One of the greatest publicity coups of the 20th Century took place when anti-abortionists started calling themselves “pro-life.” A devilishly ingenious, two-syllable moniker (and only three in Spanish) that encapsulated their entire artifice of doublespeak and gut-level appeal. It didn’t matter that their opposition went by “pro-choice,” a name which invokes free will, burrowing into a deeper part of Christianity than the anti-abortion camp. That was already too complex for a debate full of ideas we don’t really want to discuss, they made it simple, they had the life, and with just the choice of that name, they painted their opposition with a six feet wide brush: Anything other is pro-death.
All they needed was the idea of a baby.
That was the first masterful move by the anti-abortion camp. The second and most infuriating one is how they entrapped the entire debate within their own hypocrisies, forcing any rational person to open a trove of counterarguments we all know well.
That they don’t give a damn about children once they are out of the womb, and even before that. They refuse to provide universal healthcare and a social welfare net (a quality one, not like in Chile, where the public system has been shafted); they refuse childcare; they refuse a solid public school system and funding tertiary education; they refuse parental leave; they refuse a minimum wage; they refuse labor laws; they refuse representation and integration of minorities; they certainly refuse children that turn out to be LGBTQI+; they refuse the vote of others; they refuse masks and vaccines; they refuse to accept the effects of the climate crisis, and under the weight of all those existential threats, they expect you to produce children and refill a falling fertility rate.
These arguments should be devastating to whatever the point of anti-abortionists is, but in each and every one of their (sheer-legal f**kery) wins, we. are. forced. to. retread. them. over. and. over. again. We tell ourselves these exact same points as a mantra, as a collective mutual reaffirmation, they flood the mentions and comments of the forced-birth politicians. It depletes our energies, and this is their ultimate mindf**k: they never play defense, and in forcing us to fire our battery of counterarguments, they trigger an annoyance against ourselves as we think “how long will I have to waste my time trying to get these people to understand that banning abortion will only make it unsafe.” But. it. doesn’t. matter. how. right. we. might. be. because. they. fall. into. the. pink-burned. ears. of. old. men. who. just. mock. us. with. that. McConnell. smirk.
In that movement, the anger turns inwards, at the same time we repeat those arguments. One is a building of solid foundations, the other a current of energy that desperately deserves a vindication. When they clash, they cancel each other, and the remainder is hopelessness. That’s the worst scenario, our arguments for choice, for reproductive freedom becoming clichés, we become alienated from our own beliefs.
You have to wonder, why the hell do they care so much about what a woman does? Is it the woman? Then why do so many women giddily ride this train? How did they manage to turn this one thing into the kind of wedge issue that makes people vote against their own interests? What is their equivalent of sanded-down ideology they tell themselves, over and over again, into semantic satiation?
Does it matter? Because even before Texas Handmaid’s Tale LARPING, the GOP had lost any right to claim the pro-life banner. Same story in Chile. From the beginning of the dictatorship until 2017, abortions were banned with no exceptions, via a constitutional amendment. Under Michele Bachelet’s government it was legalized in the three cases you might be familiar with, the “emergencies”: Risk to the life of the mother, unviable fetus, and rape. Even then, try finding an abortion provider in certain places.
When you need to resort to the worst possible scenarios to gain a foothold of dignity, perhaps it’s was never an “open field for debate,” it was always a war zone for the far-right.
I don’t care for the arguments of the far-right, because they only care about the idea of a baby. If the arguments need to sound “scholarly,” they can always resort to conservative Catholics. Have you realized how the intellectual heavyweights of US conservatism are almost always Catholic? Makes sense, their white evangelical majority is a little disadvantaged in that regard. Also, Catholics are not the kind to memorize the Bible, so they need to get more creative about supporting terrible ideas.
No, I don’t care about the arguments of anti-abortionists, because they are not pro-life. I know actual pro-life people; I’m related or friends with several, people who oppose abortion but understand why it happens and why it might be the last resort. The forced-birthers are only down with the idea of a baby.
The idea of a baby, alienated from them being humans, from their mothers, their lives, their individuality.
That’s as far as they’ll go. Because it poses some terrifying questions. Not the whole thing about whether life begins at conception. Forget that. It’s about parenthood, about whether they are bringing new lives to this world on autopilot, whether they have really thought over the idea of becoming parents, whether if that child you made is an individual other instead of an extension of yourself. Instead, they go back to the idea of a baby, perhaps their cute rolls and rosy fingers.
They only like the idea of a baby.
Several years ago, I heard one of those things that make you say “Whoa!” It was said by Santiago’s current Governor, a Christian Democrat (very quickly, to the left of Biden on the social-economic, to the right on the moral-personal). He opposes abortion but talked about the need to establish a pro-life society. Now that’s a real debate. Imagine a social structure where everything was conceived to reduce the number of abortions (starting with sex-ed and access to birth control, duh) by providing expectant mothers every assurance about their child’s existence. Even then, the choice for abortion will still be available, because having a child is also about more than the existential guarantees. Things that are not our damn business.
That’s how the far-right turned abortion into a wedge issue. Because the idea of a baby is cheaper than a Pro-Life society.
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