What matters more: that the other side is wrong, or that they’re hypocrites?
If one watches the forced birth / “pro-life” talking heads long enough, one starts to notice something a little strange.
Get them on the subject of women seeking out and receiving medical procedures, and they bray and stamp about “unborn children” and the horror that such sacrosanct beings are being killed for something so prosaic as parasitizing a woman’s body against her will.
Which is kind of odd, since contraceptive availability is the most effective prophylactic against abortions at the societal level. One would think that the “pro-life” crowd would be the most obsessively enthusiastic promoters of birth control by far, dumping truckloads of condoms and pamphlets about pills and IUDs everywhere they imagine semen might encounter a cervix to make absolutely sure that every zygote that comes to be does so intentionally.
But that’s not what we get.
One would imagine that people who define themselves by wanting to reduce the number of embryos that aren’t brought to term would be passionate opponents of rape, harping on consent and demanding that rapists be prosecuted aggressively in the name of making every fetus wanted.
But that’s not what we get.
One would imagine that people who want to restrict women’s bodily autonomy in the name of protecting children would want to make the world a more welcoming place for children, by advocating for healthcare availability, child-care services, maternity and paternity leave, assistance for low-income households with children, and funding for education at all levels.
We get the exact opposite of that. We get “pro-life” speakers and politicians who demonize contraception with the same energy that they point at something they wrongly assert is the same as murder. We get politicians who rail against comprehensive sexual education that would help people avoid making unwanted fetuses. We get religious leaders who encourage women to marry as young as possible so that their sex can have their god’s imprimatur. We get people who think that sexually transmitted infections are God’s wrath and vaccines against them are sacrilege.
We get clergy who promote the idea that women who assent to unmarried sex are shameful sluts and harlots who have “defiled” and “disrespected” themselves. We get loud, politically powerful cults that encourage their daughters to get married as young as possible and sometimes even pick their husbands for them, and tell them that objecting to any of this is a condemnation to eternal torment. We get schools of law that hold that a marriage contract is a writ of consent to any and every sexual urge a woman’s husband might ever have and that it’s not possible for him to rape her no matter what he does or what she wants or doesn’t want. For she is an unclean, sinful monster if she assents to sex before she’s married or if she is raped (for bringing it on herself, clearly) and no longer has the option to not assent after she is married.
We get a media establishment and legal system that spend exorbitant amounts of time telling men that they can rape whoever they want if they say that the victim inflamed their lust by dressing “provocatively” or wearing makeup or being out at night or drinking or not being a virgin at the time. We get public figures and online “rights” movements that maintain that most women who report rapes are lying about consensual encounters. We get military procedures that tell women who are under sexual attack to lie back and take itto avoid injury. We get cases where a rapist can sue to try to stop his victim from getting an abortion and, failing that, can sue for joint custody of the resulting child.
All by itself, one could almost find something laudable in the “pro-life” stance, framed as trying to protect “children” from harm.
But that’s not what we get. Instead, a very different picture emerges. They are not pro-life. They are pro-forced birth.
The anti-abortion position is part of a spectrum of stances that, all together, point at a movement that could not possibly care less about children. They don’t care about preventing unwanted pregnancy, or making sure that every fetus is a wanted fetus. No, they have a different agenda.
The anti-abortion position seeks a world where a uterus-bearer has no say in whether they give birth after they get pregnant, no say in whether they get pregnant after they have sex, and no say in when they have sex.
The anti-abortion fantasy is a world where women have no sexual agency whatsoever, and every part of a woman’s biology is given over to the task of carrying and bearing children. But not her children—his. Nothing is hers—not her body, not her mind, not her life. Nothing but the burden of carrying out the sexual and reproductive will of those who would look upon her with desire.
The anti-abortion vision is a world of men and ambulatory uteruses to be acquired and put to use.
It is in this context, and this context only, that the pro-forced-birth position makes sense. These are their objectives. Only when the whole package is viewed at once does the true picture emerge.
It’s not about fetuses, not about babies, not about death or murder or morality.
It’s about destroying the very idea that women have a place in this world that isn’t on the shelf next to the other appliances.
It’s about destroying the idea that women are people.
Social justice issues often suffer from a crisis of framing. Whether it’s “welfare queens” versus “working poor,” “lazy Injuns” versus “colonialism,” or “special rights” versus “marriage equality,” how an issue is presented has massive effects on the perception of what’s at stake, and what the people on each side are actually trying to achieve. Perhaps nowhere is this more visible than in the battle over abortion rights. While advocates for marriage equality have largely succeeded in making sure the public understands that the fight is for marriage equality, and that what’s at stake is increasingly out-of-touch religious groups’ influence on American politics and people’s right to visit their loved ones in hospitals, too many people have seriously borked ideas of what the abortion debate is about.
And it’s about all those things…just not in the way that most of those people think it is.
What it absolutely, utterly, unequivocally, ineffably, undeniably, explicitly, and totally is NOT about is “life.”