Maine News: Activists protest outside Maine mansion of conservative Supreme Court architect / by Evan Popp

Photo: Activists at the protest by Leo’s house on Saturday | Tina Stein  

Activists in Maine protested Saturday outside the Northeast Harbor home of Leonard Leo, the co-chairman of the Federalist Society who has played a leading role in building the conservative Supreme Court majority that recently overturned federal abortion rights. 

Leo famously developed a list of right-wing jurists that included all three of President Donald Trump’s eventual nominees to the bench. Each of those justices — Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett — joined in a June court ruling described by advocates as “dangerous and chilling” that overturned Roe v. Wade

The New Yorker has called Leo “in effect, Trump’s subcontractor” on high court nominations. And a writer with the National Review stated in 2016 that, “No one has been more dedicated to the enterprise of building a Supreme Court that will overturn Roe v. Wade than the Federalist Society’s Leonard Leo.”

Leo bought a nearly 8,000 square foot mansion in Northeast Harbor — on Mount Desert Island — during the fall of 2018. In 2019, activists protested outside the house when Sen. Susan Collins attended a private campaign fundraiser there. 

Collins, a Maine Republican, famously cast a pivotal vote in favor of confirming Kavanaugh, one of the conservatives Leo helped elevate to the court, and also voted for Gorsuch. Activists warned that both were hostile to abortion rights, but Collins — who says she is pro-choice — still voted for them, arguing they would respect precedent set by Roe. Wade. Both Kavanaugh and Gorsuch, however, ultimately voted to overturn abortion rights.  

A participant at the protest Saturday | Courtesy photo

Saturday’s protest was the continuation of a number of rallies outside Leo’s mansion, including one in June at which participants celebrated the elevation to the Supreme Court of President Biden nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson and gathered to let Leo know “we are for justice, equity and love, not hate.” 

Dixie Hathaway, one of the people at the demonstration over the weekend, said the goal of the rally was to “raise awareness that this person is the one who’s primarily responsible for our Supreme Court and for all the horrible” rulings the court has made. She noted that such awareness is important given that many people don’t know who Leo is. 

“We would like to make him feel uncomfortable,” Hathaway said, adding that some participants have contacted local nonprofits that receive money from Leo to let them know about his background and to make the argument that his donations are “intended to buy acceptance in the community.” 

Hathaway said the court’s June abortion decision is just one harmful ruling the majority Leo helped seat has recently made. During the last term, right-wingers on the bench also severely limited the power of the Environmental Protection Agency to combat climate change and struck down a New York gun control law. 

Hathaway and another demonstrator, Tina Stein, both told Beacon that Leo seemed upset by the protest on Saturday and that the police were called about the demonstration, and Hathaway shared a photo with Beacon of an officer on the scene. However, she said activists stood their ground.

Overall, participants have had a number of productive conversations with people passing by during the demonstrations, Hathaway added. She said many of those people know about Leo and are sympathetic to the protests. 

An attempt to reach Leo for comment about the rally was unsuccessful. 

Evan Popp studied journalism at Ithaca College and interned at the Progressive magazine, ThinkProgress and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. He then worked for the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper before joining Beacon. Evan can be reached at

Maine Beacon, July 25, 2022,

Meet the Maine corporate interests funding anti-choice candidates / by Dan Neumann

In their latest campaign finance filing the Maine Association of Realtors reports giving the maximum individual donation of $425 each to 16 state lawmakers seeking re-election. All are Republicans and all 16 have been endorsed by the Christian Civic League of Maine, the state’s leading opponent of abortion rights which recently celebrated the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

The realtors aren’t alone. Local insurance agents, contractors, dentists and other corporate groups are some of the leading funders of anti-abortion candidates. If Maine Republicans win a legislative majority and enact their plans to repeal abortion rights, it will have been made possible in large part because of this continued local corporate support.

“It’s just pure capitalism — just caring about money and not caring about anything else,” said Aspen Ruhlin, an abortion rights advocate with the Mabel Wadsworth Center in Bangor. “Because, contrary to what some people may say, corporations aren’t people, so they don’t have values.”

