There’s a reason why Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock both lost their U.S. Senate races after simply making astonishingly dumb comments about rape and pregnancy.
In just a few words these two Republicans seemed to sum up latent suspicion about the anti-abortion-rights movement: While they claim to be pro-life, they’re actually just anti-woman.
Or at least they’re extraordinarily insensitive to the difficult choices that women have to make.
Former congressman Barney Frank summed up a lot of Americans’ feelings about the “life” movement when he said, “… [they] believe that life begins at conception and ends at birth…”
Beyond the hypocrisy of Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) pursuing anti-abortion legislation in between supervising executions of possibly innocent prisoners, right-wingers work toward anti-family policies when it comes to health care, education and the social safety net. And when they fight policies that would help prevent abortions, their agenda seems to be revealed as reversing the sexual revolution and preventing women from acting with the same sexual freedom that men take for granted.
The movement also ignores the crucial finding that abortion rates are higher in countries where the procedure is illegal.
Here are five ways the anti-choice movement actually makes abortion more likely (and more dangerous) and puts America’s most vulnerable families at risk.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, 87 percent of counties in the United States have no abortion services, though the Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade more than 40 years ago that ending a pregnancy up until the point of viability was a Constitutional right. Republicans have done everything in their power to close clinics — as they currently are trying to do in Texas, Wisconsin, Ohio and North Carolina. Several states are down to a handful of clinics; Mississippi’s one clinic that offers abortions is constantly on the verge of closing. The Hyde Amendment also stops the federal government from funding abortions, rendering many of the top hospitals in the nation unable to provide abortion services while forcing women to choose between paying rent, feeding their children or being pregnant. Yes, 61 percent of women who have abortions are already raising at least one child.
Lack of access directly endangers poor women who rely on these clinics for their basic reproductive health care.
According to Guttmacher, “58 percent of abortion patients say they would have liked to have had their abortion earlier,” and “nearly 60 percent of women who experienced a delay in obtaining an abortion cite the time it took to make arrangements and raise money.”
These statistics were collected before the record number of laws preventing women’s choice passed since 2010. Just this year, 17 states made it harder to get an abortion.
The 20-week bans pursued by Republicans in Congress and several states ignore the fact that 98.5 percent of all abortions take place in the first 20 weeks. Those who make the decision to end a pregnancy later generally do so due to a horrific medical prognosis or some other dire extenuating circumstance. Despite this, the federal ban includes no exception for medical abnormalities and the ban being considered in Texas has no exception for rape or incest.
Photo credit: Bruno Sanchez-Andrade Nuño via Flickr.com
Fighting the birth control mandate
Members of the anti-choice movement have a hard time admitting that President Obama will have done more to prevent abortions than any president in American history for one simple reason: Obamacare. The president’s health care reform law paved the way for a regulation that makes free birth control coverage a part of all insurance plans, which through Medicaid expansion will be extended to millions of working women who are currently too poor to afford insurance and earn too much to qualify for Medicaid.
That birth control would prevent unintended pregnancies, thus abortions, seems obvious. But, for any doubters, a recent study proved this simple notion:
The CHOICE project simulated Obamacare’s birth control provision by allowing teens and women to select from the full range of FDA-approved contraceptive options and receive their preferred method at no cost. They found that birth rates among the teens who received free birth control in the CHOICE project were less than a fifth of the national teen birth rate — just 6.3 births per 1,000 teens, compared to 34.3 per 1,000 teens nationwide in 2010 — and abortion rates were less than half of both the regional and national rates.
Despite this, conservatives oppose the birth control mandate, saying it violates “religious freedom” because employers would have provide a medication they don’t believe in. So their “freedom” depends on being allowed to make a choice for others, even though birth control has medical uses beyond preventing abortion. Thus they’re willing to increase abortions.
