Today, the Universe was not so kind, in terms of weather. But today, we experienced a greater show of support than we have had before. For that, I can withstand being cold, rained on, and hailed on. Even yelled at by a huffy woman who thinks I’m personally speaking for her, even though it should be plainly apparent that a) I am speaking only for myself, and b) she isn’t pro-life if she thinks women aren’t masturbatory toys for men who ought to be used as fetal fuel cells before being disposed of. I came prepared, after all. As I always do. There was only one such huffy woman — everyone else seems to get it. Thanks again, Universe!
Today was also different than in the previous weeks, in that the pro-lifers who stand out on that corner shaming women for accessing an abortion weren’t so quick to accuse women of being sluts, tell me I’m disgusting and should be ashamed of myself, or tell my fellow pro-choice demonstrators that I am asking to be raped multiple times and deserve it. I guess someone had a talk with them after I shouted and swore at them at top volume, informing every one of their peers from the CCBR “caravan” what kind of people they really are. If that is the case, CCBR, I owe you my gratitude for getting their slut-shaming bullshit out of my streets. But I’m not satisfied with that, because I’ve become more intimately educated about your cause in the mean time, and can no longer think of it as a joke.
Today was characterized by public misinformation — maybe it was the unpleasant weather — and this has given me a moment’s pause to reflect further on my established tactic. People seem to think that if you personally wouldn’t access an abortion and wouldn’t support someone who chose to, then that means you’re pro-life. And it’s clear from the things the pro-lifers were saying to me, in between threatening to post pictures of me on YouTube and questioning my civic identity, my commitment to democracy, and my ability to respect their right to free speech, that they believe that if I personally would choose to access an abortion in the event I became pregnant, that means I would encourage other people to do so too (and would somehow oppose someone who chose to carry the pregnancy to term). Both of these claims are blatant falsehoods. Pro-life and pro-choice are not the only possible options. There are plenty of people, who for personal and/or religious reasons, would never abort, and would never offer their support to someone who had. But not all of them wish for those women to be put in handcuffs and put through a murder trial for accessing one. Thus, the “you’re either pro-life or you’re pro-choice” argument is a (rather absurd) false dichotomy. And simply because I would abort tomorrow morning if I became pregnant tonight (which I actually can’t do any more — yay! Thanks, testosterone!), does not mean I would actively attempt to interfere with someone else’s right to remain pregnant, or refuse my support for her through its duration. That would be a strawman (of ridiculous proportions).
Ableism & The Pro-Life Narrative On Miscarriages
One of these pro-lifers has insisted that if a woman miscarries, it’s because she’s clearly insane, so it’s her fault. This claim isn’t just problematic because it represents a form of ableism — it also represents a case of ableist eugenics (something these pro-lifers haven’t been too careful to avoid espousing either). But let’s start at step one in this thought process: the belief that the mentally disabled are terrible people, and therefore deserve the terrible things that happen to them. I’ve mentioned the Just-world hypothesis before, and it’s the same principle behind the ableist claim currently in question in this blog post. It’s the belief that the world is just, so if you’re disabled it’s because you’re actually just a terrible person. Or maybe your parents are, and you’re their punishment. Something you did, or something your parents did, caused you to be mentally disabled because it was that bad and both you and your parents deserve to be tormented for the rest of your existence by your mental disability because of it (even though you were supposed to spontaneously abort yourself — whoops! Someone missed the memo!) I’m trying to be flattering by suggesting that such a person, as anyone who believes this garbage, is at all capable of logic, but it isn’t exactly a leap to the claim that because you’re mentally-disabled-because-you’re-a-bad-person, you do terrible things too. Like, occupying public space for any period of time just like anyone else (which is terrible because you’re disabled! How dare you!), or trying to procreate. In fact, that’s actually a necessary step in these mental gymnastics.
Thus, the thought goes something like this: it’s your own fault that you’re mentally disabled because you’re a bad person, so it’s your own fault that you had a miscarriage, and even though it’s the most common complication of pregnancy and has nothing to do with your mental faculties, it won’t happen to me because I’m not a bad person. Isn’t that just smashing? But wait! We haven’t even gotten to the eugenics part yet! Either you shouldn’t be allowed to procreate because you’re mentally disabled (which means your children will be too, because that’s exactly how that works), or you should suffer repeated miscarriages until you get the point that you’re not allowed to have any children because you’re terrible. Oh yeah! In case you missed it already: it’s all your fault that these things are happening to you. And none of it will ever happen to a pro-lifer because they aren’t complicit with “genocide” against their “pre-born brothers and sisters”. I wonder how they explain it away whenever one of their fellow pro-lifers suffers a miscarriage. A one-way ticket to the nearest insane asylum, perhaps? Sounds perfectly sensible.
Criminal Punishment & The Pro-Life Narrative
I’ve been writing already, fairly extensively on this issue, with two of three blog posts I’ve already written to address the matter linked above. Basically what the pro-life narrative boils down to on the matter of criminal punishment is that women should be brought up on murder charges if they get pregnant under any circumstances at all and a) seek access to an abortion or b) suddenly suffer a miscarriage within the first six months for any reason at all (again, the most common complication of pregnancy). In the pro-life narrative, it doesn’t matter if you became pregnant as a result of incest, rape, casual sex, or marital sex — it’s all the same. In fact, it doesn’t even matter if a woman’s pregnancy implants in her fallopian tubes (i.e., an ectopic or “tubal” pregnancy) or in her uterus. It’s all the same, even though the former is a life-threatening condition that will never result in a viable pregnancy.
Once detained and brought up on murder charges, the criminally suspicious and formerly pregnant woman bears the onus to prove her own innocence or guilt. It is her responsibility alone to demonstrate that she did not induce her abortion (i.e., “take part in genocide” — cue eye-rolling), but that it was either spontaneous or missed (i.e., a miscarriage), in which case, it was her own fault because she’s insane. I wonder how exactly one would demonstrate that they are no longer pregnant because they are insane, but that’s beside the point — the end result of her trial will inevitably be either prison time or indefinite detention in an insane asylum. What the fuck! You just can’t remain a free person if you’re born with two X-chromosomes unless you either can’t get pregnant or you’re magically endowed with a super-womb that never miscarries!
Newsflash: If Any Part Of The Above Grates Against You…
I’ve got news for you: if you find any of this ideology problematic, that means you aren’t pro-life. I’d suggest you now stop using that self-identifier for that reason. Maybe you would never personally get an abortion, in which case, good for you for knowing what you do and do not want. Choice is wonderful like that, and I support your choice as a pro-choicer. Maybe you would never support someone who would get an abortion, in which case, don’t offer yourself in that capacity and don’t offer your condemnation in place of support, either. People like me will offer her support, and she’ll deal with you when she’s strong enough to face you again.
But these personal choices of yours do not constitute a political ideology that demands criminal punishment for a miscarriage. They do not, in and of themselves, reflect your political identity as a “pro-lifer”. It simply means you don’t support a woman’s choice, and would choose for yourself differently than I personally would. Maybe you’re anti-choice — and I personally think that’s unfortunate — but unless you subscribe to pro-life ideology such as described above, you’re just anti-choice. That’s another conversation. In fact, I’ll bet we could still actually have a reasoned debate about it, and there might even be something either you could say that might change my mind, or something I could say that would change yours. Who knows! I remain open to the possibility that some extraordinary thing could change my mind about abortion access rights, but I will never be on the same side as someone who would throw women in prison for having one.