I got to hear John McCain's appearance on The View today. While asking McCain a question Joy Behar, one of the show's liberal hosts, said something that ruffled my feathers. She claimed that overturning Roe v. Wade, which McCain apparently wants to do, would take away women's rights. As a pro-life person nothing makes me madder than this enormous falsehood that legalized abortion promotes/protects women's rights. It doesn't.
First of all, if Roe v. Wade is overturned it would NOT mean the end of legal abortion. It would only mean that abortion would become a state issue, decided by the states as they see fit. Considering that legal abortion has been the norm for over a generation I seriously doubt if any state would outlaw it entirely. I do see at least some states putting more severe restrictions on the practice, though.
But even if abortion was outlawed in all fifty states it wouldn't mean the end of women's rights. The idea that it would is one of the pro-choice movement's most successful weapons against pro-lifers. When we march against Roe or against abortion in general we are routinely, even hysterically, accused of marching against women's rights. The fact that women are the backbone of the pro-life movement doesn't deter the accusation. But women's rights are bigger than abortion nonetheless. The accusation is false, and I'll tell you why.
The simple truth is that abortion has been legal in times and places where the rights of women were few or nonexistent. In colonial America, for instance, abortion was legal so long as it was performed before "quickening", the time when the mother could feel her baby move. The practice was common but this didn't translate into a high legal or social status for women. Society defined marriage and motherhood as their primary roles in life (anathema to feminists). They were not educated as much as men, if at all, and when married became legal dependents of their husbands. They had no legal right to their own children who went to the father in the event of a divorce. Clearly, the rights of women in colonial America left much to be desired in spite of legal abortion. And the same is true elsewhere in the world.
The Japanese legalized abortion in 1948, a full 25 years before it was legalized in America. Few feminists, however, would consider post-war Japan a hotbed of women's liberation. The same is true of India, which legalized prenatal infanticide one year after the US did. Far from protecting women, legal abortion is used to eliminate them. As many as 50 million females are reported to be missing from India's population, a holocaust due almost entirely to abortion. Rather than going through pregnancy only to end up with a worthless girl, many Indian women use ultrasound to find out their babies' sex and then abort their daughters.
A similar situation arose in China after that country instituted it's one-child policy. The practice got so bad that the Chinese government was forced to amend the policy and allow parents whose first child was a daughter to legally try for another one, hopefully a boy. But this only created another problem. Chinese women who wanted two children began aborting their male babies because the birth of a daughter ensured them the right to have another child. At first glance the abortion of boys in favor of girls seems like a pro-female act, but it's not. The reason Chinese women whose first child is female are allowed to try for another one is because sons are considered vital to the family whereas daughters are not. If the first child is a boy there's no reason to try for another one. Abortion fails to protect women again.
There are other examples I could site but I think you get the picture. Legal abortion does NOTHING to protect, enhance, or promote women's rights. Things such as the right to vote, own land, get custody of children, enter the professions, or go to school are not dependent on the "right" to abortion. The early American feminists were committed to suffrage, not abortion. Many of them, including Susan B. Anthony, were staunchly against the practice. Indeed, they saw the outlawing of abortion, which began in America in the mid 19th century, as progressive reform.
We pro-lifers, then, shouldn't be intimidated by the charge that we're against women's rights. It's a baseless accusation which reveals the ignorance of those who make it. Rather, we should hold our heads up high and continue in the long and proud tradition of fighting for the weakest among us, no matter what Joy Behar says.