Stolberg Highlights Aging Feminists' Anxiety Over Abortion

Sheryl Gay Stolberg devoted most of her article in Sunday's Week in Review to the concerns of radical feminists over the future of legalized abortion, specifically its support among the younger generations. Stolberg tried to downplay the larger opposition to abortion in the 18-30 year old demographic, and only one of the pro-abortion activists that she quoted in her article belonged to this group.

Stolberg began "In Support of Abortion, It's Personal vs. Political" with a sympathetic personal anecdote from one of the aging radicals, Representative Louise Slaughter of New York:

In the early 1950s, a coal miner's daughter from rural Kentucky named Louise McIntosh encountered the shadowy world of illegal abortion. A friend was pregnant...and Ms. McIntosh was keeper of a secret that, if spilled, could have led to family disgrace. The turmoil ended quietly in a doctor's office... Today, Louise McIntosh is Representative Louise M. Slaughter, Democrat of New York. At 80, she is co-chairwoman of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus - a member of what Nancy Keenan, president of Naral Pro-Choice America, calls "the menopausal militia."

This so-called militia, and the wider "abortion rights movement," according to Stolberg, has been " turn inward, raising questions about how to carry their agenda forward in a complex, 21st-century world." The reason: "a generational divide - not because younger women are any less supportive of abortion rights than their elders, but because their frame of reference is different."

The correspondent continued that "[p]olls over the last two decades have shown that a clear majority of Americans support the right to abortion, and there's little evidence of a difference between those over 30 and under 30, but the vocabulary of the debate has shifted with the political culture."

Actually, contrary to Stolberg's assertion, polls from recent years has pointed to a substantive gap between the generations over the abortion issue. Earlier in 2009, Pew Research found wider support among the 50-64 group (58%) than in the 18-29 group (52%). Another poll, conducted by Harris Interactive in August 2007, found that 45% of those in the 18-30 group supported "abortion rights," versus 55% in the 31-42 (Generation X) group, and 54% amongst Baby Boomers (the poll also found declining support for abortion in all demographics). The 2006 General Social Survey, asking a more specific question (support for abortion for any reason), found 36.2% support in the 18-30 age group, versus 39.7% in the 31-44 demographic and 43.7% in the 45-64 group.

Stolberg quoted extensively from two liberals - Anna Greenberg, a Democratic pollster, and the aforementioned Nancy Keenan. She included only one quote from a pro-lifer, Charmaine Yoest of Americans United for Life. Stolberg also highlighted the efforts of two other pro-abortion women- Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Serena Freewomyn (yes, that's her actual name):

That is not to say all younger women are indifferent. Serena Freewomyn (a name she adopted to reflect the idea that "I don't belong to any man") is a 27-year-old administrative assistant at an H.I.V. service provider in Tucson who was inspired, she said, by reading "The War on Choice" by Gloria Feldt. When George Tiller, a doctor in Kansas who performed abortions, was killed in May, she started a blog, Feminists for Choice.

"I think that a lot of younger women do take for granted the fact that they've come of age in a time of post-Roe v. Wade, where they have access to lots of different birth control options," Ms. Freewomyn said. "But I don't think it's fair to say younger women are not engaged; I think younger women are mobilizing in different ways than what people in current leadership positions are used to."


Ms. Wasserman Schultz sees the debate as a chance to rouse women of all generations, and Ms. Slaughter warns that if Mr. Obama signs a bill including the amendment, it will be challenged in court. She says she has worried for years about what would happen "when my generation was gone."

- Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center.