Mandatory Motherhood: The True Meaning of "Right to Life"

Mandatory Motherhood: The True Meaning of "Right to Life"

Mandatory Motherhood: The True Meaning of "Right to Life"

Mandatory Motherhood: The True Meaning of "Right to Life"

Excerpt

Mandatory motherhood? Surely this isn't serious!

But it is. Dead serious: a small but energetic minority is dedicated to forcing motherhood onto women who don't want to be mothers. These passionate people wouldn't dream of trying to bring back compulsory servitude (i.e., slavery). But, strangely, they see no inconsistency in trying to institute mandatory motherhood for women whose birth-control methods have failed them.

The passionate minority just may succeed.

How did we get into this mess? The story can be briefly told. Until about 1870 abortion was legal in the United States (though not advisable in those days of primitive medicine). Then, in rapid succession, one state after another passed laws against abortion. Some forbade it completely. Others permitted it only to save the life of the mother. Six states permitted abortion "to save the life of the child," though how that was possible the legislators never told us. That so incredible a law could be passed strongly suggests that many legislators were simply unwilling to think about abortion. They just passed laws with their minds closed, and moved on to other matters. Their ill-considered laws were not subjected to further legislative review for almost a century. Restrictive laws made it difficult, dangerous, and expensive for women to avoid unwanted motherhood during that century. There was irony and tragedy in the situation: the abortion-prohibition laws were all un-

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