One of the most common tactics of abortion-rights advocates is to claim that abortion-rights are fundamental for the advancement of women's rights, and that women cannot have equal rights with men without unrestricted access to abortion. But such an argument was not held by the earliest leaders of feminism.
Susan B. Anthony was a radical feminist, standing for women at a time when they were not even allowed to vote. She referred to abortion as "child murder" and viewed it as a means of exploiting both women and children:
"I deplore the horrible crime of child murder...No matter what the motive, love of ease, or a desire to save from suffering the unborn innocent, the woman is awfully guilty who commits the deed...but oh! thrice guilty is he who drove her to the desperation which impelled her to the crime."
Anthony's newsletter, The Revolution, made this claim: "When a woman destroys the life of her unborn child, it is a sign that, by education or circumstances, she has been greatly wronged."
Another leading feminist, Elizabeth Caddie Stanton, said this about abortion: "When we consider that women are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we wish."
These women were later followed by a new breed of feminists. Most prominent of these was Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, who advocated abortion as a means of sexual freedom, birth control, and eugenics. Sanger, and others who followed her, tried to tie the abortion agenda to the legitimate issues of women's rights.
The same thing happened in the sixties. Dr. Bernard Nathanson says he and his fellow abortion-rights strategists deliberately linked the abortion issue to the women's issue so it could be furthered not on its own merits, but on the merits of women's rights. Because of the legitimate concerns for women's rights, the abortion issue was pulled along on its coat-tails. (Nathanson has since reversed himself and become a pro-life advocate.)
Early feminists such as Susan Anthony would have been appalled and angered to think that abortion which they deplored as the killing of innocent children would one day be linked in people's minds with the cause of women's rights.
Not all present day feminists buy the unholy alliance between women's rights and abortion rights. Alice Paul, who drafted the original version of the Equal Rights Amendment referred to abortion as, "the ultimate exploitation of women." Feminists for Life is a group that advances the rights of women without aborting unborn children.
Abortion rights are not essential to women's rights and not all feminists support abortion. Numerous leaders of feminist politics have borne witness to the truth that equality for women has nothing to do with taking the life of unborn children.
Portions of above were excerpted from "Pro Life Answers to Pro Choice Arguments." This essay can be found on the Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral website.