Abortion MisInformation


Most adults know that abortion brings out the worst in a small minority of troubled and mean-spirited souls. Most adults probably don’t know that some Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) have been cited for giving inaccurate information, using scare tactics and outright lies about abortion and distorting scientific data. And unless they’re tuned into all the news about reproductive rights, many may have likely missed the news in Texas. It’s one with high entertainment value for the carnivalesque atmosphere created by conservative legislators working feverishly to pass egregious laws that make access to abortion increasingly difficult. It was quite the show. Senator Wendy Davis made headlines with her 11-hour filibuster to kill the bill. In a nod to the absurd, fearing the wrath of prochoice women, state troopers confiscated tampons, maxi pads and other potential projectiles from those who are entering the Texas capitol to watch the debate and vote on a controversial anti-abortion bill. Guns, however, which are typically permitted in the state capitol, were still being allowed. In a nod to the absurdity of the Texas ban on all things menstrual, MSNBC newscaster Melissa Harris-Perry wore tampon earrings during her Sunday broadcast.

And it’s likely that most adults don’t tune into all the daily news about abortion. If they did, however, they would know about the horrific legal machinations in Kansas, definitely a 21st century witchhunt, against Dr. Ann Kristin Neuhaus. Like I said, abortion brings out the worst in people. As Amanda Marcotte wrote, To understand how dark and ugly and mean-spirited the anti-choice movement is, it helps to understand that, for anti-choicers in Kansas at least, having an opponent murdered is not enough. Now, the anti-choicers have set their targets on Dr. Neuhaus.

Slide1In May, it’s likely that most missed the action of Republican members of two congressional committees—the House Judiciary Committee and House Energy and Commerce Committee—who wrote letters to the departments of health and attorneys general in all 50 states, asking for thousands of pages of information about how each state monitors and regulates abortion. It was another witchhunt or, as Sharonna Coutts writes in RH Reality Check, a congressional fishing expedition. This time, however, the expedition was metaphorically capsized. In page after page, the states returned information that disproved their Gosnellian fears of infants being born alive after abortion. State after state returned information that demonstrated that abortion is highly regulated and safe.

I’m wondering what these Republicans will do with this information. In June, The College Republican National Committee released a report on Monday outlining the major challenges facing the GOP as it seeks to rebrand and redefine itself in the aftermath of the 2012 election. The survey criticizes the party’s singular focus on “big government” and “tax cuts” and calls on Republicans to become more tolerant and open on issues like same-sex marriage and women’s reproductive health. And guess what? From the evidence, the Republicans have largely ignored that report. I’m guessing they’ll ignore the findings from the departments of health and attorneys general as well. Facts are mere obstacles to their dogged determination to obliterate women’s constitutional right to abortion.

Screen Shot 2013-06-23 at 12.57.32 PMIt makes sense that a healthy media system, one with widespread informed public participation, would be essential to a flourishing democracy. Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism states that the “central purpose of journalism is to provide citizens with accurate and reliable information they need to function in a free society” and identified nine core principles. Among the nine principles is the obligation of loyalty to the public and the obligation to truth, both principles which seem suspect in most of mainstream journalism. Problems with loyalty to the public and variations of truths are part of our current media system and that’s not healthy. As media scholar Robert McChesney claims, our current media system is set up to maximize profit for a relative handful of large companies and not to maximize public participation. Moreover, rather than act as watchdogs, the current media system operates more like lap dogs who act primarily as megaphones of government, military and corporations. The implications of the erosion of mainstream news reporting for women’s reproductive health means that stories are told but are not interpreted, investigated or contextualized.

