Alice Paul called abortion “killing unborn women”

Alice Paul was the writer of the ERA.

Alice Paul, according to her lifelong friend Evelyn Judge, referred to abortion as “killing unborn women.”

“Alice Paul” entry in the New World Encyclopedia

Quoted in Brian E Fisher Abortion: The Ultimate Exploitation of Women (Frisco, Texas: Online for Life, 2013) Kindle edition

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Quotes from early feminists on abortion: Sarah F Norton

Sarah F Norton was a traveling lecturer in upstate New York. Her adventures, including her agitation to have women admitted to Cornell University, are recounted in several letters to The Revolution during the spring of 1869. Foremost among her spirited contributions to the feminist press is the following indictment of abortion. Norton makes it clear that abortion did not simply involve the exploitation of individual women and children by individual men. Male exploitation played into that of a callously profit oriented abortion industry. And the larger society as well had complicity in this “life destroying trade,” despite all the lip service paid to denouncing it.

“Tragedy – Social and Domestic” by Sarah F Norton

“Two of the most fearful domestic tragedies which occasionally startle society into a sense of its own complicity with what it pleases to call crime have recently occurred – 1 in New York, the other in a Western city. They were chiefly remarkable for certain kind of desperate savageness, the result, evidently of a mania peculiar to parturient women, and also for striking coincidence in time, in outline and in detail which renders it possible to tell the story of one book reversing the circumstances of the other.

Briefly, without prologue and without naming the persons engaged in either of these domestic dramas, the argument runs thus: a young woman, scarcely 20 years of age, of good family, well-educated, having amiable manners and enjoying the esteem of a wide circle of friends and acquaintances, alone and unattended, during the gloom of midnight, gives birth in a bathroom to an illegitimate child, which she immediately strangles and throws out of a window into a neighboring yard.

She makes her way as best she can do her own bedroom, and awaits the revelation of the coming dawn. Sick at heart, delirious in mind and exhausted in body, her friends find her in the morning beyond the reach of medical or surgical skill; and while they are learning the shocking details of that horrible night, her lips are sealed by death, and the secret is told which the sacrifice of 2 lives could not conceal.

Here are the outlines of a crime at which society shudders, and for a moment stands appalled. In another moment it is put aside with a wave of the hand, after the matter of Pod Snap, and the affair is forgotten.

Society would have avenged the murder of the child by making a victim of the unhappy mother, but death prevented that, and now, since the grave hides them both, let the social revel go on.

Sad and tragical as all this is, there is another fact still more sad and tragical, which society utterly ignores.

The woman expiated the murder of her child by her own death; but there is somewhere a man, who, if he had been modestly honorable, might’ve save both lives, and who, in the last analysis, is responsible for both, if there be personal responsibility for anything whatsoever.

Who is he? Where is he? And what is the name of and penalty for his crime. These questions, however pertinent, society does not ask. Its war is against the woman and the child, and as they are both beyond the reach of its revenge, it is entirely willing the man should receive its protection.

In their social aspect it is clearly the use of force that makes these matter shocking; for society has made child murder a fine art, and strangulation, though good enough for a guilty man, is entirely out of place when applied to a babe guilty of being born without the sanction of that law which provides no punishment for the father’s share in its conception, holds him to know a conference premature death if it happen, nor to any responsibility for its support and protection, if, perchance it persists in living, despite all efforts to destroy it.

Society has come to believe it an impertinence in children to be born at all. It is even difficult for a family with children to find a home; and throughout the entire city there are few landlords who do not stipulate for childless couples when renting the property. This partiality explains why people in cities might not want children, but is totally inadequate as a reason for the murder of them without a combination of other and greater reasons to lead it; and it cannot be considered at all in relation to the fast increasing crime of feticide throughout the country, where space is ample, ran slow, and provisions comparatively cheap. It is safe to conclude, however, that the prevailing causes are the same in both city and country. What these causes are can only be guessed at by the stray scraps vouchsafed to us through such accidents as this recent one at 94 Chatham St., and which occasionally happen to open the doors of these dens of death and reveal their secrets.

Here we find that a husband has been procuring poison for his wife and prospective offspring! Not with any wish to kill the wife perhaps, but as the chances are 5 to 1 against every woman who attempts abortion, he could not fail to realize the danger. Had this scheme been successful in destroying only the life aimed at, what could’ve been the man’s crime – and what should be his punishment if, as accessory to one murder he commits two?

