Are 'Birthers' and Anti-Choicers One and the Same?
If you haven't flipped on a TV for the past couple of weeks, you may be blissfully ignorant, but alas the rest of the country and most of the world has been subjected to the mainstreaming of a racist conspiracy nicknamed “birtherism,” which is the belief that Barack Obama is faking his birth certificate and therefore citizenship, and is secretly disqualified to be President. Birthers claim that Obama wasn’t born in the U.S. (he was born in Honolulu), and interestingly, they ignore the fact that all the Constitution requires is that the President be a natural-born citizen, which means any child born in 1961 of Stanley Ann Dunham Obama would have been a citizen, even if they were born on the moon. But trying to argue with birthers is a lot like trying to argue with ... .anti-choicers, actually. And the splashing of birther conspiracy theories all over the place is cluing your average American into some unpleasant aspects of movement conservatism that those of us who've tangled with the anti-choice movement have known for a long time.
Is it fair to compare anti-choice nuttery to birther conspiracy theories? Well, of course. First of all, there's a great deal of overlap between birthers and anti-choicers. Certainly, politicians think both groups are one and the same people. James Inhofe, one of the most outspoken and aggressive anti-choicers in the Senate, obviously believes his base wants to hear about how birthers have a "point," even though it takes roughly two sentences and a quick perusal of the Constitution to point that this is impossible. But maybe he’s reading the same data I am, that shows that 63% of Republicans are "pro-life" and 58% are somewhere on the birther scale. And just as anti-choice sentiment is strongest in the South and Midwest, birtherism is as well.
With that in mind, I made a list of aspects of movement conservatism that you're probably learning about the birther movement that you would have known already if you had followed the anti-choice movement closely.
Truth is considered a mere obstacle between them and their goals. For ordinary Americans struggling to understand the birthers, the most frustrating thing about them must be their utter contempt for evidence, reality, or any form of inconvenient truth. No matter how many times birthers are shown pictures of Obama’s birth certificate, no matter how many times they’re reminded that Obama is a citizen both through his birth geography and his mother’s citizenship, no matter how many people call them cranks -- they do not care. Reality is unimportant, compared to what they believe.
Pro-choicers recognize this tendency well, since it’s a defining trait of the anti-choice movement. The lies pile up so fast with anti-choicers it's hard to keep up: That there’s no such thing as a medically necessary abortion. That abortion causes breast cancer. That contraception is the reason couples divorce. That the birth control works by aborting a pregnancy. That condoms aren’t effective at preventing the spread of HIV. Honestly, if you want to know how movement conservatives got so good at ignoring inconvenient truths, I’d say that they cut their teeth in many ways in opposing reproductive rights.
Racism is the unspoken motivator. Interestingly, movement conservatives aren't just obsessed with the circumstances of Obama's birth when they’re wearing their birther hats. For a long time now, anti-choicers have dwelt upon an obsessive insistence, against all evidence, that Obama's mother wanted to abort her pregnancy, and was merely prevented by illegal abortion. Catholic Vote has done an ad implying this, and going so far as to call Obama's mother a "single mother," even though she was married to his father when he was born. And, as I document in last week's podcast, the myth reached the House floor when Representative Todd Tiahrt claimed that Obama is here only due to the unavailability of abortion in 1961. He also said the same thing about Clarence Thomas, in case there was any doubt about what he was hinting at.