Time For The “Pro-Life” Movement To Answer For Its Hypocrisies

Love the fetus, hate the child.

Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the March for Life on the National Mall in Washington, Friday, Jan. 27, 2017. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

The same day that President Donald Trump gave a speech endorsing the “March for Life”—an annual celebration of the anti-abortion movement, named under the pretense that abortion opponents care about children’s lives—the government shut down over the Republican Party’s disdain for low-income and undocumented children.

Editorializing a bit? Maybe. But let’s take a look at the facts.

Prior to the shutdown, Republican Congress members attempted to use the Children’s Health Insurance Program as a bargaining chip to try to pass a budget bill that lacked support for undocumented minors. In essence, it reduced the 9 million low-income children who rely on CHIP for health care to bargaining chips, in an attempt to force Democrats to either give up on DACA or appear to be the ones responsible for poor children losing coverage. The reality is that CHIP expired three months ago because of Republican inaction, and in spite of vocal objections from leading Democrats.

All while “pro-life” people united and marched on Friday, rallying in support of our president, vice president, and self-identified “pro-life” Congressional leaders, not a word was said about CHIP, and how children—born, living children—could die because of political games. For all the talk of family values, there wasn’t a single word said of the thousands of immigrant families who could be torn apart because of the staunch xenophobia of Republican leadership, and their unwillingness to make a basic compromise.

When it comes to the transparent hypocrisy of this movement, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The March for Life is predicated on the anti-abortion movement’s supposed love for children; this is evident in their language that “life begins at conception,” and their habit of humanizing fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses by unilaterally equating them to babies in contradiction with basic science. And in the same breath that this rhetoric humanizes fetuses, it strips away the humanity of pregnant women, portraying them not as human beings but as mere vessels.

Oklahoma state Rep. Justin Humphrey put it best—or, at least, most clearly—last year, when he justified a bill requiring women to obtain permission from their male partners to have an abortion by telling women that while “they feel like that is their body,” it’s really not because “you’re a host.” And indeed, this sentiment underlies every policy stance of anti-abortion lawmakers and activists, that women’s bodies are not their own. That women’s lives are so valueless, it’s not even worth considering how the dangers, traumas and humiliations of being forced to give birth would affect them.

The self-titled “pro-life” movement has never been about life—not about the lives of low-income, immigrant and minority children “pro-life” politicians have been either ignoring or outright targeting for generations, and certainly not about the women their policies humiliate, dehumanize, and sometimes even kill. It’s time to make the anti-abortion movement answer for its hypocrisies, and face every child, every living human they’ve hurt.

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What Real Children Face, While The “Pro-Life” Movement Says Nothing

Godizlle Jackson, 7, holds up a sign at a 2015 protest marking the first anniversary of the switch to Flint River water (Sam Owens/The Flint Journal-MLive.com/AP)

The popular “feminist” case for the “pro-life” movement is predicated on the statement that women deserve better. Of course, the movement’s opposition to organizations like Planned Parenthood, a key provider of the very resources that could spare women of the often terrifying experience of an unwanted pregnancy, is another story altogether. But here’s a question: That being said, if the “pro-life” movement thinks women “deserve better,” then what does it think children deserve?

It’s no secret abortion is a polarizing issue for conservatives. Where Democratic leadership is increasingly trying to distance the party from a conversation about the issue, the Republican Party increasingly seems to center around it. No matter how a politician’s platform affects the experiences of living, born children, if they oppose abortion, “pro-life” activists wholeheartedly embrace them.

The dismissal and politicization of CHIP, as well as the inhumane destruction of undocumented families, are far from the only policy decisions—overseen by Republican Congress members adored by abortion opponents—that expose how little the movement cares about actual children.

Republicans’ militant attacks on the Affordable Care Act, which, objectively speaking could have led to the deaths of thousands of American adults and children, and passage of a tax bill that will derail the health care market and devastate low-income families, are far from the most extreme examples of how those who claim to value life are actually attacking it.