Instead of expressing satisfaction at the non-success of his attempted crime, he writes with a sort of mournful cadence to his infamous coadjutor that “it,” the potion, ”had about as much effect as a glass of soda water. Just as I expected.” In this incident we find the proof of two facts: first that professional child murders are supported by the married as well as the single; and second, that the husbands are equally implicated and guilty with their wives.

These, however, are no new facts; for it is generally understood, among women at least, that in such cases the husband approves if he does not instigate. Usually he does the last; as the evidence of weakly wives and their confidential physicians would amply prove, could they be induced or compelled by any means to reveal the truth.

The servants in the house where such cases occur are not to be deceived; and the selfsame servants form the greater proportion of the unmarried who patronize such dens as that in Chatham Street. They get an example from their mistress, or if not that, learn from the common gossip in the house about other wives, that child murder is an easy and everyday affair.

The pernicious effort of all this is to make the seduction of the unmarried an easy matter, and murder an accepted contingency. If the married, to whom maternity is expected and an honor, have reason to destroy their offspring, how much more reason have they to whom it would be a lifelong dishonor; and if the first is the example, why should not the last follow it?

No returns are made of premature or illegitimate births, and we can only judge of the number by the daily accounts given in the newspapers of some women dying or dead from the effects of an abortion or premature birth, and newly born, castaway infants; and as efforts at concealment are in the main successful, we can very justly determine that the cases which come to notice are mere indications of what remains unknown.

Any business self-supporting enough to become a recognized fact by the people must, of necessity, be on the increase; and the single fact that child murderers practice their profession without let or hindrance, and open infant butcheries unquestioned, establishing themselves with impunity that is not allowed to the slaughters of cattle, is, of itself, sufficient to prove that society makes a demand which they alone can supply.

Scores of persons advertise their willingness to commit this form of murder, and with unblushing effrontery announce their names and residences in the daily papers. No one seems to be shocked by the fact; the papers are taken into the family without hesitation, and read by all the members thereof without distinction of age or sex. The subject is discussed almost without restraint; circulars are distributed broadcast, recommending certain pills and potions for the very purpose, and by these means the names of these slayers of infants, and the methods by which they practice their life destroying trade, have become “familiar in our mouth as household words.”

… Is there no remedy for this ante–natal child murder? Not any, is the reply to the question so frequently asked. Is there, then, no penalty for the crime? None I can be inflicted, for the crime has become an art, and society cannot punish those who serve it so skillfully and well.

Perhaps there will come a time when the man who wantonly kills a woman and her babe will be loathed and scorned as deeply as the woman is now loathed and scorned who becomes his dupe; when the sympathy of society will be with the victim rather than the victimizer; when an unmarried mother will not be despised because of her motherhood; when unchastity in men will be placed on an equality with unchastity in women, and when the right of the unborn to be born will not be denied or interfered with…”

Woodhull and Claflin’s Weekly, November 19, 1870

Quoted by Mary Krane Derr

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Early feminist quotes on abortion: Victoria Woodhill and Tennessee Claflin

Woodhull and Clafin, sisters from a poor and chaotic Ohio family, became the 1st female stockbrokers on Wall Street. In 1870, Woodhull declared herself a candidate for the presidency – the 1st woman ever to do so – and the next year presented a speech to the U.S. Congress, arguing for a way that women could gain the vote without needing another amendment to the Constitution. With the profits from their business, she and her sister started a paper even more radical and unconventional than The Revolution.

“The Slaughter of Innocents”

“… Wives deliberately permit themselves to become pregnant of children and then, to prevent becoming mothers, as deliberately murder them while yet in their wombs. Can there be a more demoralized condition than this?… Why should the birth rate decrease as the people become more enlightened?… Simply because with increased knowledge comes increased individuality; and with increased individuality, increased repugnance to submission to the slavery that childbearing almost necessarily entails in our society as at present organized; and with these also the knowledge that pregnancy can be broken up, sometimes with little present evidence of evil to the, otherwise, mother… If this practice prevails so widely among wives, who have no need to resort to it “to hide their shame,” but merely to prevent an increase in the number of their children, how prevalent it must be among the unmarried class who have social death staring them in the face when they become pregnant without the consent of the canting priest or the drunken squire?

