The Women’s March on Washington, a march created in response to this year’s unexpected president-elect, will take place in D.C. and other satellite locations on January 21 (not coincidentally one day after the inauguration). Marchers are already divided about who should be able to attend—namely, pro-lifers.
On its surface, the march is about unifying women of all “ages, races, cultures, political affiliations and backgrounds” who support equal rights in the workplace—and basically every place. However, many pro-life women who support those tenets but oppose abortion are feeling sidelined as march organizers have specifically stated that its platform is pro-choice.
Not only are pro-lifers feeling conflicted about supporting a cause that directly contradicts their belief of protecting the life of the unborn, there also has been outright partnership exclusion of a pro-life organization, the Texas-based New Wave Feminists.
In fact, the organizers called the group’s original inclusion an “error.”
So are pro-life supporters even welcome at the march?
“If you want to come to the march you are coming with the understanding that you respect a woman’s right to choose,” Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian-American Muslim racial justice and civil rights activist, and one of the four co-chairwomen of the march, said in an interview, according to the New York Times.
That despite the more unifying sentiments from another march co-chairwoman Bob Bland.
“Intersectional feminism is the future of feminism and of this movement,” she told The Atlantic, referring to the many issues that unite women. “We must not just talk about feminism as one issue, like access to reproductive care.”
Pro-choice supporters, however, were unwavering. Roxane Gay, author of "Bad Feminist," tweeted:
But is it?
“It’s hard, because right now it feels like if you’re pro-life, you’re anti-woman,” Maria Lyon, a University of Wisconsin law student and self-described feminist who is skipping the march, told the New York Times. “That’s kind of the traditional rhetoric. It’s like if you care about women and you care about women’s rights then you should be pro-choice.”
Lyon isn’t the only woman who considers herself to be a pro-life feminist.
“I would definitely consider myself to be a feminist,” Leanne Goolsby Thompson of Portland, Oregon, who is pro-life, tells Mom.me. “[For those who say], 'You can’t be a feminist if you’re not pro-choice,' I obviously don’t feel the same way. Feminism is about many, many issues and what it means to support women as a whole.”
Goolsby Thompson even had her own moment of truth, when she had an unplanned pregnancy eight years ago. Despite her then-boyfriend and his parents' urging to terminate her pregnancy, she stood her ground.
"My son’s dad and I really hit an impasse when I found out I was pregnant, and he was determined that I should terminate the pregnancy," she says. "It was the fact that I had developed a strong sense of what I would do in that situation that allowed me to stand up to him and say, 'No, I’m not willing to do that."
No longer a couple, they share a 7-year-old son, and she says her ex is very involved in their son's life. Goolsby Thompson has since married someone else and has 1-week-old twins.
And while she clearly stands by her decision, she says that our country could work harder to support women and thereby keep abortion numbers down.
"If we provided better health care and support and things like paid maternity leave, and affordable daycare, and all of these other issues surrounding women and families today, if we as a country could get our shit together enough to support families and children outside of the womb, that would really drastically drive down the need that women feel for an abortion," she says.
So will Goolsby Thompson be marching on Saturday? Probably not—but not for the reason you might think.
"I would have definitely marched," she says, were it not for the fact that she just had twins. "I would have felt welcomed. I know so many women who are joining in Saturday to participate in Portland."
But does that make her a feminist?
"How could someone not call me a feminist when I'm actively supporting women in so many other ways—access to health care and birth control, maternity leave, equal rights in the workplace, equal rights in school and sports, access to equal opportunities for education?" she asks.
"I feel like it’s unfair to say, because you didn’t believe in this one piece of it, you don’t get any of it."