Tuesday 18 March 2014

The fundamentally anti-women notion at the heart of anti-abortion campaigns laid bare

Content warning:  This is a post about the tactics of an anti-abortion campaign currently underway, the arguments they make, and as such will include some unpleasantness.  I'm just going to turn off comments on my posts about abortion at the moment because I don't have time to monitor a comment thread and some people won't respect the rules.  If you want to tell me something in particular as a result of this post then you can email us or tweet me @juliefairey.


I blogged last week about the paradox of Choose Life, a new campaign (launched for Lent donchaknow) aimed at pressuring and intimidating people seeking an abortion (but it's your choice, honest), and ultimately wanting to have forced pregnancies, rather than allow anyone to terminate.

Well today we have the people who are supporting this contradiction positively bragging about enabling someone to harass their pregnant partner, who was seeking an abortion at a clinic in Auckland, to the point where the police were called twice.

Let's be clear; this example shows us precisely what the opposition to abortion are all about: denying those with uteruses power over their own bodies, and encouraging those who aren't pregnant to hold sway over those who are.  Most of the time that is going to be a woman disempowered, harassed, upset, abused, and a man taking power, harassing, hectoring, abusing.  And that is fundamentally anti-women.

The 40 Days For Life crew have the gall to argue, in the above linked  post, that:

  • Men should step up and speak out about abortion, especially "post-abortive men".  First up you need to understand that "post-abortive men" are not chaps who were going to mail a letter but then decided not to.  Then you need to ignore the fact that the Go To Anti Abortion Media Commentariat in our country are (both) male (Ken Orr and Bob McCroskrie for those following along at home). Finally please do deny the really rather undeniable biological fact that if men get to decide about abortions then that would mean that in most cases the actual pregnant person doesn't get to decide about continuing their own pregnancy.  And I rather suspect that those who are anti-abortion aren't keen on giving men who do get pregnant a say either.
  • Abortion allows the objectification of women, and no doubt without it we would all be living in a feminist paradise in which women ate chocolates constantly while men served their every whim, in recognition of their divine role as wombs, or something.  I rather doubt the feminist commitment of a group whose main campaign is in favour of forced pregnancy.
  • They helped a "distraught father."  To harass a distraught, and pregnant, mother, if you follow their line of argument.  Oh good, that'll help everybody involved, except that it won't.  How about instead of saying "think about the father, think about the baby!!11!!" it was "think about that pregnant person, that human being who is likely in a tricky spot and deserves some compassion and some respect."
In the specific instance linked we don't know a whole lot about the circumstances, and what we do is based on a rather subjective source.  But statistics tell us that at least half of all terminations each year are the result of contraceptive failure.  Chances are that the harasser in this situation had sex not intending to have a child as a result, and was possibly actively involved in undertaking contraceptive efforts to ensure that.  

Even if that weren't the case he doesn't have a right to force someone else to continue a pregnancy, give birth, become a parent or expand their family further.  The conversation seems to go "If you want to go through with this pregnancy then you can do it yourself" followed by "I would if I could, but I can't, so I won't, but you should".  No one should be able to force someone to continue a pregnancy they don't want to continue; no one.  The only person who can ultimately decide whether or not to continue a pregnancy is the person who is pregnant.  They can seek advice from anyone they like, but it should be their decision.

In a culture that shames women for having sex, having bodies, having abortions, using contraception, being sexy, not being sexy, and much much more, anti-abortion campaigners actively increase the possibility that pregnancy can cause distress and mental ill health.  By praying outside clinics, displaying anti-abortion signs, encouraging people opposed to abortion (either in general or in a specific case) to pressure others, Choose Life and their ilk are intimidating and harming people who are already vulnerable.  It's hateful and cruel and I wish they would stop.