Anti-abortion extremist candidates

In the wake of the repeal of Roe and with decisions over abortion rights in Maine falling to the state legislature, Maine Republicans have continued to shift toward extremism. The party launched a platform in May that specifically calls for a repeal of abortion rights in the state.

Despite these new and higher stakes, corporate and industry donors have continued to back candidates regardless of their extremist anti-abortion stance. 

The realtors have long been one of the top corporate contributors to Maine Republicans and Democrats. In addition to their individual contributions to individual GOP campaigns, the lobby group has donated $36,545 to the Maine Senate Republicans’ election fund and $22,500 to the House Republicans since 2013. During the same period, realtors have given $87,250 to Democrats.

Some of the candidates they back have publicly declared extreme anti-abortion positions. 

“I go a little further than some pro-lifers,” said Rep. Peter Lyford (R-Eddington) in a YouTube interview with Christian Civic League policy director Mike McClellan. “I don’t believe in abortion at all. […] The doctor may say, ‘Well, I think the mother’s going to die.’ I believe there will always be someone there to take care of the child.” 

Lyford is running for an open seat in Senate District 10 against Democrat Ralph Cammack, a former deputy fire chief in Brewer. In 2020, realtors gave $400 to Lyford ahead of his re-election in the Maine House.

Whatever serves their agenda

Members of the Maine Association of Realtors, from the group’s Facebook page.

Beacon asked the realtors association if they agreed with the GOP’s anti-abortion platform. Chief executive officer Suzanne Guild said their only consideration is what most serves their agenda. “The Maine Association of Realtors PAC makes candidate funding decisions based on policy issues solely related to the real estate industry and real property ownership,” she said.

Ruhlin noted that groups like the realtors association often give to both parties. “There’s very much a thinking that if you play both sides, you always win,” they said. “Companies aren’t people, but they’re run by people who hold a lot of power. With that power comes a lot of privilege and they feel completely untouched by these abortion bans.”

Another local business group, the Maine Insurance Agents Association, has also given to Republicans endorsed by the Christian Civic League. A top recipient of the association’s donations is Sen. Stacey Guerin (R-Penobscot), who has participated in Maine Right to Life’s annual “Hands Around the Capitol” rally, where protestors encircle the State House to pray for the overturning of Roe.

In 2013, Guerin spoke at the rally and encouraged attendees to support a slate of anti-abortion legislation sponsored by Republicans that year, including a bill to deny public funds for Planned Parenthood programs. “Maine needs you and the babies need you,” she said.

Guerin has received $800 from insurance agents since 2013, most recently getting $300 in May before the primary for her re-election in Senate District 4. 

Another frequent attendee and sometimes speaker at the anti-abortion “Hands Around the Capitol” rally, former Gov. Paul LePage, was endorsed on Tuesday at a campaign stop in Windham by the Associated Builders and Contractors of Maine. One of the association’s top contributors is Cianbro, the largest construction company in the state.

At the event with the builders association, gubernatorial candidate LePage tried to obsfucate his anti-abortion past when asked by the media if he would move to ban or curb reproductive rights in Maine. “I don’t have time for abortion,” the former governor said, belying his more strident statements from previous years, such as declaring at 2016 rally, “We should not have abortion.” 

Lyford and LePage are among the Republican lawmakers highlighted in a video published by the Maine Democratic Party this week highlighting member of the GOP’s extremist positions on abortion rights.

The builders association has given $9,500 to the Senate Republicans’ election fund since 2013 and the Retail Association of Maine has all Republican PACs listed as their top payees, doling out $21,300 over the last decade to House and Senate fundraising efforts. 

Other top industry groups that have frequently given to the Maine Republicans include Central Maine Power’s parent company Avangrid, which has given the GOP $30,700 over the past decade, the Maine Credit Union League ($38,500), the Maine Dental Association ($13,250), and the Retail Lumber Association of Maine ($9,500). These donors have also given money to Maine Democrats.