… We are aware that many women attempt to excuse themselves for procuring abortions, upon the ground that it is not murder. But the fact of resort to so weak an argument only shows the more palpably that they fully realize the enormity of the crime. Is it not equally destroying the would-be future oak, to crush the sprout before it pushes its head above the sod, as it is to cut down the sapling, or cut down the tree? Is it not equally to destroy life, to crush it in its very germ, and to take it when the germ has evolved to any given point in its line of development? Let those who can see any difference regarding the time when life, once begun, is taken, console themselves that they are not murderers having been abortionists.

… We ask the women of this country to consider carefully the subjects thus hastily presented, and see if they do not find in them an unanswerable argument for sexual freedom for themselves, so that they may have control of their maternal functions and thereby be able to bear children only when they desire them, and such as they desire.

… We speak of these things in connection with the subject of child murder, because originally they are the foundation for it… And yet there is still to be found apparently intelligent people who seem honestly to think that the social question ought not to be discussed publicly!… For our part, so long as the terrible effects of our unnatural sexual system continue to desecrate humanity, there is no other question to be considered in which the health, happiness, and general well-being of the race is so intimately involved.”

Woodhull and Claflin’s Weekly, June 20, 1874

Quoted by Mary Krane Derr

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Quotes from early feminists on abortion: Susan B Anthony

“Marriage and Maternity”

“In the late revolution is an extract from the New York Medical Gazette rebuking a practice common married women, and demanding a law for its suppression. Much as I deplore the horrible crime of child murder, earnestly as I desire its suppression, I cannot believe with the writer of the above-mentioned article, that such a law would have the desired effect. It seems to me to be only mowing off the top of the noxious weed, while the root remains. We want prevention, not merely punishment. We must reach the root of the evil and destroy it.

To my certain knowledge this crime is not confined to those whose love of ease, amusement and fashionable life lead them to desire immunity from the cares of children: but is practiced by those whose inmost souls revolt from the dreadful deed, and in whose hearts the maternal feeling is pure and undying. What, then has driven these women to the desperation necessary to force them to committee such a deed? This question being answered, I believe we shall have such insight into the matter as to be able to talk more clearly of a remedy.

Women are educated to think that with marriage their individuality ceases or is transferred to their husbands. The wife has thenceforth no right over her own body. This is also the husband’s belief and upon which he acts. The matter what her condition, physical or mental, no matter how ill-prepared she may feel herself for maternity, the demands of his passions may never be refused.

He thinks, or cares nothing, for the possible result of his gratification. If it be that an immortal being, with all its needs, physical, mental, and moral, shall come into the world to sin, to suffer, to die, because of his few moments of pleasure, what cares he?… He gives his wife wealth, leisure, and luxury, and is, therefore, a devoted husband, and she is an undutiful, unloving wife, if her feelings fail to respond to his.

Devoted husband? Devoted to what? To self gratification at the expense of the respect of his wife. I know many who call themselves Christians, who would insist that they are gentlemen, who would never insult any woman – but their own wives. They think it impossible that they can outrage them; they never think that even in wedlock there may be the very vilest prostitution; and if Christian women are prostitutes to Christian husbands, what can we expect that the natural sequence – infanticide?

Women who are in the last stages of consumption, who know that their offspring must be puny, suffering, neglected orphans, are still compelled to submit to maternity, and dying in childbirth, are their husbands ever condemned? Oh, no! It was only his right is a husband he claimed, and if maternity or death ensued, surely he could not be blamed for that. He did not desire it… And if such a woman as the dying consumptive, rather than bring into the world such miserable children, rather perhaps that give life to a daughter to suffer all that she has adored, destroyed the little being, so she thinks, before lives, she would be punished by the law, and he, the real murderer, would go unrebuked, uncondemned. All the articles on the subject that I have read have been from men. They denounce women as alone guilty, and never include man in any plans proposed for the remedy of the evil.

… Guilty? Yes no matter what the motive, love of ease, or desire to save from suffering the unborn innocent, the woman is awfully guilty who commits the deed. It will burden her conscience in life, it will burden her soul in death; but oh! Thrice guilty is he who, for selfish gratification, heedless of her prayers, indifferent to her fate, drove her to the desperation which impels her to the crime… God has never given woman’s individuality into the hands of man. If he has, why hold her responsible for the crime? If man takes her individuality, he must also take her responsibility. Let him suffer.