For example, the Republican Party platform embraces anti-abortion language with no mention of exceptions for rape or incest. Stories about their platform on abortion have been dutifully reported in the NY Times and Washington Post. Meaningful journalism would go further by illustrating how a substantial number of Republicans, working from this ideological party platform, have become overtly aggressive in their efforts to restrict access to abortion. Calling these restrictions a seismic shift, the Guttmacher Institute claims that states have become increasingly hostile to abortion rights, especially during 2011. This seismic shift in the loss of abortion rights has been and continues to be addressed and contextualized in alternate media sources such as RH Reality Check, Moyers & Company and Democracy Now while mainstream media reports stories about individual state legislation without mapping out the larger picture. What this means for the public, particularly women of reproductive age, is that they are without accurate, comprehensive and reliable information about legislative actions in their state and, thus, are unable to fully participate as first class citizens. This may seem a bit of an overstatement but consider further evidence from polls that point to general approval for legalized abortion, from GOP survey findings that complain about attacks on abortion and from the rise of the Christian right–all issues that are essentially silenced in mainstream news.

Polls Favoring Abortion

In poll after poll (such as Pew, Gallup, CNN, WSJ), the majority in the United States has consistently shown general approval for access to

Screen Shot 2013-06-23 at 1.04.16 PM abortion, yet the Republicans legislators act according to their own party wishes, disregarding the voices of those they represent. Discrete stories about support for abortion in most circumstances appear in mainstream news sources. What is missing, I argue, are stories that illustrate the complexities of abortion rather than painting it as a black and white issue.

Young People frown on GOP’s Abortion Attacks

Another bit of evidence comes from the College Republican National Committee survey of young people. Among the findings is the call for Republicans to become more tolerant and open on women’s reproductive health particularly around the definition of rape, funding for Planned Parenthood, abortion access and even contraception. The GOP’s response concerning reproductive issues was to claim victimhood by responding that they had been “painted — both by Democrats and by unhelpful voices in our own ranks — in holding the most extreme anti-abortion positions.” Forget the fact, that no one forced Republicans to attack contraception or redefine rape or cut funding to Planned Parenthood.  Essentially, they opined that they needed to avoid allowing the abortion debate to be “conflated” (as if this was something done to Republicans instead of something they openly and oftentimes eagerly do to themselves) with debates over contraception, rape and Planned Parenthood but not change its stance on the issue of abortion itself. Again, mainstream media picked up the story about the findings in the survey but took it no further. It was other sources, such as Salon, Politico, RH Reality and Huffington Post, that connected the dots for those who follow alternate news sources.

The Rise of the Christian Right within the GOP

In yet another news oversight is the rise of Christian right as a powerful voice within the Republican Party and the Party’s further shift to the right in legislating morality and legitimating its ideological myths about America. Under the influence of conservative Christians, Republicans have sought to defend a traditional concept of family through debates that opposed abortion, feminism, stem cell research and gay rights. Religion is at the heart of these debates which blurs the boundaries between separation of church and state. And, according to evangelical radio broadcasters, this boundary blurring seems to be exactly what is desired as they march toward the front line of the culture wars fighting against their perceptions of judicial tyranny that legalized abortion and outlawed school prayer.

In 1995, amidst the tumultuous events of far-right militia actions against the perceived corrupt and tyrannical federal government and the Screen Shot 2013-06-23 at 12.59.12 PManti-abortion activists’ destruction and murders against clinics and doctors, Laura Flanders, writing for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), astutely asked, “When will media see the connection?” Citing expert testimony that far-right militias and anti abortion activists were one and the same, as well as citing the 1994 Supreme Court’s agreement with pro-choice groups that anti-abortionists could legitimately be investigated for conspiracy, she argued that “the national media’s gentle handling of the anti-abortion story has amounted to a quasi-conspiracy itself” by turning a blind eye to the connections. In 2013, I would repeat Guttmacher that there has been a seismic shift away from abortion rights. The obvious lack of investigations about the actions of the far-right legislators (militia) documented attacks against a woman’s right to access abortion and other reproductive health care is more than turning a blind eye. The lack of better reporting is indicative of what Pew cites as the continued erosion of news reporting due to financial cutbacks, increased use of advertising dollars spent on digital technology, and a shift toward digital news consumption. The good news for reproductive rights is that majority of Americans have increased their news consumption after hearing about an event or issue from friends and family. Social networking is now a part of this process including sources such as Abortion.ws, RH Reality, Moyers & Company and others to provide in-depth news about reproductive health care issues.

