The Supreme Court has been duped. Anti-abortion lawyers used a little old lady as the face of their lawsuit against buffer zones around women’s health clinics. That was not an accident. They knew that if the real protestors — the shouters, the shovers and the shooters — were exposed, that innocuous facade would be shattered. Sadly, the SCOTUS has ignored 40 years of violence and intimidation perpetrated upon the clinic employees and the women who come to these clinics for health care.
There is no question that the anti-abortion protestors feel strongly about their views. But, when it comes down to it, their views are informed by their religion. And America is not a theocracy… yet. We don’t make laws guided by religious dogma.
That dogma was subject to fluctuation during the entire history of the Church. Even in the Bible, “bitter water” was used to bring on menstruation if adultery was suspected. Abortion was fine if the pregnancy was the result of a sin. That was the Church’s view for hundreds of years as the debate that began in the Didache (an early Church document) raged on. In that document, the questions were 1) Is the abortion being used to conceal the sin of adultery and 2) is there a soul in the fetus at conception or at birth? St. Augustine, one of the strictest Church fathers had this to say: “But who is not rather disposed to think that unformed fetuses perish like seeds which have not fructified?”
It was not until 1869, when Pope Pius IX implicitly endorsed the dogma of ensoulment at conception. Between the time of St. Augustine’s comment and Pope Pius’ edict, the debate of when a fetus received its soul swung between the extremes. But, for most of its history, the Church held that the soul entered the fetus at the “quickening,” about 5 months of gestation.
That seems to be a good measure and most reasonable people regard the first trimester as an acceptable time to procure an abortion. Not the pro-birth crowd, though. They hold fast to their beliefs and to the lies they tell themselves and anyone else who they can get to. Especially the women they verbally — and sometimes physically — assault outside of clinics.
What lies? Here’s a list of their favorite abortion myths:
Abortion causes breast cancer. Leading cancer experts reviewed studies and concluded there is no link between having an abortion and getting breast cancer. Both the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute concur.
First trimester fetuses can feel pain and are conscious. A minimal brain stem begins to form at 7 weeks. This allows fetal nerves to react to trauma but a fetus neither feels pain nor is conscious until the neocortex forms in the third trimester.
Women decide to have an abortion on impulse. They use this lie to impose compulsory waiting periods. Forcing women to wait between a consultation and procedure. This is hard for poor women, especially with clinics being forced to close. The nearest clinic could be across the state now, thanks to the machinations of pro-birth legislators. Along the same lines, women who get an abortion are not self-centered or frivolous.
Late term abortions happen all the time. First of all, there is no medical definition of when an abortion becomes “late-term.” Most sources consider 20 weeks (5 months) to be the dividing point. As you can see by the graph, abortions after 20 weeks are rare: only 1.4% of abortions occurred after 20 weeks.
Having an abortion makes it harder to get pregnant when you want to. An abortion, like any medical procedure, is safe when performed properly. As long as abortion is legal, it is always performed in a sterile environment with trained medical personnel. An abortion performed under such circumstances will not affect a woman’s future fertility.
Emergency contraception causes abortion. The so-called “morning after” pill delays ovulation, so there is no chance of conception. It also affects the uterine lining to prevent implantation, but that is a secondary effect. If an egg has already been fertilized, the pill won’t work. That’s why it must be taken within 72 hours after sex.
Of course, there are many other lies in the pro-birth canon, but these are favorites. And those gory pictures they wave around? The majority are pictures of late-term miscarriages or just plain fake. (warning; GRAPHIC!) It’s actually pretty difficult to find a real picture of first trimester abortion. However, this woman has made available a picture of hers. It’s pretty anti-climactic. And, while some women do suffer from some depression after an abortion, more suffer from postpartum depression. But that, apparently, is fine.
These pro-birth protestors want to end abortion. But, here’s the thing… making abortion illegal will not end it. Unplanned pregnancies are a fact of life, especially since these same people are on an anti-contraception crusade. They also fight sex education. What happens when you keep people ignorant and don’t let them have access to birth control? They get pregnant. And some of them will not be able to or want to have a baby at that time. These women will find a way and, in many cases, they will resort to unsafe procedures. Women will die from complications of those unsafe procedures. But women’s lives mean nothing to them: women are just incubators.
The face of pro-birth groups is, on the whole, self-righteous and boisterous. They yell, they throw things, they assault women verbally. The escorts, those brave men and women who protect the women from the protestors, really bear the brunt of it. Protestors are nasty to the women but they are venomous towards the escorts. They’re compared to Nazis (that’s the right’s go-to tactic, isn’t it?) leading Jews to the gas chamber. They are called horrible names, condemned to the protestors’ hell, spat upon. But they take it because it diverts attention from the women.
One escort explains why she isn’t troubled by diatribes about Judgement Day and Hell. She tells of one protestor who tries to use that tactic on her:
“’I know this bothers you, deep down inside,’ she says while the other woman nods. I consider explaining to her that worries about my personal judgment day don’t keep me up at night; that if I die, and discover that the creator of the universe believes that the proper way to worship him is to chase a woman across the street and down the sidewalk waving a pamphlet full of false science at her and calling her a murderer two inches from her face, I will be glad I opted out of such a corrupt system during life. I’ll dance all the way to hell. But I catch myself. I repeat in my head what we always tell our patients: you don’t owe them anything.”
The pro-birth protestors — why do I call them “pro-birth”? Because they don’t care one whit about a child once its born — chase women, shove flyers and gory pictures in their faces, scare children accompanying their mothers and berate escorts. They don’t care what the woman is actually there for, whether a PAP smear, a mammogram, contraceptives or an abortion. They always presume it’s the latter. And, here’s the crazy thing, most of these protestors are men! These men have really bought into the patriarchal Christian line that women are property, chattel and baby-makers to be controlled by men. They have no interest in having a conversation. This is what they want to do:
Many times the violence is so much worse: bombing and murder. Because killing adult people is perfectly fine. They says it’s okay because they are saving the unborn babies. Personally, I think their rationalization is bullpucky.
At least the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act is still in force and the SCOTUS upheld a Colorado law in 2001 that enforces 100-foot zones between medical facilities and protestors. This recent ruling striking down the Massachusetts law is very narrow, otherwise the liberal justices likely would not have gone along. But it’s a foot in the door for the pro-birth crowd and will make it that much harder to protect women who access clinics for their health. We have to push back and make it safe for women to exercise their freedom of choice.
If you are interested in being a clinic escort, you can get advice from The Abortion Fairy.