Politico reports a new, coordinated push by anti-choice activists to demolish access to contraception and cancer screening for millions of young and low-income women. By using abortion as a scare tactic, the anti-choicers hope to strip Planned Parenthood of its federal funding, with an eye toward making sure that the venerable organization can stop preventing unintended pregnancies—and therefore abortions—as soon as possible. In a reasonable world, we wouldn’t call people who are actually taking action to raise the abortion rate “anti-abortion,” but sadly, that’s how confused our landscape is around reproductive rights in this age of tip-toeing around the easily hurt feelings of right wing extremists.
I successfully avoided abortion during my five years using Planned Parenthood’s excellent services (before switching to private doctors). You would think that “anti-abortion” folks would be happy about this, but that’s only if you really buy the line that they’re in this to stop fetuses from being killed, instead of trying to create a world where sexual activity has what they tend to call “consequences,” but what I like to call “punishment,” to reflect the intentions behind those who wish to restrict access.
How do people who wish to restrict access to the number one prevention method of abortions (contraception) reconcile this with their facetious claims to care about fetuses? Well, it depends on the audience. For mainstream audiences, the strategy is to attack Planned Parenthood for using non-federal funds for the 3 percent of its services that are abortion and claim that this somehow wipes out the 97 percent of the services that either save lives (cancer screenings, STD treatment) or prevent abortion. And we’re expected to buy that they’d rather see the number of fetuses killed rise dramatically than allow federal funds to even touch the same office buildings where abortions are provided, which means they’re more worried about symbolic contamination than actual fetal lives.
But that head-scratcher of an argument sounds almost logical, when compared to what anti-choice activists tell each other in their own spaces. As this article from Life News demonstrates, the argument within their own circles is that contraception actually causes abortion by convincing women they don’t have to marry the first guy they sleep with:
Rather, in the altered sex and marriage markets made possible by contraception and legal abortion, more and more women engage in non-marital sex without any “shotgun marriage” guarantee in the event of pregnancy. This leads (ironically) to more non-marital pregnancies, more non-marital births, more sexually transmitted diseases, and (irony of ironies) more abortions.
In the end, I believe this is the real argument behind this push from anti-choice groups: that Planned Parenthood is wrong because it convinces women they have a right to own their own lives and to make their own decisions. They openly ask for a world where women get pregnant as young as possible, and either luck out by having an impregnator who will make an honest woman of them, or are marshalled into maternity homes, where they’re punished by having their babies taken from them. Certainly, it’s not a world where women will have the same options for education and employment, but it definitely is a world where men can be more assured that women don’t really have the option to reject them after having sex. And that apparently matters more than all the well-being of women, girls, children, and yes, even fetuses. Because contrary to the yapping of anti-choice writers like this, abortion was quite common prior to Roe v. Wade .
Photograph by Mandel Ngan for Getty Images.