The XX Factor

Bachmann’s Great Gaslight Adventure

Photo by Stephen Morton/Getty Images

One of the hardest things about listening to anti-choice politicians blather on is the gaslighting effect of it all.  Wikipedia has a great definition of “gaslighting”: “a form of psychological abuse in which false information is presented to the victim with the intent of making them doubt their own memory and perception. It may simply be the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred, or it could be the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim.”  It was named after the 1938 play Gas Light, which features a husband dimming the gas lights in a home and denying to his wife that’s what he’s doing, in order to induce insanity and passivity in her.  It came straight to mind when I watched this video of Michele Bachmann at a Republican primary forum, where she trotted out the usual far-right nonsense that gets her so much attention.  

Bachmann hammers at how much she despises the right to an abortion, saying that she’ll work to restrict abortion and even pass a constitutional amendment forcing pregnant women to give birth against their will, an amendment that anti-choice activists also hope will restrict access to female-controlled contraception such as birth control pills and IUDs, which they erroneously argue work by killing fertilized eggs.  (Pills work by preventing ovulation, and the current theory is IUDs cause the immune system to kill sperm.) She goes on to say that she, if president, would have some kind of showdown with the Supreme Court if they upheld a woman’s right to choose, which sounds quite a bit like she’s supporting a coup to strip the Supreme Court of its constitutional powers.  The contradiction between that and the constant bleating about the Founding Fathers certainly falls into the realm of gaslighting rhetoric, but the rationalization for doing so is, if anything, an even more terrible abuse of basic reality.  

“If the Supreme Court, by a plurality of the justices, may impose their own personal morality on the rest of the nation, then we are quite literally being ruled by those individuals,” she argued. The problem with that statement is that by legalizing abortion, the court did exactly the opposite.  By legalizing abortion, they said that the government shouldn’t impose a personal morality on women.  Bachmann is the one here who wants to impose her religious dogma about abortion on people who strongly disagree.  She’s the one who wants to strip people of the basic religious liberty to determine their sexual and reproductive morality.  In no known universe did Roe v. Wade force women whose religious beliefs prevent abortion into having abortions.  But it did allow those whose personal religious beliefs allow for it to go ahead and have one.  The only way her argument makes sense is if you believe that fundamentalist Christians actually own the women of America, and therefore allowing women their own choices is violating fundie property rights.  I hope I don’t have to spell out why “fundies don’t get to force others to have babies!” is not actually a violation of the rights of fundamentalist Christians.

Right now, I’d give it even odds that Bachmann cracks and says, “Freedom is slavery” or “Ignorance is strength” before she loses the primary and moves on to her job as a talking head for Fox News.