No, I say, yield to woman her God – given right of individuality. Make her feel that to God alone issue responsible for her deed; teacher that submission to any man without love and desire is prostitution; and thunder in her ear, “Who so defileth her body, defileth the temple of the Holy Ghost!” That maternity come to her from a desire to cherish love and train for high purposes an immortal soul, then you will have begun to eradicate this most monstrous crime…”

The Revolution 4 (1): 4 (July 8, 1869)

Quoted by Mary Krane Derr

There is some controversy about this passage. In The Revolution, this article was signed by the initial A, leading many scholars to believe it was written by Susan B. Anthony who had a history of only using her initials. But doubt remains in pro-choice circles.

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Quotes from early feminists on abortion: Matilda Joslyn Gage

Matilda Joslyn Gage was a bold leader of the feminist movement, even while her several children were still small. She was active in temperance reform – an issue connected to feminism because of the role alcohol played in domestic violence. Her home was part of the “Underground Railway” which enabled runaway slaves to escape to Canada. Often she bolstered her arguments with information on forgotten women of the past that she had painstakingly gleaned from libraries and archives. She helped organize the National Woman Suffrage Association in 1869, served as one of its officers, and edited its paper “The National Citizen and Ballot Box.” In 1872, when Susan B Anthony was tried for attempting to vote, Gage stood by her side. In the 1880s, out of admiration for scholarly talents, Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton Esther asked her to co-edit The History of Woman Suffrage.

“Is Woman Her Own?” By Matilda Gage

“The short article on “Child Murder” in your paper of March 12, touched a subject which lies deeper down into woman’s wrongs than any other. This is the denial of the right to herself. In no a historic age of the world has women yet had that. From the time when Moses, for the hardness of his heart, permitted the Jew husband to give his unpleasing wife a letter of divorcement – to Christ, when the seven male sinners brought to him for condemnation the woman taken in adultery – down to the Christian centuries to this 19th, nowhere has the marital union of the sexes been one in which the woman has had to control over her own body.

In forced motherhood is a crime against the body of the mother and the soul of the child.

Medical jurisprudence has begun to accumulate facts on this point, showing how the condition and feelings of the mother mould not only the physical and mental qualities of the child, but it’s moral nature.

Women keep silence upon many points, not breathing their thoughts to their dearest friends, because of their inner reticence, a quality they possess greatly in excess of men.

And, too, custom has taught them to bear in silence.

But the crime of abortion is not one in which the guilt lies solely or chiefly with the woman. As a child brings more care, so also it brings more joy to the mother’s heart.

Husbands do not consult with their wives upon the subject of deepest and most vital interest, do not look at the increase of family in a physiological, moral, or spiritual light, but almost solely from a money standpoint. It costs. Tens of thousands of husbands and fathers throughout the land are opposed to large families. And yet so deeply implanted is the sin of self gratification, that consequences are not considered while selfish desires control the heart.

Much is said of the wild, mad desire of the age for money. Money is but another name for power, it is but another name for bread, it is but another name for freedom, and those who possess it not are the slaves of those who do. How many states in the union grant the wife an equal right with a husband the control and disposal of the property of the marital firm? But two.…

How long is it since a married woman in this state had the right to control of her own separate property? Barely twice 10 years.

How long since she could control her own earnings, even those of a day’s washing? Not yet 10.

History is full of the wrongs done the wife by legal robbery on the part of the husband. I need not quote instances; they are well known to the most casual newspaper reader. It is accepted as a self-evident truth – that those “who are not masters of any property, be easily be formed into any mould.”

I hesitate not to assert that most of this crime of “child murder,” “abortion,” “infanticide,” lies at the door of the male sex.

Many a woman has left the silent, derisive laugh at the decisions of eminent medical and legal authorities, in cases of crimes committed against her as a woman. Never, until she sits as a juror at such trials, will or can just decisions be rendered.

This reason and that reason have been pointed to by the upholders of equal rights, to account for the oppression of women during past ages, but not one that I have ever heard offered has looked to the spiritual origin of that oppression.

