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Feminism & Abortion

then -- 1873 and now ...
"When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." 

-- Elizabeth Cady Stanton, organizer of the first Women's Convention, Seneca Falls, N.Y., 1848

"We really need to get over this love affair with the fetus ..."

-- Dr. Joycelyn Elders, former U.S. Surgeon General*

"My Body, My Choice"  

-- NOW (National Organization for Women)

What happened?  How could founding feminist leaders understand the total unacceptability of abortion, yet most of today's mainstream feminists organizations embrace killing the unborn as a "respectable right?"  
Serrin M. Foster, president of Feminists for Life, helps us to understand why ...
The Feminist Case Against Abortion

"Anti-abortion laws enacted in the latter half of the 19th century were a result of advocacy efforts by feminists who worked in an uneasy alliance with the male-dominated medical profession and the mainstream media.  The early feminists understood that, much like today, women resorted to abortion because they were abandoned or pressured by boyfriends, husbands and parents, and lacked financial resources to have a baby on their own.

Betty Friedan, credited with reawakening feminism in the 1960s with her landmark book, The Feminist Mystique, did not even mention abortion in the early edition.  It was not until 1966 that NOW included abortion in its list of goals.  Even then, abortion was a low priority.

It was a man -- abortion rights activist Larry Lader, who remains active today -- who credits himself with guiding a reluctant Friedan to make abortion an issue for NOW.  Lader teamed up with a gynecologist, Bernard Nathanson, to co-found the National Alliance to Repeal Abortion Laws, the forerunner of today's National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL).

Lader suggested to the NOW leadership that all feminist demands (equal education, jobs, pay, etc.) hinged on a woman's ability to control her own body and procreation.

Dr. Nathanson, who later became a pro-life activist, states in his book, Abortion in America, that the two were able to convince Friedan than abortion was a civil rights issue.  Later he admitted that they simply made up the numbers of women dying from illegal abortions, which had been a major point in their argument.

Lader and Nathanson's strategy was highly effective.  NOW has made the preservation of legal abortion its number one priority.

With this drastic change, a highly visible faction of the women's movement abandoned the vision of the early feminists."

(Source: The Commonwealth, 9/99, The Feminist Case Against Abortion.)  See also Feminists for Life, "Pro Choice is No Choice."

"Guilty? Yes. 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. It will burden her conscience in life, it will burden her soul in death; But oh, thrice guilty is he who drove her to the desperation which impelled her to the crime!"

--- Susan B. Anthony in her publication The Revolution, July 8, 1869

Feminists for Life: oxymoron or redundancy?

"Feminists for Life" is not an oxymoron, it's a redundancy. The reduplicative nature of the phrase is evident in the basic tenets of feminism: That every human being deserves the opportunity to develop into the best she or he is capable of; and that each individual be respected, however minimal or great their development may be.  

Pro-abortionists unwittingly have chosen to justify an evil based on convenience rather than struggle honestly and intellectually with the philosophical, sociological, and historical aspects of this momentous life-and-death issue.

It is much more convenient to deny our individual and community responsibilities for social order and the development of a civilized (i.e., nonviolent) human condition than to tackle head-on the challenges of preventing unwanted pregnancies.

Feminists have always spoken out against racial injustice. Why do so many now remain silent when the iniquitous relationship between racialism and pro-abortion legislation is errantly unabashed?

Historically, feminists have valued human need above the non-feminist world view of "maximization of profits." Abortion is big business, bringing handsome profits to the usual few: white, middle-class, educated. The vociferant, well-meaning but misguided feminists who promote abortion serve as effective marketing tools for those businesses making money from the agony of the poor.

Our thesis bears repeating: "Feminists for Life" is not an oxymoron, it's a redundancy.

--- Dr. Maureen Jones-Ryan.  Excerpts reprinted from SisterLife (see Feminists for Life)
"Child murderers practice their profession without let or hindrance, and open infant butcheries unquestioned ... . Is there no remedy for all this ante-natal child murder? ... Perhaps there will come a time when ... an unmarried mother will not be despised because of her motherhood ... and when the right of the unborn to be born will not be denied or interfered with."

--- Sarah Norton.  Woodhull's and Claffin's Weekly, Nov. 19, 1870

"When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." 

--- Elizabeth Cady Stanton in a letter to Julia Ward Howe, Oct. 16, 1873, recorded in Howe's diary at Harvard University Library

Pro-life feminism? 

This may sound like an oxymoron to many, but, in fact, Feminists for Life finds its inspiration in a strand of feminism that is often ignored by the feminist mainstream. Early feminists, such as Mary Wollstonecraft, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and many more, understood abortion to be morally wrong in-itself, but within the context of a society that made it possible and prevalent. They believed that abortion was a symptom of deeper social problems, and that it often only freed men from the responsibilities of fatherhood.  These women recognized the humanity of the fetus in a time before ultrasound, before color in-the-womb snapshots, before our in-depth knowledge of fetal development. They recognized that whatever the baby looks like in the womb, which is remarkably like a baby outside the womb, that is simply what human beings look like at that age. They recognized that the fetus is a living organism. They affirmed that that living organism was a real person and to end its life was a violent act. 

(Source: J. Kirk, "The Logic of Pro-Life Feminism," January 1998)

 "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):138-9, Sept. 2, 1869

Read views from some of today's respected women ...
"My main goal is to wait until I'm married to have sex.  I would never, personally, be able to (have an abortion), because down the road it would always haunt me."

--- Brittney Spears, interview in Young Miss magazine, September, 2000

"I was once pro-choice. And the thing that changed my mind was, I read my husband's biology books, medical books and what I learned is simply what it states -- this isn't even morally -- this is pure biology. At the moment of conception, a life starts. And this life has its own unique set of DNA, which contains a blueprint for the whole genetic being. The sex is determined. Now people ask the question, well, is it a human being? We know there's a life because it's growing and changing."

--- Kathy Ireland, supermodel on ABC-TV's weeknight show, "Politically Incorrect," May 1, 1998

Abortion was "not an option for me."  Having "worked as a labor and delivery nurse ... I've seen ultrasounds ... you know that those babies are real." She reminded the audience that if she had had an abortion, the world would have been deprived of the great singing talent of her daughter and fellow performer, Wynonna Judd.

--- Country singer Naomi Judd on the Sally Jesse Raphael show, March 6, 1998

 "I am in no position to judge other women, you know. But I mean, why did she get pregnant? It's not good for women to go through the procedure [abortion] and have something living sucked out of their bodies. It belittles women. Even though some women say, 'Oh, I don't mind to have one,' every time a woman has an abortion, it just crushes her self-esteem smaller and smaller and smaller."

--- Dolores O'Riordan, lead vocalist, The Cranberries (source: You! June/July 1996)

"There is a day coming when we will hear the voice from within the womb, when its own authentic pain will be undeniable, when we will know with certainty that it is saying "I want to live.  I have a right to live.  I do not need your permission to live."

--- Mary McAleese, president of the Republic of Ireland 

Bhutto"I dream of a world , where we can commit our social resources to the development of human life and not to its destruction.  

 -- Benazir Bhutto, Former Prime Minister of Pakistan

While taping "Women of the House" producer Linda Bloodworth-Thomason had a bit of an inconvenience on her hands -- Heaton's real-life pregnancy.  A smiling Heaton told Bloodworth-Thomason at a Television Critics Association news conference, "That's what you get for hiring a pro-life person for your show."

-- Patricia Heaton, co-star of CBS-TV sitcom, "Everybody Loves Raymond," and honorary chair, Feminists for Life

 * source:

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