The XX Factor

Anti-Choicers Say Women Who Want Abortions Are Like Children Near a Hot Stove

Anti-choice activists in Washington, D.C., last year.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Meaghan Winter of Cosmopolitan attended the Heartbeat International conference, where volunteers from anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) gather to socialize, share tips, and murmur disapprovingly about all the sex that women are having these days. CPCs are storefront operations, often placed near abortion clinics, that try to lure women seeking abortion into their offices in hopes of talking them out of it. Heartbeat International is an umbrella organization for about 1,800 CPCs across the country, and they have helped popularize some of the dishonest tactics that CPCs use to manipulate women. For instance, their outreach website OptionLine appears to be a site on abortion and contraception, when its real purpose is to scare you out of using either. 

The theme of this year’s conference was Love Is Our Language, i.e., don’t hate women who have abortions, because they are simply too dumb to realize that they really want their babies. Winter reports:

Over the course of the three days of the conference, I chatted with a few dozen pregnancy center workers. Multiple women told me it was their job to protect women from abortion as “an adult tells a child not to touch a hot stove.” Another oft-repeated catchphrase was, “Save the mother, save the baby,” shorthand for many pregnancy center workers’ belief that the most effective way to prevent abortion is to convert women.

It’s insulting to suggest that women who have sex are silly little girls who don’t know what’s good for them, but anti-choice activists don’t have a better alternative. The only other real option is to denounce sexually active women as wantons and to call women who have abortion murderers—all of which gives credence to pro-choice claims that the anti-choice movement is fundamentally misogynist. (“I don’t think it’s disrespectful to shout, ‘You’re killing your baby,’ ” one attendee told Winter. “That’s not saying, ‘You dirty whore.’ ”)

Winter’s piece also makes clear that conference speakers encourage volunteers to use manipulative tactics with women seeking contraception and abortion. (For instance, you could say to a woman in need of emergency contraception, “You might not be at a fertile time in your cycle, and it’s not worth taking hormones for no reason.”) Clearly, if you’ve convinced yourself that women who want abortions are the equivalent of children close to a hot stove, you could also convince yourself to lie to them for their own good.