If my health and eyes enable to me to do so, I shall be glad to write occasionally as you request. Perhaps a series of short articles upon the above point will be timely. Individual freedom is emphatically the lesson of the 19th century…”

The Revolution 1 (14): 215 – 216 (April 9, 1868)

Quoted by Mary Krane Derr

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Quotes from early feminists on abortion: Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Elizabeth Cady Stanton for over six decades stood up fearlessly for women’s rights. From observing her father’s legal practice, she resolved at a very early age to change the unjust laws that denied women control over their economic and family lives. She married an abolitionist and, like Lucretia Mott and others, became disaffected by the hypocritical failure of the anti-slavery movement to include women as equals. Out of this discontent came the 1848 Seneca Falls convention, which marked the beginning of organized feminism in the United States. Even while raising her seven children, Stanton fought for the “the cause” – as an editor of The Revolution, a traveling lecturer, a leader of the national Woman Suffrage Association, and coeditor with Susan B Anthony and Matilda Joslyn Gage of the first volume of the History of Woman Suffrage (Fowler and Wells, 1881)

“Child Murder” by Elizabeth Cady Stanton

“The public attention has been much drawn to this frightful subject of late. The disclosures made are appalling to the highest degree. The social system is too corrupt, it would certainly seem, long to survive. Infanticide is on the increase to an extent inconceivable. Nor is it confined to the cities by any means. Androscoggin County in Maine is largely a rural district, but a recent medical convention there unfolded a fearful condition of society in relation to the subject. Dr. Oaks made the remark that, according to the best estimate he could make, there were 400 murders annually produced by abortion in that county alone. The statement is made in all possible seriousness, before a meeting of “regular” practitioners in the county, and from the statistics which were as freely expressed to one member of the medical fraternity as another.

There must be a remedy for such a crying evil as this. But where shall it be found, at least begin, if not in the complete enfranchisement and elevation of women? Forced maternity, not out of legal marriage but within it, must lie at the bottom of a vast proportion of such revolting outrages against the laws of nature and our common humanity.”

The Revolution 1 (10): 146 – 147 (March 12, 1868)


“Infanticide” by Elizabeth Cady Stanton

“The remarkable mortality among natural or illegitimate children is a topic agitating the press very largely just now… Where lies the remedy?” New York Times

“In the independence of woman. “Give a man a right over my subsidence,” says Alexander Hamilton, “and he has right over my whole moral being.” When the world of work is open to woman, and it becomes as respectable as it is necessary to happiness for women of the higher classes, as well as to others, to have some regular and profitable employment, then will woman take her true position as dictator in the social world.

The common excuse that young men give in our higher circles for not being married is that they cannot afford to support a wife. Our idea is that every woman of sound mind and body, with brains and two hands, is more noble, virtuous, and happy in supporting herself. So long as one is dependent on man, relation to him will be a false one, either in marriage or out of it, she will despise herself and hate him whose desire she gratifies for the necessaries of life; the children of such unions must needs be unloved and deserted. When women have their own property and business, they will choose and not be chosen; they will marry them the men they love, or not at all; and where there is love between the parents, children will ever find care and protection. The strongest feeling of a true woman’s nature is her love for her child; and the startling facts in the above extract, multiplying as they are on every side, warn us that all things are inverted. Objectors cry out to us who demand our rights, and the ballot to secure them, “do not unsex yourselves.” It is against the wholesale unsexing we wage our war.

We are living today under a dynasty of force; the masculine element is everywhere overpowering the feminine, and crushing women and children alike beneath its feet. Let woman assert herself in all her native purity, dignity, and strength and end this wholesale suffering and murder of helpless children. With centuries of degradation, we have so little of true womanhood, that the world has but the faintest glimmering of what a woman is or should be.”

Compiled By Mary Krane Derr


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Quotes from early feminists on abortion: Dr. Alice Bunker Stockholm

Dr. Alice Bunker Stockholm authored several popular medical books. Tokology (2nd edition, 1887) instructed readers about reproductive physiology and prenatal self-care. 

quotes from Stockholm:

“Feticide is a produced abortion, whether by drugs, intentional shocks, electricity, or by instrumental interference, either by one’s own hand or by the hand of a surgeon.

Many women have been taught to think that the child is not viable until after quickening, and that there is no harm in arresting pregnancy previous to the feeling of motion; others believe that there is no life until birth, and the cry of the child is heard.

A high legal authority says: “The absurdity of the principle upon which these distinctions are founded is easy of demonstration. The fetus, previous to the time of quickening, must either be dead or living. Now, that it is not the former, is most evident from neither putrefaction or decomposition taking place, which would be the consequences of an extinction of vital principle. The embryo, therefore, before the crisis, must be in a state different from that of death, and that can be no other than life.”