On the federal level, former Rep. Bruce Poliquin has refused to say if he would support a federal ban on abortion if relected in November. 

During his two terms in Congress, Poliquin was largely funded by Wall Street investors but has received substantial backing from Maine corporations as well, including from the Central Maine Motors Auto Group ($13,800), the Quirk Auto Group ($11,900) and the Twin Rivers Paper Company, which runs a paper mill in Madawaska ($11,400).

Dan Neumann studied journalism at Colorado State University before beginning his career as a community newspaper reporter in Denver. He reported on the Global North’s interventions in Africa, including documentaries on climate change, international asylum policy and U.S. militarization on the continent before returning to his home state of Illinois to teach community journalism on Chicago’s West Side. He now lives in Portland. Dan can be reached at dan(at)

Maine Beacon, July 8, 2022,

Abortion in Cuba vs U.S. shows which country is truly democratic / by Calla Walsh

A May Day 2022 rally in La Habana, Cuba

When I connected to wifi for the first time in five days, a notification appeared on my phone announcing that the U.S. Supreme Court had voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 legal decision that makes access to abortion a legal right.

Like most people when they heard the news, I felt shock waves run down my body. It was a draft opinion, but if the consensus holds, abortion will likely become illegal immediately or very quickly in 13 U.S. states.

This is despite the fact that nearly two-thirds–64%–of people in the United States oppose overturning Roe v. Wade.

We were hit by this news in Cuba, the first country in Latin America to legalize abortion, and where abortion and contraceptives are free–as with all healthcare services.

Like the United States, Cuba is currently engaged in a nationwide debate over LGBTQ+, women’s, and reproductive rights. But unlike in the U.S., where these decisions are made by a few unelected Supreme Court theocrats, Cuba’s process is grassroots and democratic.

The U.S. empire would like us to believe that Cuba is an authoritarian dictatorship, because it does not bow down to the laws of neoliberal “democracy.” Yet comparing the debates over reproductive rights in the two countries can help demystify which country is truly democratic.

Socialism enshrines reproductive rights in Cuba

Abortion was first legalized in Cuba in 1936 in cases of rape, risk to the birthgiver’s life, or the possibility of passing on a serious disease to the fetus.

Before the 1959 revolution, Cubans lived through a period of U.S. neocolonialism, and private medical clinics thrived by offering U.S. “health tourists” services like abortion that were not available in the United States.

During this time, Cuba had the second-highest rural infant and maternal death rates in Latin America. Most Cubans had no access to healthcare, especially outside of the capital, La Habana. There was only one rural hospital in the country.

Abortion was effectively only legal for the Cubans who could afford it–a reality we still face in the U.S.. Only with socialism, and the expansion of free healthcare to all, came a full actualization of abortion rights in Cuba.

After the triumph of the revolution in 1959, health outcomes improved immediately. Cuba now has the most doctors per capita in the world. It even has a higher life expectancy and lower maternal mortality rate than the U.S..

Full access to abortion was institutionalized in 1965 on four basic grounds:

it is the woman who decides, it needs to take place at a hospital, it needs to be carried out by expert staff, and it needs to be totally free.

The only criminalization of abortion in Cuba is “when it is done for profit, outside of health institutions, by non-medical staff, or against a woman’s will.”

In the struggle to secure Cuba’s strong abortion laws, as well as other protections like paid maternal leave, one should not underestimate the role played by revolutionary mass organizations like the Cuban Federation of Women (FMC), whose membership includes more than 85% of all eligible Cuban women over 14 years of age.

Along with the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) and the Organs of Popular Power (OPP), mass organizations like the FMC and Cuba Workers Federation (CTC) make up the three main pillars of Cuba’s political system.

In Cuba, I met Dr. Samira Addrey. Born in Ghana, raised in the United States, and recently graduated from the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) in Cuba, Addrey is intimately familiar with the radical differences in the Cuban health system.

She now coordinates a scholarship program for students from the U.S. to study at ELAM for free, and subsequently work in underserved communities upon graduation. She explained how reproductive care currently works in Cuba.

