Pro Life Deception


There are antiabortion activists who stand outside abortion clinics with the genuine belief that their presence helps women, that they are prayerful warriors against abortion, and that their help will solve all of life’s little unwanted pregnancies. But their beliefs and women’s realities are, as the saying goes, a horse of a different color.Screen Shot 2013-12-23 at 9.34.05 PM

After watching and listening to antiaborts for nearly a decade, I realize that most claim women choose abortion solely for financial reasons, so they offer free housing, free medical care, free baby showers and financial support. Some even make bogus claims that 1) clinics only want women’s money and that 2) clinics don’t want to help women. Of course, the obvious response to this illogical claim is that they, instead, want to help, want to tell women that God loves them and want to show women that all that is wrong in their lives (and in this world) can be solved with their financial support and with carrying the pregnancy to term.

But, let’s set aside abortion and finances momentarily to look at what the government’s latest statistics reveal about annual child-rearing expenses. For the average middle-income, two-parent family the expenses range from $11,650 to $13,530, depending on the age of the child. Imagine, a single parent of one child, pregnant with a second child, who is considering her options for raising a second child on a salary of $18,700. The annual expenses for the first child, according to the government’s calculator, are $7,410; the second is $7,188.  So, where does that leave the mother? What are her options for education, being promoted beyond her entry-level position, helping her children become first generation college students?  The antiaborts’ claim that their money and help, tied with strings of obligations and guilt, will solve a woman’s unintended pregnancy. But such “help” fails to acknowledge women’s intellectual and moral capabilities for decision making, fails to respect her bodily and emotional autonomy and fails to value her own value and belief systems. The antiaborts’  failures illustrate how little they care about the details of women’s lives. Women choose abortion for many reasons–reasons that are not directly or soley related to finances. For example, the Guttmacher Institute finds 74% of women chose abortion because having a child would interfere with their education, work or ability to care for dependents. So, let’s look at a few details about why women choose abortion.

Educational goals, like continuing with coursework your senior year in high school or completing your master’s degree unencumbered by pregnancy and motherhood, are legitimately and morally sound reasons to terminate an unwanted or ill-timed pregnancy. The sad fact that women earn less than men for doing the same work translates to an even stronger rationale for women to attain higher levels of education. Pregnancy interferes with attainment of these goals. Motherhood surely messes things up big time.

As for work or career related reasons for abortion, the realities are evident in all walks of life. Working as a volleyball coach in a private college, an Air Force sergeant responsible for delivering meals to the airmen in Iraq, a hair colorist in a competitive salon in Manhattan or a change management consultant in a prestigious consulting firm all require devotion to the career and not to a fetus. It’s harsh but it’s reality. A fetus gets in the way. And don’t think for a moment that the simpleton who offers to help you keep your baby will be there to help you with nighttime feedings, with a presentation to a new client, with an out-of-town business trip or with a parent-teacher conference. Not gonna happen.

And for women with children, only they know whether they can commit to another child in the family. Paying for maternity care and delivery does not account for the physical and psychological costs to a woman and to her family. As I’ve written elsewhere, pregnancy carries a lot of risks that are silenced by all the mythology around the rapturous joys of motherhood including those illustrious Hallmark moments of Mother’s Day and Baby’s First Birthday (smash cake and all). In fact, the United States’ dismal maternal mortality and morbidity statistics rank 50th in the world. Women deserve to know the inherent dangers of carrying a pregnancy to term without the lure of money and misinformation from some oddball who hangs out on a sidewalk outside an abortion clinic. Women who are unfortunate enough to venture into a crisis pregnancy center deserve the truth about the risks of pregnancy, for certain, but they also deserve to know that the CPC will not be there for the woman and her baby after the first year of birth.

Screen Shot 2013-12-24 at 6.53.26 AMA few examples about pregnancy and parenthood that antiaborts ignore, drawn from real life stories, seems in order here. In Louisiana, over 30 years ago, a young pregnant African American teen, fully insured, presented at an Air Force hospital with  eclampsia that killed her fetus and nearly killed her.  While eclampsia is rare because of prenatal monitoring and medical care, it still occurs especially in poor, underserved populations and particularly in young pregnant teens.  All the money and support an antiabort might be willing to offer cannot work against the fact that pregnancy is not without its risks.

In another real life example, a family with a child with Asperberger Syndrome had to sell their home in one school district to move to another district because there was no support in their former school district for their child. No freebies from a well-intended baby shower would suffice for a family with such a complicated life. Where will these “love the mom, love the baby” antiaborts be when the fetus they claim they “saved” needs braces, a counselor for an eating disorder or bail money for their fourth underage DUI? Where will they be when the woman must run for her life, with her children, when the man in her life threatens her life?  Don’t expect antiaborts to help folks with stuff like this. The details are too deep; their offers of help too shallow.

