Young people hold signs outside the U.S. Supreme Court building during the March for Life in Washington Jan. 22, 2015. (CNS photo/Leslie Kossoff)
Sue Ellen Browder has worked as a
journalist for more than 40 years, writing for several decades for Cosmopolitan and other women’s magazines.
Her articles from that period were calculated to “soft sell” the Cosmo lifestyle and all that it entailedincluding
casual sex, contraception, and abortion. Her new book Subverted
(Ignatius Press) tells the story of how the women’s movementwhich in the
beginning was primarily concerned about equal rights and opportunities for
women, and mothers in particularwas hijacked by the sexual revolution and how abortion
became enshrined as the movement’s primary political issue.
Browder will be on the stage at
the rally kicking off the 2016 March for Life in Washington, DC on January 22,
speaking on “Why the Pro-Life Movement is the Authentic Women’s Movement of the
She recently corresponded with
CWR about her book, her perspective on pro-abortion politics as someone who
witnessed firsthand their fusing with the women’s movement, and the hope she
sees for a pro-life future in the United States.
CWR: Why did
you write Subverted?
Sue Ellen Browder: We can’t correct the errors of the past until we know the errors of the
past. This book tells for the first time how two men used some very crafty
propaganda to convince women’s movement founder Betty Friedan to insert
abortion and contraception into the women’s movement “Bill of Rights.” They
convinced her she wouldn’t be able to achieve equitynot equality, equityfor women in education and the
workplace if she didn’t include abortion in her package of political demands.
The women’s movement in the
beginning was very united around issues of equal access to education and
opportunities in the work force. Abortion split the women’s movement in
two. The pro-life movement has not declared a “war on women.” The pro-life
movement represents an authentic branch of feminism that walked out the door
the very night abortion was inserted into the women’s movement by a
mere 57 people under some very diabolic influences.
CWR: Why has
this story been buried for nearly 50 years?
Browder: It’s been
reported here and there in bits and pieces. But it’s never been pulled
together in one place before. This book, Subverted, is the first time anyone has told the
like Susan B. Anthony, Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were
adamantly prolife. Alice Paul, mother of the 19th Amendment, which guaranteed women the
right to vote, called abortion “the ultimate exploitation of women.” Although
Betty Friedan eventually did succumb to abortion’s siren song, she didn’t even
mention abortion in 1963 when she launched second wave feminism with The Feminine Mystique.
Having once been
fired for being pregnant, Friedan wrote in 2000, “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’s as important as any right written into the Constitution.”
CWR: What was
the bedrock motivation for the promotion of abortion in the 1960s? And to what
degree was it pushed by men who saw it as a means of liberation for themselves
rather than by women?
Browder: This is
an excellent question, but it can’t be answered simply. As Judge
John T. Noonan, Jr., reported in A Private
Choice: Abortion in America in the Seventies, the motivations
for abortion reformers in the 1960s were extremely complex. Certainly most
early abortion reformers were upper-middle-class white males, not women. The
lawyers of the ACLU, Noonan observes, “accepted the (my word: propagandistic)
rhetoric of the women’s movement; they saw themselves as freedom fighters for
women. They viewed abortion as a human good, available to the rich and
inexplicably withheld from the poor.” The doctors were variously into
abortion-law repeal for the money or for freedom to practice as they
wished. The wealthy donors of Planned Parenthood were population planners, convinced
that a socially acceptable way to use their wealth was to reduce the numbers of
the poor. Some politicians wanted to reduce their welfare rolls,
and abortion was a lot cheaper than supporting children for years
once they were born. So it was complicated.
CWR: How did
the push for abortion in the 1960s flow from the changes brought about by the
embrace of the Pill?
the argument was made that abortion was necessary as a “backup” for the Pill,
when contraception failed (as it sometimes did). The Pill,
when I first began taking it in the 1960s, was promoted to women as
failsafe100 percent effective, if you took it daily. It wasn’t. The
failure rates were fairly high for those women who had sex frequently. Now
that the abortion/pharmaceutical industries have LARCs (so-called
long-acting-reversible contraceptives) in their anti-motherhood arsenal,
they’re suddenly admitting the Pill was never as effective as they’ve
been telling women it was for the past 50 years.
CWR: Do you
see a connection between how abortion has been promoted and pushed for several
decades and the current push to change how people understand the sexes and
sexual orientation? Put another way, what similarities are there between the
pro-abortion movement and what Pope Francis calls “gender ideology”?
journalists ask me that question: they want to link gender issues to
abortion. The only link I personally see is that both issues arose from
the false joining of the sexual revolution with the women’s movement, which
began on November 18, 1967, in the Chinese Room of the Mayflower Hotel, when a
mere 57 people voted to insert abortion, contraception, and sex education into
the National Organization for Women’s political “Bill of Rights.” There
were eight rights in that political platform. Most of them had to do with
improving conditions for working mothers. The
only divisive “rights”that is to say, the only two the early NOW members
bitterly fought overwere #1 (the demand for the Equal Rights Amendment) and #8
(the demand for complete repeal of abortion laws, along with demands
for contraception and sex education). That supposed “right #8” is the
only one we’re still fighting over in our nation today. Why? Because it was the
only one inserted into the women’s movement through error and deception.
CWR: Subverted is really two stories in
one. The second story is a personal memoir.
Browder: Yes. On
the one hand, I was a freelance magazine writer working at home with my beloved
husband Walter, raising our children, baking homemade breads and chocolate chip
cookies. Yet on the other hand, I lived this very glamorous
lifestyle. I worked for Helen Gurley Brown at Cosmopolitan magazine. I was on The Oprah
Show. This story takes readers into rooms they’ve never been in
decades, you promoted the “Cosmo Girl” lifestyle, including abortion. And yet at
this year’s March for Life on January 22, you will speak about “Why the
Pro-Life Movement is the Authentic Women’s Movement of the 21st Century.” Why
did you switch sides? What happened?
Browder: Well, I
woke up. After years of promoting the “Cosmo Girl” lifestyle as a pathway
to freedom, I realized the sexual revolution lifestyle is destroying women’s
lives, wrecking families, and tearing apart our nation. On some level, I
think I always was, at heart, a “pro-life family feminist.” I just didn’t
suggested that the rhetoric over abortion in our nation been all wrong.
Browder: Yes. A
pregnant mother’s rights and her baby’s rights are not “at war” with each
other. A pregnant woman and her baby are a “unity of two.” That phrase was
actually given to us by Pope St. John Paul II. The pro-life women’s movement is
not just for the baby. The pro-life feminist movement is for the
mother and her baby. As human beings, we
are all interconnected. Whatever harms the mother harms the baby, whatever
harms the baby harms the mother, and whatever harms either of them harms us
it too late to turn back the clock?
Browder: Yes. Since Roe, more than 54 million Americans
have died through abortion. We can’t change that. But we can move
forward toward a new day when no mother feels compelled to abort her baby and
all mothers and babies are cherished and supported.
On January 22, on the
43rd anniversary of the Roe v.
Wade decision, pro-life
family feminists in the March for Life will once again descend upon Washington,
hundreds of thousands strong.
The pro-life movement
is not some little “conservative backlash” against “real” feminism, as the
media so often imply. Pro-life feminism began in the 19th century,
continued through the 20th century,
and is still here today, a vast army of love marching in the streets to make
its voices heard.
family feminists plainly see abortion for what it truly is: the debasement and
betrayal of women. They know a mother and her baby are not separate,
totally independent individuals whose rights are “at war” with each