“​​Every woman of reproductive age has the right to make the decision that is best for her reproductive health,” Addrey told me. “As soon as a woman reaches the menstrual phase of her life, the family doctor and nurse in her neighborhood classify her within the reproductive age, typically 15 to 49 years approximately.”

“Every factor that could contribute to or take away from good reproductive health for a woman is assessed from the beginning to the end,” she stressed.

Addrey noted that a woman “is entitled to choose contraceptive methods that are appropriate for her health background and encouraged to involve her sexual partner in each consult visit to make sure they understand what good sexual and reproductive health means for a both partners.”

“A woman is afforded a safe abortion for free, done by a medical doctor at any local policlinic or hospital,” she added. “Reproductive health in Cuba is approached as a multifaceted part of every woman’s life.”

| Socialism enshrines reproductive rights in Cuba | MR Online

Thanks to the widespread availability of abortion, and public trust in the health system, the issue is much less stigmatized in Cuba than it is in the U.S., despite the fact that the Caribbean nation is majority Catholic.

Addrey recalled that “numerous times, my OBGYN professors stressed that they prioritized the life of the woman before all else, especially in the case of pregnancies that threatened the life of a mother. For them, it was a no brainer to save a woman’s life if it meant losing a fetus because the woman still had a full life to live even if she may never have a child through her own womb.”

Dailyn Briñas, a Cuban-American who traveled to Cuba with me on the 15th International May Day Brigade, said “very little social consequences” exist in Cuba for people who choose to get abortions, whereas “in the West, women are at times looked down upon or made to feel less if they do.”

The destigmatization of abortion in Cuba is rooted in the revolution’s steadfast commitment to reproductive rights.

People’s democracy and the Cuban families code

Cuba’s constitution, which was revised through a democratic process in 2019, not only guarantees the right to free medical care, but it also enforces gender equality in all aspects of society, including sexual and reproductive rights:

Women and men have equal rights and responsibilities in the economic, political, cultural, occupational, social, and familial domains, as well as in any other domain. The State guarantees that both will be offered the same opportunities and possibilities. The State encourages the holistic development of women and their full social participation. It ensures the exercise of their sexual and reproductive rights, protects them from gender-based violence in all of its forms and in all spaces, and creates the institutional and legal mechanisms to do so.

The U.S. constitution does not mention women at all.

But what might surprise North Americans the most about Cuba’s constitution is the fact that Cubans get to directly participate in the rewriting of the document.

Cuba is currently updating its 1975 Family Code, which codified gender equality into law, into a new Families Code. This process will update the island’s existing regulations on marriage, divorce, adoption, and other family-related regulations, including by legalizing same-sex marriage, expanding the rights of children, allowing assisted pregnancies, fighting gender-based violence, and protecting the elderly.

Minister of Justice Oscar Silvera Martínez described the document as “a transcendental text, which reinforces rights, fulfills and expands rights, and this is inherent to our revolutionary and socialist essence as a society.”

Elaborating on the parts of the bill that pertain to reproductive rights, Dr. Samira Addrey explained, “In Cuba, surrogate mothers who want to help another woman be a mother is also an option. This is consecrated by the new Families Code, and it is important to note that it is entirely prohibited for anyone to charge people for surrogacy.”

In December 2021, the National Assembly of Cuba approved a draft of the Families Code bill to be sent out for popular consultation.

From February to April 2022, more than 6 million Cubans, in more than 79,000 community meetings, participated in debate and discussion of the bill, making around 434,860 proposals, 61.96% of which were favorable.

Even the 1.3 million Cubans living abroad were invited to participate through an online form.

On May 15, Cuba’s National Electoral Council delivered its summary of the national popular consultation to the National Assembly of People’s Power. The drafting commission will now take the 434,860 proposals made by regular Cubans into consideration, delivering a new version of the draft to the National Assembly by June 17.

The version approved by the assembly will then be submitted to a popular referendum for approval by the Cuban people.

