Anti-abortion legislation failed because Republicans aren’t really “pro-life.”

reallyuglybabyI’m sure most of you have heard that the new congress failed to pass their anti-abortion bill Wednesday:

They almost made it, but then the GOP coalition fell apart—not on wavering opposition to abortion overall, but on the technicalities. Like many such proposals, the bill would have allowed for exceptions in a few limited cases, such as rape. This bill made rape an exception, but only if a woman reported it to law enforcement. As Ed O’Keefe reports, that set off alarms for a bloc of female Republican lawmakers. They worried that the rape-reporting restriction was too strict, and that the bill would alienate young voters and women from the party. And so Wednesday evening, GOP leaders abruptly yanked the bill. Instead, the House passed a less restrictive bill Thursday, permanently banning federal money from going to pay for abortions. A ban already exists, but it has to be renewed every year.

The rape exemptions always mystify me:  if fetal life is worth preserving, then isn’t all fetal life worth saving, regardless of the circumstances of its conception?  Why should we hold innocent fetuses responsible for their fathers’ crimes?  I have taught at more than one Catholic university, so I’ve heard and seen it all when it comes to “pro-life” arguments, but this question always struck me as really, really simple:  if you’re “pro-life,” how does a rape exemption make sense unless you believe somehow that fetuses are evil and deserve the death penalty because their fathers are rapists?  (Most Americans gave up on original sin, like 200 years ago or so.  Get with the program, “pro-lifers!”)

A friend of mine who’s a historian of the contemporary religious right explained it to me once several years ago:  the religious right live in the world the rest of us live in, and they don’t want to force rape victims into bearing children they don’t want and didn’t chose to have, because that’s just as brutal and as heartless as it sounds.  Moreso, probably.  Well, that’s nice–but don’t call your movement pro-life if you’re not into making rape victims suffer to give birth to “life” they didn’t choose.  

If you’re not into making rape victims give birth to their rapists’ children, then just admit your real political position:  pro-choice.

7 thoughts on “Anti-abortion legislation failed because Republicans aren’t really “pro-life.”

  1. The truth of the matter is they are neither pro-life nor pro-choice. They are pro-control of women (and minor children, and anyone who is not in the kyriarchy).

    This is why they are anti-birth control, and anti-pre-school, and anti-food stamps, and anti-education funding, and anti-anything else that would allow women a fair shot at controlling their own lives. Anything that gives women power (from their point of view) strips power from the kyriarchy. Can’t have that.

    I know you know this. I feel compelled to mention it anyway.


  2. Amen! I read and loved Katha Pollitt’s Pro which takes down the anti-abortion position, illogical support by illogical support. I love her turnaround that we need to think about and argue for abortion as a benefit. Let’s ditch all of those “minimize the need for abortion” lines that creep into left-wing speeches, please!

    Abortion access is just one small part of a fully-functional women’s healthcare initiative that all communities and nations need to get behind. We also need to ensure that youngsters learn about sex from an early age and with a frank perspective on practices, problems and pleasures. If we did that, maybe some women wouldn’t been horribly stressed and scarred from attempting to manage their own health and their families.

    Ah, well. This is yet one more reason why I’m unlikely to return to the States after all of these years in Canada. The abortion “question” is much more muted here even if access isn’t easy for everyone. We still have to fight but it seems a bit less futile.


  3. It is all about control of women, but I think the right way to frame this is around their exceptions to their pro-life stands. The right wing is pro-choice, but of course only for some women. They’re pro-choice for themselves and their daughters, especially if they have the money to fly them to another U.S. state or out of the country to procure an abortion. (Elites always have and always will be able to procure the abortions they want.) They’re pro-choice when it comes to giving the appearance of letting rape victims choose birth or abortion. I say that if you think there’s any exception at all to your “pro-life” position, then you’re effectively pro-choice, just not pro-choice for all.


  4. Those who offer abortion services will tell you privately that almost all right to life leaders have brought a daughter, sister, or self for an abortion at some point. So indeed, they are pro-choice. (We won’t talk about how the guilt functions, because boy would you feel guilty if you believed abortion was THE BIG SIN and you had one anyway!)


  5. They don’t even really care about babies at all, and just see forced childbirth as a vehicle for punishing dirty sluts. It’s not even so much about wanting to control women as it about wanting women to suffer.


  6. I know it’s silly to be troubled by anything the GOP does or says with regards to women, but I was pretty gobsmacked that the only roadblock was rape and not, you know, maternal or fetal health. I would guess that the vast majority of late term abortions come about because of maternal health crisis or severe fetal abnormality not compatible with life (anencephaly is the most widespread example). I guess we only care about maternal anguish sometimes? Other times, I guess, if she was a ‘real woman’ she would a) die for her fetus or b) carry a fetus to term that will die with hours or days. But I know the rape controversies make for better media soundbites, so maybe that partially explains the hypocrisy that Historiann notes here.


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