Anti-choice protesters make a lot of claims about the intentions behind their aggressive opposition to abortion rights. They would have you think they have the best interests of women at heart, and are politely offering them alternatives to abortion. The fact that this is blatantly false will come to no surprise to anyone who follows their tracking of license plates and rejoicing in blocking access to healthcare. Jill Filipovic recently spent some time with protesters in Massachusetts, and her article paints a clear picture of the gauntlet women have to go through there to access care.
From listening to the protesters explain what they’re doing, it’s obvious here are some key concepts that they just don’t understand, so let me help clear some things up:
Counseling. When most people think of counseling, they imagine a safe, welcoming environment in which people seek out guidance and are gently talked through their options, not what Filipovic’s article shows. They don’t picture having unsolicited “advice” yelled at you while you’re trying to go about your business. They don’t picture being accused of murder while walking down the street. They don’t imagine being shown grisly photographs that are supposed to dissuade you from exercising your rights. They don’t imagine taking pictures of you meant to shame and intimidate you for the decision you have determined is best for you. The Supreme Court obviously doesn’t understand what counseling is either, since they ignored evidence of violence and intimidation and bought anti-choice protesters’ story, claiming they were engaging in “personal, caring, consensual conversations.” I might like to have my own personal, caring, consensual conversation about this ruling with Justice Roberts, but that probably won’t happen since they seem to have no plans to get rid of their own buffer zone.
Real counseling is what is going on inside these abortion clinics, where rather than trying to make decisions for women, counselors provide women the information they need about their options and trust them to decide what is best.
Sex education. I think this quote from a protester more or less sums it up:
“Abstinence,” Clark says. “It’s possible. I taught my daughters abstinence. It doesn’t mean I’ve been successful with my first two, but I have three more to go. You hold your breath.”
What’s that definition of insanity again? Keep on holding your breath, lady. Go on expecting your daughters to not act like human beings, making sure they don’t know anything about preventing unintended pregnancy and STIs before they join the 95% of people who have sex before marriage.
The protesters are also operating under a very antiquated, gendered view of sex and who wants to have it. The same protester claims, “Men are winning because of the way women are giving themselves away.” How sad to think of sex as a zero sum game that the woman is always losing. It contributes to loads of unhealthy thinking about sex, not least of which is a complete lack of focus on women’s pleasure. News flash: a lot of women are having sex because we enjoy it, not because we were talked into it by scheming men.
Empowering women. If you think anti-choice protesters truly trust and care about women, this profile should disabuse you of that notion quickly. A womb is a “dangerous place to be,” as opposed to, you know, a part of a woman’s body. “The fullness of being a woman is being a mother,” so sorry childfree women, you’re empty and incomplete. As Filipovic points out, the protesters can’t seem to decide if women are being pressured by society and their partners to commit this horrible act, or if they’re “selfish objects” who want to just get on with their “selfish lives.” And the prizewinner for most oblivious has to go to this gem:
“[Women] had equality,” Delouis says about the 1950s, before Supreme Court cases legalized contraception and abortion. “But they had to be obedient to their husbands. That’s where equality comes: where the mother stayed home and raised the children in God’s light, and the husband worked, and everything was great. When I grew up, there were no problems.”
The irony of course is that they portray women as everything from selfish whores to empty baby vessels, while claiming that a world in which women can determine their futures and when, how and with whom they have a family is “not empowering women.” If only we could be as empowered as those obedient women in the 50s who couldn’t get a credit card, serve on a jury or fight workplace discrimination.
Anyone who has doubt about which side of this debate cares about listening to and supporting women, preparing them with the information they need to make healthy decisions, and empowering them through all aspects of their lives clearly isn’t paying attention.