This consultative process has long played a key role in Cuban democracy. As political economist Helen Yaffe described in her book “We Are Cuba!“, the “introduction of the new Labour Code in June 2014 followed five months of debate involving 2.8 million workers in nearly 70,000 workplace assemblies and in the CTC, the Ministry of Labour, and the National Assembly. The process led to over 100 amendments to the draft Code.”

Cubans have many ways to engage in democracy, from participating in grassroots consultation, to joining mass organizations, to running for municipal assemblies, provincial assemblies, or the National Assembly as delegates themselves.

Cubans reading printed biographies of candidates in front of a polling station.

“It would be a mistake to think that because the opportunities for participation are on people’s doorsteps, that the issues they become involved in are only of local significance,” emphasized Ph.D. researcher Lauren Collins.

What happens at the hyper-local level in translates directly to the national level, showing just how advanced Cuban democracy is.

Roe v. Wade and the illusion of democracy

Danaka Katovich, an organizer with the peace group CODEPINK, visited Cuba as part of the International People’s Assembly youth delegation. She later wrote,

I was eating dinner with our Cuban hosts when we got word that Roe could soon be overturned. The table went silent. The Americans were scared and the Cubans were afraid on our behalf.

Hearing the news about Roe v. Wade while in revolutionary Cuba put the reactionary decision in a different context.

“It made me wonder what my rights really look like, and if I really have any rights,” said B. “Goddess” Dillard Saunders, an internationalist organizer and May Day brigadista from Minnesota who has had multiple abortions in the U.S..

“If you can just take something away from me with your pen, did I ever have it to begin with?” she asked.

The precariousness of reproductive rights–and all rights–in the United States bears a sharp contrast to life in Cuba, where it would be unimaginable for the government to strip away healthcare from millions of people with a single vote, let alone a vote between nine unelected justices.

The fact that these nine unelected justices can make a major decision that is so clearly opposed by 64% of the population, and only supported by 33%, exposes how hollow U.S. “democracy” is.

Moreover, it would be unimaginable to North Americans for us to participate in community debate and national referendums on our constitution, which has barely changed since it was written by a handful of slaveowners 235 years ago.

But most North Americans are still convinced that we live in a functional democracy, while Cubans live in a totalitarian dictatorship.

Dailyn Briñas, who has lived in both countries, explained that in the U.S., “There exists no democracy, and the elite are the main executioners of laws or regulations,” whereas the “Cuban system is quite the opposite, and it is this attention toward collective action and thought that provides the foundation for their system.”

Take voting access. If the United States is the democracy and Cuba is the dictatorship, why does Cuba regularly have 90% voter turnout rates, while the U.S. has rarely passed 60% in recent presidential election years?

Why does Cuba automatically register all citizens and permanent residents to vote at age 16, while endless voter suppression exists in the U.S.? The list goes on.

The illusion of democracy in the U.S. is multifaceted. Studies show that public opinion in the U.S. has zero influence on policymaking.

The United States is the definition of an oligarchy. Laws are determined by the capitalist elite, who buy elections, influence legislation through the corporate lobby, or sit themselves in Congress, where more than half of the members are millionaires.

On average, a U.S. Senate seat costs $10.5 million, and a House seat $1.7 million.

But even if democracy couldn’t be bought in the U.S., our so-called “democratic institutions” were designed to be fundamentally undemocratic.

The Supreme Court is a prime example. Justices are appointed by the president, who can win the electoral college without a majority of votes.

Supreme Court Justices are approved by the Senate, the world’s “greatest deliberative body,” where 40 people can outvote 60, and mostly white, rural states get disproportionate representation. The Nation reported that, “by 2040, it is projected that 70 percent of the country will be represented by just 30 senators, while the other 70 senators will give voice to the 30 percent.”

Once confirmed, Supreme Court justices serve limitless terms, with power over the lives of 330 million people in their hands.

Another deceitful aspect of U.S. “democracy” is the illusion of choice between the Democratic and Republican parties, which are really two sides of the same imperialist coin.

Democrats have used the Roe v. Wade decision as a rallying cry–and email fundraising subject line–for the 2022 midterm elections, arguing that voting in November is the only way to save abortion rights.