As I said, the antiaborts’ beliefs and women’s realities are often worlds apart. At a surface level, tossing money to women to is easy. Respecting women in all their decisons, ranging from choosing to remain childless to all aspects of pregnancy and motherhood, takes hard work, relentless dedication and compassion. Unlike the pamphlet-pushing, cheap-talking, god-deluded antiaborts who spew superficial sound-bytes, compassionate folks know that decisions about unplanned pregnancies are based on many details. We must respect each and every woman and her decision about her pregnancy because the details of her life matter.

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.

It would be foolish to call their handouts literature.  Literature has recognized artistic value, is written by scholars or researchers, and is the output of a literary writer. No, the anti abortion materials are not literature, not by any stretch of the imagination. It would be more brutally honest to say that the minds creating their works are so malignant as to be horrifyingly amusing. All of the materials creatively stretch and, at times, ignore evidence-based medical research. Visually, their materials use ethically-challenged imagery. Their page designs (or lack thereof) and font choices ignore readability and economy in favor of the “more is better” mentality. And while their stuff is ugly in appearance, their content is made all the uglier with unadulterated propaganda.

Name-calling, a propaganda technique, links a person or idea to a negative as illustrated in “The abortion industry is motivated and driven by money and greed.” Or, in one example, completely dedicated to the Allentown Women’s Center, the fetal image alongside a dime is captioned “Abortion is not the answer. The AWC is not on your side. They are a business. They don’t care about you . . . and they don’t care about your baby! Choose Life. Walk away!” As you can see in
the image, the writer loves random underlining (as of shouting), indiscriminately using a variety of font styles and generously accenting words with exclamation marks. Again, is more better?

Take a closer look at the image of an alleged 10-week fetus and a U.S. dime. The size of a 10-week fetus is 18-22 mm while a dime is 17.9 mm. Is the comparison misleading imagery or an outright lie? And when all else fails, the author uses the propaganda technique of transfer which links the authority or prestige of something well-respected such as church or nation, to something she would have us accept. In an effort to convince an abortion-minded woman to carry her pregnancy to term, the author uses the image of a red heart with a purple cross with the words pro life (appealing to the church).
And beneath this image, the

words “Remember . . .Christ was conceived out of wedlock and so were many famous people including President Obama.”  Now that’s a real doozy of a comparison. Christ conceived by the Holy Spirit and Obama conceived by his father’s seed. The comparison has a ten on the ICK factor.

In another tract, the author again shares the love of rampant underlining, the haphazard use of a garden variety of font styles and several propaganda techniques. Lacking any particular authority, the author, uses the transfer technique, to link the authority of external sources to help the reader make a connection that appears to be credible.  Unfortunately, many of the external sources are from religious organizations (who specialize in religion, not abortion) and a publication house that is no longer in business.

The author unashamedly uses the special propaganda appeal of fear mongering claiming breast cancer connections to abortion and post abortion sequelae. Despite extensive evidence-based research that finds no cancer connection and no mental consequences to abortion, the author plays on deep-seated fears of impending doom. And for good measure, the dangers of contraception are tossed in to further the fear factor and to offer Natural Family Planning as an alternative. And if the reader is not convinced to “just say no” to abortion, the author tosses factoids about sexually transmitted infections. Too bad the factoids are incorrect.  Frankly, I’m thinking masturbation is about the only sexual taboo that’s missing with this hodgepodge.

Both of the above tracts fail miserably to stick to one message. Instead, they beseech the reader to turn away from abortion, provide spurious information on available resources, use high inference language, grotesque yet inaccurate imagery and ask loaded questions. Moreover, instead of consistent, thoughtful message, they bludgeon their reader with their desperate, no holds barred antiabortion agenda.

A particularly absurd piece, that appears to be a glossy bookmark, quotes Dr. Seuss “A person is a person no matter how small” (breaking copyright laws) and displays human fingers holding what is alleged to be an amazing photograph of six-week ectopic-situated fetus. But here’s the rub: At six weeks, the fetus is between the size of the tip of a pen and a pencil eraser. The human fingers displayed are clearly out of proportion to the fetus. The reverse side of this bookmark contains a jumble of statements that offer misinformation and outright lies. For example, week five to six is when the heart begins to beat, not three weeks, as written. Also, it is week six or seven when small buds appear that become arms and legs. Aesthetically arresting imagery does not excuse intentional fabrications.

