I have already reported on how Missouri is seemingly working its ass off for the title of Most Anti-Choice State. Last August, the state legislature passed an initiative that would require abortion clinics to undergo extremely expensive and unnecessary renovations. When challenged by Planned Parenthood, the state contracted an anti-choice group to act as its defense. In September, we found out about a lawsuit challenging the two year old state law effectively outlawing abortion for female inmates. In October, Governor Matt Blunt put together an anti-choice “abortion task force” supposedly to find out what “impact” abortion has on women, though the conclusion was clearly reached before any “investigation” was completed. And then, as a direct result of said “task force,” a Missouri ballot initiative outlawing abortion was proposed in December.
Now, I’m not saying that they’ve won the title yet. Off the top of my head, I can say that Mississippi, Kansas and South Dakota are all strong competitors. But Missouri — well, they get an A for effort.
A couple of days ago, the Baltimore Sun ran a more comprehensive story about the ballot initiative. It’s mostly about how the initiative could potentially impact the 2008 Missouri elections, but what caught my eye was the new anti-choice argument. Before, they argued (falsely) that abortions regularly cause severe physical and emotional trauma to women. Now, in a variation on a theme, they’re using the newly-popular argument that women don’t have abortions of their own free will. Baby-loving, pregnancy celebrating, innocent and simple people that women are, they have to be coerced into having abortions.
Though the ballot proposal is just beginning to attract attention, its implications are significant in Missouri and the nation.
Anti-abortion groups say the proposal would make Missouri a model for the country. They contend that it seeks to prevent what they allege accounts for more than half of U.S. abortions: women being coerced into having unwanted abortions.
Supporters say the regulations would force abortion providers to inform women of all of the potential consequences of abortion, such as “higher rates of suicide, psychiatric hospitalization, substance abuse, depression.” [. . .]
Supporters of the initiative, formally titled “The Prevention of Coerced and Unsafe Abortions Act,” are attempting to frame the debate around their contention that 64 percent of women who have abortions have them without really wanting to. They say women are pushed into them by partners, family, poverty or lack of information regarding their options.
“It is my belief that the vast majority of Missouri citizens, even those who believe that abortions should be readily available to women, would agree … that no abortion should ever be the result of coercion,” Reardon said.
One supporter of the proposal is Paula Talley, a divorced mother of two from St. Louis who says she was forced into having an abortion nearly two decades ago by economic hardship and fear of what her family would think.
“I’m hoping that my story will really speak to people as they consider how to vote on this,” Talley said.
What reproductive rights advocates have to make exceedingly clear is that this law is not about “restricting” abortion, or trying to put in any special “precautions” to make sure that women are not being coerced into abortion. It’s a ban. Plain and simple. Read it for yourself:
Under the initiative, doctors would not be allowed to perform a nonemergency abortion unless they believed “the imminent death or serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman” would occur.
But of course, the antis are not going to frame it that way. In recent years, they’ve gotten smart enough to back off of the hysterical “baby murder!!!” rhetoric and replace it with “genuine concern for women” rhetoric. And I think that no matter how clearly the educated among us can see right through the facade, we have to admit that they’re being pretty fucking clever.
The good news is that the more anti-choicers talk, the more transparent they become. For example, they’re actively touting the “fact” that 64% of women who have abortions didn’t really want them. I’d really love to see the actual question asked in that survey (assuming there was one). Because I do indeed believe that if you ask most women who have had abortions “did you want to have an abortion?,” the answer will be “no, do you think I’m stupid?” I didn’t want to have my gall bladder removed either, idiots, but that doesn’t mean I should have refused the surgery. The question is not whether women “want” to have abortions, but rather “did someone pressure you into an abortion, or did you decide for yourself?” and “once you were pregnant, did you feel that abortion was your best option?”
Going further to ignore the misleading question factor, I imagine that it’s true that a decent percentage of women who have abortions wouldn’t have had them if they felt they had other options. That doesn’t make their decision a bad one — it makes the situation they were in one that we should not impose on women.
As for Ms. Talley, assuming that she is telling the truth (sorry, I don’t trust anti-choice advocates to be honest), her story is not a happy one and is unfortunately common. But she also doesn’t present a better option. She seems to think that for most women, reluctantly having an abortion is somehow much, much worse than both being ostracized by one’s family and living in extreme poverty. I believe that this is a choice women should not have to face, but Ms. Talley on the other hand seems to be so far removed from her previous circumstances that they’ve been rendered meaningless to her. The thinking she presents goes along the line of “if abortion had been illegal, I wouldn’t have been able to have one, which is good because I didn’t really want one in the first place.” Not only is she assuming that every other woman in the same situation would feel that way, she’s also ignoring the negative consequences she would have faced as the young woman who deemed them serious enough to have an abortion.
I’m preaching to the choir here, I know, but it should be fairly obvious to everyone that reducing the number of abortions that women have due solely to economic hardship isn’t humanely done by outlawing abortion, it’s done by working to neutralize economic hardship. Why I believe that Talley is either insincere or taken advantage of by anti-choice groups is because we’re dealing with a law proposal which would kill and further-subjugate women rather than a bill that would increase assistance for poor pregnant women beyond prenatal care.
Also, I just really hate the arrogant “I made a bad decision, so no one else should ever have the same choice” line of thinking.
And again, they’re explicitly promoting the 64% of women who have abortions don’t want them “statistic.” Even if we didn’t think that the figure was totally bogus, it does leave one glaring question: what about the other 36%, geniuses? Sorry, ladies. You don’t know it yet, but someday you might regret that abortion. Secretly, you love being pregnant even when you don’t. Daddy Blunt is going to take good care of you though, by allowing you to not worry your pretty little head about the matter.
Personally, just like pretty much every other feminist out there, I’m tried of being increasingly told that I not only don’t deserve rights over my own uterus, but even when I do have them, I don’t really. Only men can make decisions — fathers, husbands, boyfriends, doctors who perform abortions (no really, no abortion providers are female, I SWEAR). After all, if good old male-gendered God wanted women to have control over their reproductive organs, why did he put him on the inside? Hmm? Exactly. The members of the hormonal, vacuous fairer sex need to leave it up to the men. But some men take advantage of their ownership of women and like to kill babies! So we must protect all of the little women from the men’s horrible, sex-crazed ways. Just not in a way that requires men to actually give up said ownership.
I personally believe very strongly that we need to start attacking this idea directly in the mainstream media. I think that it has gotten way past the stage where it was wise to ignore their talking points for fear of giving them legitimacy. They have already gained legitimacy. We’re now at damage control. And there’s a lot to be done, particularly done well enough to get us the votes we’ll need in November. If you’re in Missouri, I advise getting personally organized now. Talk to people. Start writing letters to the editor. Find out who is already organizing and get involved. Because you can be sure that the antis are doing all of this and more.