So it seems that while mainstream news sources such as the NY Times and the Washington Post continue to report on discrete reproductive health issues, it will be up to us to connect the dots for ourselves, to act as cartographers to map the abortion landscape, and to share our work with our readers, particularly in the coming elections where we should seize opportunities to speak publicly about supporting the rights of women through political donations, petition signatures and plenty of Facebook and blog postings.

 

It’s hard to deny that we are becoming a visually mediated society. The power of visuals to (mis)inform, persuade and threaten is evident particularly when iconic photographs are considered for their power to expose the truths of local and global catastrophes, wars and social unrest. Nick Ut’s Accidental Napalm, and Kevin Carter’s Struggling Girl are images that produce certain truths but they also produce a moral conundrum. Showing these images are representations of reality but they also alienate the public. In fact, the circulation of Accidental Napalm has been considered a pivotal turning point against the horrors of Vietnam War while Struggling Girl forced the world to see the plight of the starving. More recently, Richard Drew’s September 11, 2001 Falling Man was subjected to criticism for being too offensive to publish and for revealing the immorality of the photographer and the news sources entrusted to uphold societal values. Falling Man is troubling because, while it reveals a truth about the World Trade Center attacks, it also exploits the human dignity and privacy of a man and moves us to question the propriety of such a display.  The representation of images have ethical implications in that they are a kind of truth that can be shown but can never tell the whole story. It is with this notion of  (mis)representations that I want to address three lessons about the power of visuals and recommend using visuals in a more provocative, yet enlightening campaign—as a proposal for the 21st century.

Lesson One

The first lesson addresses this tension between propriety and morality for photographers and for activists who choose to capture and use spectacular images of human beings. For example, for antiabortionists, any propriety about displaying mutilated human fetal images is easily set aside out of concern for a larger moral purpose. In fact, in the antiabortion movement, there are those who use grotesque fetal images that, while inducing both empathy and disgust, raise ethical questions about the public display of these dead bodies. Antiabortion activists promote and distribute these visual materials based on a premise that once Americans see images of abortion, they will reject abortion. And while legal debates over the right to display such images erupt on state-run university campuses, outside the walls of progressive churches and, of course, outside the perimeters of abortion clinics, the majority views these prurient displays as morally repugnant and potentially harmful to young children.

Lesson Two

GOP StupidA second lesson is drawn from campaign materials of the antiabortion activists’ use of mutilated fetuses and from the 2012 presidential election.  Both campaigns ignore an essential element—women. While Republicans fell on their collective swords with their anti abortion and rape rhetoric, the so-called prolife crowd (majority Republican) continued with their fetal fetish worship. In hindsight, the lesson is clear. Don’t ignore women and their rights.

Lesson Three

The third lesson addresses the failure of media to address some of the most fundamental and important issues that half the world’s population—women—face. Corporate media, held hostage by capitalistic greed, flourishes on a diet of sensationalism and entertainment. For example, recent news reports focused on Angelina Jolie’s mastectomies but ignored the science about environmental toxins (caused by unbridled, irresponsible industries) that are known causes of cancer. The news of her surgical decision also ignored the enormous costs of media’s relentless messages to young girls and women that their breasts are accessories for voyeuristic entertainment and men’s physical and sexual pleasure. Jolie’s story also ignores a very powerful human right—to be empowered to make a tough choice about her own body.

In another media ruckus over the accessibility of Plan B emergency contraception—political brouhaha about other-the-counter access, age limits and state-issued identification as proof of age—the stories failed to point out the cozy relationship that politics and pharmaceuticals play, failed to address the importance of emergency contraception to those who need it most, and failed to address the personal, social and economic consequences when emergency contraception isn’t available. As with Angelina Jolie’s story about making the choice to prevent cancer, the story about unfettered access to Plan B means women have the choice to prevent an unwanted pregnancy.  But corporate media seldom acknowledges a woman’s agency unless she’s a celebrity.

