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It’s Time to Call the Lies of Anti-Abortion Rhetoric What They Are: Incitements to Violence

Abortion rights protest sign

Welcome to The Week in Reproductive Justice, a weekly recap of all news related to the hot-button issue of what lawmakers are allowing women to do with their bodies!

As if the relative success of anti-abortion propaganda film Unplanned weren’t unsettling enough, abortion clinics spoke up this week about receiving increased harassment since the film’s release, from an influx of postcards calling on clinic workers to quit to clinic protesters increasingly citing the movie’s plot as reason to harass patients.

This isn’t surprising. Media and politicians’ talking points have always played a role in shaping and encouraging anti-abortion harassment and violence. New reports indicating rising rates of violence and threats targeting clinics since the start of Donald Trump’s presidency make perfect sense put in the context of the horrifying, dehumanizing language and policies of this administration around reproductive rights.

And that’s exactly why Trump’s latest comments about later abortion at a weekend rally in Wisconsin are so terrifying. In the president’s remarks, he likened abortion providers who offer later abortion care to executioners: “The baby is born. The mother meets with the doctor. They take care of the baby. They wrap the baby beautifully,” he said, “and then the doctor and the mother determine whether or not they will execute the baby.”

It gets tiring being forced to explain, over and over, what later abortion is at this point, yet incessant right-wing obsession with it as a salient political talking point have made it clear that this isn’t a topic that’s going away any time soon. There is far more extensive, accurate, and thorough reading about later abortion, but all in all, it’s a normal, safe, legal, and often medically necessary procedure, often to protect the woman’s health, or safely address extreme fetal anomalies. Yes, it’s rare, but that doesn’t make it any less normal or medically necessary.

Accurate facts about abortion care matter so much, because lies about abortion impact more than laws—they also impact the lives and safety of abortion providers and patients. It hasn’t quite been four years since a gunman killed three at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado, parroting common anti-abortion rhetoric from Republican presidential candidates and political leaders at the time, and styling himself as a “warrior for the babies.” It hasn’t been 10 years since George Tiller, one of few later abortion providers in Kansas, was shot dead at his church for his work, and in all the years since, arson, threats, and regular, routine harassment continue to happen at nearly all clinics on a regular basis.

Anti-abortion activists and politicians like Donald Trump will never accept responsibility for the dangerous, often horrific consequences of their words, by asserting they did not intend to encourage violence, but even if there rhetoric is as benign and well-meaning as they claim, as in nearly all circumstances (and certainly when it comes to violence against abortion providers), intent has no bearing on impact.

When politicians lie that unborn fetuses are born, living children, and worse, lie that doctors and women are murdering them in cold blood, they are placing targets on abortion providers’ backs. If they actually cared about human life, as they claim to, they would cease in spreading their hateful, violence-inciting lies, but they don’t, and that should tell us everything we need to know.

New Trump administration policy would protect anti-abortion doctors

In a move transparently meant to feed Trump’s base of anti-abortion religious extremists, this week, the president announced a policy to protect health care workers who refuse to provide or tangentially support access to abortion care, among other health services. If this sounds familiar, that’s because the rule is an expansion of an existing rule, now to include religious exemptions for performing sterilizations or administering birth control, as well.

Not only would this policy enable doctors to discriminate against women and pregnant patients, but it would also permit doctors to withhold key facts about patients’ health care options. Its impact would be felt by all women, pregnant people, LGBTQ people, and patients in general by eroding the trust that is so fundamental to doctor-patient relationships and the health care industry at large. If you can’t trust that your doctor is giving you all the information you need to make a safe, informed decision about your body, your life, and your future, then who can you trust?

To equate this rule with “freedom” reveals a frustrating disparity in whose “freedom” is prioritized, as it places arbitrary limits on women and pregnant patients’ freedom to make decisions about their lives, based on the personal and religious views of their doctors, and of course, the indisputable reality is that enforcement of this policy could and probably will cost women their lives. That’s what happens when women are barred from accessing abortion care in extreme health circumstances.

Ultimately, what makes this policy so uniquely dangerous is that it perpetuates a false narrative of the victimhood of the anti-abortion movement. People who want to use their power and positions in life to deny women health care and autonomy are not victims; they are oppressors, and so are the politicians who enable and empower them.

The bottom line is abortion is health care. Birth control is health care. Period. Anti-abortion individuals do have freedom—freedom to choose a profession that doesn’t require them to offer health care services to all.

Hypocritical Texas law would require women seeking abortions to be lied to

The same week the Trump administration announced its policy of allowing doctors to withhold information from women, it’s only fitting that anti-abortion Texas lawmakers would introduce and advance a bill to require patients seeking abortion to hear state-mandated lies. SB 2243, which now needs one last Senate vote to move to the House, would require patients to visit with a counselor prior to being able to access abortion. The counselor would tell them about all other “options” other than abortion, if they chose to go through with the pregnancy, with the supposed intention of preventing them from having an abortion they’ll regret.

In other words, the bill is rooted in a prevalent anti-abortion myth that women who have abortions subsequently regret their decision, despite repeated research findings proving the opposite. That is not to invalidate the experiences of women who do feel regret or later question their decisions, as everyone is entitled to have different feelings about their different experiences, but the bottom line is no experience with abortion is universal. The suggestion that all women must necessarily be warned of feeling shame and regret afterward is not only offensive, but plainly inaccurate.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, seven states currently have mandated counseling laws in place, and if SB 2243 continues to experience success in Texas’ majority anti-abortion legislature, Texas could soon become the eighth.

Alabama bill would jail abortion providers for up to 99 years

There was so much reproductive rights-related news this week that an Alabama bill that would outlaw abortion and threaten abortion providers with up to 99 years in jail almost evaded attention. HB 314, the Human Life Protection Act, would explicitly make it a crime to offer abortion care except to save the pregnant woman’s life, and it’s being proposed arguably not despite, but because of Roe v. Wade. If signed in to law, it would inevitably be challenged in court for violating the Supreme Court precedent that made abortion legal, and anti-abortion lawmakers and activists are hoping HB 314 could make it to an increasingly anti-abortion-friendly Supreme Court and bring Roe down.

And if the premise of the bill isn’t terrifying enough, just read the details. Per NPR:

“The bill criminalizes abortion, meaning doctors would face felony jail time up to 99 years if convicted. The only exceptions are for a serious health risk to the pregnant woman, or a lethal anomaly of the fetus. There are no exceptions for cases of rape or incest.”

Sure, NPR notes that the bill would not jail women who have abortions, but this is hardly a mercy, considering the bill would take away Alabama women’s access to safe, legal abortion by jailing providers.

The fight for Roe v. Wade is the fight of and for women’s lives, and if you didn’t believe our warnings about the existential threat to abortion rights ahead of the 2016 presidential election, or after the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, hopefully you’ll believe us now, because frankly, it doesn’t get any more obvious than this bill.

Tune in next week to see what lawmakers will try next in their never-ending mission to derail reproductive justice!

(image: Rena Schild / Shutterstock.com)

Kylie Cheung writes about feminism and politics, with a focus on reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kylietcheung, or learn more about her writing at www.kyliecheung.tumblr.com.

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