What they fail to mention in their fundraising emails is that they could save Roe right now, by codifying abortion rights into federal law with the current Democratic control of the House of Representatives, Senate, and White House.

A Senate vote this May to try to codify Roe nationwide was blocked, as Democrat Joe Manchin joined all 50 Republican senators in opposing the bill. But Democrats in the Senate, without any Republican votes, could end the filibuster, the undemocratic rule that requires 60 votes, instead of a simple majority, to pass most pieces of legislation.

Like Obama, who promised to codify abortion rights into federal law on the first day of his presidency, then decided they were no longer a legislative priority, Biden and his Democratic Party serve as controlled opposition. They claim to fight for abortion rights while failing to pass an abortion bill every time they have had the ability to do so.

Democrats and Republicans are not fundamentally opposed to each other; they simply have different strategies for how to best maintain U.S. global capitalist hegemony.

| Roe v Wade and the illusion of democracy | MR Online

Cuba may only have one party (which I should note is not an electoral party and it is barred from involvement in the entire electoral process), but within the Communist Party of Cuba–as well as the Organs of Popular Power and mass organizations it has helped build for women, workers, and youth–there is much more room for democratic debate and direct input from the masses than any viable party in the U.S..

Cuba’s democratic structures also cannot be assessed outside of their surrounding conditions: the onslaught of yankee imperialism and global neoliberalism.

Cuban socialism has not been able to develop for a single day not under siege by the U.S. government–through the illegal economic blockade, direct and indirect terrorist interventions, and the continued illegal occupation of Guantánamo Bay.

The Cuban Revolution has survived for over 60 years, in the harshest possible conditions, as countless other revolutions were crushed by U.S. intervention, for a reason.

Only socialism can bring about democratic and reproductive freedom

When I asked Dr. Samira Addrey if she thinks socialism is necessary for the full actualization of reproductive rights for all people, she gave a wholehearted yes.

“The rights of a woman to determine the best course for her reproductive health can never be a commodity nor a question laid in the hands of men,” she said. “Socialism upholds the humanity of women by ensuring that their roles in society be fully respected and protected.”

“Health is a human right and socialism delivers a system where that unalienable right can never be trampled upon by greedy exploitative capitalist machines,” she added.

Having seen the drastic advancements women made through the Cuban Revolution, Dailyn Briñas views socialism as “a transitional point for the eventual goal of universal women’s liberation.”

She maintained, “Reproductive rights are one of the many things that would come with bringing about the collective transformation and destruction of a capitalist global structure.”

With the destruction of capitalism also comes a full realization of democracy. Socialism–the common ownership of production, distribution, and exchange under the political rule of the working class masses–is the most democratic form of society that can now be constructed.

Before the revolution, Cuba was ruled by a series of U.S.-backed dictators–and before that, direct U.S. military rule and Spanish colonialism.

Today, Cuba has a people-powered, consultative, socialist democracy that is centuries ahead of the U.S. in terms of grassroots participation and social achievements.

For many in the United States, it is easier to believe that Cuba is lying about their democratic achievements than to come to terms with the fact that our own government is choosing to deny us those same rights.

How could a country just 90 miles away provide all of its citizens with healthcare, housing, education, and reproductive freedom, free of cost, when we have been told our entire lives that we do not deserve those same achievements, and that they are physically impossible?

It is not a pretty reality to accept, that the U.S. willingly perpetuates violence upon us and the rest of the world every day, but it is better than living in the delusion of imperialist benevolence.

When we all wake up–and we will–we’ll realize how much we have to learn from Cuba.

Originally published: Multipolarista on May 23, 2022

Calla Walsh is an organizer with the Boston-Cuba Solidarity Coalition and board member at Massachusetts Peace Action. In 2022 she traveled to Cuba as part of the 15th International May Day Brigade of Voluntary Work and Solidarity with Cuba.

