Feminism and Abortion

Many of the great feminist pioneers opposed a 'women's right to choose'.

There is a widespread belief that to be feminist means to advocate abortion. This attitude not only belies the complexity of opinion on the issue for the feminist movement: it also means that the views of the many early feminists who condemned abortion in the late eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries have effectively become hidden from history.

Among American feminists in the nineteenth century opposition to abortion was widespread. Prominent feminists of the period who opposed it included Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan Anthony and Alice Paul. Stanton once remarked, on the estimate that 400 abortion 'murders' annually occurred in Androscoggin County, Maine, alone:

There must be a remedy for such a crying evil as this. But where shall it be found, at least where begin, if not in the complete enfranchisement and elevation of women?

Anthony and Stanton ran a newspaper called The Revolution. They refused to carry advertisements for aborti-facients and they ran articles in which well-known US feminists such as the abolitionist Paulina Wright Davis, the journalist Eleanor Kirk, Matilda Joslyn Gage and others denounced abortion. One editorial not only denounced the 'practice common among married women' but also what the author saw as 'the root of the evil':

...even in wedlock there may be the very vilest prostitution: and if Christian women are prostitutes to Christian husbands, what can be expected but the natural sequence -- infanticide?

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