Cover Story

What women want

"What women want" Continued...

Issue: "What women want," Jan. 21, 2006

After graduation, she worked for the Heritage Foundation and the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus. Nearly every female member of Congress was pro-abortion. Ms. Dannenfelser seethed as they declared to pro-life men in House debates, "You have no right to speak [on abortion]. I represent women." Their presumption, Ms. Dannenfelser said, "was a daily source of consternation. I just couldn't abide it."

Every woman but two elected to Congress in 1992, dubbed "Year of the Woman," surfed into office on waves of cash from groups like Emily's List, a liberal organization dedicated to funding the election campaigns of pro-abortion women. That year, Ms. Dannenfelser and others formed SBA. In 1997, she teamed with Jane Abraham, wife of then-Sen. Spencer Abraham (R-Mich.), who helped expand SBA's mission into voter education and mobilization, and grassroots lobbying. The group spun off a political action committee, the SBA List Candidate Fund, with the goal of squaring off against Emily's List.

The results have been dramatic: In 2000, SBA List candidates won 17 of 24 races; in 2002, 22 of 32. In 2004, the SBA List helped propel into office seven new pro-life senators and 20 new pro-life members in the House. Overall, the SBA List candidates won 77 percent of their races, while only 39 percent of Emily's List candidates won election in 2004. This, though the pro-abortion group pumped $45 million into the race, while SBA spent a combined total of $6 million on campaign contributions, voter outreach, and mobilization.

That result highlights the error of well-funded campaigns that claim pro-life women are "out of touch with the mainstream." Kellyanne Conway, president of The Polling Company/Woman Trend, found just the opposite: Only one in 10 Americans believes abortion should be legal at all times and for any reason. Among self-identified liberals, the number espousing that view rises slightly, to one in four.

Ms. Conway said sonogram technology has done much to close the gap. "If you're going to tell most 25-year-olds that this moving image they see on the screen isn't a human being, they're going to laugh at you." For the same reason, the propaganda of the "back-alley abortion" is wearing thin. "Young women no longer believe that a woman in the U.S. who can see her baby on a sonogram and go to any corner Starbucks and get a latte 16,000 different ways would have to retreat to a back alley to get an abortion. They just don't believe that. It's not the way they see the world."

Adding to the shift are the testimonies of thousands of women who have experienced the negative abortion fallout firsthand. Groups like the Silent No More Awareness Campaign and Operation Outcry are publicizing what they experience after exercising their right to choose: infertility, severe depression, substance abuse, and relentless self-loathing.

Eighteen months after her abortion, Myra Myers felt "devastating grief and a crushing weight of guilt" over her abortion. At a Sunday evening church service, Mrs. Myers realized: "Oh, God. I murdered my child." She sought God's forgiveness and has since sought to tell other women her story through Operation Outcry.

Mrs. Myers on Jan. 9 was joined by nearly a dozen other women who had also aborted and lived to regret it. Some pushed empty strollers; others wore baby shoes like boutonnieres.

A 2005 study added academic weight to anecdotal claims. University of Oslo researchers compared the mental distress of women who had miscarried with those who had voluntarily aborted their pregnancies. While women who miscarried suffered more initially, those who aborted carried lasting emotional scars. After five years, fewer than three in 100 women who had miscarried still experienced mental distress. But one in five post-abortive women still suffered mentally and emotionally and said they had to make an effort to avoid thinking about the event.

Early pioneers of women's rights instinctively understood this. "The woman is awfully guilty who commits [abortion]," said suffragist Susan B. Anthony. "It will burden her conscience in life, it will burden her soul in death."

According to Feminists for Life, the early suffragists opposed abortion. "When we consider that women are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit," wrote suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 1873.

"It's a simple thing when you look back," said SBA's Jane Abraham. "Most of these feminists, who worked hard for the right to vote, also fought against slavery and the exploitation of children. Understanding that the unborn are the most vulnerable in our society, their feelings on abortion were a natural extension of that philosophy. They looked at abortion as anti-woman."

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