William & Mary Journal of Race, Gender, and Social Justice


Janet Benshoof


In their article, The Rise and Fall of Women's Rights: Have Sexuality and Reproductive Freedom Forfeited Victory?, the authors Lynne Marie Kohm and Colleen Holmes launch a wide-ranging attack on women's reproductive freedoms and target not only myself but topics as diverse as gay and lesbian rights, the Vagina Monologues, and sexual freedom (without guilt or shame) for women.

This Essay is not meant to be a comprehensive response to the article. Rather, this Essay will counter Kohm's and Holmes's asserted premise-that fighting for reproductive freedoms has left feminists without the strength to fight for other rights. By doing so, the authors' true agenda will be revealed. I trust that the reader's own common sense will lend a healthy skepticism to an examination of the article's other and, at times, even more egregious claims.

This Essay will establish the centrality of reproductive rights to women's equality and will describe the well-financed, politically sophisticated, and increasingly successful attack on those rights by the religious right. The goal of the religious right is to remove the constitutional protections embodying the values of a pluralistic secular government, to disparage the constitutional values of individual conscientious choice, to halt the advancement of a living constitution toward the protection of equality, and instead to substitute one religious viewpoint as the state-sponsored ideology. A key component to their overall strategy is an attack on the right to choose abortion. Thus, it is imperative that feminists continue to fight the numerous encroachments that are being made on women's reproductive freedoms.

The last part of this Essay is drawn from remarks I made at the Third Annual Blackmun Lecture, Countering the Religious Right: Legislative and Legal Strategies, on March 5,1999, in Washington D.C., presented by the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy (CRLP) and the People for the American Way Foundation.