One of the most spectacularly cynical and perverse tracts that antiabortion activists use is the comparison of abortion to the Holocaust. Printed in Nazi red and black colors, the handout explicitly compares the murder of millions of Jews and others in the Holocaust to women having abortions in the United States. Abraham H. Foxman, Anti Defamation League National Director and a Holocaust survivor said, “No Christian who understands Jewish suffering should resort to inappropriate comparisons to the Holocaust to send a message that abortion is wrong.” The tract is exemplary in its propagandistic appeal using the name-calling technique linking abortion as a Holocaust and using the logical fallacy to deliberately promote their antiabortion appeal by suggesting that the U.S. government is like Nazi Germany. Of course, there’s no mention of what American women want for their own reproductive health in this work, no mention that Nazi Germany was pro birth for Aryan women, and no mention that the U.S. government does not target particular groups with mass killings. Why let facts get in the way of a outrageous horror story?

There are anti abortion pamphlets that are professionally designed and then there are anti abortion handouts that are amateurishly cobbled together.  Aesthetics aside, these homemade tracts fail to articulate the compassion and unconditional love that Jesus so passionately offered for all humankind. Looking through a stack of antiabortion activists’ tracts that have been given to women and their companions (and then tossed out), it becomes obvious to me that these activists’  have forgotten compassion and unconditional love. Instead, their handouts consistently use fear-mongering as their number one preferred tactic. Fear tactics, combined with misinformation, outright lies and unethical imagery, create a body of work in the anti abortion industry that any ethical person would be embarrassed to distribute. But from my experiences, the anti abortion activists are not embarrassed and that should tell you something about them.

Our media-saturated culture conditions boys and men to dehumanize and disrespect women in magazines, television, and film and in everyday life. The message is clear. Womanizing is about power and privilege, a sense of entitlement. And in religion and politics, we see the same culture of misogyny. The latest comes from Missouri Republican Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin. Akin, who opposes abortion in all cases, including rape, said, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” Mr. Aiken, oddly enough, is a member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, yet he uses non-scientific reasoning to perpetrate one of the most offensive and ignorant campaign season’s comments yet. To wit a study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology that states, “an estimated 32,101 pregnancies result from rape each year,” in the United States, meaning that about 5 percent of women who are raped do become pregnant. And of that 5 percent, 50% choose to abort the pregnancy. Imagine—Science defying the logic of the GOP.

Beyond what Akin said is the logic that informed his gaffe. If you get pregnant, it wasn’t rape. That’s it. If you are violently and sexually penetrated by a rapist’s penis, against your will, and you are impregnated, then it wasn’t rape. But even beyond that logic is his unquestionable stance against abortions for any reason; hence, he believes if you get pregnant, you should carry the pregnancy to term.

This faux science is not new. In fact, his canard has been floating around the anti abortion Republicans for some time. Let’s go back to 1998 and a statement from Fay Boozman, the late Fay Boozman of Arkansas. He was running for U.S. Senate, and he said fear-induced hormonal changes could block a rape victim’s ability to conceive. In 1995, North Carolina State Representative Henry Aldridge said, “The facts show that people who are raped, who are truly raped, the juices don’t flow, the body functions don’t work and they don’t get pregnant.” Then there’s a similar statement from 1988. Pennsylvania Republican State Representative Steven Friend said, “The odds of a woman becoming pregnant through rape are one in millions and millions and millions.” He said, “The trauma of rape causes women to secrete a certain secretion which has a tendency to kill sperm.” One has to notice the covert message that almost excuses the perpetrators and blames the victims of sexual violence.

I’m reminded of an incident at an Allentown PA abortion clinic where a mother and daughter were verbally accosted by a particularly aggressive protester. The mother told the man that her daughter was raped. And rather than back off or show some modicum of compassion, he screamed,“If the child was conceived in rape that’s the way God wanted it.” [see video]. Essentially, disregard the violence. Disregard her pain. Disregard her humanity. Fr. Frank Pavone said essentially the same thing in an interview years back. He claimed (and still does) the mother was harmed once. Abortion would harm her again and kill her unborn.  Again, no regard for the violence, no regard for the woman, no regard for what the woman wants.

The fact remains that Todd Akin will never know what it means to be a woman, to be trapped in a bed, shoved down on a parking garage staircase, or tied to pole in an abandoned basement. He’ll never know what it’s like to be violently assaulted by some aggressive, indifferent friend or stranger or relative. He’ll not know what it feels like having someone gag you, rip off your clothes and enter your most personal, sacred, private part of your body and do so violently, hatefully forcing himself into you, ripping you apart, filling you with unwanted sperm, and knowing you cannot escape the thing growing inside of you. Todd Aiken will never experience being a woman who is pregnant from a rapist and being told you have no choice. Yet, I’m betting, he’s pretty self-righteous when he says women should have no choice.

