Most mainstream feminist groups today consider abortion the cornerstone of women’s rights.
Because modern feminism seems to be synonymous with abortion rights, few people are aware that the founders of the American feminist movement were staunchly opposed to abortion and scathingly condemned it as “child murder” (Susan B. Anthony), this “most degrading and disgusting crime” (Elizabeth Cady Stanton), “ante-natal murder” (Sarah Norton) and “the ultimate exploitation of women” (Alice Paul).
Why would such progressive champions of women’s equality unanimously oppose such a fundamental “right”? For the same reason that many of the suffragists were also abolitionists: They believed that every individual, regardless of race or gender, was entitled to basic human rights and dignity and that those rights could not be given or taken away by others. Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote in 1873, “When we consider that women are treated as property, it is degrading for women to treat their children as property, to be disposed of as they see fit.”
But the early feminists’ pro-life views went well beyond the anti-abortion rhetoric of their day. They argued that in order to eliminate the “evil” of abortion, we must reach the root cause - society’s oppression of women. Victoria Woodhull, free-love advocate and first woman presidential candidate, wrote in 1875, “Every woman knows that if she were free, she would never bear an unwished-for child, nor think of murdering one before its birth.” The early feminists recognized abortion as a symptom of women’s oppression, not a solution to it, and they looked forward to its elimination rather than its wholesale acceptance.
In sum, pro-choice women have abandoned core feminist values and adopted the worst patriarchal standards: seeking power through control, condoning violence on the grounds of personal privacy, and using killing to resolve conflict. By insisting on abortion as a necessary component to equality, we have capitulated to a traditional male world view that equates personhood to manhood, in which equality is purchased by denying woman’s reproductive capacities. In effect, women must become wombless and unpregnant like men to fit in, and they must resort to violence to do so.
Rather than abortion, which has not brought us closer to our goal, let us support causes that reflect true feminist ideals of justice and nonviolence, causes that will actually bring women the respect they deserve.
— Excerpts from an article written by Marilyn Dickstein Kopp, president of Feminists for Life of Ohio.