A glimpse into the history of American "pro-life" advocacy
|Wagatwe Wanjuki||Jan 23|| 1|
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Note: this newsletter will discuss abortion, Trump, Kavanaugh, and their history of committing sexual violence.
Did you know I used to be pro-life? Well, I was “prolife” in the way that children who don’t know any better are. I never was really committed to the belief; I passively consumed the messages from my evangelical church and Christian schools that it was wrong and “never” an option. In high school, I said I was “personally” prolife, but would didn’t believe that non-Christians should be forced to live my rules they didn’t personally believe in. It took getting actively political in college for me to see how important it is to be actively pro-choice.
Jumping on the pro-choice train was just the beginning for me. Over the years I’ve learned so much about anti-choice movement and what’s at stake if advocates get their way. The “prolife” movement isn’t just a sexist movement; it’s a racist movement as well. So as we commemorate the 47th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, I urge folks to use an intersectional approach to really get to the root of anti-abortion advocacy.
Consider this: America’s first white president will be the first sitting American president to speak at the March for Life this year. Numerous people have pointed out the hypocrisy by asking how many abortions Trump has paid for, but anti-choicers don’t care. They’re about hypocrisy. They don’t hate abortion—they hate that women can decide on their own whether to get one. Even if Trump is personally responsible for multiple abortions, it’s totally okay. They want abortion to happen on men’s terms, especially if it’s to keep men in power.
Trump bragged about sexually assaulting women. He threatened a child’s life after raping her to intimidate her from reporting. He is working to take away health care and access to contraception. He’s overseeing the widespread trauma of migrant children who are being sexually abused and trafficked. And he nominated a lying, misogynist sexual assailant to the Supreme Court.
Trump’s attendance is 100% on brand for the pro-life movement.
The first pro-lifers were racist, sexist white men and they’re the most outspoken and prominent advocates for it today. (Rep. Steve King, anyone?) White men politicized abortion to maintain outsized power in the public sphere.
Dominant pro-choice narratives have been slow to pick up the racist origins of the American prolife movement and continued ahistoricism only helps abortion opponents.
I no longer see the point in arguing whether life begins at conception. If we argue with antis on their terms, we’ve already lost in many ways. The battle for abortion access isn’t about when life begins. It’s about abortion as a wedge issue in the grab for political power in spite of science, truth, and respect for others’ autonomy.
Following news of Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to SCOTUS and his history of abusing women, I knew that the rapey and racist tendencies of the Republican Party and their “prolife” hypocrisy couldn’t be a coincidence. After a little digging, turns out I was right!
Numerous studies suggest connections between pro-life beliefs and rape supportive attitudes. I wrote how white evangelicals’ support of sexual abusers like Roy Moore and Trump fits in their beliefs.
By galvanizing a racist, homophobic, and Islamophobic base, Moore has found supporters who more readily believe rape victims are liars—and there’s research to back it up. A 2006 University of New England study found that participants who were more accepting of rape myths also were more racist, classist, sexist, ageist, homophobic and religiously intolerant.
And if you really want to get into the weeds, check out this chapter on the ideological beliefs underlying anti-choicers (PDF). They found that people with social dominance orientation—i.e. those who preferred social hierarchies like white and/or male supremacy—were more likely to oppose abortion. Check out their hypothesis that was supported by their results (emphasis mine):
…individuals who score high on SDO would be less supportive of both elective abortion (e.g., the woman wants an abortion, regardless of the reason) and traumatic abortion (e.g., the woman is pregnant as a result of rape or incest). For these individuals, a woman’s ability to choose to have an abortion is a step towards social equality and should thus be met with opposition.
And there you have it. Being pro-choice is pro-equality.
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