It is indeed feminist to say no woman should have to abort a wanted child to stay in school or have a career–FFL’s line is thus an advance on the more typical antichoice position, which is that women have abortions to go to Europe or fit into their prom dress. You can see why their upbeat, rebellious slogans–”refuse to choose,” “question abortion,” “women deserve better”–appeal to students. (But what do those students think when they find that the postabortion resources links are all to Christian groups and that FFL’s sunny pregnancy-assistance advice includes going on food stamps or welfare?) Exposing the constraints on women’s choices, however, is only one side of feminism. The other is acknowledging women as moral agents, trusting women to decide what is best for themselves. For FFL there’s only one right decision: Have that baby. And since women’s moral judgment cannot be trusted, abortion must be outlawed, whatever the consequences for women’s lives and health–for rape victims and 12-year-olds and 50-year-olds, women carrying Tay-Sachs fetuses and women at risk of heart attack or stroke, women who have all the children they can handle and women who don’t want children at all. FFL argues that abortion harms women–that’s why it clings to the outdated cancer claims. But it would oppose abortion just as strongly if it prevented breast cancer, filled every woman’s heart with joy, lowered the national deficit and found Jimmy Hoffa. That’s because they aren’t really feminists–a feminist could not force another woman to bear a child, any more than she could turn a pregnant teenager out into a snowstorm. They are fetalists.
There are two approaches to reducing abortion – supply-side, which tries to reduce abortion by making it unavailable, and demand-side, which tries to reduce abortion by making women less likely to want abortion. In my view, the only genuinely feminist approach to reducing abortion is the demand-side approach. If you favor banning abortion, then you favor a system in which fetuses are saved by eliminating women’s rights; you’re weighing women’s rights and fetal rights, and deciding women’s rights matter so little that it’s not unreasonable to dismiss them entirely from the equation. Rather than seeking a solution that respects women’s rights and fetal rights, they say that women’s rights are so totally overwhelmed by the presence of a fetus, they might as well not exist at all. That view is simply not compatible with feminism.
A coherent pro-life feminism would, in my opinion, take a demand-side approach to reducing abortion; this approach respects both the need to reduce abortion and to protect women’s rights.
(There is, by the way, absolutely no evidence showing that the supply-side approach actually works. In practice, demand-side approaches work better; the countries with the lowest abortion rates are countries in which abortion is legal, the use of birth control is strongly encouraged, and there are generous government programs supporting single parents (usually mothers) and their children. So giving up on banning abortion does not mean giving up on protecting the greatest number of fetuses. If pro-lifers were both sincere and evidence-based in their approach to reducing abortion, that’s the sort of policy they’d be arguing for.)