Whether they meant to or not, Saturday Night Live writers confirmed on this week’s show something that abortion activists would rather the public forget: The early feminists were pro-life.
One of this week’s skits followed a group of women as they visit Susan B. Anthony’s house in Rochester, New York. After touring the house, the five friends decide to summon the ghost of Susan B. Anthony. (Watch it below.)
The feminist shows up in her living room and begins offering the ladies advice as they wait for a taxi. They grow increasingly annoyed as the early feminist interrupts their conversations with questions about modern technology and comments about her home.
“It is always a hard time for women, my dear,” Anthony tells the women. “The important thing is to never give up.”
Later, she adds, “A woman can only be in chains if she allows herself to be in chains.”
As the women awkwardly begin to leave, Anthony calls out one last line: “Just remember, a woman is as good as a man. Also, abortion is murder!”
Organizers at the Susan B. Anthony House quickly refuted the line, claiming Anthony did not speak out against abortion.
— S. B. Anthony Museum (@SusanBHouse) January 15, 2017
While some abortion supporters try to argue that Anthony and other early feminists did not express opposition to abortion, their writings and speeches indicate otherwise.
For example, a March 12, 1868 edition of “The Revolution” – which had Anthony as its proprietor and feminist Elizabeth Cady Stanton as editor – ran an article titled, “Child Murder.” The report was about an alarming increase in the number of abortions and infanticides, both in the cities and in rural America.
“Dr. Oaks made the remark that, according to the best estimate he could make, there were four hundred murders annually produced by abortion in that [Maine] county alone. … There must be a remedy even for such a crying evil as this,” the article stated.
Pro-life writer Sarah Terzo reported more in 2015 about the feminist leader’s position:
What did Susan B. Anthony think about abortion? There is controversy. Anthony’s paper, “The Revolution,” published a number of editorials against abortion during its run from 1868 to 1872. According to the research of Mary Krane Derr, a lifelong member of Feminists for Life who wrote the book Pro-Life Feminism: Yesterday and Today, The Revolution refused to publish ads for abortifacients. In the late 1800s, pills and pessaries were sold by unscrupulous abortion practitioners through euphemistic ads, labeling these products as for “the remedy of illnesses peculiar to women, ” “restoration of female regularity” and “correction of menstrual suppression.”
This policy prohibiting advertising of abortion drugs almost certainly would not have gone through without Anthony’s approval, Cat Clark pointed out.
Some mainstream media outlets, including the BBC, also readily acknowledge that the early feminists were opposed to abortion.
Abortion activists have tried and, in some ways, succeeded in aligning themselves with the feminist movement. Recently, however, a number of young, pro-life feminists have been working hard to take the movement back to its roots by advocating for the lives of unborn women as well as the born.