I would like to thank Donald Trump. While his race to the White House requires the collapse of civil discourse and rewards breaking what had been seen to be the limits of polite speech, he has, at least, revealed a LIE long told by the anti-abortion/”pro-life” movement.
On March 30, he said that if abortion were illegal that women who get abortions should “some sort of punishment“. He then went on to say that the doctors who provide the abortions should be the ones to face punishment.
If you know me at all, you will not be surprised to discover I started screaming and swearing at my computer as I read the news. (If you don’t know me, you can read some of my thoughts about abortion here.)
What surprised me yesterday was when the “pro-life” movement spoke up to condemn Trump’s statement. NPR interviewed Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony List.
“The aims of the pro-life movement are focused on the woman and the child, and to take them together, to preserve both, is what it’s been from the beginning….The pro-life movement has never, for very good reason, promoted the idea we punish the women.”
I was flabbergasted to hear her say that. Because in practice, the pro-life movement entirely punishes women, and even endangers their lives. When you call women (and their doctors) ‘baby killers’, what else could be the appropriate response but punishment?
Whenever another pro-life supporter bombs a Planned Parenthood Clinic or goes in and opens fire on whoever happens to be in the building, the “pro-life” movement decries the actions, and blames them on deranged individuals, all while ignoring that their own rhetoric is what fanned the fire and convinced them they were on a holy cause when they kill people in the name of “pro-life’.
You cannot use rhetoric of “murder” and “baby killer” and then claim you have never promoted the idea women should be punished for seeking abortions.
Ms. Dannenfelser went on to quote Susan B Anthony’s line “thrice guilty is the one who drove her to the deed” and say that doctors who provide abortion should be punished. “Indeed”, she said, when asked.
Here are signs people held outside the funeral of George Tiller, a doctor who was murdered for providing a legal medical procedure to women.
So, apparently, signs like this are okay to the “pro-life” movement leadership, happy to talk about the idea of ‘abortionists’ (or doctors, as the rest of us call them) being punished.
My real complaint about the statements Ms. Dannenfelser made, and the beliefs that undergird the “pro-life” movement is their insistence that they know what is best for each women.
Ms. Dannenfelser said, “if those children are allowed to live, and a woman is in need of help, there are hundreds of pregnancy care centers across the country, millions of people ready to come to her aid.”
I have so many problems with her statement. First, it is absolutely not true. We are not ready to come to the aid of women or the children the ‘pro-life’ movement wants them to bear.
As a nation, we refuse to support living wages for low income workers.
We refuse to fund early childhood education centers and pre-school programs.
We refuse to pass meaningful gun violence reduction legislation.
We refuse to offer affordable contraception to women and we continue to moralize about women’s sexual behavior.
We refuse to extend health care to people in the Medicaid gap (at least here in Idaho) and there are continued attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which has attempted to provide health coverage to more Americans, including, presumably, these women the “pro-life” movement are ready to help.
We continue to judge women who are poor, on governmental assistance programs, homeless, unmarried, addicted to drugs, etc all while we vote against funding the programs that could help them rise above their difficulties. We absolutely do not have ‘millions of people ready to come to her aid’. We have elected people who have campaigned exactly on shutting down any possible aid we might be able to offer her.
Additionally, it is patronizing to believe the women seeking abortions would make different decisions if they knew that there were ‘millions of people ready to come to her aid’. Abortion existed long before Roe vs. Wade made it legal to seek a safe and medically supervised abortion. And abortion exists because women need to make their own, best decisions about whether or not she can carry a pregnancy to term at that particular moment in her life.
Making abortion illegal will not change that.
If we are serious that we don’t want to punish women or their doctors, stop trying to make abortion illegal. Start trying to make lives better and give women more options, more support, more hope.
At the very least, change your signs outside Planned Parenthood clinics so they no longer read “baby killer” and “abortion is murder”, and have them read things like “we’ll pay your medical bills” or “we won’t call you ‘slut’ if you carry your pregnancy to term”. That would be a good start.
We’re already punishing women. Trump is not fit to be President, but at least he has said out loud what the pro-life movement has been promoting in the shadows. It’s time to stop punishing women. Now.