Carrying on the suffragists’ pro-life message, 100 years later
The coming election year marks the 100th anniversary of women winning the right to vote. It was a long-fought battle led by courageous women who saw an injustice and fought to correct it in spite of public opinion.
In addition to issues affecting women, many of these early suffragists first became advocates for the abolition of slavery and were ahead of their time condemning the violence of abortion and infanticide.
The heroic example of these women has inspired the March for Life to choose the theme “Life Empowers: Pro-Life is Pro-Woman” for the 47th annual March for Life. Throughout the year, the March for Life will highlight the pro-life views of the suffragists and the way in which the pro-life movement is the true heir of these earliest feminists. Just as the suffragists peacefully advocated for women’s equality — and made great progress — pro-life advocates peacefully advocate for equality for the unborn.
One of the most remarkable suffragists is Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Born in 1815, Stanton was one of the founders of the U.S. suffragist movement and faced immense obstacles in her struggle for equal rights. During her lifetime, the United States condoned slavery and didn’t allow half of its population to vote just because of their sex. Meanwhile, Stanton was juggling the raising of her seven children with her advocacy work, which would one day change the course of history.
Stanton, spurred on by the United Kingdom’s suffrage movement, joined with other American activists and gathered a group of like-minded women in July of 1848 at the Seneca Falls Convention. Over 300 people attended and Mrs. Stanton was a star of the convention, presenting her Declaration of Sentiments, which mirrored the Declaration of Independence. Her declaration asserted what we take for granted today: that men and women are created equal. It was there she proposed the then-controversial resolution demanding voting rights for women.
The Seneca Falls Declaration passed. Stanton was subsequently asked to speak at numerous other women’s conventions, cementing her role alongside Susan B. Anthony as a leader of the American women’s suffrage movement.
The fight for women’s right to vote wasn’t the only cause Anthony and Stanton shared. Both denounced in their writings the horrors of infanticide. In the 1868 weekly suffragist periodical Revolution, Stanton makes clear she viewed abortion as infanticide. She said that abortion contributed to the oppression of women as second-class citizens — calling it “inconceivable” as well as a “crying evil.”
It is the legacy of Elizabeth Cady Stanton that has led to the creation of Idaho-based Stanton Healthcare, the purpose of which is to offer life-affirming solutions and resources to abortion-vulnerable women; to provide hope to those struggling with the pain of past abortion; and to share the message of sexual integrity in a confidential and professional environment that promotes physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness. Like the early suffragists, the founders of Stanton Healthcare believe that all life is created with intrinsic value and are motivated to uphold the dignity of women and the lives of their children.
Together, those that make up the pro-life movement strive to complete the work of the suffragists by laboring to ensure every human life is treated with dignity and, as Stanton writes, endeavoring to “end this wholesale suffering and murder of helpless children.”
Thanks to the early feminist suffragists we have put the time when women were denied the right to vote behind us. One day, we hope to put behind us this time where the most innocent and vulnerable are denied the right to live. It is time to expose abortion as a grave injustice that marginalizes and devalues women, and that steals the lives of their children.