The people who run for election promising to bring back family values are the same people who routinely portray families fleeing from terrorism in Syria as terrorists. They’re the same people who turn away children from nonwhite countries displaced by war, who fight to send female refugees fleeing domestic abuse back to their abusers.

The people who claim abortion is the murder of innocent children are the same people who have yet to—and probably never will—say Tamir Rice’s name, and acknowledge the story of a 12-year-old boy who was executed by police for the crime of holding a toy gun while having black skin in 2014. They will never say Mike Brown’s name, Trayvon Martin’s name, nor that of any unarmed black teenager whose future was stolen by racist policing. The people who claim abortion is an act of violence are the same people who will never acknowledge the reality that thousands of disproportionately black lives are lost to police violence every year.

The people who take action and make laws to prevent the oh-so-tragic loss of fertilized eggs and fetuses are the same people who did nothing in the wake of Sandy Hook, a brutal massacre of innocent children due to gun violence. Where abortion opponents have passed hundreds of restrictions on abortion in the last five years alone, when it comes to gun violence, which research has shown disproportionately targets children, thoughts and prayers are sufficient. The numbers show that gun control would be a life-saver for children. But the lawmakers who identify as “pro-life” are the same lawmakers who have rendered the passage of basic, common sense laws impossible.

And all while claiming abortion takes innocent lives, abortion opponents are silent on the United States’ shameful maternal mortality rates, which surpass those of any other industrialized nation, and, objectively speaking, are a consequence of abortion restrictions. While chanting “all lives matter,” abortion opponents have yet to lift a finger to address how black women are 243 percent more likely than white women to die of pregnancy or birth-related causes.

In the vein of doing nothing to save lives, when was the last time you heard an anti-abortion lawmaker talk about Flint, Michigan, and its predominantly black children who will suffer for generations from poisoned water? Its women who suffer from miscarriages from being forced to endure its undignified living standards? Gov. Rick Snyder, who provably was aware of Flint’s poisoned water for years before the preventable tragedy became known to the public, is “pro-life”—so “pro-life” he wants abortion to be criminalized—and so his hand in the devastation of a majority black community is overlooked.

And when have you ever heard an anti-abortion lawmaker comment on the living standards of incarcerated pregnant women, who suffer from staggering rates of miscarriage due to poor treatment, or are shackled while giving birth?

On Friday, while preaching of the importance or protecting children in honor of the March for Life, President Trump had nothing to say about the trans children in schools across the country who will face threats and harassment just to use the right bathroom, whose experiences will fall on deaf ears in the Office of Civil Rights and Department of Justice, in both cases due to his administration’s determination to encode homophobia and transphobia into the law of the land.

Try to name one anti-abortion lawmaker who’s acknowledged any of this—go on; I’ll wait.

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The Willful Suspension Of Disbelief

Donald Trump speaks during a church service at Great Faith Ministries, Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Those aren’t the only truths the March for Life refuses to acknowledge.

Let’s go back, momentarily, to the humanization of fetuses and the motivation behind this. In doing so, the March for Life is able to capitalize on blistering rhetorical power, allowing them to portray the act of abortion, not as a woman making autonomously making a bodily decision, or having a simple, legal medical procedure, but as murder. The act of murder, especially upon what they view as a child, is so appalling it blinds them to all the aforementioned abuses born, living children suffer from.

And they rely on this narrative because, frankly, it’s their only claim to legitimacy.

They can hardly cite science, which has wholly and objectively disproven the idea, of personhood beginning at conception, or fetuses can feel pain. They can hardly cite public health, which shows restrictions on abortion are tied to higher maternal death rates, and increased use of unsafe, dangerous methods of termination; rather than decrease abortion rates, restrictions merely reduce safe abortion rates. And, in the biggest blow to anti-abortion lawmakers and activists who often simultaneously claim to be fiscally conservative, limited access to reproductive health care including abortion not only economically disenfranchises women but also sets back government spending with more child births low-income families can’t afford. A society without safe, legal abortion is an illogical one, an inhumane one, and yes, a fiscally inefficient one.