A Proposal

In the spirit of Jonathan Swift, I propose a 21st century campaign that speaks directly to real women’s lives—the on-the-ground reality of women as they attempt to hold up half the sky.  To begin, I suggest that legislators draft laws that require obstetricians, crisis pregnancy centers and abortion clinics recite narratives with accompanying displays of women killed by unsafe and illegal abortions, with displays of bodies that succumbed to pregnancy-related deaths, and with bodies who, devastated by post partum depression, committed suicide. While it may sound too far-fetched, consider that there are currently laws that dictate what doctors in abortion clinics tell their clients. In particular, there are numerous states that require that physicians provide specific information about fetal development, pregnancy options, abortion complications, and about voluntary, non-coercive decision making about abortion. Euphemistically called A Woman’s Right to Know, the law is the ironic work of conservative legislators—the very same conservative who cry “I don’t want big government coming in and telling me what to do with my healthcare” but actually want big government to tell doctors what they can do to women. So, the precedence is in place for legislators to continue practicing reproductive medicine without any education or without a professional license. Despite the long-standing tradition of fully accredited abortion clinics providing comprehensive counseling about pregnancy options, state legislators use their bully pulpit to impose their morality on others with these laws. What these right-to-know tactics ignore are the realities of illegal abortions and complications of pregnancy. So, it’s appropriate to suggest that legislators enact laws to more fully inform women with a new campaign.

A proposal such a mine would comb the world for images of the approximately 219 women who die worldwide each day from an unsafe abortion. With that many images of dead women, there would be plenty of material to use in pamphlets and in educational materials. Such a visual bounty would provide a deliciously, deadly assortment to post on blogs and to add to the Op Ed sections of local newspapers. As with the antiabortion activists who wear their fetal focused messages around their neck, counter protesters could sport an image of a woman in a blood-soaked bed with RoeEndWomenDyingthe words “Keep Abortion Safe” written in large letters. The thought of such a poster borders on pornographic, unethical and downright obscene. And while such a poster aligns with antiabortion impropriety, at least it’s honest in demonstrating the truth about women who want and need but cannot access safe and legal abortions. Perhaps we could further underscore the situation by showing all the children left motherless because safe abortion is not available.

At the very least, the displays should show the very real complications of illegal  abortions with up-close-and-personal representations of pelvic abscess, septicemia, lacerated cervix, perforated bowel, exsanguination, and gangrene. And should anyone charge that these images are obscene, recall that obscenity laws cover material that deals with sex in a manner appealing to prurient interest, i.e., material having a tendency to excite lustful thoughts.  A dead woman’s gangrenous bowel or an exsanguinated body certainly cannot be considered titillating. In an effort to ensure a woman’s right to know, as so many conservatives are determined to legislate, a campaign such as this would more fully inform women of all the potential harms.

Let’s face it. The antiabortion activists use fetal images, as they claim, to expose the injustice of abortion. In reality, their images are a misogynistic attempt to shame women and to alter the realities of safe abortion for religious and political dogma. On the other hand, a display of women’s mutilated and dead bodies would expose the discriminatory, immoral violations of their human rights including the dishonorable reality, specific to the United States, that

  • this nation is 19out of 134 countries in terms of gender equality
  • this nation is 50th in world for maternal health
  • 68,000 women nearly die in childbirth annually
  • 1.7 million women suffer a complication that has an adverse effect on their health
  • the annual maternal morbidity is currently between 500-600 deaths

Equally important to my proposed campaign would be evidence of the endless attack on women’s reproductive rights through targeted regulations against abortion providers, through defunding of family planning services, through state-directed funneling of monies to (mostly religiously-affiliated) crisis pregnancy centers, through imprisonment and subsequent poor treatment of pregnant women (often resulting in miscarriage, preterm delivery and poor birth outcomes including neonatal death), through the rise of sexual assaults in the military and through the silent war being waged against poor women through cuts in Medicaid for abortions, cuts in state support (food stamps and welfare ) after one year and cuts in Head Start programs. Finally, a Google map of the United States using hyperlinks could locate the draconian politicians’ current laws as well as proposed legislation to further obstruct or outlaw access to abortion and contraception. Further details of such a map should include their political party affiliation, their religious affiliations and their financial supporters (such as PACs).

