If you listened very carefully to Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s dynamic speech to the Republican Convention last Wednesday night, you could plainly hear the death cry of single-issue feminism. The nomination of Governor Palin, a pro-life feminist, for Vice President of the United States has put the final nail in the coffin of an increasingly discredited and narrow-minded worldview that believes that women cannot thrive in a world without unrestricted abortion-on-demand. Equally importantly, her historic candidacy promises to transform the tone and complexion of American feminism.
But organizations that predicate their influence and even their very existence upon the precepts of single issue feminism will certainly not go quietly as their public statements since the nomination aptly demonstrate. One by one, the “usual suspects” lined up to denounce Governor Palin and her pro-life views.
In their single-issue fanaticism, these disingenuously self-described “women’s rights” organizations, cannot support a woman who appears to be living the modern feminist dream: meaningful and powerful career, happy marriage, and beautiful family. They cannot support a woman who has achieved astonishing success in the “good ole’ boy” world of Alaskan politics. They cannot support a woman who, at 42, was elected the first female governor of her state and enjoys a better than 80% job approval rating.
If their aim is as they profess it to be — the personal and professional advancement of women in American society — why can’t these organizations support Governor Palin’s historic candidacy? The answer is both simple and sadly predictable.
Their increasingly out-of-touch worldview requires unquestioning allegiance to the orthodoxy of unapologetic and unrestricted abortion-on-demand. There is no room for freedom of thought or belief on this issue. There can be no meaningful discussion or debate. Divergence from accepted orthodoxy will result in name-calling and spiteful attacks.
Governor Palin is demonstrably “pro-life,” so she must also be “anti-woman.” She does not support or advance the agenda of high-profile, pro-abortion groups, so clearly she is unworthy of and unprepared for the nation’s second highest office.
However, in reality, it is groups like NOW, NARAL, and Planned Parenthood that are increasingly rendered irrelevant by their own fanaticism, by their stubborn refusal to accept that, in ever-increasing numbers, American women do not support an agenda of unrestricted abortion-on-demand, and by their prolific ability to underestimate the strength, intelligence, and resolve of American women.
A closer look at Governor Palin’s life and record demonstrates that it is she — and not NOW, Planned Parenthood, and their ever-shrinking “sisterhood of single-issue feminists” — that truly represents the emerging face of American feminism. It is, in fact, Governor Palin and women who share her views and commitment who can effectively reclaim the traditional mantle of American feminism.
In recent decades, American feminism has become so intertwined with the orthodoxy of abortion-on-demand that many argue that support for abortion is a non-negotiable part of being a “true feminist.” But, that argument flies in the face of history and of the well-reasoned convictions of scores of American women.
To a woman, the early suffragettes, like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, opposed abortion, recognizing it as the ultimate degradation and victimization of women.
Similarly, for Governor Palin and millions of modern American women, there is no inconsistency between advocating for women and taking a pro-life position. In August 2006, when asked about the challenges inherent in unplanned pregnancies, Governor Palin told the Anchorage Daily News, “I believe in the strength and the power of women, and the potential of every human life.” She added that “no woman should have to choose between her career, education and her child.”
Governor Palin added context, strength, and substance to these words when she and her husband chose to give life to their son, Trig, in the face of a prenatal diagnosis of Down Syndrome. The courage of her convictions was further emphasized in photographs taken backstage on Friday afternoon, just after John McCain first introduced her to the world as his running mate. With her fabled, dueling Blackberries close at hand, Governor Palin was photographed feeding her infant son and spending time with her children including them in the celebration of her historic achievement.
Without a doubt, the mantle of American feminism needs to be reclaimed by those, like Governor Palin, who believe that a woman’s interests and well-being should not be pitted against those of her child and who know that American women deserve better than what is advocated by the single-issue feminists. Being a true feminist is not — and never has been — defined by adherence to an unrelenting abortion-on-demand orthodoxy. Single-issue feminists make a huge and arrogant mistake when they espouse the belief that American feminists are monolithic in their beliefs and voting preferences, supporting a radical abortion-on-demand ideology. Increasingly, they do not.
Despite claims to the contrary, Americans, including women, are consistently voicing their opposition to most of the abortions performed annually in this country and are increasingly supporting common-sense limitations on the abortion license. For example, in a June 2008 poll by the Pew Research Center, only 19% of Americans agreed with single-issue feminists that abortion should be legal in “all cases.”
Like most Americans, Governor Palin supports common-sense regulation of abortion. For example, in 2007, when the Alaska Supreme Court struck down the state’s parental consent law, she called the ruling “outrageous” and voiced support for a constitutional amendment protecting both minors and parental rights. On this point, 70% of Americans consistently agree with Governor Palin to the consternation of single-issue feminists who myopically view such laws as unjustified obstacles to minors getting abortions.
Win or lose in November, Governor Palin’s nomination, her many personal and professional achievements, and her pro-woman and pro-life principles clearly demonstrate that women can and will survive and even prosper in a world where abortion is not a desired or legitimate “choice.” For this reason alone, her candidacy is historic.
Cecile Richards, the President of Planned Parenthood, has stated that she has been “having trouble expressing the depth of [her] anger about McCain’s choice of a running mate.” Perhaps she is really angry — not at the candidates — but at the imminent and long-overdue obituary that has just been emphatically written for single-issue feminism in this country.