Jan. 22 is the 45th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States. That’s 45 years and more than 60 million yet-to-be born children being legally terminated by their parents.
Looking at modern feminism, we see that instead of its early emphasis on the rights of women to equal pay and equal votes, it has been narrowed to a defense of abortion rights. Feminists who oppose abortion are often drowned out of conversation with their pro-abortion rights sisters. The result is that few people are aware that the founders of the women’s movement were, without known exception, opposed to abortion. These activists saw it as a symptom of women’s oppression, not a solution to it. Today’s pro-life feminists agree.
Here are a few examples of the early feminists’ stance on abortion:
- Mattie Brinkerhoff (1869): “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.”
- Victoria Woodhull (1875): “Men must no longer insult all womanhood by saying that freedom means the degradation of women. Every woman knows that if she were free, she would never bear an unwished-for child, nor think of murdering one before its birth.”
- Susan B. Anthony (c. 1870’s): “Sweeter even than to have had the joy of caring for children of my own has it been to me to bring about a better state of things for mothers generally, so their unborn little ones could not be willed away from them.”
Our feminist foremothers didn’t oppose abortion because it was less safe at the time. While they were certainly concerned for women’s health, their terminology for abortion included phrases like “child murder,” “infanticide,” and “ante-natal murder,” which indicated a concern for the other individual involved as well.
Today’s pro-life feminists are active as advocates for both women and their children, born and unborn. For example, Feminists for Life holds that abortion violates authentic feminist principles of justice, non-violence and non-discrimination.
Feminists for Life maintains that abortion rather reflects traditional patriarchal values: seeking power through control and domination, condoning violence on the grounds of personal privacy, and using killing as a solution to conflict. These views represent a renaissance of the original American feminism. Like the early American suffragists, today’s pro-life feminists envision a better world in which no woman would be driven by desperation to abortion.
It is unjust to ask a woman to choose between sacrificing her life plans or her own child in order to participate freely and equally in society. Instead, let us work together to systematically eliminate the root causes that drive women to abortion — primarily lack of practical resources and support — through holistic, woman-centered solutions. For instance, across the United States there are more pregnancy care centers that assist pregnant women and new mothers than there are abortion clinics. These centers offer life-affirming choices and practical help through alternatives such as paternal child support, adoption options, referrals for childcare and employment, and pre- and post-natal medical services. Abortion clinics, like those of Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider, offer few if any such services.
Feminists for Life has led the revolution on campuses through their College Outreach Program, striving to meet the needs of college-aged women, the demographic that has the highest rate of abortion. Since the group's College Outreach Program began in 1994, there has been a dramatic 30 percent decrease in abortions among college-educated women. There are also numerous solutions to be found at FFL’s website www.womendeservebetter.com. Women do deserve better than abortion.
This Roe anniversary, refuse to choose. Peace begins, after all, in the womb.
Marilyn Kopp is past president of Feminists for Life of Ohio.
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