Religion_PoliticsMy modest proposal would visually depict the inexcusable health and human rights violations that occur due to the corrosive effects from religion, corporate greed, politics, military and government obstructionism for women of reproductive age, particularly for the poor in urban and rural areas, for minority women, and for those with limited or no access to health care. My campaign would be a much-needed corrective for media’s drive for entertainment and sensationalism, programming that’s foisted on the public as relevant and objective.  Moreover, my proposal would illustrate the true nature of the conservative, right wing as misogynistic, anti-science, anti-medicine and anti-woman.

It’s a modest proposal that I’d like to think Jonathan Swift would admire.

NewYearResolutionFor those antiabortion trolls who blame the decline of America on homosexuals, abortion, non-believers, separation of church and state, and evolution, it’s pretty evident that it is their thinking that exemplifies what is wrong with this country. So, I think it’s time for them to change their ways. Time to make some New Year’s resolutions. After all, from the activists who troll outside abortion clinics to the charlatans begging for dollars on the Internet to fund their celebrity causes to the Mephistophelian machinations of the 1%, these whackadoodles pander to the lowest common denominator and they need to stop.  Their common practices use emotional sound bytes over science, dogma over demographic actualities, and capitalist doomsday myths over corporeal reality. So, based on their top ten lies, I offer a list of New Year’s resolutions to help them become better human beings..

Resolution #1 – I’ll stop saying God is Prolife

If you believe God is prolife, then explain how women’s bodies abort a fertilized egg, often without them even knowing? Isn’t this an event that is part of God’s plan for woman’s nature? This nonsense is like another expression–God is offended by baby-killing– because it positions their sorry buts as omniscient, which is, of course, utterly impossible. Nonetheless, here’s your first resolution. Just accept that you’re wrong about this God is prolife and other stuff. Admit that you don’t know jack.

Resolution #2 – I know this is a lie so I’ll stop saying, “Your baby loves you, wants to go to the beach, to play ball, to have a birthday.”

If you believe this, explain how a 14-week fetus communicates these desires? The fact is that you can only rely on myths and wishes, definitely not science. No fetus of any gestation can express love or wants.

Resolution #3 – I’ve said, “Real women protect their children” when I know all women are real.

If you believe this, define fake women. Explain what fake women do to their children. Tell us how you can discriminate between a fake and real woman. Are you saying that women who have abortions are fake women? If women who have had abortions are fake, why should we believe all those women who stand outside clinics saying, “I regret my abortion”? Aren’t they fake, too? So, my third resolution is to recognize that all women are real and quit using this stupid comment.

Resolution #4 – I’ll stop proclaiming “The Lord put that child there and the Lord is the only one to take that child away.”

Not true. This pregnancy is a result of sex. And, no, this pregnancy is not some divine intervention. Ah,yes, sex. So, I resolve to stop with the fairy tales about the “Mary Syndrome” of divine conception.

Resolution #5 – I know this is an egregious lie, so I’ll stop saying “Abortion is America’s Holocaust.”

If you believe this, explain how, exactly, the government is like the Nazi government in forcing abortion on women. Is the government forcing specific groups of women because of their ethnicity or religion or skin color? Further, comparing the Holocaust to abortion is blasphemous, offensive and utterly outrageous. Irin Carmon, Slate.com, writes, “It requires an unquestioning equivalence between living people systematically murdered for their ethnic, religious or sexual identity and an embryo or fetus dependent on a woman’s body for survival.” But I don’t expect those in the antiabortion industry to connect the dots, to understand this unquestioning equivalence. Resolution number five for anti abortion activists: Say, “I agree that this comparison is a lie and I’ll stop perpetuating it.

Resolution #6 – Yet another lie that I know nothing about is “The doctor doesn’t care for you. He only wants your money.”

