Very Like a War: Responding to Anti-Abortion Arguments
We are pro-truth
On 3 March, the head of ALRANZ, Terry Bellamak wrote: "Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. It marks the beginning of the anti-choicers’ annual [40 day] protest outside hospitals and clinics where abortions are performed.
"This year, ALRANZ will spend these 40 days celebrating truth. The protesters are well aware their efforts do not change the minds of those seeking care. Rather, it seems the protesters’ purpose is to increase the emotional cost of seeking abortion. Arrayed in front of the hospital with signs, singing hymns and staring at every woman of childbearing age who approaches the door, they embody abortion stigma.
"Many of their signs carry false messages, claiming abortion causes breast cancer, infertility, depression, and anxiety. Some claim the existence of a condition they call ‘post-abortion syndrome’. None of these claims is true.
We proclaim ourselves to be pro-truth.
For the next 40 days, each day we will post and tweet one fact about abortion to counter the lies of anti-choice busybodies. So keep an eye on your feeds – there may be something there you didn’t know before."
Some ALRANZ tweets @alranztweets #40daysfortruth – each accompanied by a bona fide source.
> Most people don't regret their abortion. 28 February 2017
> Having been denied an abortion is associated with psychological harm to women, but abortion is not. 12 March 2017
> Highly restrictive abortion laws are not associated with lower abortion rates. 13 March 2017
> Abortion is an extremely safe procedure, with complications occurring less than 0.25% of the time [USA data]. 14 March 2017
SOURCE: Terry Bellamak, ALRANZ President, E-mail, 3 March 2017
"Two embryos following early abortion. The one on the left was aspirated from a pregnancy of 4–5 weeks LMP (6 mm). The one on the right is from a pregnancy of about 6 weeks LMP following medical abortion (18 mm)."
SOURCE: Olga E Loeber. Motivation and satisfaction with early medical vs. surgical abortion in the Netherlands. Reproductive Health Matters 2010;18(35):145-53.
"A woman who died from a dangerous abortion on the floor of a motel room in New Jersey, USA, in 1964. It is a US police photograph of a mother of three, found dead after a clandestine abortion, a photograph which galvanised a movement and inspired poems by a former member of Jane, a group of 'ordinary' women in Chicago, USA, who did thousands of safe, clandestine abortions until abortion was legalised in the USA in 1973. These pages from history serve as cogent reminders of what it is still like for women who have unsafe abortions in developing countries today, whose numbers thankfully appear to be falling, though not nearly fast enough…
"Why is the anti-abortion focus on the fetus powerful? It is because of the image of 'powerlessness' it projects while making the woman on whom it is totally dependent invisible."
How would you respond?
A Campaign member recently wrote: "I'm on Northern Ireland's biggest talk radio programme tomorrow morning to respond to an anti-abortion campaign that has been launched here. Could anyone give me any advice on how to talk about how this idea stigmatises??"
The campaign is called "Both lives matter". It claims that "pro-life" (in the anti-abortion sense) does not mean "anti-women".
Here are some of the replies she received:
Reply 1 (from the USA):
This debate seems to be setting up a false dichotomy, and it becomes a kind of trap... The point is that women care about children and sometimes that means not having them, depending on what is going on in their lives. In my experience in over 30 years of talking to women seeking abortion, they are trying to do what is right for all life – their own, their children, partner, larger family – and a potential or “could be” child. They want to do what is right especially for the children they have and the one they are considering.
The TurnAway Study done by ANSIRH (Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health in California, USA) has some powerful findings on what happens to women who cannot get the abortions they desire. I believe that women will do the best they can to care for and love the children they have, but there are limits to life biologically, and in the case of women who seek abortion, they understand their own capacity. When so much responsibility rests on the mother, she should have the right to decide what she wants and what she can handle. Forced motherhood is not good for anyone. Choices are good for everyone.
Reply 2 (South Africa):
I would start by stating that indeed both lives matter. However, the life of the woman needs to be saved first before the life of the embryo/fetus is saved. If the woman is not healthy to look after the baby, the baby will also not be healthy. Women, if fit to give birth to us and to nurture us until we are grown up and independent, certainly are fit to make decisions about their sexual and reproductive lives. If they have an unwanted pregnancy, they will have an unwanted birth and an unwanted child. Certainly there will be no love for that child, consciously or unconsciously. In the end, it is about women having the rights to make decisions on their own, not depending on some organization, body or state to dictate what women can or cannot do, just like males are not regulated as to whether they make someone pregnant or not. It is men who make women pregnant, whether the woman is in a state to support the pregnancy, birth and child or not...
Where conscientious objection to abortion is not recognised in law
In Sweden, conscientious objection is not recognised in law. A Swedish midwife who refused to participate in abortions or prescribe contraceptives, which are part of the job description for midwives, was turned down for jobs in three clinics in the region of Joenkoeping in 2014.
Her case was tried by Sweden's discrimination ombudsman and appealed to the district court. Both ruled against her claims of discrimination in 2015. The district court ordered her to pay the authorities' legal costs. She then appealed to the Labour Court. Her anti-abortion lawyers argue on human rights grounds that her freedom of religion and freedom of conscience have been breached, and that she has been discriminated against.
Her legal and financial backing, however, comes from a group called Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian US anti-abortion group, well-known in the USA, that declared net assets of $4.9m on its US tax return in 2015...
Sweden's policy on abortion follows the principle that "the needs of the patient always come first", Mia Ahlberg explained to the BBC. The key point is that the midwife has a choice – she can always choose another profession – but in many cases a woman having an abortion could not choose to become pregnant. She argues that the case is about women's rights, women's human rights and women's access to good, safe healthcare.
What about the freedom of conscience argument? If the midwife were to win, she said, it could have a big impact on Swedish healthcare: "For example, a nurse who is a Jehovah's Witness might refuse to perform a blood transfusion." Swedish midwives' training includes abortion procedures and after-care. "It's part of our professional competence – so the employer has a right to say 'you cannot work here'… FULL REPORT
IMAGE Fake news: anti-abortion language without the sugar coating
An article in February 2017 about celebrations by Banja La Mtsogolo of 30 years of providing reproductive health services in Malawi, reported that the group backed calls for legalisation of abortion in the country, arguing that many women are dying due to unsafe abortion. The comments section was dominated by Jesus is Lord. Here is what he and someone called Ichabod said:
Jesus is Lord: "Abortion is murder. PERIOD! Banja La Mtsogolo are supporters of murder. BLM country director… said Malawi should consider legalizing safe abortion to save lives of many women who go for unsafe abortion. So they want to murder lives to save lives? How stupid is that? Burn in Hell."
"And by the way, research the origins of this child-murder. It was originally started to murder as many black and crippled people as possible – Margaret Sanger openly called black people “weeds” (sic).100 years later they are still targeting predominantly black areas around the world." ...
Ichabod: "Why are they having unprotected sex if they knw that they can fall pregnant. Let them die. Now u are incouraging Women to hav unprotecte sex coz they knw that they can hav a safe abortion. Oh God pls help us. #KILLING the innocent un born Babies"
This is what people who are anti-abortion really think and mean, and at least here it is plain for everyone to see, without the sugar coating or the pretence that women matter.
Let's take their claims one by one:
(1) No law that criminalises abortion calls induced abortion murder.
(2) Men and boys who have unprotected sex and who make women and girls pregnant are never arrested and never put on trial or condemned to die by people who are anti-abortion. This shows that the crux of these arguments is hatred of women who have sex.
(3) The abortion rights movement all over the world believes in universal access to safe, legal abortion, including for black women.
(4) The views falsely attributed to Margaret Sanger, who founded Planned Parenthood of America, are being circulated by anti-family planning activists in the USA and, it seems, have reached as far as Malawi. It is well worth reading the whole of Opposition Claims About Margaret Sanger, which makes clear the extent to which the anti-abortion, anti-family planning movement is engaged in circulating racist, unfounded lies in support of their views.
Cherisse Scott is a reproductive justice activist in Tennessee, USA, where her work is to take on anti-choice billboards in public spaces and work with faith groups to bring comprehensive sex education to Tennessee schools in place of currently mandated abstinence-focused programmes. She describes her goal as "refocusing the dialogue about Black women's reproductive health decisions back to the real conditions of our lives. Conditions which, if unmet, leave us vulnerable in many instances, with abortion as a choice we have been forced into".
Anti-choice billboards first appeared in Atlanta, Georgia in 2010. They stated that Black children were an “endangered species”, Black mothers’ wombs were unsafe, Black children were unwanted, Black women had been betrayed by “abortionists” and Black mothers were aborting future leaders like Barack Obama. When those messages didn’t work, anti-abortion groups used billboards to target Black mothers through their men. Those billboards showed a Black man kissing his partner’s belly alongside a message that his fatherhood began in her womb – her unsafe womb. Unfortunately, Scott write, there is a long history of using billboards to shame women about abortion. Some of them have even compared abortion to both genocide and slavery.
Today, however, there are billboards in Tennessee urging people to “Trust Black Women”, to empower and inspire the Black community, and especially Black women.
The last thing women need, she writes, are medically unsound facts, or shame for their healthcare decisions. When she had an abortion years ago, she did not understand her fertility, a too-familiar scenario among both adult and young women, regardless of race or income. Add to that circumstances such as rape, incest, or dangerous pregnancy conditions, such as pre-eclampsia, and you have a dire need for reproductive healthcare options that must include access to abortion care.
Perspectives on anti-choice lobbying in Europe: study for policymakers on opposition to sexual and reproductive health and rights in Europe
by Elena Zacharenko
This study is primarily for progressive politicians and policy makers. It aims to provide the tools to help identify conservative actors working to oppose sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) at European level and proposes a positive counter-strategy. The findings of the study will also be useful for media and civil society actors. The research relies on the growing body of academic literature analysing the emergence and motivations of the anti-choice, and more widely, anti-gender movement. However, the purpose of this study is primarily to influence political strategy and policy-making, and is therefore pragmatic rather than academic in nature. It was commissioned by Heidi Hautala, Member of the European Parliament, Finland, and Co-Chair of the European Parliament Working Group on Reproductive Heath, HIV/AIDS and Development...
"Forcing a woman, by threat of criminal sanction, to carry a fetus to term unless she meets certain criteria unrelated to her own priorities and aspirations, is a profound interference with a woman's body and thus a violation of her security of the person." Canadian Supreme Court Chief Justice Brian Dickson, 1988. Quoted in: The Morganthaler Decision: 25th Anniversary Celebration.
@TheGoodGodAbove"If you think fertilized eggs are people but refugee kids aren't, you're going to have to stop pretending your concerns are religious."