Every time an American woman walks into her polling place, she ought to give thanks to Susan B. Anthony, who wrote the constitutional amendment that allows her to vote. Anthony herself was arrested and convicted for the right we take for granted—that women are entitled to participate in our democratic process. Her advocacy for women extended to our education and even our right to own property. (She was also an early supporter of the temperance movement. No one’s perfect.)
I’m certain Susan B. Anthony would be aghast if she knew that her name was being used by a group of anti-abortion extremists to drive an anti-women agenda and roll back the rights she fought so hard for. Anthony knew that caring for women’s health was an important part of protecting their rights, which is why she opposed the criminalization of abortion. Since abortion was illegal in the nineteenth century, she knew the stakes. Women still sought abortions back then, but it was like playing Russian roulette with your life. There were horrible complications, infections, and many women ended up sterile. The unlucky ones died of botched abortions.
The Susan B. Anthony List (SBA) bears no resemblance to the legacy of the hero whose legacy has made all of our lives better. A new report from NARAL Pro-Choice America and American Bridge details the insidious goals of this so-called women’s organization. They make no bones about their plans: their president, Marjorie Dannenfelser says, “When we started about 20 years ago, you would not put the pro-life movement and the NRA in the same category…. That’s been my goal—to make this issue, which is so fundamental, have the strongest political arm they could possibly have. That’s the direction I see this heading in.”
They’ve got a big agenda: use the upcoming Virginia governor’s race as a “proving ground” to drive their anti-choice fundamentalism in a dozen states and in the thirty-three Senate races in 2014. We’ve seen how they support the most radical candidates running the most out of touch campaigns. When the rest of America—including the vast majority of Republicans—was denouncing Todd Akin for his mystifying comments that a woman couldn’t get pregnant from “legitimate rape,” the SBA List stood by him. Dannefelser called him “an excellent partner” and reaffirmed her organization’s support for his candidacy.
Richard Mourdock didn’t deny that rape could result in pregnancy, but he did say those pregnancies were “something God intended to happen,” and again SBA List stood by their man. They ran ads attacking his opponent, who now sits in the US Senate. Akin, of course, also lost.
They don’t stop with candidates. When the Virginia legislature proposed a bill in 2012 that would require women who need an abortion to get an unnecessary, invasive transvaginal ultrasound, Dannefelser took to the airwaves to praise the measure. “Really, this is a matter of giving a woman more information that she needs to make a decision that’s fully informed,” Dannefelser told Chris Matthews about the procedure, which involves penetrating a woman with a wand to give her an ultrasound that only confirms what she already knows. (The law eventually passed without the transvaginal ultrasound requirement, although it still forces women to undergo a noninvasive ultrasound that is just as unnecessary.)
While SBA List is a fan of unnecessary ultrasounds, the organization does not like it when women have access to the healthcare they need. The organization asked Republican presidential candidates to sign a pledge to defund Planned Parenthood, which would deny women access to cancer screenings, prenatal care and even regular check-ups.
SBA List styles itself a feminist organization that works to elect more pro-life women to office. (In fact, they supported some of the most radically anti-choice male candidates in 2012.) But their real agenda is as fiercely anti-woman as Anthony herself was pro-woman.
See thier work in this year’s Virginia governor’s race. They’ve committed a minimum of $1.5 million to help elect Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli, an anti-abortion extremist in the mold of Akin and Mourdock. Six years ago, then–state legislator Cuccinelli sponsored the most extreme kind of personhood amendment, one that would ban many forms of birth control (not to mention miscarriages).
The Virginia governor race is a chance for SBA List to test strategies and messaging they can deploy nationwide in 2014, 2016 and beyond. Like most pro-life activists, they have focused their efforts on hiding the most extreme parts of their agenda and pursuing attacks on a woman’s right to safe and legal abortion care piecemeal. They conceal their radical agenda as concern for women’s health and safety. That’s why our report on the record and activities of SBA List is so important; we need to expose them now for who they are, before they help elect more candidates that threaten our rights and our lives.
Defending guys who question rape? Pushing invasive and unnecessary medical procedures on women? Thinking they know better then we do about what works best for our lives? It is difficult to imagine a more insulting attack on Anthony’s proud legacy.
The first couple is peddling black college graduates some seriously worn-out stereotypes on race and opportunity. Read Aura Bogado’s take.