What proof do you have for such a claim? Why would a doctor choose to work in a field that has been stigmatized by the medical community? Why would a doctor put his or her life on the line (and that of his/her family) if it were only for money? Why would a doctor work in an area of women’s health care that endures more regulations than any other field? There’s no question that any intelligent professional wants to earn a living wage and doctors are no different. But to single out doctors who perform abortions as uncaring and totally profit-driven misses the very real fact. These docs know they are helping women. So, repeat this five times and say five hail mary’s: You have my word that I will stop lying about the doctor.

Resolution #7 – I keep telling women “Abortion Causes Breast Cancer” but it’s a lie.

Explain how it is that approximately 1.2 million abortions are performed each year, yet, only a little over 230, 000 new cases of invasive breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S.? Explain how you can continue to believe this when absolutely every respected medical and scientific organization and research institute finds your claim to be bogus? AntiAbortionists: Saying this over and over does not make it truthful so I promise to stop spreading this malarkey.

 

Resolution #8 – I keep telling women “All Women Regret Their Abortion” but that’s not true either.Don'tRegretAbortion

How in the name of all that is rationale, could you honestly tender such an outrageous claim unless you have interviewed every woman who has ever had an abortion? To say that you know that all women regret their abortion is to say that you are omniscient which we all know is the furthest from the truth. Your #8 resolution: Truth telling amongst us anti abortion activists is so highly regarded that it is seldom practiced. So from now on, we won’t say such nonsense.

Resolution #9 – Some of us try to get abortion workers to quit knowing we will not help them very much.

While literally thousands of converts flock to abortion every year after realizing how much they do not or can not remain pregnant, there are a paltry few who find leaving abortion work an avenue for profit and celebrity status.  What some former workers realize is that they can profit handsomely, as former Planned Parenthood employee Abby Johnson has. She was blind to her own poor performance as an employee and now “sees” herself squarely amidst the multi-million dollar prolife industry as a pseudo celebrity. We know the prolife industry won’t really help workers find jobs. AntiAbortionists: We just say we’ll help. Again we must stop these lies.


Screen Shot 2012-12-27 at 9.25.25 AMResolution #
10 – Some of our priests told us to pray “I spiritually adopt the life of the unborn child” when I don’t really know what this means.
This is a rather recent incarnation of the anti abortion industry’s propaganda. What does it mean to spiritually adopt someone’s fetus? Think about it. Their prayer goes “Jesus, Mary and Joseph I love you very much. I beg you to spare a life of the unborn child that I have spiritually adopted who is in danger of abortion.” The dorks that protest outside the Allentown Planned Parenthood, not satisfied with the rhetorical blandness of this prayer, have changed it up a bit by saying “I beg you to spare a life of the unborn child that I have spiritually adopted who is in danger of being murdered.” Let’s face it. They don’t believe any child is being murdered. They’re just freakin’ drama queens. If they truly believed that babies were being murdered, one would think they’d call the police. And to be perfectly frank, it’s bound to be so much cheaper to spiritually adopt an unborn than to actually adopt a born child. Spiritually adopting someone’s fetus requires no work, just a lot of meaningless hot air. So, as my final new year’s resolution for you folks, repeat after me: I’ll either adopt a real kid or shut up.

Here’s hoping that 2013 will see anti abortionists, AKA sidewalk counselors, embrace embrace truth and compassion for all women. Seriously, here’s hoping they begin by sticking their noses into their rosary beads and prayers and out of everyone else’s business.

 

Anne Frank wrote, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” It’s a great time for improving the world, one protester at a time.

GodJudgeGaysABIt’s instructive for those who eschew their history lessons (or conveniently forget their history lessons), because they are condemned to repeat it. The prediction that God will judge America over abortion (and homosexuality) is pitiful because it ignores past God-will-get-you predictions from past religionists. Let’s not forget that the Shakers thought the world would be over in 1792, while the Jehovah’s Witnesses pegged various years between 1914 and 1994 as an end date. Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon church, who told church leaders in 1835 that his conversation with God revealed that Jesus would return within the next 56 years to begin the End Times. Or in 1980, televangelist and Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson telling his 700 Club TV show “I guarantee you by the end of 1982 there is going to be a judgment on the world.” What these doomsday predictions have in common is fear-mongering foisted upon the gullible.

