Wednesday, June 15, 2022

False Claims Continue Claiming Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B Anthony as Anti-Abortion Advocates

False claims continue to abound about pioneering 19th century feminists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony as to their views on abortion, including this week in the Wall Street Journal.

As a scholar of Stanton's work for the last twenty years studying her focus on legal and social reform of the family and marriage, I have written extensively against these false claims and tried to set the record straight by delving into the historical details (incorrectly) asserted for these claims.  I post here to refresh the recollection of that work as relevant to ongoing debates: 

First, here's the current, incorrect report, written by anti-abortion activists:

WSJ, Yes, Susan B Anthony Was Pro-Life

Early feminist icons Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony changed forever the role of women in American society. In the 19th century they tirelessly promoted public education on behalf of women’s equality and demanded that women be given the right to vote. But contrary to recent claims by advocacy groups, they were not in favor of abortion.

 

After a leaked Supreme Court draft decision appearing to overturn Roe v. Wade circulated in May, the nonprofit National Susan B. Anthony Museum and House in Rochester, N.Y., accused the Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life political action committee, of misappropriating the famous suffragist’s name. “To suggest that Susan B. Anthony would support government intervention in a woman’s decision about a pregnancy is abhorrent,” museum president Deborah L. Hughes wrote in a post on the organization’s website.

 

The Elizabeth Cady Stanton Trust similarly claims that its namesake would have supported abortion-rights advocacy in the 21st century. The group has filed lawsuits in Michigan, New York and Rhode Island, asking courts, according to a press release, “to protect Roe v. Wade from being overturned, and firmly establish the Equal Rights Amendment . . . in the United States Constitution.”

 

In fact, it’s the pro-choice groups that have it wrong. During their lifetimes, both women vociferously condemned abortion.

Here are links to my work challenging and disproving the historical basis on which these incorrect assumptions continue to rely:

Tracy Thomas, Misappropriating Women's History in the Law and Politics of Abortion, 36 Seattle L. Rev. 1 (2012) (discussing both Stanton & Anthony)

Tracy Thomas, ECS Book Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Feminist Foundations of Family Lawm chp. 4, The "Incidental Relation" of Mother (NYUP 2016)

Tracy Thomas, Gender & the Law Prof Blog, Elizabeth Cady Stanton was Not Against Reproductive Rights

Tracy Thomas, Gender & the Law Prof Blog, Voluntary Motherhood: What Did 19th Century Feminists Think About Abortion and Birth Control

The Atlantic, The Abortion Debate and the Legacy of Women's Suffrage (June 2019)

Tracy Thomas, National Constitution Center "We the People" Podcast, The Constitutional Legacy of Seneca Falls

Tracy Thomas, Gender & the Law Prof Blog, Theme for March for Life 2020 Relies on Questionable Women's History, Incorrectly Claiming Early Feminist Leaders as Pro-Life

Tracy Thomas, Gender & the Law Prof Blog, The "Incidental Relation of Mother" and 19th Century Demands for Women's Reproductive Control

 

Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Feminist Foundations of Family Law by [Tracy A. Thomas]

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/gender_law/2022/06/false-claims-about-pioneering-feminists-elizabeth-cady-stanton-and-susan-b-anthony-as-to-their-views-on-abortion-continue-to.html

Abortion, Books, Constitutional, Family, Legal History, Pregnancy, Reproductive Rights | Permalink

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