Feminism at first was not pro-abortion. Not only were the 19th century Suffragettes pro-life, pioneering 20th century feminists like Betty Friedan were at most ambivalent about abortion. The fact is, the early pro-abortion movement was led by men. In 1967, though, the pro-abortionist leader Larry Lader gained the endorsement of the National Organization for Women and abortion became a feminist cause.
This story is told by an early activist, Sue Ellen Browder, who later converted to Catholicism in her book Subverted: How I Helped the Sexual Revolution Hijack the Women’s Movement. Abigail Rine Favale reviews the book for First Things, excerpted and linked after the jump.
From Abigail Rine Favale, A Movement, Hijacked | First Things:
Subverted recounts the untold history of how the feminist and pro-abortion movements became allied. Part exposé, part conversion memoir, Browder’s book defies easy categorization, but by the end, I understood her approach. Browder’s honest account of her personal life—including her choice to have an abortion, despite being in a loving marriage—highlights the contradictions between reality and the flashy fantasy of the sexually liberated woman that she fabricated and peddled as a writer for Cosmopolitan during the heyday of the sexual revolution.
A particularly fascinating thread in the book is Browder’s nuanced profile of Betty Friedan. She was initially ambivalent about legalizing abortion; the issue of “reproductive rights” was conspicuously absent from the first edition of The Feminine Mystique. By the 1980s, she was blaming the “failure” of the women’s movement on “our blind spot about the family.” As Browder reveals, the pro-abortion movement—led by Larry Lader, the central villain of the book—was decidedly male until successfully wooing the National Organization for Women in 1967.[Keep reading. . .]