Smith at Politico wrote an article about the way that the anti-choice
movement has moved beyond fetishizing fetuses to attaching themselves to an
actual person with sentience and feelings: Trig Palin, whose mere existence has
turned Sarah Palin into an anti-choice hero, because she chose to have her baby
even when she received a Down’s diagnosis.
Indeed, it’s hard to refrain from applauding the anti-choice
movement for this brave move towards finding love in their meager hearts for an
actual person; usually, they feel safer only expressing affection for the
non-sentient, who conveniently have no feelings or thoughts that could conflict
with what the anti-choice movement wishes to project on them. However, Trig is still a baby. Perhaps as he grows older and forms
opinions of his own, the anti-choice movement will abandon him as a love
object. Too risky.
But what Ben Smith fails to note in his article describing
this rather silly Sarah-and-Trig-Palin-worship is the deep irony of it. Despite the fact that the anti-choice
movement is organized around the desire to deprive women of choice and force
them to bear children against their will, to celebrate Sarah and Trig Palin is
to celebrate choice. In the world that anti-choicers say
they want—a world where women don’t have a right to terminate a pregnancy
that’s unwanted for any reason—there would be nothing to celebrate. Without the existence of choice, there
is no reason to celebrate someone for making the choice you want him or her to
make. In order for Trig Palin to be
an object of worship, and Sarah Palin to be a childbearing hero, there has to
be a choice. Same story with all the women who die bearing children when they
didn’t have to do that become Catholic martyrs. Without access to abortion, death in childbirth is just
life, and not some sort of sacrifice to be celebrated by misogynists who see no
problem celebrating the unnecessary deaths of perfectly nice women.
It’s easy to chalk up the fact that anti-choicers overlooked
this aspect of their stupidity.
Maybe they didn’t notice that celebrating a choice a woman makes requires you to celebrate that she had a choice in the first place. But unfortunately, it’s not so
simple. While the anti-choice
movement does have its share of intelligence blunders, they actually are wise
to focus on celebrating choice in this case. It works beautifully to paint them as decent people, and to
conceal the fact that they agitate to deprive women of a basic human
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Let’s face it.
Choice is so popular that anti-choicers are pretending they invented it.
Celebrating women who make what they consider the “right”
choice is a way of using a genuinely good value—choice—to polish up their
fundamentally coercive beliefs. When anti-choicers celebrate choice, in their
disingenuous fashion, they give outsiders an easy opportunity for
sacrifice-free moral self-righteousness.
Judging other women for making choices you consider “wrong”—such as
deciding not to bear a disabled child—is an easy way to feel like a good
person without lifting a finger.
After all, you’re not actually being put to the test by being asked to
make that decision yourself. It’s
always so very easy to tell someone else they have to have a baby they don’t
feel they can raise.
But when the focus is where it belongs, which is on the
anti-choice movement’s actual policy ideas, it’s not so easy to get that moral
glow off siding with them. When
you realize that they’re not actually about celebrating choice, but depriving
women of it, then suddenly siding with them means siding with people who want
to force women to bear children against their will, force women to die in
childbirth, and create maternity homes where teenage girls are chained to
delivery tables so the child they were coerced into giving up can’t be snatched
by the desperate, sobbing mother.
And that makes you less a morally self-righteous person, and more a
misogynist monster. But it’s also
closer to the truth.
The surest evidence that we have that anti-choicers know
being anti-choice is fundamentally wrong is the way they run from their actual
beliefs, conceal them, and pretend that it’s the pro-choicers that oppose
choice. For instance, this quote
Smith runs from Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List,
on the subject of why feminists “hate” Sarah Palin.
You just can’t escape it — she
really is cut from a completely different cloth than most men, but also women,
in politics,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony
List, which supports anti-abortion candidates. “She had the audacity in the
eyes of the abortion rights world to actually have this child and then has the
audacity to bring him along with her and feature him as a centrally valued
person in their family.
Except, of course, this is a lie. As much as anti-choicers wish that pro-choicers were the
ones who demand coercion, who want to force women to make choices they’re
uncomfortable with, the proof is in the pudding, or in the policy. Pro-choice movements do not advocate
for forced abortion laws.
Pro-choicers don’t say that one should be forced to have or not to have a disabled
child against your will.
Pro-choicers don’t come out against women who have babies. Most pro-choicers will have children at
some point. Pro-choicers don’t
have an issue with Sarah Palin’s reproductive choices. We have an issue with the fact that she
doesn’t want to allow the rest of us to have those choices.
Unfortunately, the dishonest concealing of legitimate policy
differences on choice is an effective strategy at painting a smiley face on a
misogynist anti-choice movement. I
recently had a Twitter battle with an anti-choicer who refused to admit that
banning abortion would equal forced childbirth. She wanted to believe that she was for “choice”, because
“abortion is never the answer.” But what happened when I asked what she would do to a woman who had listened to her pleas to bear
a child and give it up for adoption and rejected that argument—would she
force her under threat of jail to bear the child or would she allow her the
choice to abort? She called me a
meanie. But meanie or no, the point stands: You can tell more about
anti-choicers from what policies they stand for than by their misleading,
soothing political rhetoric.