Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Molly Yard, RIP

Former National Organization for Women President, Molly Yard, has died at the age of 93. The link provided relates an interesting irony. Yard always claimed that she was "born a feminist" because her birth (as the third of four daughters in Shanghai, China to missionary parents), was greeted by the family’s Chinese friends with a gift of a beautiful brass bowl to ease the pain of having yet another daughter. Yard, rightly, took offense at that. But she went on to devote much of her life to working for abortion rights (leading the fight against Robert Bork’s nomination to the Supreme Court). One can’t help but wonder what strange Orwellian logic leads a person who very easily might have been the victim of abortion because of her sex support radical abortion rights and then claim to be a champion of women.

Discussions - 13 Comments

Julie- Can you explain how Molly Yard might have been the victim of abortion because of her sex 93 years ago?

93 years ago in China, female children were commonly exposed immediately after birth, as identifying the gender of the unborn child would have been impossible. A common practice of Christian missionaries was to walk around the periphery of villages looking for abandoned babies to adopt themselves, place in orphanages, or send abroad. Julie’s point is that, had the technology we "enjoy" now existed then, this technology - in combination with the mores of the day - could have ended Yard’s life before it began. The sex ratio of men to women in modern China and the struggle of even financially well-off men to find wives because of the combination of China’s one child policy and the cultural preference for males proves Julie’s point.

Exposing infants also happened in Sparta and Rome. Tacitus (I believe in his Histories recounting the rule of Vespasian) ridicules the Jews because their law did not allow fathers to expose infants and kill them if they wished. I can find the passage if anyone wishes to read it. I think it is one of the best windows in the pagan mindset (at least the Roman pagan mindset) we have.

Might it not be said that Ms. Yard was being insensitive to foreign cultures? How dare she impose her Western, Eurocentric values on others, that bloody imperialist!

Even to this day, the best predictor of female infanticide is the "usefulness" of women in society. Where urbanization, female employment, and services predominate the sex ratio is closest to normal. The "pagan" mindset was practical; much depends on the economic valuation of the two sexes.

Good question, Ben. Don’t hold your breath for a response, though.

Thanks, Chris. I didn’t even see her lips move (comment #2). Did you? That takes practice!

The problem with Julie’s argument, obviously, is that 93 years ago there was no way of telling the sex of a child before birth--thus it couldn’t be a factor in deciding on whether or not to abort. It is certainly the case that girls in China are far more likely to be victims of infanticide (or simple child abandonment) than are boys--it was the case 93 years ago, and it remains the case today. However, I don’t recall ever hearing Molly Yard defend either infanticide or child abandonment.

Thank YOU, John! Another problem with her argument (the "Orwellian logic" part), is that women continue to be more likely than men to have unwanted pregnancies due to rape, or insufficient education and social support, or due to religious indoctination, or unprotected sex with boys and men (including husbands)who won’t take "no" for an answer. They are more likely to be killed or harmed when they pursue "black market" abortions, and they are more likely than the fathers to be stigmatized when they go through with a pregnancy, more likely than fathers to be harmed during the course of a full-term pregnancy. They are more likely than the fathers in single-parent situations to be stuck with below-average income, and the stigma and challenge of welfare.

Yet, they are much LESS likely to directly influence and carry out the laws that dictate what they can and cannot do with their bodies.

If Julie ever recovers her ability to write, then maybe she could at least acknowledge that the issue of abortion is a difficult, complex one, and not a simple "talking point."

Although my point was not a literal one (it is also important to note that Yard’s Christian parents did not share the barbaric viewpoint of their Chinese friends and thus, would not have aborted her) it stands as a hypothetical. Further, just because the technology to determine the sex of a child did not exist 93 years ago, this did not stop people from thinking they could do it. As anyone who has ever been pregnant can tell you, people have always had all kinds of old wives tales for determining the sex of a child. Among the Chinese there are even some pretty complex methods that turn out to be more accurate than most (of the old wives tales, not technology). I have no doubt that in the China of 93 years ago, people aborted children they believed to be female. But again, that is not my real point. My point is that it is odd that Yard’s feminism came from a place in her soul that decried an undervaluing of the female, and yet her own work did much to support that undervaluing.

The point Ben makes about the complexity of the abortion issue, is really just a commentary on the complexity of sex and sex differences. I agree with Ben about the potential for serious difficulties that face women. We disagree on the way these complexities should be approached. I argue that his way has been tried and failed miserably. That is why it is so crucial to educate women about the dangers of the prevailing attitudes about sex, morality and gender roles.

Thank you, Julie! I appreciate your point, and I agree that education is extremely important.

Though you emphasize that it is not your most important point, I would guess (and we probably MUST guess) that you are wrong about abortion based on folk wisdom. My thinking is this: If there was even a small chance the baby would be a boy, there was not much to be gained by abortion.

Ben, I’m not going to look it up (because I’m fairly certain that my suspicions are correct and abortions did occur when people thought they were having girls), but if you’re that curious, I’d start by looking at Steve Mosher’s work on China. I’m sure he must have written about it. Curious, though, why you say nothing about the larger point that abortion and the attitudes that support it hurt rather than help women.

Julie- I gathered by your tone that we agreed to disagree about that. I don’t think we are going to change each others’ minds about it. I don’t mind a good argument, but I thought that I read in your response a flag of truce about the main issue.

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