The Suffragettes Would Not Agree With Feminists Today on Abortion

Many early champions of women's rights in the U.S. opposed it

Many of today’s feminists see abortion as one of the touchstones of their movement. Yet many of the early leaders of the women’s suffrage movement in the U.S. believed that the rights of mother and child are inextricably linked and that the right to life and the right to vote are rooted in the inherent dignity of each human person.

 

For many people, the word “suffragette” conjures up images of the frothy Mrs. Banks in the movie Mary Poppins, who returns home from a London rally for women’s rights to tell her sister suffragettes’ (her nanny and housemaids) to “take heart for Mrs. Pankhurst has been clapped in irons again!”

The suffragette movement is the subject of the new movie Suffragette. Starring Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter and Meryl Streep, it tells the story of the struggle for women’s rights in Great Britain from the viewpoint of a young, working-class mother. Thousands of women like her fought courageously for the right to vote so they could use that power to improve the economic and social conditions that oppressed them and their families.

In America, too, brave and farsighted suffragettes worked to obtain the right to vote, and thus the right to true citizenship, for women. Their victory paved the way for the full participation by women in the economic, social and political spheres. Our nation has been incomparably enriched by their contributions and accomplishments.

But would those early pioneers recognize the movement that claims to speak for the rights of women today?

On the issue of abortion, they would not. Many of today’s feminists see abortion as one of the touchstones of their movement. Yet many of the early leaders of the women’s suffrage movement in the U.S. believed that the rights of mother and child are inextricably linked and that the right to life and the right to vote are rooted in the inherent dignity of each human person.

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