One of the most frustrating parts of dealing with the modern conservative movement is their incredibly practiced disingenuousness. From a bunch of white people denying racism while pushing racist policies to a bunch of straight people claiming that they want to ban gay marriage not because they hate gays, but because they love “traditional marriage,” the constant pose of the modern right winger is one of bad faith.
Nowhere is this more true than when it comes to the anti-choice movement. Despite arsons, vandalism and occasional assassinations, anti-choice activists demand the right to label their movement “non-violent.” And despite the fact that the movement is organized by religious people whose religion teaches that women should be constrained to traditional gender roles and that sex outside of marriage (or for pleasure instead of procreation) is wrong, anti-choicers cry foul if you suggest that their activism against women’s liberation or sexual freedom somehow is rooted in opposition to women’s liberation or hostility to sex.
All this means that liberals have to spend a lot of time collecting evidence that conservatives are arguing in bad faith. Some times that takes the form of catching them in moments of honesty when they’re only speaking to their fellow travelers, and their relaxed state allows racist or sexist language to fly. And some times that means proving that it’s literally impossible for someone who claims to be accepting of liberal value like anti-sexism or anti-racism to hold the views that conservatives do.
That’s what the recent study where researchers compiled national statistics on abortion and childbirth and found that childbirth is 14 times more dangerous than abortion. This is common information that’s been known a long time. Obviously, the point of the study was not to position abortion as the preferable choice to childbirth in every case. As Amanda Hess argues, this is about showing what big, fat liars anti-choicers are. Anti-choicers disingenuously claim that their support for TRAP laws is rooted in concern for women’s health, and they paint abortion as an incredibly dangerous procedure to justify themselves. But in reality, if they got rid of safe, legal abortion, that would mean more women dying, just from sheer number-crunching on childbirth vs. abortion. And that’s not even counting the rapid escalation in maternal mortality that occurs when safe, legal abortion is illegal or unavailable because of women trying to abort at home.
Sex. Abortion. Parenthood. Power.
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As Robin Marty found, anti-choice activists don’t give up their lies so readily, of course. She collected an article from Catholic Culture that basically said, “Nuh-uh,” and tried to deflect being called out for one lie with another, this time falsely insinuating that abortion causes mental illness and breast cancer. Both of these claims have been thoroughly debunked by science. That anti-choicers would so readily lie about science shouldn’t be surprising; modern conservatism is hostile to the truth overall, but science’s ability to get the facts straight is something conservatives has been increasingly revolting against, whether it’s with regards to evolution, global warming, or in this case, abortion.
When presented with irrefutable evidence that their supposed concern for women’s health is a big, fat lie, your average anti-choicer starts to deflect and start talking about the fetus. While pro-choicers don’t recognize fetuses as having greater rights to a woman’s body than she has, it’s worth noting that anti-choicers are also arguing in bad faith when they hide behind their supposed concern for the fetus. Genuine hostility to abortion because of the fetus would result in wanting to take effective action to lower the abortion rate. That would mean not banning abortion, since abortion rates are generally higher where abortion is illegal. That would mean advocating for comprehensive sex education and contraception, both of which prevent unintended pregnancy and therefore abortion. That would mean no more looking at Western Europe, with its relatively low abortion rates, and claiming we want to be nothing like them. Anti-choicers do the opposite of all these things, and have a special fondness for trying to raise the abortion rate by reducing contraception access, as demonstrated by the attacks on federal subsidies for contraception that nearly shut down the federal government last year.
So, anti-choicers don’t care about women and they don’t really care about fetuses. You can add “children” to that list, as well, since most women getting abortions do so in part so that they can provide for the children they already have or wait to have children until they’re better able to care for them. So what do anti-choicers care about? Well, it’s not exactly men as human beings, because many men support legal abortion and make the decision to abort with their partners. But anti-choicers do care very much for traditional gender roles, and shoving men and women into them whether we like it or not. They see forced birth as an excellent weapon in the war on fading gender norms and increasing freedom for both men and women to do what we like instead of follow some gender script.
Anti-choicers often paint vivid fantasies of forced childbirth causing young couples to eschew single life and to get married, so that they stop making anti-choicers jealous with their youth and relative freedom to sleep around and experiment before settling down. Sure, forced childbirth often doesn’t work out how they imagine things should go, shotgun wedding-style. Some women are abandoned by their partners, and some women are so hostile to marrying their partners that they end up as single mothers. Many shotgun weddings result in unhappy marriages that end in divorce. But while these are less than ideal outcomes, they don’t particularly bother the average anti-choicer, who views them as your just punishment for having sex outside of their narrow prescriptions.
Just don’t believe the feigned concern for women or children. When you look at what anti-choicers do rather than what they say, it becomes clearl that when it comes to actual people, the anti-choice movement doesn’t give a hoot.