The XX Factor

Pro-Life Plus What?

For those caught in the reproductive rights war, the trenches have been dug so deep that any movement tends to catch our attention. Which is why I noted with interest that Republican congressional candidate Trey Gowdy calls himself “pro-life plus” on his “Issues” page . I grew excited when he described this stance as one that not only includes the boilerplate about adoption but also a promise to “educate women on preventing pregnancies.” Could this be an example of a hard-core anti-choicer seeking compromise with the pro-choice side on the issue of contraception access?

Sadly, the indicators don’t look too good. Gowdy also offers support for crisis pregnancy centers, whose advice on preventing pregnancy tends to begin with lies discounting condom effectiveness and ends with telling you not to spread your legs . The term “pro-life plus” was new to me, and a little Googling demonstrated that it was mostly used to describe organizations that work on fighting not just a woman’s right to choose, but also had a strong focus on promoting homophobia and general paranoia that the Democrats are coming for your testicles. Many of these “pro-life plus” organizations live up to the “plus” by taking on the evils of contraception, with a special emphasis on trying to halt condom-based efforts to fight HIV . (Using condoms to prevent AIDS is considered part of the “culture of death” in the hard-core anti-choice world, leading one to suspect that being impervious to irony is a prerequisite for front-line culture warriors.) Of course, anti-choicers weren’t generally known before to have warm and fuzzy feelings toward condoms, gay marriage, or dances invented after Elvis first gyrated on TV, so this invention of the term “pro-life plus” can probably be understood in the grand political tradition of applying lipstick to pigs.

There might even be reason to suspect that Gowdy is using the term in a different way than most organizations that use it. There’s a small amount of evidence that Gowdy has advocated for increased access to contraception in the past, at least for one group of women: drug-dependent women . Unfortunately, we can’t take this as evidence that Gowdy has embraced a more moderate view of reproductive rights than you get from the anti-choice movement. This stance probably owes more to Gowdy’s war on drug-addicted mothers , part of the right-wing’s longstanding willingness to criminalize child-bearing for some women while trying to make child-bearing mandatory for others. So perhaps when Gowdy calls himself “pro-life plus,” he means that he’s on board with banning abortion, plus a whole other slate of ways to control women’s reproductive choices.

Photograph of pro-life protesters by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images.