This opinion piece orginally appeared online at Politics Daily’s Woman Up page on January 2nd, 2011.
2010 Elections and Pro-Life Women: A Correction for Modern Feminism
by Marjorie Dannenfelser
The 2010 elections represent not just a good result for pro-life female candidates, but a good result for all women. The reason is simple: Since 1992, which liberal groups dubbed the Year of the Woman, elected women in Congress have represented the views of pro-choice activists, not the views of American women.
On November 2, that imbalance dramatically shifted toward the pro-life side of the scale, and it is just the beginning. More than sheer numbers are involved, but the numbers alone are compelling. They underscore first and foremost that, as good as this election cycle was for fiscal conservatives, it was every bit as triumphant for female candidates who embrace the right to life.
Consider the profile of the U.S. Congress.
In the session of Congress that just ended, there were 93 women, 17 of them in the Senate. Of these, only 10 have taken a clear pro-life position. This is completely unrepresentative of the views of American women; half or more survey respondents have told the Gallup organization over the past two years that they self-label as “pro-life.” Many more women who do not embrace that label oppose the regime of abortion on demand that we have now — and that most liberals believe — we should fully fund with tax dollars.
Our political action in 2010 ran wide and deep. The Susan B. Anthony List aided a former state attorney general running for the U.S. Senate from New Hampshire, two accomplished women running for statewide office in Alabama, a rancher-businesswoman running for the at-large seat in South Dakota, a Hispanic woman running for governor of New Mexico, and the former president of one of the world’s largest computer corporations running in California, just to name a few.
All but one of these formidable women won their races, often against better-funded foes. Altogether, 11 pro-choice women, one in the U.S. Senate and 10 in the House, were tossed from office. Kelly Ayotte surged to a Senate victory in New Hampshire with a margin of more than 23 percentage points. The number of pro-life women in the House grew by 70 percent overnight.
The numbers in the states are even more impressive. In addition to governor-elect Susana Martinez of New Mexico, who is already getting mentioned as vice presidential material for 2012, women candidates we endorsed won three other governorships — in Arizona, Oklahoma, and South Carolina. Pro-life Nikki Haley broke two layers of glass ceiling in the Palmetto State, becoming the first female governor of Indian-American heritage.
In Florida, pro-life Pam Bondi won her race for attorney general and Jennifer Carroll carried the day in her race for lieutenant governor. The remarkable Carroll was born in Trinidad, served 20 years in the U.S. Navy, and was the first black woman Republican elected to the Florida legislature. She will be an effective voice for women and the unborn in Florida and perhaps beyond.
Some pundits are raising an already stale cry that because the total number of women in Congress is smaller now, the voice of women in governance is fading. The truth is that authentic female leadership is soaring. The possibility of service at all levels of government has been dramatically widened beyond the usual “modern feminist” culprits who have dominated debate for far too long. The 2010 elections were extremely good for women at the state and local levels and significantly more representative of women at the national level. More than a mere math exercise, the 2010 election cycle is a corrective moment for the women’s movement.
The pioneers of the left deserve credit for opening the way, but far too many of them abandoned the basic premises of Susan B. Anthony and her contemporaries, who wanted equality without shedding their feminine and maternal character. The founding mothers of feminism embraced an authentic balance, seeking public roles, not to cease their advocacy for their children, born and unborn, but to empower and renew it.
It is this kind of authentic feminism that is on the ascendancy. As a result, the raw numbers will resume their climb. The fresh paths blazed on November 2 by Noem and Herrera, Ivey and Adams, Black and Reynolds will be followed by many more.
Come January, the debates in Congress will resume, including the yet-to-be resolved debate over health care that sparked so much of this “correction election.” And that debate will include measures to end, once and for all, public funding for abortion and for organizations that promote and perform it.
This time, however, the debate will be not just about women, but among them. And that fact — Barbara Boxer’s nightmare and the fulfillment of a dream for millions of previously unrepresented women — makes the 2010 elections a welcome change for all Americans.
Marjorie Dannenfelser is President of the Susan B. Anthony List, a nationwide network of over 280,000 pro-life Americans dedicated to advancing, mobilizing and representing pro-life women in the political process.