Sara Winter grew up around violence and drugs; now she lives with her son in a loving home. She used to protest naked in front of churches; now she says that feminists should learn from religious women. Once Brazil’s most famous feminist, Winter is now a recognized pro-life activist in Latin America.
What brought about this change? She changed her mind, in part, because of her personal experiences with abortion and the contrast between the transactional relationships of her feminist “allies” and the tangible care for her from her pro-life “enemies.”
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Sara Winter, Founder of Femen Brazil
After running away from her home in San Carlo (Brazil), Winter writes in her book that she became a prostitute at the age of 17 to pay for college. Her first encounter with feminism was through a friend, who encouraged her to continue in that line of work because “it was a way of empowerment by owning her body.”
Not long after that, Winter read an article about a feminist group called Femen and loved the idea of being able to join “women fighting for their rights.” She quit her job as a journalist and traveled to Kiev to meet the group. There, she was trained in subversion and alienation techniques by former KGB (Soviet intelligence) agents and by Inna Shevchenko, a major feminist icon. She declared that she became a “soldier to change the world” and that one of her main objectives was to promote abortion because, for them, motherhood was the same thing as slavery.
At the age of 19, she returned to Brazil and founded the Femen branch in the country, along with another feminist group called “losBastardXs.” In a 2013 interview, she stated that “[a]s everyone likes to look at a woman’s body, we use our body to pass a message written on the chest.” She became accustomed to taking her clothes off, getting arrested, beaten by the police, and appearing in the news. Moreover, it became her job; she was paid for every protest she did, as she disclosed in a conference for Mater Mundi TV.
During this stage, her life was surrounded by sex, drugs, and thousands of people constantly writing her emails saying they wanted to protest as well. However, there were some things that made her question the sorority that the feminist groups preached. She shares three formative experiences in her book.
First, one of her friends spread the word in feminist groups that she was “submissive” because she cooked for her then-partner and took care of the household chores. After that, many feminists harassed her online and in person. She also says that, after attending a course on gender ideology, her classmates, among whom were people from the LGBT community and feminists, realized that Winter did not fully agree with their content, so they started chasing her while yelling “fascist piranha.” Finally, Winter realized that she was being criticized in feminist groups online as a racist, despite the fact that her father and her partners had been black. Feminists called her a “token,” a term used for white people who justify their racism by using personal relationships.
In response to these demands for progressive hyper-purity, Winter concluded: “To adhere to this sorority we have to submit to a moral code of conduct. Read the books of those who lead the movement, change the way you dress, your sexual preference and move away from the characteristics of the common woman.”
Two Pregnancies Change Winter
The radical change came when Winter found out she was expecting her first baby. With no place to live nor money, she turned to her feminist friends. “They told me that if I had an abortion, I would be braver, a heroine because I would be setting an example to other women about the right we have to dispose of our bodies,” Winter said in an interview for Actuall Magazine. She agreed and received the misoprostol pills they gave her. After following WHO guidelines to perform the medical abortion, she spent hours in labor to expel the baby’s body parts.
After suffering a hemorrhage, she called her fellow feminists asking for help, but none of them showed up. Finally, a Catholic friend took her to the hospital, stayed with her for almost a week, and paid her bills. Winter recovered, but doctors told her that she had lost one of her fallopian tubes and could never again be a mother.
Winter began to experience serious, negative effects on her mental health after her abortion. She could not stay alone, she had nightmares, and she felt like she heard her baby crying everywhere. She also started drinking, cried every time she saw children in the street, and became addicted to Tinder, where she exchanged sex for companionship.
Six months later, Winter discovered that she was pregnant once again. Although she didn’t know who the father was and her feminist friends wanted to convince her to have another abortion, she decided to have the baby. She was greatly surprised when she realized how much support she—the arch-feminist protester—received from the pro-life movement. They gave her food and clothes and helped her return to college.
In 2014, Winter completely abandoned any association with feminist groups and posted videos on YouTube in which she asked for forgiveness for her past and affirmed that she wanted to return to the Catholic Church. She then published a book called “Bitch no! Seven times I was betrayed by feminism”, in which she detailed negative experiences she had within the Brazilian feminist movement. For each book sold, Winter offered to donate one real (Brazilian currency) to pro-life initiatives and to help women in situations of violence.
What Can Pro-Life People Learn from Winter’s Conversion?
There are two main things pro-life people can take away from the story of Winter’s conversion from pro-choice to pro-life. First, no one is ever “too far gone” to change. Winter was a major protester and feminist leader; she even founded Brazil’s branch of Femen. Nothing about her profile would make anyone think she would change her mind on abortion. And yet, her personal experiences and the greater compassion from those she considered enemies, rather than friends, caused her to reconsider her beliefs about abortion.
Second, pro-life compassion isn’t just an empty, emotionalistic response to the reality of abortion. Not only is it the right thing to do, but when pro-life people show genuine care for pro-choice people and post-abortive women, it can have a lasting effect on people’s view of abortion, both for those individuals and for many of the people influenced by them.
As Daisaku Ikeda once said, “With love and patience, nothing is impossible.” Winter’s conversion would not have been possible without the presence of certain people who showed that they cared about her life when she needed it most. Her story proves, once again, that pro-life people can make real change by showing kindness, especially to women seeking abortions or who have had abortions. Pro-life people must prove our words through actions. It’s impossible to heal the wounds of abortion unless we are willing to care for suffering people with love.
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The post From Green to Light Blue: The Story of Sara Winter originally appeared at the Equal Rights Institute blog. Subscribe to our email list with the form below and get a FREE gift. Click here to learn more about our pro-life apologetics course, “Equipped for Life: A Fresh Approach to Conversations About Abortion.”