The XX Factor

Latest Anti-Choice Tactic: Class Warfare

Stop abortion—unless you have a lot of money to pay for it.

Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

Christina Caldwell, writing for Women’s eNews, has a report up about the misery induced on Saturday mornings at the West Alabama Women’s Center in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Saturdays are when a large percentage of abortion patients come in, so it’s also a time when the large group of mostly male shouters shows up to yell invectives—including names like “whores” and “sluts”—to intimidate patients, volunteers, and clinic workers. This Saturday morning ritual, it turns out, targets low-income women:

That’s the day of the “Saturday women,” women seeking an abortion, the majority of whom have low-to-no incomes, who can’t afford to take off during the workweek if they have jobs or have to catch a ride because they are traveling out of the state or the county.

While it is something of a coincidence that harassers show up on the same day low-income women do—is anyone, anywhere enjoying their weekend?—it’s happening against a backdrop of increasing right-wing pressure to make sexual health a luxury only available to those who can pay up instead of a basic human right. Tara Culp-Ressler at ThinkProgress explains:

It’s just one more way that privilege impacts abortion access. Low-income women are already more likely to struggle to afford abortion services—partly because many Medicaid programs won’t offer insurance coverage for the procedure, and partly because state-level abortion restrictions force women to make expensive trips to clinics that can be hundreds of miles away from where they live.

The “abortions for the well-off, forced childbirth for everyone else” mentality has permeated the anti-choice movement in recent years. Ross Douthat of the New York Times recently praised Texas for creating unnecessary regulations aimed at shutting down most of the abortion clinics in the state by comparing Texas to Ireland, which is a tacit admission that the goal is not to end abortion but to end safe abortion for low-income women. After all, just as well-off Irish women simply go to England to get abortions, well-off Texas women will simply fly to New York, and maybe check out the Guggenheim while they’re at it. In addition, there are the conservative pressure campaigns aimed at making contraception only available to those who can pay the often steep out-of-pocket price for it, campaigns that are trying to end the Department of Health and Human Services regulations mandating insurance coverage of contraception and to terminate state and federal subsidies to organizations like Planned Parenthood that offer contraception at a low cost. 

While there’s no doubt that misogyny is fueling much of the movement to shut down reproductive health care access, looping in class warfare is a great way to hook in Tea Party types who like to imagine themselves more as “fiscal conservatives” than uptight prudes. This recent op-ed by the “Chicks on the Right” (two conservative women yakking in the Indy Star) “argues” that sexual health is a status item that should be exclusive to those who can pay the premium price for it: 

We’re sick of liberal feminists who screech “WAR ON WOMEN!” the second they’re faced with challenges — or with having to pay for their own birth control. It’s laughable when they depend on a cradle-to-grave government to take care of their every want (like guilt-free abortions and taxpayer-funded contraception), and then dress up in vagina costumes on Capitol Hill hollering for the government to keep its hands off their “lady parts.”….

Well, NOTHING is free. And relying on taxpayers to pay for your “reproductive choices” isn’t strength.

It’s an argument that seamlessly blends the misogynist stereotype that female concerns are frivolous (“their every want”) with the gross classism that assumes low-income people don’t deserve simple pleasures like having a normal, healthy sex life.