Abortion rights, often portrayed as integral to women’s equality, has “cheapened women” and harmed the progress of actual equality among the sexes, according to a conservative legal scholar.
Erika Bachiochi, a fellow with the Ethics and Public Policy Center, gave the keynote address at the March for Life conference held Thursday morning at the Renaissance D.C. Downtown Hotel, the day before the National Mall rally.
During her remarks, Bachiochi surveyed the intellectual history of feminism in the United States, noting that early feminists believed that women’s rights benefited from encouraging better sexual behavior among men.
For 19th century American feminists, “sexual integrity was the key precondition for authentic equality and collaboration between the sexes.”
This included a resolution passed at the 1848 Women’s Rights Convention at Seneca Falls which called for “the same amount of virtue, delicacy, and refinement of behavior that is required of woman … be required of man.”
“Notice that they sought not to reject the high standards to which women in society were called at that time, but rather demanded that men adhere to those standards as well,” said Bachiochi.
Bachiochi noted that a common suffragist slogan at the time was “Votes for Women, Chastity for Men” and that “voluntary motherhood,” defined as engaging in short term or long term abstinence, was a common cause among feminists.
Bachiochi argued that this concept was rejected by the second half of the 20th century, with abortion supporters shifting the argument to say that, rather than have men improve their sexual behavior, women should be allowed to have the ability to forsake a child.
She quoted from a 1969 legal brief which argued that since “the man who shares responsibility for her pregnancy can and often does just walk away …” women should be able to do the same via abortion.
“Sexual equality then, in this altogether new view, was found not by demanding that men be required to meet women with a high standard of mutual care and responsibility,” said Bachiochi, but through dominating others.
“… as men had wielded the common law right of dominion over their wives, women would now seek a similar right of the ultimate sort of dominion over their unborn children.”
Bachiochi argued that the modern pro-choice view “leaves the burden for children and the management of fertility squarely on the shoulders, or better the bodies, of women.”
“Abortion further alleviates men of their shared duties of care,” she continued. “Rather than make significant demands upon men as prior generations of women’s rights advocates have, this new view champions the autonomous child-abandoning male, or the one with no care-giving responsibilities, as the very model for equal citizenship.”
At the Golden Globes earlier this month, actress Michelle Williams won the award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Limited Series or TV Movie and used her platform to promote abortion.
“I wouldn't have been able to do this without employing a woman's right to choose,” she said, noting that she was “grateful to have lived at a moment in our society when choice exists, because as women and as girls, things can happen to our bodies that are not our choice.”
March for Life President Jeanne Mancini said in a speech on Thursday that she took issue with the claims of Williams about needing to have an abortion to succeed.
“Just recently in an awards show and political speeches, you’re being told this extremely damaging and degrading message that women cannot achieve her goals without abortion. How insulting, right?” declared Mancini.
“Not only is the gift of motherhood a beautiful and empowering thing in and of itself but that the pro-life movement by reinforcing the reality that a woman can achieve her dream and give life to her children is the truly pro-women movement.”
Bachiochi’s presentation was part of the overall theme for the 2020 March for Life, which was “Life Empowers: Pro-life is Pro-Woman.”
The theme was chosen in honor of 2020 marking 100 years since the passage of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.
“As we celebrate this great moment in history, we remember and honor the suffragists, the original feminist leaders who recognized the inherent dignity of the unborn and that abortion not only ended a life but harmed women,” the March for Life organizers said last year.
“The pro-life movement continues their legacy, recognizing that equal rights begin in the womb. That, in essence, is why we march. We march to end abortion, with the vision of a world where the beauty, dignity, uniqueness, and rights of every human life are valued and protected.”