Like the majority of the GOP, including the Vice President hopeful Paul Ryan, Todd Akin’s message is clear: No abortion for you! Your body is to support the rapist’s fetus against your will. And when you see the face of the rapist in that child, you will be judged harshly if you cannot love that face.

My sense is that this debacle is further evidence of what is known as the GOP’s war on women. But right-wing media figures have downplayed and dismissed Republican Congressman Todd Akin’s controversial remarks on rape and abortion, calling them “dumb” and a distraction. The public response to Akin’s comments more or less drove him to offer a feigned apology. I say feigned because it now it appears that, all the while, the people really in charge of the GOP—fundamentalist anti-choicers among them—have been writing a party platform that not only makes all of that a lie, but is in effect a promise to make the personhood of fertilized eggs the law of the land.

The draft official platform strongly supports a “a human life amendment” to the Constitution:

Faithful to the ‘self-evident’ truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed, the draft platform declares. “We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children.”

Let’s be very, very clear that such an amendment—which Mitt Romney has said unequivocally he would sign—would not only criminalize abortions of any kind for any reason, but also would outlaw many forms of contraception, in-vitro fertilization, and treatment of pregnant women with life-threatening conditions such as cancer. Moreover, it would also criminalize miscarriage.

So, there you have some of the facts. The problem isn’t Akin.

It’s the central position of the GOP controlled by fundamentalists who believe women have no rights. Which side of history will you be on?

After nearly ten years of observing anti abortion protesters, I’ve come to the conclusion that if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. The commonplace protester is white with red-neck tendencies, scientifically-challenged, medically inept, dogmatically deluded, and generally diversity-defiant. Additionally, among this dreary assortment are folks with waistlines that are in direct correspondence to their intellectual capacity and women who are seriously fashion-challenged. Owing to their brainwashing, they are as useless as scuffed brown shoes without soles. In fact, their products, their messages and their brands are like Wonder Bread in an artisanal bakery, Oscar Mayer bologna in an Italian salumeria or a Hostess Twinkie in a French patissierie. Compared to the creativity of the majority who trust women to make decisions for themselves about abortion and contraception, these interchangeable trolls are boring with a capital B. Standardized, commercialized, reproducible fiends fit for no one, they arrive at clinics across the nation every Saturday morning to worship what they cherish: themselves and imaginary babies. But, they worship with the same old tunes, the same old messages, and the same old signage.

I’ll acknowledge that there are a minority who are more creatively odd than most.  For example, in Allentown, PA, one fruitcake fetal crusader thought it was perfectly OK to use holy water to “baptize” women’s abdomens as they entered the walkway to the clinic. Of course, she did not ask permission for this conjured rite. Another woman, named Mary, performing in the street with chanting and invocations, sprinkled holy water on the clinic door and pedestrian walkway and then doused herself from head to toe with the water. With that last act, I thought the local loony bin had misplaced one of their inmates. Mary was one of those protesters who gave voice to the phantom fetus by yelling “I want to live. Please don’t kill me.” There are other protesters, like Joyce, who thinks ventriloquism will convince women not to abort. She uses a saccharine falsetto voice to grind out “Mommy, Mommy please don’t kill me, Mommy.” Then there’s old white Joe who invokes Martin Luther King’s name as if he was Jesus Junior every time he sees a person of color. Making unknowable claims about King’s position on abortion, Joe wallows in racist comments. But as Dr. Wallace Best, a religion and African American studies professor at Princeton succinctly stated, King “stood for justice, equality and fairness and certainly against any kind of discrimination,” something Joe will never understand nor ever embrace.

Anyway, the overwhelming majority of protesters use messages that are simply banal. What we’re left with are reruns week in, week out. It’s a stark contrast to the more progressive folks who use vivid messaging in support of women.

In Kentucky, one abortion clinic attracts the best and the worst. The volunteer escorts are the best at walking women to the clinic past some of the most vile protesters I’ve ever seen. They have a Mary there too. She’s one serious whackadoodle, complete with her big bible, hellfire and brimstone. She’s also a shover. She has no problem shoving escorts, no guilt about blocking women from exiting their cars and no difficulty telling women they’re “gonna burn in hell for eternity” or “The bible says thou shalt not kill.” Mary is also a holy roller big into laying on a hands and so animated that I wonder if she’s really just a busker. Joined by this Pentecostal type are snoopy, arrogant priests. They add their crucifixes and rosaries to the cacophony known as the circus of the absurd. There is nothing like a weird brew of stewed priests and salty Baptists to give a Saturday morning its special flavor. It’s what’s on the menu every Saturday morning in this lovely southern city. In comparison to this Barnum & Bailey environment, progressive men and women assert their support for women with ingenious and encouraging messaging.

