The distinctive contribution of ‘Pity For Evil’, however, is that feminism need not be understood as synonymous with pro-abortion politics. A more historically rooted feminism grounds the value and dignity of women in their capacity for virtue and care, not in their ability to mimic male sexual appetites. In spite of the lip service paid to diversity, the progressive left has become intolerant of self-described feminists who oppose unrestricted access to abortion. Were Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, or Ida B. Wells alive today, they would politely be asked to refrain from joining the Women’s March, if for no other reason than their stance on abortion.
The organizers of the “Women’s March” made headlines in 2017 when they removed pro-life feminists as sponsors, prompting more than one observer to note with irony that if Susan B. Anthony were living today, she would politely be asked to step aside and let the “real feminists” have their day. As thousands gather again to march in January to purportedly “secure abortion access and counter far-right extremism,” the question that must be asked is this: Is it anti-woman to be anti-abortion?
This question of the relationship between women’s rights and abortion permeates Monica Klem and Madeleine McDowell’s timely book, Pity For Evil: Abortion, and Women’s Empowerment in Reconstruction America. In it the authors thoroughly and definitively debunk the myth that feminism is historically synonymous with pro-abortion politics. The reality, they argue, is precisely the opposite.
In today’s inhospitable political climate for transgressing woke orthodoxy, Klem and McDowell recall an era when women’s rights and anti-abortion politics went hand in hand.