Forty-two years ago today, the Supreme Court ruled that women have a legal right to obtain abortions. You would hope that after that many decades, a woman’s bodily autonomy would be respected and the issue would be settled. Of course, there are still many people out there who think a fetus deserves more rights than a full-grown human being.
A prime example of this is a recently-released, supremely creepy anti-abortion video. The video shows three white Christian men all saying “I had an abortion.” They express regret and apologize for allowing the women in their lives to exercise their reproductive freedom. They can feel however they feel about that experience, but they show a frightening lack of regard for the women’s rights and desires. As Anna Merlan points out on Jezebel [emphasis mine]:
Whatever religious framework these men use to look at abortion is their business, of course, and if they choose to believe their aborted babies are waiting for them in heaven, it’s not our place to argue with them. But while it’s lovely that, in Idleman’s words, that conversation brought him “tremendous closure and peace,” there’s little indication of how it impacted the woman he sought out after a quarter-century of silence. The total erasure of women in the video is startling and disturbing—there’s not one word about what they wanted, what obtaining an abortion meant to them, or what they’ve gone on to do afterwards.
Not only is there no interest in how the women felt about having abortions, the video implies a binary that makes women either victims or immoral actors. One of the men says, “I’m sorry that women were subjected to such a terrible thing,” as though this is forced upon women rather than a choice they make in their own best interest. If women aren’t victims, then they are people the men should have protected the fetus from. They tell the fetus they should have “manned up and fought for you.” As Merlan puts it, “The implication throughout is that none of the women in question were of sufficient moral fiber to save their own babies, so it was up to their men to do it for them.”
This video certainly didn’t make me want to encourage any women to go off and raise children with one of these men. As Merlan aptly puts it:
In other words, a man choosing not to support you during an abortion, berating you for having chosen one and then going on to talk about it like it’s his darkest and most shameful secret could be a lot more psychologically scarring than terminating an unwanted pregnancy. Just a thought.
These men who focus on fetuses and erase women’s concerns and rights from the picture certainly aren’t alone. Jessica Williams did a brilliant piece for The Daily Show interviewing a lawyer in Alabama who represents fetuses against pregnant women. Yes, that’s right. In Alabama, the state pays lawyers to represent the fetus when a minor is seeking an abortion without notifying her parents. The lawyer can call all kinds of witnesses, thus making the act of having to justify your personal decisions to a judge even more traumatizing, and spread the word about a pregnancy when the woman may be keeping it quiet with very good reason. Not only does the state put the interests of a fetus ahead of a woman, it also puts them ahead of adults who need legal representation. Rather than using state resources to provide proper defense to people who can’t afford lawyers, Alabama is wasting resources berating women for exercising their constitutional rights.
Forty-two years later, we still have a lot of work to do. At least we can laugh at the absurdity while we prepare ourselves for the fight. Watch the interview here.