In Allen, TX, women seeking abortions don’t stand a chance with the droll protesters. Whether speaking in English or Spanish, they swarm women as they attempt to walk on the sidewalk leading to the clinic. Working in pairs, one walks in front of the women, offering help while the one in the back keeps repeating, “You’re making a big mistake. You’re making the biggest mistake of your life.” Other protesters line the sidewalk should to shoulder with their typical accessories: rosaries, Guadalupe image, crucifix, and other assorted signs. Because of the proximity to Mexico, much of the city’s population speaks Spanish. So, the protesters have translated their same old, desert-dry messages. Que lastima! But some bilingual women have created posters that cut right to the heart of the issue.

In North Aurora, IL, the abortion clinic is relatively new but the anti abortion trolls look the same. Same old tired signs, same old anger, same old righteous indignation that women have a choice about what to do with their reproductive health. They use the tiny white coffins lining the sidewalk (been there, done that), plaster the surrounding area with signs (been there, done that), tell women that they will regret their abortion (been there, done that). Yawn!!! Is this the best that this mid-west city can produce? Where is the ingenuity? It’s with the progressives, that’s where!

What I have noticed is that most of the freak shows keep using the same old materials. The same old fetal images. The same old bloody Malachi image that they worship. The same old rosaries and the same old worn bibles. The same old messages. The same old white men and women. The same old dumpy dimwits. It’s like going to going to same movie or reading the same book—the ending is always the same. Even the well-funded extremists like Flip Benham and Troy Newman are forever using the same old stuff. I had to laugh at Newman’s braggadocio back in October 2007 when he claimed his Operation Rescue rocked Fargo, ND with their purported “Truth Truck” and their literature. Well, guess what? It’s 2012 and his latest visit to Fargo this month had the same result. Zip. Zilch.

I’m hoping that one of these days there will be someone with a fresh approach, something new and innovative. But to do that, they’ll have to infuse a bit more intellectual and creative energy. Sadly, intelligence and creativity are missing within the anti abortion cartel. For now, it’s just the same old freak shows, same stuff, different day that net the same old results. Zippity Do Da.

The Oxford English Dictionary cites selfless as an adjective to describe the relationship a servant has to God and a way of being that has little to no regard for the self. Similarly, other dictionaries define selfless as having little regard for fame, wealth or position; as having higher regard for the greater good. In my experiences, selflessness is a common denominator found in those in the pro-choice community. From lobbyists to legislators, volunteers to friends, counselors to nurses and from doctors to directors, these self-sacrificing individuals work for the greater good of women in need of safe, compassionate abortion services. They endure despite the vitriol of a well-funded, misogynistic minority Hell-bent on returning women to draconian servitude. Every single day, at home, at work, or in their church, doctors and clinic directors know they are the potential target of an unknown ‘prolife’ terrorist intent on killing them. Professional counselors recognize and must negotiate with the imposters, errant anti abortion moles attempting to discredit the clinics. The mother of a mother-daughter duo bumbled her way through a counseling session with directives and questions that not only revealed her anti abortion agenda but the (alleged) daughter’s lack of interest in the charade.

Even landlords have been the object of the fiendish anti abortion activists. When the MD Coalition for Life was upset with abortion clinic landlord Todd Stave because he refused their demands, they began protesting at Stave’s daughter’s middle school. But, rather than cave in to their demands to oust his tenant, a Germantown, MD abortion clinic, Stave turned the focus to the maliciousness of the MD Coalition for Life and others anti abortion zealots across the nation.

A common tactic, calling abortion-minded women selfish, is ironic when you consider that
the name-callers, the anti abortion activists, are the epitome of selfishness. They demand their free speech rights, their rights to hand out literature, their God-given right to save ‘babies’ (and sometimes women), and their right to impose their religious views on others. They are a bundle of self-serving, self-centered egotists. The evidence comes from frivolous lawsuits about imagined conspiracies and emotional harm (with NO regard for the emotional harm they inflict on women), from their constant boastful but unfounded claims of rescues, and from their slanderous attempts with police and human relations commissions to frame themselves as victims who are simply saints on a mission.

ImageBut the good news is that the selflessness of men and women across this nation who believe in women’s reproductive health rights lives on in the hearts and minds of millions. No amount of malevolent actions from the anti abortion-minded will thwart the fortitude, the compassion and the love for women who are in need of an abortion.

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