Americans United for Life, one of the most powerful opponents of reproductive health care, released their 2014 “Life List” today, celebrating the states that have done the most to deprive women of access to safe, legal abortion. The press release announcing the list—which Louisiana tops as the “most protective state,” followed by Oklahoma, Arkansas, Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Texas—is an absolute masterpiece in smarmy bad faith. The premise? That safe, legal abortion needs to be chipped away for women’s own good. “Each of AUL’s All Stars enacted life-saving legislation to protect mother and child from an abortion industry more committed to its financial bottom line than protecting women from a dangerous procedure that is too often performed in substandard facilities,” writes Charmaine Yoest, the president of AUL.
AUL is one of the architects of the popular strategy, which is employed by their “All Stars,” of writing phony health regulations that serve no other purpose but to shut down clinics. For all its concern about women’s health, however, AUL does not seem to care very much that not having an abortion means developing a condition known as child birth that usually requires hospitalization and much more invasive medical interventions than the extremely low-complication abortions AUL works to wipe out. Reading the press release, one gets the impression that abortion is something women just do because some marketer told them it was cool. Pregnancy, child birth, and the illegal means women turn to when they can’t access legal abortion all go unmentioned.
What is unclear is if anyone is fooled by this disingenuous pose of concern for the health of people who were, until recently, casually regarded by anti-choicers as murderers for wanting to terminate their pregnancies. On the “are you kidding me” scale, the claim that safe abortion must be ended to protect women falls somewhere between GOP claims to have an alternative health care plan and the assertion that the Civil War was not fought over slavery.
Regardless of whether there exists someone naive enough to buy this, however, the facts remain: Actual medical experts like the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have denounced the phony health regulations aimed at shutting down abortion clinics, because the regulations “erode women’s health” by denying women “the benefits of well-researched, safe, and proven protocols.” Child birth is 14 times more dangerous than legal abortion. (Not that child birth in the U.S. is particularly dangerous, with a fatality rate of 1 in 11,000. It’s just that abortion is that safe.) Abortion is no more an “industry” than any other kind of medical care—including prenatal care and high-cost child-birth care—and, in many cases, it’s provided by nonprofits like Planned Parenthood. Shutting down access to legal abortion drives desperate women into the black market, and illegal abortion, unlike legal abortion, does have a high fatality rate.
One of AUL’s “All Stars”—probably Texas—will likely be in front of the Supreme Court soon, peddling the lie that legal abortion needs to be regulated out of existence for women’s own good. Let’s hope the obvious bad faith on display will be too much for the justices to sign off on.