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Susan B. Anthony


Are pro-lifers wrong to claim her as one of their own? As Stacy Schiff points out, and as Joseph Bottum has pointed out in the past, it isn’t clear why anyone would change his mind about abortion depending on what a historical figure thought about it.

Schiff makes a few arguments casting doubt on Anthony’s pro-life credentials. Some of them don’t seem especially compelling: Whether Anthony had maternal feelings toward children seems to me neither here nor there. She claims that an 1869 quote from Anthony’s The Revolution, widely circulated among pro-lifers, wasn’t actually written by her. She also claims that the article in question was actually recommending against anti-abortion laws. I’d have to have the whole article in front of me to see if that’s a fair reading.

But this passage, written by a pro-lifer, suggests, if it’s accurate, that the pro-lifers are correct: “[Anthony’s 1875 speech ‘Social Purity,’ reprinted in Ida Husted Harper’s 1898 Life and Work of Susan B. Anthony, specifically discussed abortion and postnatal infanticide – along with rape and prostitution – as male wrongs against women. Anthony argued that laws pertaining to these matters, made and enforced exclusively by men, further victimized women while absolving men of all responsibility. Yet she declared: ‘The work of woman is not to lessen the severity or the certainty of the penalty for violation of the moral law, but to prevent this violation by the removal of the causes which lead to it.’”


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