Republican strategist Liz Mair told BuzzFeed that the GOP should pursue smarter framing as they pursue new abortion restrictions, including letting female Republicans take the lead on abortion legislation and supporting policies that increase the availability of birth control. But even this suggestion on a non-right-wing website upset a couple of anti-choice men.
Photo: Shameless Magazine via Flickr.com
Intimidating patients and clinic owners
Much of the renewed vigor in the anti-choice movement comes from the disgusting behavior of Kermit Gosnell, who was convicted of killing seven babies, as well as other crimes, in his clinic in Philadelphia. The doctor was not licensed to practice obstetrics and gynecology and his clinic had not been inspected in 17 years. To those who believe in abortion rights, he’s a perfect example of pre-Roe v. Wade America, where women could only turn to disreputable providers, often with deadly results.
Those who oppose abortion want to make Gosnell the face of abortion in America, when it was their tactics that drove women to his clinic, reports Sarah Posner:
…women came to Gosnell’s clinic, in spite of its location in Philadelphia, a city with several reputable abortion facilities. Among the saddest things I have read in the wake of this disaster is the account of a Philadelphia social worker, pointing out that the community health center which serves the same low-income neighborhood in which the Gosnell clinic was located is considered to be one of the city’s best facilities. But as a recipient of federal funding, of course this center could not offer abortion care.
So why did Gosnell’s patients not go to a better, i.e. safer, abortion clinic, for example, the Planned Parenthood in downtown Philadelphia, no more than a few miles from Women’s Medical Society? One very poignant answer to this comes from a statement that one of Gosnell’s patients made to the Associated Press. The woman had initially gone to this Planned Parenthood for a scheduled abortion, but “the picketers out there, they scared me half to death.”
The intimidation of women seeking an abortion is mild compared to that often faced by the doctors who perform them and the people who run or rent space to clinics. And this intimidation has been backed up with arson and murder.
Those who seek to deny women choice are stuck with a difficult set of facts, given that abortion is actually safer than childbirth.
This, however, doesn’t stop them.
At “crisis” pregnancy centers across America set up to resemble clinics that offer abortion but really are trying to convince women to give birth, women’s health “experts” often offer a consistent set of lies. Among them are that abortion causes breast cancer, abortion makes women barren and abortion causes mental problems. All are proven lies.
The goal is to delay the abortion until it is no longer possible in hopes of compelling women to give a child up for adoption, which is a cottage industry for the right. But if the woman ends up keeping the child as she’s been pressured to do, she’ll face a world where Republicans can’t even find enough votes in their House majority to allocate funds for federal food assistance.
Photo: stmaryathens via Flickr.com
Calling opponents “murderers” or “child killers”
During the 2012 campaign, Republicans were aghast at a commercial in which an employee, who was laid off by Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital and lost his family’s health insurance, seemed to blame Romney for his wife’s death from cancer. Despite the fact that the GOP nominee was running on a platform of repealing Obamacare, depriving millions of health insurance, they said that Mitt Romney was being accused of “murder” and the commercial was out of line.
Democrats who advocate for universal health care coverage often point out the estimated 26,000-35,000 Americans a year who die for a lack of insurance. But they don’t generally accuse the Republicans who prevent such coverage of being murderers.
Elected Republicans also veer away from the claim that abortion is murder, knowing that an estimated 1 in 3 American women have had the procedure. But those in the anti-choice movement have no reservations about calling doctors who perform abortions “murderers.”
They are, however, more conflicted about what to say about the women who choose to end a pregnancy, illustrating the precariousness of legislating a woman’s private medical decisions, especially when people and even religions disagree about when life actually begins.
The rhetoric of “baby killer,” “murderer” and “Holocaust” is used to justify extreme resistance, including violence. And it also makes it nearly impossible for politicians who disagree on this issue to work together. What could make it acceptable to aid a murderer or someone who abets murder?
Nothing. That’s probably why so many on the right are unwilling to work on policies that would actually reduce abortion.
Photo: Taber Andrew Bain via Flickr.com