 This recent God-will-get-you prediction also ignores America’s history of exploitation, pillaging, maiming and killing native Americans and their land, the enslaving, maiming, and killing of millions of Africans, the support of foreign regimes that raped and killed millions, and the corrupt leaders in our own government and military who killed their own, who notoriously engaged in medical experiments on our poor black brothers and nuclear experiments on unknowing populations and who neglected the millions who are needy, oppressed, hungry, poor, sick, and homeless. And, guess what? God did not judge America. It’s still open for business. It remains fully immersed in the basic constitutional principles of freedom, individualism and unobstructed commerce, principles embraced by God-fearing, family-values oriented Republicans.Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 6.57.54 AM

So when antiabortion crusaders post their dire prediction about God judging America, it’s an opportunity to remember yet another history lesson. Since biblical times, the prophecy of Armageddon, where it was alleged that God would destroy the armies of the Antichrist, is as ordinary as dirt, as quotidian as germs and as dangerous as cold oatmeal.

To get to the root of such a dystopian perspective, one need only open religious tracts to understand the machinations of (mostly) men with a proclivity toward the dramatic, men who are positioned as thought leaders in the prolife culture. Take Fr. Frank Pavone who cherry picks from old and new testaments to push his Priests for Life celebrity life. From his web site, in a section titled “Life is Victorious over Death,” (an anti-science statement if there ever was one), Pavone explains, “Abortion is death. Christ came to conquer death, and therefore abortion.” Note that his fractured syllogism does not cite any biblical text because there is no mention of abortion anywhere in the bible. But to authenticate his logic, he attaches a random biblical citation “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10) as if this adds clarity and confirmation of its righteousness.

Visit Flip Benham’s tracts (Operation Save America) for an even more dramaturgical response to abortion. Like Pavone, Benham “unashamedly takes up the cause of the preborn” using the “Cross of Christ” as their strategy (whatever the Hell that means). But rather than proclaim that God will judge America, Flip and his followers believe they ARE the heart and voice of God to solve the problem of abortion through “The Cross of Christ.” Knowing how literal these folks can be, it’s worrisome to imagine that the crucifixion is better theater than Pavone’s blather.

Joe Scheidler’s Pro-Life Action League shares Flip Benham’s affinity for the theatricality of public demonstrations in his Culture of Death performances. Recalling the twisted, disfigured and bloody body of Christ hung on a cross or the depraved killings in which bodies were stacked like cordwood during the Holocaust as teachable moments, Scheidler translates these two grotesque moments in time using images of mangled fetuses hung on signs and posters in his Face the Truth shows. And, quite naturally, their signs create opportunities for them to be on camera wherever they set up their traveling circus.

Calling abortion a national atrocity, as Scheidler does, ignores the sanctity of women’s lives and the choices they make. Calling the 9-11 tragedy God’s judgment and revenge for America’s slaughter of 45 million children, as Benham does, ignores the agency of the men who flew the planes into the buildings, those who supported them and all associated global politics including the Bush administration. Benham’s comments also ignore the rights and wishes of women. And in stating that a when a prisoner is put to death, he is afforded more dignity than the dignity a fetus deserves, Pavone is absolutely discounting the dignity of the woman who is carrying the fetus.

Recall, for a moment, the absurd expression that guns don’t kill people—people using guns kill people. Most rational citizens understand this about guns. Most understand that life and death by guns is more complicated than some bumper sticker expression. So when antiabortion crusaders like Benham, Scheidler and Pavone (and their followers) fabricate such prophecies about abortion and about God’s judgment, aren’t they really saying something more complicated like railing against women and their providers? Like the inert quality of a gun, abortion is a procedure without agency. Abortion cannot be accomplished without human agency. So to say God will judge America for abortion makes no sense unless we unpack what these crusaders most likely mean.GodYouHateImage

In an anti abortion Wikipedia under the “Condemnations and Predictions” category, the entry might read: “God will judge America over Abortion” is a slogan adopted by pro life conservative, evangelical Christians, both Protestant and Catholic, as an abbreviated dystopian version of reality and an alternative to the longer version: “We God-fearing Christians, who don’t believe in the evils of contraception or abortion or unruly American women, want you to know that God will judge abortion-minded women and all abortion providers. It is from our faith that we must inform you that you are the incarnation of evil and that you are condemned to eternity in Hell if you are in any way affiliated with the sins of murdering unborn children.”

