On This Women’s Equality Day, Let’s Consider Early Feminists’ Opposition To Abortion


Jeanne Mancini President, March for Life
Font Size:

This Women’s Equality Day, we would be wise to consider the words of the early feminists as we examine the progress we have made as women — and the obstacles we have yet to overcome.

There is one area in particular in which modern feminists are failing our sisters and our feminist foremothers: abortion. Early feminists opposed abortion as an exploitation of women—and modern feminists should, too.

In a stunning display of historic revisionism, NARAL Pro-Choice American President Ilyse Hogue recently claimed in a Cosmopolitan article that those who oppose abortion are not really anti-abortion but that “they are against a world where women can contribute equally and chart our own destiny in ways our grandmothers never thought possible.”

In other words, Hogue, a self-proclaimed feminist, believes that those who oppose abortion oppose women; and therefore those who are anti-abortion are anti-women.

 But I wonder if Hogue — and other pro-abortion advocates who have said similar things — realize that they are calling the founding mothers of the feminist movement anti-woman. The claim that in order to be pro-woman you must also be pro-abortion runs contrary to what our feminist foremothers actually believed and wrote.

If Hogue were correct, and abortion opponents were in fact anti-women, one would expect that the first champions of feminism, the architects of the 19th Amendment, would give Hogue’s article, “Abandoning Abortion Rights Means Abandoning Women,” a standing ovation for continuing their fight for equality. But this simply is not the case.

The original feminists firmly held and explicitly stated that abortion is a violation of women’s rights; an affront to feminism. 

The Suffragettes knew firsthand what it meant to be treated as second-class citizens, to have their rights denied by their country. These courageous women spent their lives fighting for the cause of women’s equality — often facing jail time and social ostracism — even when their goal seemed like merely a distant dream. These early feminist stalwarts, like Alice Paul, Victoria Woodhull, and Susan B. Anthony, are owed the respect and gratitude of modern women, such as Hogue and myself. All three opposed abortion.

Alice Paul, one of the first feminist leaders and strategists behind the 19th Amendment, did not mince her words when she declared that “abortion is the ultimate exploitation of women.” Likewise, Victoria Woodhull, the first women to ever run for president, was firmly opposed to abortion. She believed that “the right of children, then, as individuals, begin while they yet remain a fetus.”

Woodhull also said that “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’s newspaper opposed abortion, and she once wrote, “Sweeter even than to have had the joy of caring for children of my own has it been to me to help bring about a better state of things for mothers generally, so that their unborn little ones could not be willed away from them.”

Our 2016 March for Life theme was: pro-life and pro-woman go hand-in-hand. A woman’s capacity to have a child is an incredibly beautiful gift which is intrinsic and unique to a woman. It is a miracle, not a liability. This is true for women who might never become biological mothers as well as those who are. Authentic feminism starts from a profound appreciation of this fact.

Pro-abortion leaders like Hogue call themselves feminists while they advocate for policies that lead directly to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of unborn women every year and the exploitation of their mothers. Nothing could be more anti-woman.

Today, on Women’s Equality Day, let’s take the opportunity to reconsider the words of the first feminists, and to reestablish feminism as a truly pro-woman force, whether those women are born or unborn.

Jeanne Mancini is President of March for Life.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.