MR Online, May 25, 2022,

Maine Opinion: There’s no such thing as ‘pro-life,’ and no such thing as ‘pro-life feminism’ / by Aspen Ruhlin

If you’ve read any of my previous articles, you may have noticed that I don’t refer to people who oppose abortion access as “pro-life,” but instead as “anti-abortion.” Along with being vague, the “pro-life” label simply doesn’t reflect their views. Denying the autonomy and wellbeing of pregnant people certainly doesn’t align with the idea of being in support of life, and in fact actively devalues the lives of people who have had and will have abortions.

There are as many reasons that someone would seek out abortion care as there are people that have abortions. These reasons are sometimes boxed into strict categories of “necessary” versus “frivolous.” Like most binaries, this doesn’t come close to accurately describing a person’s lived experience. 

All abortions are necessary. Control over your own body is a human right, and that includes continuing or ending a pregnancy. A common retort from the anti-abortion crowd is that having an abortion violates the “autonomy” of a fetus, a claim that ignores both that a fetus isn’t a person, and that people do not have the right to use someone else’s body. If I needed a kidney transplant to live, I wouldn’t have the right to force another living person to donate theirs to me. In fact, I wouldn’t even have the right to make a dead person donate their kidney to me, as people have to consent to being an organ donor, even if they end up in a position where they no longer need those organs. If people can understand bodily autonomy in this context, why can’t they grasp it for pregnant people?

This brings us to the more specific topic of so-called “pro-life feminists.” As I’ve already established, I take issue with the label of “pro-life” anyways and consider it a misnomer—given the disrespect towards pregnant people inherent to being anti-abortion coupled with the violence that is frequently displayed by those activists. Defining feminism can be a bit trickier. As a feminist myself who prioritizes a practice that centers marginalized voices and keeps the influence of intersectionality in mind, it can be easy to simply claim that someone is not a real feminist. While I do think that can be true, as people can slap on any label they want in a bid for legitimacy, it can also quickly turn into a “no true Scotsman” purity test. More useful than simply writing off self-proclaimed feminists who hold anti-feminist values is pointing out the cognitive dissonance they are displaying. This is true of white-centered feminism that ignores the impact of race, thus ignoring the experiences of Black, Indigenous, and other women of color, and of TERFs, or trans eradicating radical feminists, who rely heavily on biological essentialism and the notion that a person is defined only by their reproductive capabilities.

An anti-abortion feminist would be someone who claims to support gender equality, but doesn’t support the autonomy of pregnant people. Given that anti-abortion sentiments and transphobia tend to be common bedfellows, this would also likely be someone who views all people who have abortions as women, meaning that they specifically don’t view women as deserving the right to self-determination, while simultaneously claiming to be pro-woman. I do not buy the idea of genuinely believing in feminism and also viewing women as less-than. Just as “pro-life” is a misnomer, “pro-life feminism” is as well.

This notion of a “pro-life feminist” is fresh on my mind after a draft Supreme Court opinion was leaked Monday evening showing the court planned to overturn Roe v. Wade. Also, the March 30 arrest of Lauren Handy, a well-known anti-abortion activist currently working with Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising. Handy was found to have five stolen fetuses in her possession, and claimed to have stolen a total of 115 fetal tissue samples in her apartment. Nothing says “progressive” like opposing the autonomy of pregnant people and stealing medical waste products, right? This behavior certainly pokes holes in the argument that anti-abortion advocates make that they are concerned with the respectful and safe handling of fetal tissue samples, as it is not best practice to store biohazard materials in coolers in an apartment.

When it comes down to it, there is no good reason to oppose abortion access, particularly if you claim to have feminist values. To truly value life, you have to value the lives of pregnant people and trust that they know their needs.

Photo: Hundreds turned out for a pro-abortion rally in Portland on October 2, 2021. | Sam Spadafore, Beacon

Aspen Ruhlin is a Client Advocate in the Bangor area, where they help people overcome barriers to accessing healthcare. They have a particular focus on serving the trans community and increasing access to gender-affirming care. In their off time, they enjoy embroidery, gardening, and participating in an array of activism.

Maine Beacon, May 3, 2022,