Bottom line: It’s not God’s judgment. It’s the anti abortion folks’ judgment on women.

Every Thanksgiving I’m reminded of the fairy tales taught in school about pilgrims and Native Americans. All the little hands who make quaint pilgrim hats and “Indian” headbands made of construction paper in November celebrations belie the tragedies foisted upon Native Americans. It’s our shameful heritage that never makes the elementary history books. Contemporary celebrations have long forgotten the Native American genocide in favor of a gluttonous affair that’s packed into one day. It’s the consumerist approach to all things American.  And speaking of consumerism, despite the underhanded attempts to buy the 2012 election, the GOP, drunk on a weird brew of American virtue and Christian Armageddon, refuse to understand the American majority. So, they got a whopping spanking. And I’m thankful for that.
To those in the GOP who blamed the decline of America on homosexuals, abortion, gay marriage, non-believers, separation of church and state, evolution, science, you should know that you are what is wrong with this country. I’m thankful that your draconian ideology didn’t work. I’m very thankful that President Obama won a second term, despite his many foibles.

On a more regional note, I’m thankful to all those who have donated time and money to those impacted by Hurricane Sandy. Especially, to all the thousands of utility workers from across the nation who left the comfort of their homes, thanks for working such long hours and laboring so diligently to restore power to those without.

And for all things reproductive, to those clinics that endured difficulties to ensure access to women seeking abortions during and following the hurricane, you are heroes to those of us who respect and trust women. Similarly, I’m thankful to technology that can diagnose pregnancy and fetal anomalies earlier than ever. It’s making the battle against later abortions a shrinking target for protesters. I’m also thankful for the contraceptive revolution causing a steep drop in abortion rates through better prevention. And along those lines, I’m thankful for the open conversations about contraception costs and economic justice. All too often economic and class issues are smothered to death by the onslaught of GOP debris.

And speaking of debris, let’s talk about the rubbish over abortion laws. Let us pause for a moment to remember 31 year old Savita Halappanavar, a 17 week pregnant woman/dentist/daughter/neighbor/wife/citizen/friend, who tragically lost her life because she had the unfortunate circumstance to land in an Irish Catholic hospital. The University Hospital Galway demonstrated utter disregard for this young woman’s life by refusing to provide an abortion, a refusal of treatment that is typical of the global culture war on women. Despite the shameful and horrendous circumstances of her death, women and men from around the world have spoken out and stood up against institutions that allow a woman to die because of their bad faith. It’s ironic that for all their propaganda about prolife, the sanctity of life, it’s the Catholic Church that essentially killed Savita. For their solidarity on behalf of Savita and other women here in America and beyond, I am thankful.

I’m thankful, as well, for the women who are using social media to tell their abortion stories. They poignantly reveal the emotional and physical as well as the pragmatic elements of an unplanned, unwanted pregnancy. Their stories reject other people’s limited perceptions of them and, thus, counter ignorance as a point of view.

And, last, on a local level, I’m thankful to Harrisburg PA city council for recognizing how the seams of respect have been ripped loose by antiabortion activists and for creating a buffer zone for women entering and leaving abortion clinics. While it is well documented that escorts provide a buffer against the protesters’ shameful departure from civilized norms of society, it’s often not enough to facilitate women’s perceptions of a safe passage.  I can only hope that the rest of the state will follow.

And to all those progressive, philanthropic individuals contributing to abortion funds, reproductive health care associations such as the Abortion Care Network and to the building of a new abortion clinic in the Lehigh Valley, thank you, thank you, thank you.

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