Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina and United States Ambassador to the United Nations, said Monday night that denying women the right to control their own bodies "is not real feminism."
As keynote speaker at the Susan B. Anthony List's Campaign for Life Gala in Washington, D.C., Haley argued that progressive groups supporting legal access to abortion are fostering hostility among women by attempting to impose their views on others, which is antithetical to feminism.
"Unfortunately, many on the left use the abortion debate to divide women and demand conformity. They do this in the name of feminism — but that is not real feminism," Haley said at the annual pro-life event.
Reproductive rights organizations believe women should be allowed to decide for themselves whether to continue or to terminate a pregnancy. They argue curbing legal access to abortion will not eliminate the procedure, but will force women and girls to seek out unsafe abortions, or "conform," as Haley argued, with those who have moral objections to the procedure.
Haley — purposely or not — bolstered that key principle of the pro-choice movement in her speech.
"The idea that women must adhere to a particular set of values is one of the most anti-women ideas in today's culture," she said. "It is a rejection of the ideas of equality and tolerance that the women’s movement is supposed to be about."
Haley's speech comes after a host of states, including Alabama, Georgia, Ohio, Kentucky, Mississippi and Missouri, passed laws that restrict access to abortion. Lawmakers have said they hope the bills, along with similar proposals currently under consideration in more than a dozen other states, will incite a blockbuster Supreme Court showdown over the right to abortion the court established in Roe v. Wade. Haley herself signed into law a bill to ban nearly all abortions after 20-weeks of pregnancy while she was South Carolina's governor.
Most recently, Kate Gilmore, the UN deputy high commissioner for human rights, called the country's attack on women's rights and reproductive healthcare a "crisis" that is organized and well-funded by extremist organizations.
"This is gender-based violence against women, no question," she told The Guardian in an interview. "It's clear it's torture — it's a deprivation of a right to health."
Since leaving the White House last October, Haley has served on the board of directors at Boeing and launched a policy group to promote conservative ideas across the country and around the world.
Haley occasionally broke with President Donald Trump during her White House tenure. She once claimed the women who have accused Trump of sexual assault and harassment "should be heard" and applauded those who came forward allegations against him. Trump has denied the numerous accusations of sexual misconduct.
Haley, the first female governor of South Carolina, also clapped back after a White House official argued she had suffered "momentary confusion" after announcing sanctions against Russia. Haley rejected that assertion, writing in a statement: "With all due respect, I don't get confused." The retort earned her an apology.