Concerned Women for America’s Condescending Treatment of Our Female Troops

Concerned Women for America sent out a letter protesting abortion coverage for raped service women. In their estimation, since you can't go back in time and un-rape the victim, there's no reason to offer post-rape care to mitigate the damage.

See all our coverage of the Shaheen Amendment here.  To tell Concerned Women of America that our female troops are adults who can decide for themselves what is best for them, see this piece by Vicki Saporta of the National Abortion Federation.

Concerned Women for America (CWA) revealed exactly how little concern they have for actual women, much less for America, this week when they sent out a letter attacking women who defend our country for having the nerve to believe they deserve full medical care after being raped. The mind-bogglingly vicious swipe at female soldiers had a couple of doozies, including the claim that allowing raped service members to access abortion “serves as a political distraction” from national security, as if it’s in the interest of national security to subject raped service members to forced childbirth. CWA also pretended to care about female troops with blather describing being raped and forced to bear a rapist’s child as merely “difficult circumstances” requiring “compassion and support,” as if they themselves aren’t putting servicewomen who’ve been raped in infinitely worse circumstances by limiting their access to abortion. (Perhaps Orwell should have lived to write a book about the doublespeak of anti-choicers.)

But in a letter dripping with congratulatory faux concern and naked disregard for female service members who have been raped, the most attention-grabbing quote was this:

Women deserve better than simply being given abortion as a ‘cure-all.

It’s particularly maddening to see such naked hatred and disregard for women presented as concern, in no small part because some people will claim that they actually see this condescending faux-concern as real concern. First of all, they frame woman as mindless animals. Abortions aren’t, in CWA’s eyes, “sought” or “requested” by rape victims. Women don’t, in their eyes, have agency and therefore never make decisions for themselves about what they want. No, women are “given” abortions. Women, in their eyes, have less moral agency than my cat, who certainly has the ability they don’t ascribe to women to ask for what she wants and needs.

Beyond that is the poor logic of this quote. Let’s take their reasoning and put it into different contexts, to see how hateful it is:

  • Mugging victims deserve better than to have their wounds tended as if it were some “cure-all.”
  • Heart attack victims deserve better than simply being given Pacemakers as a “cure-all.”
  • Laid-off workers deserve better than simply being given unemployment as a “cure-all.”
  • Diabetics deserve better than to simply be given insulin as a “cure-all.”
  • Elementary school children deserve better than simply being taught to read as a “cure-all.”

Even conservatives of the most simple-minded sort can hopefully see the logic failures in these constructions, but in case it’s not obvious, let me spell it out: You can give someone help in one area without it being a “cure-all.”  Sometimes help is a complex thing, and requires many steps, and only toddlers believe that every single problem should have a simple solution enacted within 10 minutes or less. Pacemakers and insulin are not a “cure-all” for illness, but they can mitigate the damage substantially. A laid-off worker isn’t “cured” because he has unemployment, but it helps hold him over until he can find a job. Children don’t know everything they need to know if they learn to read, but learning to read is an important first step. And, in the closest analogy to what CWA is demanding, it is true that sending someone injured in a mugging to a hospital doesn’t put the mugger in jail, but only a monster would think that taking care of immediate medical needs isn’t a major priority and part of a larger constellation of responses to a crime.

Anti-choicers would have you believe that aborting a rape-caused pregnancy somehow suggests that the crime of rape isn’t being taken seriously enough. In fact, CWA says this specifically, by claiming that aborting a rape-caused pregnancy somehow stops anyone from preventing the crime, punishing rapists, and is in fact somehow a “cover-up.” By their logic, if a mugger breaks a man’s arm, the hospital shouldn’t set it, because if he heals properly, that’s “covering up” the severity of the mugging. Justice is, in this mindset, only served if the victim’s pain is maximized.

Of course, in the real world, they don’t argue that mugging victims should be deprived of medical care, so what is it about rape victims that’s so different? Why do they believe that there’s no use in minimizing the damage to a rape victim?

It’s a combination of factors. For one thing, you have the tendency of conservatives to automatically disbelieve most women who claim to be raped or sexually harassed. As the reaction to the Herman Cain situation shows, victims of sexual abuse or violence are assumed either to be lying or have brought it on themselves. Those made pregnant from the abuse, therefore, are seen as eligible for forced childbirth as punishment for their deceitful and/or slatternly ways.

Additionally, you have the purity myth in play. As defined by Jessica Valenti, the purity myth is the belief that women’s “only real worth is their virginity and ability to remain ‘pure’.”  Abstinence-only, contraception-hostile CWA are big proponents of the purity myth that reduces a woman’s value to the number of penises that have touched her vagina. Your average service woman suffering a rape has probably had consensual sex outside of marriage before, so in the eyes of CWA she was already worthless. But even if not, the rape renders her not-a-virgin by their strict accounting, terminating any moral value she has. (That they tend to believe easily that rape victims either secretly consented or brought it on themselves only makes this leap easier to make.) Unlike mugging victims, who are still seen as human beings deserving of actual care after an assault, rape victims still have the whiff of “untouchable” on them. Of course CWA sees no reason not to force them to bear a rapist’s child. Unless you can find the “cure-all” of going back in time and un-raping the victim, she has no value and deserves no real care, in their blatant estimation.

The world is watching in horror as a woman in Afghanistan who was raped was jailed for it, and is now only being set free if she promises to marry her rapist. And we should be horrified at the fundamentalist logic that erases the value of a rape victim that way. Our fundamentalists at home wouldn’t force you to marry your rapist, of course. No, they just want to force you to have children with him. Same song, different note: fundies around the world working hard to make sure that once a rapists chooses you to rape, he owns you forever.