When the female germ and male sperm unite, then is the inception of a new life; all that goes to make up a human being – body, mind, and spirit, must be contained in embryo within this minute organism. Life must be present from the very moment of conception. If there was not life there could not be conception. At what other period of a human being’s existence, either prenatal or postnatal, could the union of soul and body take place? Is it not plain that the violent or forcible removal of it from the citadel of life is its premature death, and hence the act can be denominated by no more mild term than murder, and whoever performs that act, or is accessory to it, is guilty of the crime of all crimes?

The life of the babe in her arms is to the mother more precious than all else; her heart is thrilled with a pang of agony at the thought of the least danger to its life. By what false reasoning does she convince herself that another life, still more dependent upon her for its existence, with equal rights and possibilities, has no claim upon her for protection? More than this, she deliberately strikes with the red hand of murder and terminates its existence with no thought of wrong, nor consciousness of violated law.

The woman who produces abortion, or allows it to be produced, risks her own life and health in the act, and commits the highest crime in the calendar, for she takes the life of her own child. She defrauds the child of the right to its existence.

There may be no harm in preventing the conception of a life, but once conceived it should not be deprived of its existence in that world which in all its appointments is specially adapted to its development.

What are some of the incentives to produce abortion? An unmarried woman, seduced under false representation by a man who feels no responsibility for his own offspring, suffers alone all the shame and contumely of the act, and is tempted to cause a miscarriage to shield her good name.

Married women who fear that maternity will interfere with their pleasures, are guilty of forcibly curtailing embryonic life. Others again, who are poor or burdened with care or grief, or have licentious or drunken husbands, shrink from adding to an already overburdened existence.

The first class, the girls would lost their virtue under promise of marriage – are most deserving of sympathy and commiseration, though none receive less. “Let him who is without sin cast the first out stone.” At the least imputation against the fair girl’s character, even those professing to be the followers of the loving Christ, often have so little leniency, so little of the Father’s love in their hearts, that they hug their Christian robes to their bodies, lest they be contaminated by the polluting touch of the victim. They “pass by on the other side” and leave the poor brokenhearted child bleeding by the wayside.

This girl’s lessons of life and purity have been learned mainly from one she loved and trusted, only to be betrayed. What wonder that in her ignorance of the value of life she should be tempted to add a second wrong to the first! And if she can conceal the evidence of her guilt, she may hope by honest endeavor to retrieve her good name, and thus is tempted to produce an abortion. Two wrongs cannot make a right…

When girls are given proper instruction upon the relations of the sexes and understand how to govern and guard themselves; when young men are taught that virtue has as high a meaning for one sex as for another, that the protective chivalry of which they boast does not imply that they shall force the woman with whom they associate to the defensive; and that the paternal interest in, and responsibilities for child are equal to the maternal, then the temptation to produce abortion for the purpose of shielding one’s character will not exist.

Of the second class, who produce miscarriage for pleasure and for selfish interest, there is little to say in extenuation. They may be victims of ignorance or of a false education. The maternal instinct is inherent in every woman’s heart. It seems strange that any morbid idea of pleasure could antagonize the natural aspirations to such an extent that one could destroy the viability of her own offspring…

Of the last class, who have an apparent need to limit the size of the family, what can be said in extenuation of their committing this crime? Shall not the mother who already has many children, who is herself sick, nervous, and prostrated, save herself additional care by arresting the life of the embryo? The heart goes out in sympathy for all such, but even the most aggravating circumstances cannot atone for the crime. The whole nature of every true woman revolts against forced maternity.

The remedy is the prevention of pregnancy, not in producing abortion. When men and women have learned the wise control of the procreative functions, then may we hope that children will be begotten in love and unselfishness. It is the undesired and undesigned maternity that is revolting to the nature of woman. As long as men feel that they have a right to indulgence of the passions under law, no matter what the circumstances, what the condition of the wife, or the probabilities of maternity, so long with the spirit of rebellion take possession of women and the temptation and traversals to relieve themselves of this unsought burden. May the day soon arrive when men will learn that even passion should serve reason, and that gratification at least should not be sought at the expense of conjugal happiness and unwelcome children.”

Tokology, pages 245 – 251

Mary Krane Derr “Man’s Inhumanity to Woman, Makes Countless Infants Die”: the Early Feminist Case against Abortion, 1991

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Author of Equal Rights Amendment called abortion “exploitation”

“The author of the original equal rights amendment (1923) opposed the later trend of linking the ERA with abortion. A colleague recalls her saying:

“Abortion is the ultimate exploitation of women.”

