Which Washington March Truly Promotes Women’s Rights?

COMMENTARY: A former abortion-rights propagandist explains why the March for Life speaks for an authentic feminist movement.

Former Planned Parenthood director Abby Johnson and other pro-life feminists on Jan. 21.
Former Planned Parenthood director Abby Johnson and other pro-life feminists on Jan. 21. (photo: @AbbyJohnson Twitter)

Within a week, two radically different marches are taking place in Washington, D.C. Both the organizers of the Jan. 21 pro-choice “Women’s March” (to protest President Trump’s election) and the leaders of the March for Life Friday (to protest the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision) claim to be speaking for women’s “rights.”

Which group speaks out most clearly for the true liberation of women?

As a former pro-abortion writer for Cosmopolitan magazine, I have been blessed with a conversion of heart. I am now such a fervent pro-life feminist that I even spoke at the March for Life last year. I now realize the March for Life — and not last week’s pro-abortion Women’s March — represents the authentic feminist movement of the 21st century.

Why? Three reasons.


1. I can see through the propaganda behind the Women’s March.

As a former sex-revolution propagandist for Cosmo, I know how feminist propaganda works, and it’s easy to see last Saturday’s Women’s March was the result of a highly sophisticated propaganda campaign.

Contrary to popular myth, propaganda is not merely a bunch of ridiculous lies. If it were, we could all spot it in a minute. Rather, as Jacques Ellul observed in his classic work Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes, modern propaganda operates with many different kinds of truth — “half-truth, limited truth and truth out of context.” Propaganda can be 90% true. It’s the deceitful 10% that gets you.

A second myth about modern propaganda is that it’s designed only to change public opinion. Certainly, that’s part of its purpose. But, more important, it’s designed to lead people to action. Many of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who poured into D.C. for the Women’s March would be dismayed and perhaps even angry to be told they’ve been duped by propaganda. But that’s not an insult to anyone’s intelligence. On the contrary, modern propaganda is highly scientific and exceedingly subtle. In fact, according to Ellul, it’s actually the more intelligent and  well-educated people in a society who are most vulnerable to it.

All propaganda campaigns also need a clever slogan to use as a rallying cry, and the Women’s March had a doozy. The Women’s March slogan was “Women’s rights are human rights.” On the surface, that’s certainly true. Who could dispute it? But what does it mean?

“That’s the whole point of good propaganda,” social critic Noam Chomsky points out in Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda. “You want to create a slogan that nobody’s going to be against and everybody’s going to be for. Nobody knows what it means because it doesn’t mean anything. Its crucial value is that it diverts your attention from a question that does mean something: “Do you support our policy? That’s the one you’re not allowed to ask.”

So what is the policy of the Women’s March organizers? Amazingly, although hundreds of thousands of Americans showed up for the march a week ago, this policy has not yet been declared. Yet from looking at the sponsors of this movement (Planned Parenthood, NARAL, the American Civil Liberties Union, etc.), one can easily see their demands will include free contraception, abortion on demand, furthering of the same-sex “marriage” agenda, and a whole slew of other sex-revolution-related constructs that faithful Catholics and many other Americans reject.

In other words, the notion of “women’s rights” in this case is simply being used as a smokescreen to cover up demands for all sorts of other rights, most of them spawned not to further women’s dignity and freedom, but to further the sexual revolution, which exploits women.


2. Abortion does not set a woman free.

I know this from personal experience because I had an abortion in 1974, just one year after the U.S. Supreme Court issued the Roe v. Wade decision that made abortion legal in every state. I was married with two children, so why did I abort my third? Mostly out of fear. Those were the days when women were still being fired for being pregnant. In 1970, I was fired from my newspaper job for being pregnant. My husband and I were financially struggling at the time. If I was fired again, I was afraid we’d be unable to feed the two children we already had.

I was also on the pill when I got pregnant with our third child, and I had adopted that “contraceptive mentality” Janet Smith so eloquently speaks about. I thought I (and not God) should be able to control when or even whether I had a child and how many children I would have. Although I was unconscious of this truth at the time, I was so self-centered at age 28 that I thought I could play god, abort my child, get on with my life and not suffer any consequences as a result.

I was wrong. After the abortion, I suffered alternating bouts of anxiety and depression for the next 30 years. I may have appeared “free” on the outside, but my interior life was in shackles. It was only after I was received into the Catholic Church at age 57 and experienced the grace of God’s forgiveness that I found interior freedom and experienced the deep joy and peace that passes all understanding. The sweet little song that came into my heart at Easter Vigil 2003, when I was received into the Catholic Church, remains with me to this day.

Abortion does not free women. It leaves a woman’s soul shackled in chains of grief. In the year 2000 (when she was older and wiser), even Betty Friedan, a mother of three, wrote: “Ideologically, I was never for abortion. Motherhood is a value to me, and even today, abortion is not. ... For me, the matter of choice has never been primarily the choice of abortion, but that you can choose to be a mother. That is as important as any right written into the Constitution.” These are words written by not just any feminist, but by the feminist who is widely known as “the mother” of the modern women’s movement.

Abortion may prevent a young woman from being fired or having to interrupt her education. But is “abort your baby if you want to finish your education and be successful” really the best choice the richest nation on earth can offer to young women? As Americans, can’t we all join hands and work together in love to do better by women than this?


3. Human rights are indivisible.

Pro-choicers like those at the Women’s March all too frequently fall into the intellectual trap of pitting a pregnant mother’s rights against those of her baby. By embedding a radically autonomous view of personhood into its divisive Roe v. Wade decision, the all-male 1973 U.S. Supreme Court fell into this same intellectual trap. In Roe, a pregnant woman was implicitly defined as someone who stands isolated and alone in the world, with no God who cares about his creation and no human being generous and loving enough to help.

The court’s decision was predicated on the illusion that a surprise pregnancy is entirely her problem (no man was involved, nor does anyone else care). The predicament she’s in today involves only her body, her choice. (Unspoken message: “Just abort the baby, kiddo, and then you’ll be free.”)

In radical contrast, those March for Lifers assembling in Washington today to protest this Roe v. Wade decision are standing up for the indivisible rights of a mother and her baby. Through the eyes of faith, they know that as human beings we are all deeply interconnected to God and to each other in ways invisible to the naked eye. We can’t hurt the mother without hurting the baby. We can’t hurt the baby without hurting the mother. And we can’t hurt either without hurting us all.

Yes, women’s rights are indeed human rights. And babies’ rights are human rights, too. You cannot slice and dice human rights into a thousand separate pieces and still have a working democracy. Human rights are indivisible.

And that’s just one more reason why the March for Life — and not last week’s pro-abortion Women’s March — represents the authentic feminist movement of the 21st century.


A longtime contributor to the Register, Sue Ellen Browder is author of

Subverted: How I Helped the Sexual Revolution Hijack the Women’s Movement