According to this Saturday Night Live sketch, Susan B. Anthony believed “abortion is murder.”
But historian Daniel K. Williams, author of Defenders of the Unborn: The Pro-Life Movement Before Roe v. Wade, warns pro-life and pro-choice advocates to think twice before invoking Anthony.
Here is a taste of his First Things piece “Susan B. Anthony’s Contested Legacy“:
Pro-lifers’ appropriation of Susan B. Anthony has resulted in a distortion of historical facts. Claiming Anthony for either side in the modern abortion debate is highly anachronistic. As a historian, I think that it’s important to understand the past on its own terms without trying to make figures from the past fit the contours of modern debates. Efforts to try to make Susan B. Anthony fit the mold of a modern pro-lifer are certainly misguided.
At the same time, I think it may be worth citing the late-nineteenth-century feminists in order to question modern pro-choice feminists’ insistence that reproductive rights are an essential, nonnegotiable part of feminism. If Anthony and her late-nineteenth-century feminist colleagues were not pro-life activists, they were not advocates of abortion rights or sexual license, either.
Read the entire piece here.
You can also listen to Williams discuss Defenders of the Unborn in Episode 2 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast.