Spend enough time outside your local abortion clinic, and you’ll see them: protesters, most of them men, holding signs of supposedly aborted fetuses. They plead with women to not abort their “babies.” They offer the laughable support of baby clothes, but never offer real financial assistance or express a willingness to adopt unwanted babies. They yell at women who go through with the procedure. They ditch women who back out, consistently opposing governmental policies that might offer real support to women with unwanted pregnancies.
Researchers have documented the right’s lies about abortion over and over. One of the most pernicious is the lie of post-abortion trauma. Women who seek abortions are not traumatized en masse. And when they do feel trauma, it’s often due to the tactics the right employs to “protect” women seeking abortions. Anti-choicers have created teh very trauma they decry. It’s just one more indication that their opposition to abortion has nothing whatsoever to do with protecting women.
It’s no accident that the right uses graphic images of allegedly aborted fetuses. The goal is to shame women considering abortions and guilt those who have already had them. It’s a tactic that works. Women struggling with depression and guilt may believe these images represent the fetuses they aborted. In most cases, the images are of babies much larger than those that could be legally aborted, contributing to the myth that abortion kills large, living, feeling beings.
Creating Shame and Grief
The most common emotion women report feeling after an abortion is relief. Ninety percent of women express sentiments of relief in the week following a pregnancy termination. But research suggests that state abortion laws requiring waiting periods and pre-abortion counseling increase shame. This reduces women’s feelings of relief, and can cause them to feel guilty following an abortion. This is a deliberate attempt by the right to punish women for undergoing abortions. This guilt and shame is totally unnecessary. It’s not a natural result of abortion. It’s a byproduct of the culture wars.
The Abortion Salvation Narrative
Spend enough time at a far right church, and you’ll eventually hear the same tired abortion narrative: a “troubled” woman (she’s always troubled; normal women don’t have abortions) sough an abortion. She was ravaged by grief and guilt for years. Then finally, she found Jesus. He saved and forgave her, and the congregation embraced her. Good for her. Women deserve to embrace whatever narratives about their own lives that they wish.
The trouble with this particular narrative is that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. A stigma against talking about abortion means that women rarely hear positive abortion stories. They only hear the tragic tales anti-choice zealots weave. So they think it’s natural to grieve and feel bad. Those who don’t may think there’s something wrong with them. And those who do feel mixed or negative emotions may think it’s because there was something wrong with the choice they made.
Abortion Trauma: Is it Real?
Studies have repeatedly debunked the notion of post-abortion syndrome. But women can and do experience trauma related to their abortions. Some women seek abortions under duress. Others have abortions because, under policies supported by anti-choice Republicans, they can’t afford to have babies. And yes, some women grow to regret their abortions.
Does this mean abortion should be illegal, or that it’s inherently traumatic? Of course not. Some women regret becoming mothers. As many as 20% develop depression after having a child. Yet anti-choicers don’t argue that pregnancy should be banned.
The trauma some women experience after abortion is a direct result of the cultural milieu in which abortion exists. Pro-choicers do little to actually support women, arguing that abortion is a tragic decision that should be rare. Anti-choicers are there to fill in the gaps. They tell women to grieve for their “babies” for the rest of their lives. They instruct them that they must redeem themselves for their sinful decisions. They tell tales of women ravaged by the pain of abortion. And they never mention the flip side: that women denied abortions have worse outcomes, and that pregnancy has always been more dangerous for women than abortion.
Last Saturday, more than 600 protesters gathered outside a Charlotte, North Carolina, abortion clinic to shame women seeking abortions. Many urged that “abortion is a men’s issue, too.” Justin Reeder, founder of Men for Life, recently remarked, “The truth is, this is more a man’s issue than a woman’s issue…We forget about the men so often in this story.” Apparently what happens inside of women’s bodies actually matters more to men than women. But far-right abortion protesters are right about one thing: abortion affects men, too. Yet women disproportionately bear the shame, costs, and risks of abortion. Abortion benefits men–even when they won’t admit it.
How Abortion Benefits Men
When women don’t have abortions, they have children. Those children need at least 18 years of food, clothing, parenting, education, and myriad other costly forms of support. Single fathers are more likely than mothers to neglect these responsibilities. But they still have to pay child support, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars over the course of childhood. Abortion prevents men from paying for children they don’t want or never see. It protects them from a lifelong relationship with a partner they don’t want to be with. It ensures that both men and women can pursue educational and career goals. And, in the case of very conservative men from very conservative families, it may protect men from the stigma of an unwanted pregnancy.
These aren’t trivial benefits. Men who can’t afford child support can find themselves in bankruptcy. Teen fathers are more likely to drop out of college and high school. Ongoing conflict with a mother the father no longer has a relationship with is a source of chronic stress. And of course, the ability to have sex without fear of being forced to raise a child to adulthood is a significant benefit that frees men to think about more pleasant topics.
Why Men Don’t Get a Say
So if abortion benefits men, too, why don’t they get a say? Men’s inability to stop a partner’s abortion has been a rallying cry of the far-right for decades. The obvious answer, of course, is that the fetus is in the woman’s body. Most anti-abortion activists are undaunted by this. So here’s another issue: the odds of a man actually serving as the primary caregiver for a child he forces a woman to bear are vanishingly slim.
Dozens of studies have documented that men continue not to do their fair share of childrearing. Some studies even show that men see equal division of childrearing as a form of inequality. When couples don’t live together, the discrepancy grows even larger. Following a divorce, a third of men drop out of their children’s lives altogether.
It’s a fantasy to believe that a majority of men who want to stop their partners from having abortions actually want to raise the child. Instead, the mother will be stuck parenting a child she didn’t want–or worse, the child will end up in foster care. It’s just one more way the anti-choice movement has proven to be an anti-family movement.
Women Still Bear the Cost of Most Abortions
Researchers have paid little attention to the role men play in abortion. A small 1999 study found that only slightly more than 1% of men whose partners had abortions wanted their partner to complete the pregnancy. This suggests that men know they benefit from abortion. But what support do men offer? Not much. In an even smaller study, only half of men whose partners sought abortions even bothered to accompany their partners to the abortion clinic.
Women are still significantly more likely than men to pay for abortion, even though men earn more money than women. Women also bear all of the risk of abortion, and most of the stigma. Abortion clinic protesters, after all, don’t call men whores or sinners. They’re more likely to insist upon a man’s right to control his partner. Male abortion protesters are protesting abortion, not going to the local foster care office and petitioning to adopt unwanted children.
It’s a sign of the privilege that infects virtually every aspect of relationships between men and women. Men benefit from someone women do, while denying that benefit and demanding even more of women. The male anti-abortion movement is male fragility at its worst.
Support for choice should be a non-negotiable litmus test for Democratic candidates. Yet male Democratic party leaders are increasingly cozying up to anti-choice Democrats. A few weeks ago, it was Bernie Sanders. Now it’s Tom Perez. The new DNC chair will meet with representatives of Democrats for Life as part of an “outreach campaign.” It’s just one in a series of moves that suggests the party still doesn’t understand the role of its progressive female base.
Republicans have long promised to “repeal and replace” the law that made coverage for pre-existing medical conditions mandatory. Prior to the Affordable Care Act, people with medical issues dubbed pre-existing conditions were denied health care, even if they had paid for insurance for years. An $8 billion last-minute fix attempts to fund some care for people with pre-existing conditions. But health care experts say it’s not enough. And it doesn’t mandate (or fund) coverage for pre-existing conditions like the Affordable Care Act did.
So what exactly is a pre-existing condition? It’s any medical condition, no matter how trivial, that existed prior to a person’s plan. When coverage for these conditions isn’t mandated, insurers can deny coverage on the basis of a pre-existing condition. This means sick people often can’t get health insurance. But it also means that people who think they have no relevant pre-existing conditions might still be denied care. For example, a woman with ovarian cancer might be denied coverage because she had an ovarian cyst 10, 20, or 70 years before.
Pre-existing condition exclusions harm women especially. That’s not an accident. The Republican administration and Republican Congress have targeted women for months.
Myth of Taxpayer Funded Abortions (and Why Using Taxes to Fund Abortions Could Save Lives and Money)
Republicans have long stirred up their base by arguing against taxpayer funded abortion. At this year’s March for Life, Mike Pence even promised to end taxpayer funded abortion. Taxpayer money doesn’t fund abortions. It hasn’t in decades. But research suggests that making abortion accessible with taxpayer funded abortions could save money. It would also save lives. Read the rest of this entry »
This week’s swearing-in of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch has raised concerns among pro-choice activists. Any of the many state-level abortion restrictions could make their way to the Supreme Court. This, in turn, could spell the end of Roe vs. Wade. Gorsuch replaced a conservative justice. This means the technical balance of the Court hasn’t shifted. But with one more Supreme Court nominee, the Court should shift further right than it has been in four decades.
With all the focus on abortion rights, it’s easy to lose sight of something most people take completely for granted: premarital and casual sex. Abortion rights helped birth the sexual revolution. The transformation this produced took premarital sex from scandalous to standard. A Supreme Court that reverses choice rights, or even one that just eats away at choice, could affect the sex life of anyone who’s ever deigned to have sex outside of marriage–and that’s almost everyone.
A new Tennessee abortion ban bill prohibits abortion after 20 weeks. The bill, sponsored by Republican legislators, was roundly criticized by women’s rights groups. In testimony about the bill, one woman cried and called the bill “cruel.” Now, opponents of the bill are getting support from an unlikely source. Tennessee’s Republican attorney general, Herbert H. Slattery, III, has called the bill “constitutionally suspect.”
Anti-choice zealots know they’re about to have another friend on the Supreme Court. They’re rolling out new state abortion laws at a dizzying pace. Laws that are clearly illegal under Roe vs. Wade are actually a great strategy. That’s because these regulations have a good chance of winding their way to the Supreme Court, potentially reversing Roe. Here are four new state abortion laws you might have missed this month.