March 8th is International Women’s Day: a time to celebrate women’s dignity and their contributions to the world. In that vein, many people take this day as an opportunity to frame abortion as a woman’s right. From their perspective, without abortion, many women wouldn’t do well at home, at school, or in the workplace. But not all women feel that way about this topic. So here is a list of female pro-life activists, past and present, who everyone should know about.
Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906): The cast members of Saturday Night Live shocked everyone in 2017 when they admitted that Susan B. Anthony was against abortion, but they weren’t wrong. In addition to advocating for women’s suffrage, she also wanted to bring about a more equitable society for mothers and their children. Records of her writings and conversations point to this. “Sweeter even than to have had the joy of caring for children of my own has it been to me to help bring about a better state of things for mothers generally, so that their unborn little ones could not be willed away from them,” she once said. Arguing for the need to address the root causes of abortion, she also wrote, “Guilty? Yes, no matter what the motive, love of ease, or a desire to save from suffering the unborn innocent, the woman is awfully guilty who commits the deed. It will burden her conscience in life, it will burden her soul in death; but oh! thrice guilty is he who, for selfish gratification, drove her to the desperation which impelled her to the crime.”
Graciela Olivárez (1928-1987): Born in Arizona to a Mexican-American immigrant family, Graciela Olivárez eventually became the first Latina to graduate from Notre Dame Law School. She was also a cofounder of the National Organization for Women (before they became abortion rights activists) and was the highest-ranking Latina in Jimmy Carter’s administration. As a woman and as a child of immigrants, she believed that civil rights belonged to all human beings, including the unborn. "To talk about the ‘wanted’ and the ‘unwanted’ child smacks too much of bigotry and prejudice. Many of us have experienced the sting of being ‘unwanted’ by certain segments of our society,” she said. "I am not impressed or persuaded by those who express concern for the low-income woman who may find herself carrying an unplanned pregnancy and for the future of the unplanned child...because the fact remains that in this affluent nation of ours, pregnant cattle and horses receive better health care than pregnant poor women. The poor cry out for justice and we respond with legalized abortion.”
Dr. Mildred Jefferson, M.D. (1927-2010): The first black woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School, Jefferson was also the first black woman to become a surgical intern at Boston City Hospital and the first woman to become a member of the Boston Surgical Society. She is best known for her opposition to abortion. She served three terms as President of the National Right to Life Committee and was a founding member of Massachusetts Citizens for Life. In her most famous quote, she stated, “I am at once a physician, a citizen and a woman, and I am not willing to stand aside and allow this concept of expendable human lives to turn this great land of ours into just another exclusive reservation where only the perfect, the privileged and the planned have the right to live.”
Serrin Foster: In 1994, Foster became the President of Feminists for Life of America. Her advocacy stems from the belief that abortion is driven by a failure to meet women’s needs. Her organization has supported many groundbreaking national efforts to protect and care for women and children in the US, including the protection of WIC and SNAP benefits, stiffer penalties for child support evasion, the Violence Against Women Act, and State Child Health Insurance Program reform. In 1997, they hosted Georgetown Un