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Sat 17 April 2021

A protest march to Washington D.C. will bring together radical feminists and activists linked to anti-abortion groups in protest of LGBTIQ rights, reports Sian Norris

On International Women’s Day 2021, an unlikely alliance of radical feminists and radical right activists will march on Washington D.C. to protest against an executive order from President Joe Biden which expands the prohibition of discrimination based on sex to include gender identity and sexual orientation. 

The protestors claim that the move will “eliminate the rights of women and girls to protections and provisions based on the category of sex”.

The picket is co-organised by Kara Dansky of the Women’s Human Rights Campaign.

One organiser, Courtney Piper, urged her Facebook followers who “claim their fealty as patriots to women and the land” to join the march.

There has been a growing trend over the past five years where feminist groups have collaborated with radical right groups. In 2016, the women’s rights organisation Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF) accepted a $15,000 donation from the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) – a global “religious freedom” organisation campaigning against abortion and LGBTIQ rights. Dansky was a former board member of WoLF although they parted company last summer and WoLF is not involved in organising Women Picket D.C. The ADF claimed credit for influencing the Polish Government in further restricting women’s abortion rights earlier this year.

WoLF also claims the Family Policy Alliance (FPA) as an ally. They collaborated to produce the Gender Resource Guide which aims to “understand the transgender trend and its consequences”. 

Earlier this year, the FPA ran a virtual rally opposing Biden’s proposed Equality Act which it claims will “sanction abortions and remove pro-life protections” and “deny parental rights in the name of sexualised political ideology” – i.e. allow minors to access abortion without parental consent. WoLF’s Executive Director Natasha Chart was listed on the line-up.

Alongside Chart was Penny Nance, of Concerned Women Of America (CWA) – another anti-abortion, “pro-family” group. CWA has directed its social media followers to WoLF’s resources when protesting Biden’s executive order. 

Concerned Women for America was set up by Beverly LaHaye, whose husband was the co-founder of a shadowy network dedicated to pushing a radical right economic and social agenda: the Council For National Policy (CNP). This highly-secretive organisation has strong links to the Republican establishment and the Donald Trump regime, while its members are a who’s who guide to anti-abortion, anti-LGBTIQ organisations and radical right think-tanks. 

They include Mat Staver from Liberty Counsel; Tony Perkins and Kenneth Blackwell of the Family Research Council; Alan Sears and Benjamin Bull from the ADF; Edwin J Feulner Jr from the Heritage Foundation; and the late anti-feminist activist Phyllis Schlafly.

Individuals close to Donald Trump are also linked to the CNP, with his former chief strategist and alt-right ideologue Steve Bannon; former advisor Kellyanne Conway; and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos all listed as members. Trump’s attorney and chief counsel for the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ) Jay Sekulow was both attorney for, and a member of, the CNP. The ECLJ lobbied Poland’s Government to tighten its abortions laws. 

It is perhaps no surprise theb that, in his comeback speech last week at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Donald Trump focused his energy on attacking trans athletes. This issue has become a focal point of the US gender-critical movement, which has allied with the radical right to argue that women’s sports are under threat when trans women are allowed to compete. 

It is for this reason that Save Women’s Sport – a “coalition that seeks to preserve biology-based eligibility standards for participation in female sports” – has endorsed the D.C. picket. It lists among its “allies of female sports” the ADF, FPA, Family Research Council, Heritage Foundation and Concerned Women for America – all of which are linked to the CNP and therefore to the Trump regime. Save Women’s Sport was also present at the FPA’s rally.

There is a need to have a sensible discussion about how to protect women’s sports and ensure equality and inclusion. But those discussions are being undermined by alliances with organisations determined to strip women and LGBTIQ people of their human rights. 

Similarly, there is a need to find a way to balance competing rights around issues of self-identity, inclusive language and women’s safety (including trans women’s safety). But women’s safety and dignity is not the concern of groups which claim credit for stripping women of their right to safe, legal abortion. 


Making Friends Across The Aisle

Partners for Ethical Care (PEC) is another group endorsing the picket. The organisation claims to help parents who are “concerned about the unethical treatment of children by the gender industry”.

It is accused of supporting the Promise to America’s Children Coalition – a group of radical-right organisations including the Alliance Defending Freedom, the Heritage Foundation, and the Family Policy Alliance (FPA). All three organisations are anti-abortion and anti-LGBTIQ rights – and all three are connected to the WoLF. 

Erin Brewer is a partner with PEC and co-founded the Compassion Coalition to fight “to stop the medical abuse of children who identify as transgender”. Brewer has spoken at the Eagle Forum, the group set-up by notorious anti-feminist Phyllis Schlafly. Her Compassion Coalition colleague, Becky Gerritson, is executive director of Eagle Forum Alabama and linked to the radical right Tea Party movement. 

Then there’s Maria Keffler, another co-founder of the Compassion Coalition. She’s behind the Arlington Parent Coalition, which supports “parents as they seek to keep their children safe in public school” from sex education and LGBTIQ issues. It claims that parents are on the “front lines of the sexual and gender indoctrination that is being systematically rolled out in our schools”. Last month, Keffler took part in a panel discussion at the Heritage Foundation on how to “protect kids from extreme gender ideology”.

A further Compassion Coalition co-founder, Miriam Ben-Shalom, is behind the organisation Hands Across The Aisle. This group brings together feminist and conservative women to “challenge the notion that gender is the same as sex”. Her colleague Kaeyley Triller-Haver compares abortion to the Holocaust.


The UK Connections

While the gender critical discourse in the UK has often been heated, the majority of radical feminists firmly reject alliances with the far and radical right when discussing trans rights. 

However, some UK feminists are now part joined the WoLF and its radical right alliances. 

These include Kelly-Jay Keen, otherwise known as ‘Posie Parker’, who was recently appointed as a special advisor to the WoLF.

Keen has given an interview to a white nationalist and a far-right network, Soldiers of Christ Online, although claims in both cases that she did not know that they were linked to the far-right. 

The WoLF has repeatedly defended its decision to work with the radical right, saying that there will be “no compromise” on protecting women’s rights. It explains on its website that “conservative women are also women” and working with conservatives can “often be an effective tactic towards advancing our policy goals for women without sacrificing our radical feminist morals”.

This article was corrected at 14.45 on 8 March 2021 to clarify that Kara Dansky is no longer a member of WoLF and as such, WoLF was not involved in the organisation of the Women Picket D.C. event. We apologise for the confusion.

This article was corrected on 17 March at 9am to remove reference to M K Fain.

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