December 26, 2007

Feminism and Abortion

Modern pro-abortion feminists typically speak of Susan B. Anthony as one of their foremothers. However, this is deliberately misleading. The feminist movement, which began in America during the mid 19th century, was adamantly opposed to abortion. This fact is often omitted from feminist histories.

The following quotes from various leaders of the early feminist movement reveal their position on abortion.

“When we consider that women are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we wish.” (Elizabeth Cady Stanton, letter in Julia Ward Howe’s Journal, October 16, 1873, available at Houghton Library, Harvard University)
“As law and custom give to the husband the absolute control of the wife’s person, she is forced to…outrage the holiest instincts of her being in order to maintain even a semblance of that freedom which by nature belongs to every human soul. When a man steals to satisfy hunger, we may safely conclude that there is something wrong in society—so when a woman destroys the life of her unborn child, it is an evidence that either by education or circumstances she has been greatly wronged.” (Mattie Brinkerhoff, The Revolution 3 (9):138-89, September 2, 1869)
“(This) subject lies deeper down into woman’s wrongs than any other…The crime of abortion is not one in which the guilt lies solely or even chiefly with the woman…I hesitate not to assert that most of (the responsibility for) this crime of ‘child murder’, ‘abortion’, ‘infanticide’, lies at the door of the male sex.” (Matilda Gage, The Revolution 1(14): 215-16, April 9, 1868)
“I deplore the horrible crime of child murder…we want prevention, not merely punishment. We must reach the root of the evil…It is practiced by those whose inmost souls revolt from the dreadful deed…All the articles on this subject that I have read have been from men. They denounce women as alone guilty, and never include man in any plans for the remedy…No matter what the motive, love of ease, or a desire to save from suffering the unborn innocent, the woman is awfully guilty who commits the deed…but oh! Thrice guilty is he who drove her to the desperation which impelled her to the crime.” (Susan B. Anthony, The Revolution 4(1): 4, July 8, 1869)
“The rights of children as individuals begin while yet they remain the foetus.” (Woodhull’s and Claflin’s Weekly 2(6): 4, December 24, 1870)
“Men must no longer insult all womanhood by saying that freedom means the degradation of woman. Every woman knows that if she were free, she would never bear an unwished-for child, nor think of murdering one before its birth.” (Victoria Woodhull, free love advocate, Wheeling West Virginia Evening Standard, November 17, 1875.)
“Society has come to believe it an impertinence in children to be born at all…throughout the entire city there are few landlords who do not stipulate for childless couples…This partially explains why people in cities might not want children, but is totally inadequate as a reason for the murder of them…and it cannot be considered at all in relation to the fast increasing crime of foeticide throughout the country, where space is ample…Is there no remedy for all this ante-natal murder?...Perhaps there will come a time when…an unmarried mother will not be despised because of her motherhood; when unchastity in men will be placed on an equality with unchastity in women, and when the right of the unborn to be born will not be denied or interfered with.” (Sarah F. Norton, Woodhull & Claflin’s Weekly, November 19, 1870.)
The above quotes were taken from “Sound Advice: Feminists for Life Debate Handbook”. The material is not copyrighted. So, plagiarize to your heart's content.

When contemporary pro-abortion feminists speak about women’s health issues they include the fictitious or so-called right to abortion. How different this attitude is about women’s health from that of Dr. Alice Bunker Stockham, a pioneer in promoting women's health issues. In 1887 Dr. Stockham wrote,

"When the female germ and male sperm unite, then is the inception of a new life; all that goes to make up a human being -- body, mind, and spirit, must be contained in embryo within this minute organism. Life must be present from the very moment of conception. If there was not life there could not be conception. At what other period of a human being's existence, either pre-natal or post-natal, could the union of soul and body take place? Is it not plain that the violent or forcible removal of it from the citadel of life, is its premature death, and hence the act can be denominated by no more mild term than murder, and whoever performs that act, or is accessory to it, guilty of the crime of all crimes.

"The life of the babe in her arms is to the mother more precious than all else; her heart is thrilled with a pang of agony at thought of the least danger to its life. By what false reasoning does she convince herself that another life, still more dependent upon her for its existence, with equal rights and possibilities, has no claim upon her for protection? More than this, she deliberately strikes with the red hand of murder, and terminates its existence with no thought of wrong, nor consciousness of violated law.

"The woman who produces abortion, or allows it to be produced, risks her own health in the act, and commits the highest crime in the calendar, for she takes the life of her own child. She defrauds the child of the right to its existence." (
Tokology: A Book for Every Woman, 246 (pdf)).

One final quote: Alice Paul, the author of the Equal Rights Amendment (1923), opposed linking the ERA to abortion. A colleague recalls Alice Paul saying

“Abortion is the ultimate exploitation of women.”

Only pro-life feminists can rightfully claim Susan B. Anthony and company as their foremothers.

Recommended links:
Feminists for Life
Susan B. Anthony List

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