Sisterhood Blog

An Intergenerational Battle Over Abortion

By Sarah Seltzer

  • Print
  • Share Share

As we anticipate the possible Supreme Court nomination of Elena Kagan — she is Jewish, pro-choice and said to be on Obama’s short-list — pro-choice activists are preparing themselves for a tough, abortion-focused confirmation process, no matter who is nominated.

Meanwhile, a recent Newsweek article has generated heated online debate, by positing that there’s an “intensity gap” between young women in favor of abortion rights and their elders, whose activism was forged during the pre-Roe era. Not only that, but young pro-choicers are far less motivated than their anti-abortion counterparts, according to new data from NARAL Pro-Choice America. The NARAL survey of young people found that ” the millennials surveyed didn’t view abortion as an imperiled right in need of defenders. “

For young self-identified feminists, the reaction to the article was “not again.” For years, young feminists have taken to blogs to write about feeling ignored, counted out or lumped in with the apathetic masses by their elders.

Salon’s Rebecca Traister described sitting next to a devoted, 22-year-old activist at a NARAL meeting after a similarly veined castigation:

This young woman looked like she wanted to bang her head against the table, not with the embarrassment she was apparently supposed to feel on behalf of her own wifty generation, but with fury at how invisible she and her peers were to the organization she had given up her day to volunteer for.

Ultimately, neither NARAL’s official hand-wringing nor the upset, younger women who object to the said hand-wringing are entirely wrong. While there is a flourishing movement of young women who are well aware that those rights have been siphoned away by restrictions, many of the young women who are uninvolved with this fight may not be aware of said siphoning.

Another aspect to this data that a wise feminist pointed out to me is that NARAL surveyed young people, including men. It’s no surprise that young men who genuinely believe it’s none of their business what women do with their pregnancies might not be running around waving banners for the cause (while conversely, young men in the other camp who do want to exert influence on women might be more willing to be anti-abortion activists).

The trick is for older activists to acknowledge the role their younger counterparts can play in reducing apathy and reaching out to their age and peer group. The success of Feministing.com and its ilk prove that there is a potential, growing audience of young women for this stuff. If the institutional and political heft of the big organizations could harness the enthusiasm and savvy of younger activists, instead of pretending everyone under 30 doesn’t care, we might be able to make some inroads into the vast middle who think abortion should be legal, but don’t much care one way or another.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Abortion, Elena Kagan, NARAL, Pro-Choice

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.