Squandering a Heritage

This was the "Year of the Woman," we were told. But there is one troubling note: All the women newly elected to the House and Senate are pro-choice. "Why should this be any surprise?" you ask. Because at the state and local level, there are hundreds of women officeholders who are pro-life. Why weren't any of them elected to national office? The answer is simple: Women's fund-raising organizations like Emily's List and WISH List refuse to support pro-life candidates—even if they are feminist on all other issues. Yes, there are women who are both pro-life and feminist. In fact, the pro-life position has a rich heritage within feminist history. The nineteenth-century feminists uniformly opposed abortion. For example, Susan B. Anthony wrote, "I deplore the horrible crime of child murder." And Elizabeth Cady Stanton compared abortion to the oppression of women. "When we consider that women are often treated as property," she wrote, how can women turn around and "treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit?" The early feminists didn't treat abortion as a purely women's issue, either. On the contrary, they held men responsible for most abortions—realizing that in many cases abortion is a desperate response to male abandonment. Back then, abortion was generally sought by young women who had been seduced with promises of marriage, then callously dropped when they got pregnant. Even today, most abortions are sought by single women-often pressured by boyfriends who don't want to face the responsibilities of fatherhood. This is what Susan B. Anthony had in mind when she wrote: "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." The solution to abortion, Anthony felt, lay in stressing male responsibility. And here we see the starkest difference between traditional feminism and the contemporary version. Today's feminists take male irresponsibility as a given—as a fact of life that can't be changed. The underlying reasoning seems to be that since we can't trust men, the only solution is to take matters into our own hands: Child-bearing and abortion shall henceforth be purely a woman's decision. What a defeatist view this is. The early feminists passionately believed they could reform men. Their goal was to encourage family formation: to change social mores so that every man would feel morally obligated to marry and support the mother of his children. But modern feminists have given up on men. They're so sure the brunt of the responsibility for children is going to fall on them anyway that they angrily demand the right to make a unilateral decision from the start. But, of course, defining childbearing as purely a women's issue guarantees that men's sense of responsibility will erode still further—leaving even more women in the lurch. So the next time someone says pro-lifers just want to oppress women, tell them about Susan B. Anthony and about feminism's pro-life history. What a shame modern feminists have lost that proud tradition.


Chuck Colson


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