With every reason-based source of legitimacy giving credence to legal abortion, emotional manipulation is the only tool the March for Life’s organizers have, so they use it—and they use it with a vengeance.

In his Friday morning remarks, President Trump claimed that “in a number of states, the laws allow a baby to be [torn] from his or her mother’s womb in the ninth month. It is wrong; it has to change.”

The quote exemplifies the extent to which “pro-life” supporters rely on graphic, inflammatory and deeply misleading language to try and make points. For starters, abortions don’t take place past the point of fetal viability, which is often reached somewhere between 22 to 26 weeks, and 91 percent of them take place in the first trimester, while those taking place later are often due to severe health risks. But it seems frustratingly purposeless to explain this to anyone who truly believes abortion is the act Trump described.

The March for Life and its persistent sense of moral superiority—despite all the women, all the children, all the born, living people they’ve hurt—are enabled by their world of alternative facts, one that tunes out all reason, and one that will forever shield them from confronting their own hypocrisy.

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Can Someone Be “Pro-Life” And Feminist?

At about this time last year, the March for Life’s organizers had a lot to say about hypocrisy—but not theirs. In the wake of the Women’s March, an epic, history-making demonstration of feminist solidarity in the Trump era, female abortion opponents voiced their frustrations with being excluded, not only from the march but also from the feminist movement at large.

And in the vein of having a construction conversation about hypocrisy, abortion and feminism, it’s worth entertaining.

The March for Life centers itself around a militant love for children—a hypocrisy the bulk of this article was dedicated to dismantling. But as demonstrated by its complicity in the suffering of born, real children across the country and around the world this love is nothing but shallow rhetoric and deep cruelty. The real pillar of the March for Life is as simple as this: a hatred of female decision-making and female sexuality.

Fundamentally, it’s a movement that says women are either unworthy of or too incompetent to have decision-making rights over their body. To oppose abortion rights laws is to assert that your personal values are a higher priority than a woman’s bodily autonomy, that women everywhere must be subjected to the decisions of predominantly male lawmakers. The common response to this, of course, is that women can still make choices in the absence of legal abortion—they can choose birth control or not to have sex.

But here’s the thing about “choosing birth control.” For starters, abortion opponents attack access to that, too, with policy decisions like President Trump’s repeal of the contraceptive mandate, through which over 1.5 million women could access co-pay-free birth control, as well as consistent attacks on Planned Parenthood—a sole provider of family planning resources—by just about every single anti-choice politician in the country. On top of that, the majority of women who have abortions conceived while using some form of contraception. There’s only so many biological factors women have the power to account for.

And while a majority of abortions emerge from cases in which contraception was involved, those who became pregnant through not using contraception may not have been actively making a choice not to use birth control. That is, while access to sexual health education that teaches people how to practice safe sex should be a right for all, in many less affluent communities lacking women’s health clinics or unbiased curriculum in public schools, this is often a privilege.

And as for the suggestion that women can make the “choice” to simply not have sex, here’s a thought: Maybe your concerns with abortion are less about saving children’s lives, and more about controlling women by bending the law to restrain them to patriarchal customs, and strip them of decision-making power. That doesn’t exactly scream “feminist” to me.

And as for those who believe someone’s feelings about abortion are irrelevant to their feelings about women, abortion isn’t some peripheral side issue in women’s lives. Almost three in 10 women will have an abortion before turning 45—as a demographic, women are tremendously impacted by the laws and stigma around the procedure.

Abortion politics are complicated, but feminism is not: If you think the government has the authority to force a woman to give birth, you are not a member of the movement.

The hypocrisy we see in the “pro-life” movement’s premise of cherishing children is neither accident nor coincidence—as we see in the movement’s convoluted claims to better serve women than the pro-choice agenda, all while simultaneously reducing women to second-class citizens—hypocrisy is the movement’s ultimate foundation.

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