Tuesday, 10 October 2006

A new wrinkle in the abortion debate is really very old

Opponents of abortion in South Dakota have taken a new tack, and it apparently has the pro-choice forces at a bit of a loss on how to handle it.
Vote Yes for Life campaign manager Leslee Unruh takes what she calls the pro-life "feminist" approach to the abortion debate.

Instead of discussing how abortion "murders babies" she talks about how abortion exploits women. The campaign headquarters features pictures of women and the slogan, "Abortion Hurts Women."
According to the Times, Sarah Stoesz, president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood of Minnesota and North and South Dakota, says Unruh's pro-woman, pro-life tactic is "effective" and has thrown her group's campaign "off balance."

"Historically, this debate has been focused on fetal rights, fetal life. We have a lot of language about that," Stoesz told the newspaper. "This adds an element we're not accustomed to. It's a different line of debate... And that is something we struggle with politically."

It is interesting that 19th-century feminists also saw abortion as an exploitation of women issue and were adamantly opposed to it, without exception.
The feminist movement was born more than two hundred years ago when Mary Wollstonecraft wrote "A Vindication of the Rights of Women." After decrying the sexual exploitation of women, she condemned those who would "either destroy the embryo in the womb, or cast it off when born." Shortly thereafter, abortion became illegal in Great Britain.

The now revered feminists of the 19th century were also strongly opposed to abortion because of their belief in the worth of all humans. Like many women in developing countries today, they opposed abortion even though they were acutely aware of the damage done to women through constant child-bearing. They opposed abortion despite knowing that half of all children born died before the age of five. They knew that women had virtually no rights within the family or the political sphere. But they did not believe abortion was the answer.

Without known exception, the early American feminists condemned abortion in the strongest possible terms. In Susan B. Anthony's newsletter, The Revolution, abortion was described as "child murder," "infanticide" and "foeticide." Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who in 1848 organized the first women's rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York, classified abortion as a form of infanticide and said, "When you consider that women have been treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit."

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.
From "The Feminist Case Against Abortion."

Questioning dogmas can be a very healthy thing. It is way past time that women questioned the standard dogmas about abortion.

Hat tip to Big Blue Wave.

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Fern R said...

South Dakota pro-life advocates seem to have picked up Feminists For Life's tactics and slogans. Good for them. I think it's a compelling and persuasive argument.

Robert said...

It's just more blather from the anti-choice crowd who still haven't smartened up enough to realize that they'd get far better results if they stopped trying to make abortion illegal and instead stuck to just convincing people not to have them.

Adrian MacNair said...

Risk to a woman's health through abortion is on a per-patient basis. The Pro-lifers, misnomer though
that may be, can never argue one rule for all women for all situations. It simply doesn't work.

Janet said...

Health, in this case, should be taken to mean mental health also. Personally, I have never known a woman who had an abortion who didn't regret it. Nor have I known a woman who decided not to have the abortion who has regretted that decision.


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