Jacksonville, AL. Connie Schultz’s recent syndicated column ridicules Sarah Palin and other pro-life feminists associated with the Susan B. Anthony List. It sounds convincing when she quotes from a Washington Post op-ed: “Anthony spent no time on the politics of abortion. It was of no interest to her. . . . The List’s mission statement proclaims, ‘Although (Anthony) is known for helping women win the right to vote, it is often untold in history that she and most early feminists were strongly pro-life.’ There’s a good reason it’s ‘untold:’ historians and good journalists rely on evidence. Of which there is none.”
It’s convincing until you discover it’s not accurate. The July 8, 1869 issue of The Revolution, published by Anthony, features an editorial deploring abortion as “the horrible crime of child-murder,” arguing that while the married woman who does the deed is guilty, the selfish husband who drives her to it is even more guilty. Signed “A.,” it was most likely written by Anthony. If not, it was certainly approved by her.
The previous year, Revolution editor Elizabeth Cady Stanton called abortion “infanticide” and put the blame for “such revolting outrages against the laws of nature and our common humanity” on “forced maternity” within marriage (March 12, 1868). Every prominent feminist of the nineteenth century opposed abortion as a symptom of patriarchal oppression rather than glorifying it as a fundamental right of women. See the book Prolife Feminism: Yesterday & Today, edited by MacNair, Derr, and Naranjo-Huebl. The documentation is there. For reasons yet to be determined, the evidence is invisible to “historians and good journalists.”
Lynn Sherr of ABC News was one of the op-ed writers who discreetly referred to herself as one of those “historians and good journalists.” Sherr is a proud recipient of Planned Parenthood awards for her excellent reporting on abortion over the years. We may have identified one reason for the inability to see inconvenient evidence.
It’s easy to mock Palin but at least we can say Sarah has gotten where she is today on her own merits, without the assistance of an influential husband. In Connie’s case, she was married first to a law professor and now to a U.S. senator. Perhaps it’s an unfair slight of Schultz’s talent, but since she brought up the subject of feminist bona fides, it makes me wonder which career trajectory is more feminist. Hillary Clinton, of “Stand By Your Man” fame, also comes to mind.
I shouldn’t have to say it, but I probably need to: The question of Palin’s fitness for the presidency is a separate issue. Same with the desirability of feminism and the ethics of abortion.