This was Alice Paul

Quoted in “Pro-Woman, Pro-Life” by Feminists for Life of America

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Early feminist Matilda Gage on abortion

Like most of the early feminists, Matilda Gage was against abortion. She said of it:

“[This] subject lies deeper down in women’s wrongs than any other… I hesitate not to assert that most of [the responsibility for] this crime lies at the door of the male sex.”

The Revolution 1 (14): 215 – 6, April 9, 1868

She was aware that men often exploited women and that abortion freed them from the consequences of their actions.

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Mattie Brinckerhoff on voluntary motherhood and “destroy[ing] unborn children”

Many people don’t know that the early feminists (those who fought for a woman’s right to vote in the 1800s) were mostly pro-life.

Mattie H Brinckerhoff was a popular lecturer in the Midwest on women’s suffrage and other women’s rights topics. Here is some of her writing on abortion. Her use of the term “voluntary motherhood” dealt with the choice women should have to refuse to have sex in order to avoid childbearing. It’s hard to believe, but at the time, women had no right to refuse sex with their husbands- they could not prosecute him for rape, and culture dictated that they always be sexually available to him. This lengthy article discusses this and mentions abortion. I wanted to quote it in its entirety to give context to the part about abortion

“Woman and Motherhood” by Maddie H Brinckerhoff

“In number 25, volume 3D of The Revolution, I notice from the editor of a German paper in this state these words: “American women have long been ardently engaged in the endeavor to free themselves, in a mechanical way, from the discharge of those functions which are essential to the continuance of society, and which cannot be shared with them, or performed for them, by men.” The gallant editor unquestionably refers to the office of maternity. This and similar articles have from time to time so ably answered in your paper, that it seems almost unnecessary to add anything further upon the subject; but the boldness with which many men blame women for the crime of infanticide without assuming themselves, in the case, a shadow of responsibility, I should think would rouse every mother, at least, to utter words in self-defense. That American women are more guilty of this practice than women of any other nation, I do not doubt; but is there not a reason for this?

Knowledge and slavery are incompatible. Teach a slave how a read, and he wants to be his own master – and as the masses of American women not only know how to read and write, but so much of the “tree of knowledge” have many of them eaten, that they have learned it should be for them to decide when and how often they shall take upon themselves the sacred duties of motherhood, but as law and custom gives to the husband the absolute control of the wife’s person, she is forced to not only violate physical law, but outrage the holiest instincts of her being to maintain even a semblance of that freedom which by nature belongs to every human soul.

When a man steals to satisfy hunger, we may safely conclude that there is something wrong in society – so when a woman destroys the life of her unborn child, it is an evidence that either by education or circumstances she has been greatly wronged. But the question now seems to be, how shall we prevent this destruction of life and health?

Mrs. Stanton has many times ably answered it – “by the true education and independence of woman.”

Our German writer seems to think that the whole aim of a woman’s life should be motherhood. Suppose this were true, is the mission of so little importance that no preparation be required to fill it? If, to be a first-class artist, or lawyer, it requires years of thought and culture, what preparation should be made to carve the outlines and justly balance the attributes of an immortal soul. Are little children, the germs of men and women, of so little importance that it matters not whether their mother be physically healthy or unhealthy, cultivated or uncultivated mind; expanded or dwarfed in soul? We are forced to ask, by what law shall we decide when women is sufficiently developed in body and mind to be a good mother? Before what tribunal shall she be judged? Does not reason answer, the council chamber of her own being?

… If we would make woman free, let us teach her the alphabet of human life, make her understand and value true womanhood. Then she will scorn to be man’s petted slave. She will scorn his smiles and courtesies, when they are proffered only as an excuse for justice.

Oh motherhood! Which are opponents say is woman’s holiest mission. We cannot have true mothers without having true womanhood first. Let us see that our daughters are developed into true women, and the office of maternity will take care of itself. Remove woman’s shackles and she will soon create a public opinion that will declare it a disgrace for a man to outrage the woman he has sworn to protect. Then, and not till then, will man’s shackles fall, for noble manhood must be the legitimate fruit of free and exalted womanhood. Brothers, ‘tis for you as well as ourselves we plead. Will you neglect so great a salvation?”

The Revolution 4 (9): 138 – 139 (September 2, 1869)

Thanks to Mary Krane Derr.

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