Anti-Choice Movement's Twisted Ploy to Pretend They Care About Racism and Sexism
A strange thing has been happening to the anti-choice movement. Suddenly activists and legislators that oppose abortion care about sexism, racism and ableism. Well, not really - but they’re working really hard to convince us that they do.
A new bill in Ohio would make it illegal for a woman to end her pregnancy because a prenatal diagnosis indicates the fetus has Down syndrome. Republican Representative Sarah LaTourette - one of the bill’s sponsors - said: “this isn’t an issue about abortion - it’s an issue of discrimination.” President of Ohio Right to Life Mike Gonidakis told The New York Times: “Pretty soon, we’re going to find the gene for autism. Are we going to abort for that, too?”
This anti-discrimination rhetoric that’s become so common among anti-choice legislators and activists lately is just the most recent stop in the movement’s evolution towards a more mainstream-friendly image. Once known for calling women ‘murderers’, those who oppose abortion are now using feminist and anti-racist language, saying that women “deserve better” than abortion and trying to co-opt #BlackLivesMatter for their own purposes. (The anti-choice movement also has a history of erecting billboards claiming that abortion is racist, a tactic that women of color working for reproductive justice have widely criticized.)
Painting themselves as sensitive to racism or women’s rights is an ironic move from a movement that believes women should have no control over their bodies and futures, but a savvy one nonetheless. So the Ohio bill is no surprise. Other states have laws that ban abortion that are sought out because of sex selection, and for reasons around race.
But these aren’t policies that help marginalized communities. Instead, they’re part of a larger effort to chip away at abortion rights by making the procedure more difficult to obtain by putting up hurdles like waiting periods and mandating ultrasounds. They are also perverting causes around the very real issues of racism, sexism and ableism.
David Perry, a freelance journalist whose son has Down syndrome, wrote in CNN that bills like the one in Ohio run counter to the work that disability rights advocates have been doing.
“Around the country, we’ve been making real progress in attacking the misconceptions built within the prenatal testing regime. When people receive a prenatal diagnosis, they are often told things that aren’t true, and this misinformation can naturally shape their choice of whether to terminate a pregnancy.”
Perry says instead of trying to force women to carry pregnancies, we need to focus on a “pro-information” movement that ensures women who undergo genetic testing while pregnant have access to all of the facts they need to make their own decision. But to the anti-choice movement, women aren’t capable of making decisions - they need the government to do that for them - and available information should be limited or just plain false.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, for example, five states require that women be told that personhood starts at conception, four states require women to be given inaccurate information about the risks associated with abortion, and five states require women to be told that there is a link between abortion and breast cancer (there is not). Arizona has a law that requires doctors to tell women they can “reverse” an abortion, and in Oklahoma doctors can withhold crucial information from a woman about her fetus’ health if the information might cause her to seek an abortion.
These are not policies that are interested in helping anyone - they’re policies meant to keep the truth from women and make their decisions all the more difficult. Women need accurate, science-based information to decide when to parent, if they want to do it at all. And once they do have that information, we cannot head down the slippery slope of telling someone what is an appropriate reason to get an abortion - even if it’s a reason we disagree with.
If the GOP and anti-choice activists cared about helping oppressed communities, they’d listen to them, not pretend to care.