President of Feminists for Life Serrin Foster spoke to the Cornell community yesterday on her organization’s mission to support all life, including, according to Foster, that of unborn children. A pro-life advocate, Foster argued that abortion is a reflection that society has failed women and offered other alternatives for pregnant women, especially those in college.
Foster opened her talk by discussing the beliefs of nineteenth-century women’s rights advocates, namely those of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott. Although abortion was common in the 1800s, Stanton and Mott opposed it and felt that women resorted to abortion because they lacked the emotional support and money to carry through with pregnancy. In the 1970s, however, women’s rights groups called for the legalization of abortion.
“Abortion advocates promised women a world of equality and reduced poverty,” Foster said. “A world where every child is a wanted child. Instead, child abuse has escalated — as it has in every developed country where abortion is legal. Rather than shared responsibility, even more responsibility of parenting has been shifted to women. Women of the ’70s screamed, ‘It’s our body. It’s our choice’; men said, ‘Yeah, and it’s your problem.’ Today women and their fatherless children are owed more than 90 billion dollars in child support, as they slip deeper into the feminization of poverty. Fatherless teens are at higher risk of intentionally having children, and fatherless teenage boys fill our jails and prisons. Moms are important. And dads are equally important.”
She went on to argue that 40 million children have been lost since the Roe v. Wade decision, citing a statistic that every 38 seconds a woman in America has an abortion.
“Many women’s groups made access to abortion their number one priority … but not all feminists embrace abortion as an alternative,” she said.
One in five abortions are performed on college women.
“Is this the best we can do?” Foster asked. “No one should be forced to choose between education and children.”
Foster expressed an adamant belief that college students can complete college if they become pregnant.
“Many women are coerced into abortion because they feel they have no choice — they’re in college, they’re poor — they underestimate their ability to solve complex problems,” she said.
Numerous resources are available for students with children, said Foster, citing examples of young mothers accessing videotapes of lectures from their own homes. Technology exists for such students to ask their professors questions during the actual lecture, and according to Foster, studies have shown that these mothers are capable of performing well in school while simultaneously caring for a child. Women can take time off or go to school part time, but their colleges must be accommodating of students who seek degrees outside of the traditional four-year, full-time program.
“There need to be student handbooks, articles in the newspaper, websites,” Foster continued, “Colleges talk to students about STDs, drugs and suicide, but they need to address this issue too.
Every year freshmen come in and don’t know that they can have a child and still stay in school.”
Foster stressed the importance of holding regular pregnancy resource forums on college campuses, which have proven effective in educating students on all their alternatives, she said.
During a question and answer session, Foster addressed the issue of rape by citing an instance of a woman who had been raped by her third cousin at the age of 13 and chosen to continue with the pregnancy. When she asked the woman why she had delivered the child at such a young age, the woman responded, “I’m a woman and I’m not going to let anyone do to my child what they did to me.”
Although some women feel that abortion erases the memory of rape, Foster argued that “You cannot erase a bad memory … Deciding the value of human life based on the father went out with the Middle Ages. You cannot rank people by the circumstances of their conception.”
Women who have had abortions will wonder for the rest of their lives, she said.
“What I’m proposing is a nonviolent outcome for a violent act.” Co-president of SAGE May Silverstein ’04, who could not attend the lecture, disagreed with Foster’s policies.
“I think with rape, it’s something that is very painful … I’m not saying that abortion would make the pain go away, but it is a very personal decision that needs to be made, and I think it is a decision that should be offered,” Silverstein said.
In addition to rape, poverty emerged as another controversial factor in abortion. Foster said that resources existed for poor women, and that adoption was also a sound option.
“We look for women-centered solutions,” she said.
What women need, regardless of age or income, is support from the community, Foster said.
Archived article by Maya Rao
Sun Staff Writer