Thursday, September 13, 2007

Know-Nothing Activism

Many thanks to Amanda Marcotte for posting the below article on the RH Reality Check Blog.

Amanda's piece gets to the heart of the total absurdity of anti-choice zealots aggressively interfering with a woman's right to obtain contraceptive services. I will never understand the rigid stance that anti-choicers take in trying to deny both abortion services AND contraceptive services to women in the United States. And, why are so many of them men????

"When historians look back at turn-of-the-21st-century America, there are going to be a lot of questions on their minds. Is America the equivalent of latter-day Rome? Did people really care about Anna Nicole Smith’s baby daddy or Paris Hilton’s jail sentence? Did the Hummer ever really settle anyone’s unspoken fears about being a bit smaller than average? One of the most troubling of these questions will be, “How on earth could one of the most powerful political movements in the nation collectively be unable to string two thoughts together in any type of coherent form?”

"I’m speaking, of course, of the anti-choice movement. Never has a group of people put so much time and energy into a cause – we’re talking decades of agitating here – without devoting a single moment to wondering if their ideological stances make an ounce of sense. For all the ink spilled and prayers offered, you’d think that someone would pause to say, “Perhaps we should flesh out and analyze our belief system just a little bit, maybe run it past a reality test, see if our policy ideas could work in the real world, even.” But no, that never seems to happen.

Case #1 from this week’s news of the anti-choice rejection of coherent thought processes: the fight over funding international family planning programs. Granted, we all know that anti-choice groups really protest this funding because they object to the use of any kind of birth control whatsoever, whether pre- or post-conception. But anti-choice politicians demand a decent cover story, because coming out against sex itself is roughly as politically popular as supporting a ban on ice cream. So the official excuse of anti-choice politicians, including our President, for opposing this funding is that they are against abortion.

You can see the problem here. If you begin with the premise, “I don’t like abortion,” the only way to oppose preventing abortion through contraception is to refuse to think. It’s like the famous South Park episode where they happen upon the brilliant plan to make money by selling stolen underwear, except this time the plan looks like this:
Step #1: Dramatically increase the demand for abortion worldwide by reducing contraception access.
Step #2: ?
Step #3: No more abortion!

As Ann at Feministing notes, the President claims to support the right for “responsible adults” to use contraception, but since he plans to veto any bill providing the funding so that responsible adults around the world can do just that, it’s a teeny bit hard to believe him.
The other possibility is he defines “responsible adult” as someone who has had the foresight to be born an American citizen.

Case #2: Planned Parenthood has opened a new clinic in Aurora, Illinois to provide much-needed health care services to the population. Anti-choice organizers have decided to make a big fuss, flooding the area around the clinic with people who are deeply interested in making sure that they’re seen praying so everyone can know that they’re the biggest, brightest, most Jesus-loved anti-choicer around. Lest you think I’m exaggerating the extent of what’s going on, the organizers are calling for a 40-day “prayer vigil.” No word on if the prayers are worded, “Look at me being holy while you women were no doubt off fornicating,” but the general intent gets across.

The juxtaposition between the sheer amount of effort and the sheer lack of rational thought on this issue is staggering, especially when it comes to people who show up to shame women who need a variety of health care services, including abortion. Energy is spent on putting together posters and fliers exalting in the spiritual superiority of those who have time to judge their neighbor and throw stones. Energy is spent organizing and making calls to the media. Energy is spent examining each woman walking into a clinic for outward signs of sexual sinner status---if only fornicating women had their noses turn purple so they were easier to identify.

Energy is even spent worrying about whether or not men who support choice live up to a masculine ideal, as this quote from Jill Stanek at Prolifeblogs demonstrates: “Apparently, Chicago PP CEO Steve Trombley is a girly-man general who can no longer handle the situation and may also have majorly miscalculated by concealing the clinic's intended occupants a little too long.” Emphasis mine. I’m not sure what her point is, but she sounds almost as if she’d expect an arm-wrestling contest between men who respect women’s rights and those who don’t, to be a blow-out in favor of the latter. I wouldn’t bet money on that, but it’s irrelevant anyway. Grave concern about levels of “girliness” in your political opposition doesn’t add any intellectual heft to your arguments.

With all that energy being spent, nothing is left over to think about the ramifications of the anti-choice position. Not a brain cell strained wondering what we’d do with all the babies they want to force women to have against their will. Not a moment spent sweating the fact that it might be better if every child was a wanted one. As Jill Filipovic recently demonstrated, those who spend huge percentages of their waking lives trying to ban abortion haven’t even paused to consider that a ban on abortion would make it a crime to get an abortion. That’s a lot of not-thinking going on. It must be a lot of work to think that little.

If you want to show your support for Planned Parenthood as they suffer under an onslaught of anti-choicers trying to pray at them until they disappear, please buy a ribbon of support to be displayed on their wall. If nothing else, it’s very lonely for many women to walk through a crowd of people eager to cast judgment on you for getting pregnant on accident, and seeing a wall of ribbons from those who support you and remember that you’re as human as anyone else probably gives comfort.


Sam said...

Sounds interesting. I too do not understand the argument that no contraception will egual no abortions. However, I think that in all fairness the pro-lifers (or "anti-choicers" as you call them) are hoping that people will be responsible for all of their actions, including the decision to have sex in the first place. Oh, and a vast majority of pro-choice folks that I have encountered are male, while a vast amount of pro-lifers (or "anti-choicers") are female.

Sam said...

Seems I spelled equal incorrectly. Whoops!

cd said...

I argee: the anti-choice cause doesn't make an ounce of sense, but I don't agree its b/c movement leaders or members haven't thought about their stances. I would guess they've just realized it doesn't matter whether their stances make sense. They've realized they can move people to action with an argument that provokes an emotional reaction around loaded words or ideas (post abortion syndrome, or abortion is murder), even if the argument doesn't make sense. They've also really plugged into mainstream value judgements around sex being dirty or shameful somehow. I would guess this has all been intentional.