Sarah Palin Pro-Life Speech Prompts Debate Over Susan B. Anthony, Abortion

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 20, 2010   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Sarah Palin Pro-Life Speech Prompts Debate Over Susan B. Anthony, Abortion

by Steven Ertelt Editor
May 20
, 2010

Washington, DC ( — Following the speech former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin gave to a packed house for the Susan B. Anthony List, two critics opened the latest chapter the debate about whether Susan B. Antony is pro-life. Today, the director of the pro-life organization put those questions to rest.

Palin spoke to several hundred people at the SBA List event and talked about an emerging movement of conservative feminists.

Palin said these pro-life women, who counter the mantra that electing women to political office must somehow mean backing abortion advocates, are extending the political legacy of Susan B. Anthony, the famous woman’s suffragist for whom the political organization is named.

"Organizations like the Susan B. Anthony list are returning the woman’s movement back to its original roots, back to what it was all about in the beginning. You remind us of the earliest leaders of the woman’s rights movement: They were pro-life," she said.

Ann Gordon and Lynn Sherr attacked the notion of Anthony as pro-life in a Washington Post column.

"Our conclusion: Anthony spent no time on the politics of abortion. It was of no interest to her, despite living in a society (and a family) where women aborted unwanted pregnancies," the pair claim.

The pair gloss over an article in a newspaper owned for several years after the Civil War by Susan B. Anthony in which she describes abortion as "child murder" by merely saying no evidence exists that she wrote it.

The pair dismiss other evidence: Anthony remarked in her diary after a visit from her brother that her sister-in-law engaged in a self-induced abortion that did not go well and left her bedridden.

"She will rue the day she forces nature," Anthony writes, but the women claim Anthony wasn’t referring to the abortion but her sadness about her relative facing post-abortion complications.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president, Susan B. Anthony List, responded with her own Washington Post editorial.

"Susan B. Anthony was passionate and logical in her arguments against abortion. The Revolution was her brainchild, co-founded with Elizabeth Cady Stanton as a weekly women’s rights newspaper that acted as the official voice of the National Woman Suffrage Association and in which appeared many of her writings alongside those of her like-minded colleagues," she notes.

"Most logical people would agree, then, that writings signed by ‘A’ in a paper that Anthony funded and published were a reflection of her own opinions," she said.

Dannenfelser goes on to point out more quotes from Anthony that the authors failed to address.

In one house editorial in the Revolution, appearing on July 8, 1869, Anthony wrote, "Guilty? Yes. 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. It will burden her conscience in life, it will burden her soul in death; but oh, thrice guilty is he who… drove her to the desperation which impelled her to the crime!"

Dannenfelser also cites Anthony’s words to Frances Willard in 1889: "Sweeter even than to have had the joy of children of my own has it been for me to help bring about a better state of things for mothers generally, so that their unborn little ones could not be willed away from them."

"So, while the Life cause isn’t the issue that earned Susan B. Anthony her stripes in American history books, historians would be wrong to conclude that Anthony was agnostic on the issue of abortion," the pro-life women’s leader said.

"Anthony understood that fighting for women included the rights of her unborn child," she concluded.

Documents from the museum at Anthony’s birthplace home in Adams, Massachusetts, confirms Anthony’s pro-life heritage.

Sally Winn, executive director of the museum, said Anthony’s opposition to abortion, "I think people would be hard-pressed to find any evidence to the contrary."

"We have one section that is on Susan B. Anthony’s opposition to Restellism — which was a term for abortions in that era," she told the Bennington Banner newspaper.

The museum has more than 80 issues of Anthony’s newspaper, The Revolution, which makes more than 100 references to abortion and Winn said each of the references is in direct opposition to abortion. She also points out that the newspaper did not accept advertising for abortion.

Related web sites:
Susan B. Anthony List –

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