misrepresenting Feminism, Too?

| Reproaction

By: Shireen Shakouri

“You know,” they’ll say, “The original feminists were pro-life.”

They’ve said it countless times, both in efforts to diminish the work of early feminists and to bolster an argument for “pro-life feminism,” which isn’t even a thing. But recent comments made by the President of Human Coalition – a chain of anti-abortion fake clinics – struck a nerve. Not only did Brian Fisher ignore facts and history, as pro-lifers so often do to malign abortion rights, but he was also quite petty and insulting. On his radio show “The Human Element,” Brian traded in some ugly histrionics:

“Today’s modern feminists, who we see represented on TV by the Women’s March, are typically women who are very angry and vitriolic, and embittered that they cannot be free and equal unless they have the right to kill their child.” [1]

Funny enough, the episode was called “Love Them Both,” and was about the pro-life movement’s unending love (allegedly dispensed through their fake clinics) for both women and the pregnancies they want to force us to carry. I’m not really feeling the love though, Brian.

He uses us – his so-called angry and embittered pro-choice women – as a contrast to Alice Paul and Susan B. Anthony, who he describes as “unapologetically pro-life.” Brian believes so strongly in Alice Paul as a pro-life icon that he named his first book after one of her quotes admonishing abortion. Here’s the thing: His beloved Alice Paul was pretty damn angry: She was frequently arrested and jailed long-term for civil disobedience, enduring multiple hunger strikes in the name of women’s suffrage. [2] Additionally, he doesn’t account for how different abortion care is now from her time, when it was an often dangerous and even deadly procedure. Now, abortion care is one of the safest medical procedures someone could experience and has remarkably few complications. [3]

The Susan B. Anthony quotations used most to mark her as pro-life have been in many ways taken out of context and some suggest even falsified, [4] and while we don’t have much more information on Alice Paul’s views on abortion, we do know she said the following, which to me suggests her supreme concern was securing autonomy and self-determination for women:

“I think if we get freedom for women, then they are probably going to do a lot of things that I wish they wouldn’t do, […] but it seems to me that isn’t our business to say what they should do with it. It is our business to see that they get it.” [5]

Separately, both she and Susan B. Anthony held racist views – as trading in freedom for all to get progress for some is often the order of the day, regrettably – compromising suffrage and other rights for Black people to further their agenda of women’s suffrage. [6-8] His movement is so invested in co-opting feminism that they have named organizations after these figures … I guess it makes sense that their stuck-in-the-past worldview has to find its only feminist heroes there, too.

We can’t deny that views on abortion have waxed and waned over U.S. history. [9] We also can’t deny that feminist freedom fighters of the past concurrently participated in oppressive forces that are now intolerable in an intersectional movement, which is the only kind of movement that is truly feminist. I’m not saying those who identify with feminist ideals don’t have work to do amongst ourselves: Brian’s target, the Women’s March, has received a lot of criticism for failing to uphold an intersectional framework and missing the mark on how it responds to those critiques and other current events. [10-13] But while the pro-life movement allows a comfortable home for racists who parade around as pro-woman, [14] and propagates its own hateful rhetoric and stigma, the movement I’m trying to advance calls allies in [15] to address harms, and holds accountable [16] the forces of hate.

So while Brian basically tells my feminist comrades to smile more, we’re going to keep working to bring our whole movement into this century and chart out a path to liberation of all people. That means moving past sexism, racism, homophobia, religious discrimination, transphobia, classism, and any other form of oppression that stands in the way of human rights. Let the past stay just where it is; we have futures to build.


  1. https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-human-element-with-brian-fisher/id1354302379?mt=2
  2. http://www.womenon20s.org/alice_paul
  3. http://abortionissafe.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/10-Facts.pdf
  4. https://billmoyers.com/2012/09/21/was-susan-b-anthony-pro-life/
  5. https://www.history.com/topics/womens-history/alice-paul
  6. https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/she-the-people/wp/2013/03/03/despite-the-tremendous-risk-african-american-women-marched-for-suffrage-too/?utm_term=.88c253e2375c
  7. https://www.missedinhistory.com/podcasts/suffragists-night-of-terror.htm
  8. https://mic.com/articles/158856/before-you-put-an-i-voted-sticker-on-susan-b-anthony-s-grave-remember-she-was-a-racist#.3J3n92PUm
  9. https://www.cnn.com/2016/06/23/health/abortion-history-in-united-states/index.html
  10. https://forward.com/scribe/396405/the-womens-march-has-an-intersectionality-problem/
  11. https://theestablishment.co/why-the-white-feminism-of-the-womens-march-is-still-on-my-mind-bb08d3279f14
  12. https://forward.com/opinion/399154/seriously-womens-march-farrakhan-is-ok-but-the-adl-is-treif/
  13. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/03/womens-march/555122/
  14. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/kristen-hatten-white-nationalist_us_5acd0d5be4b0259339de14f8
  15. https://dailycollegian.com/2016/03/call-in-call-out-talk-examines-current-human-rights-movement/
  16. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/kevin-williamson-fired-atlantic_us_5ac66563e4b09d0a1191532b
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