Behind the Protest: Why the Anti-Choice Movement is Not About Abortion

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The anti-choice movement is not about abortion, but then again, the pro-choice movement is not about abortion either.

Today marks the first day of 40 Days for Life, an anti-choice movement that began in College Station, Texas. In 2004 the Coalition for Life began protesting outside of the Planned Parenthood in Bryan, Texas for the forty days of Lent. Protest of Planned Parenthood is nothing new, however, this protest was held for twenty-four hours a day for forty straight days. Throughout the day and night protesters stood in front of the fence with their heads bowed, or stood on the sidewalk holding up protest signs. Over the last several years the 40 Days for Life protest have expanded to twice a year, and according to the web site has spread 212 cities throughout the United States and in two other countries. Word has spread through social networking sites, and also through church communities.

The Coalition for Life likes to characterize the protest as peaceful, and emphasizes the prayer and display of protest signs. However, protesters regularly verbally target patients, volunteer escorts, and Planned Parenthood employees. The medical staff that works at Planned Parenthood has regularly been targets of verbal abuse, and some of the staff has received death threats. The volunteer escorts, who walk patients from their cars and are there as a welcoming presence, are also targeted by the protesters. The moment that a patient opens their car door the protesters begin shouting through the fence, and giving false information about reproductive health care and Planned Parenthood. In the past the Coalition for Life has distanced themselves from actions taken by protesters at Planned Parenthood, and does not take responsibility for the actions of the protesters.

More Below the Fold…The Coalition for Life communications director said in a recent article in the Texas A&M Battalion that the purpose of these protest is to education and to give an “honest look to what abortion does to women.” On the Coalition for Life web site it claims that “contributes to an increase in breast cancer.” According to the American Cancer Society, “induced abortion(s) had no overall effect on the risk of breast cancer.” Also according to the National Cancer Institute, “an abortion or miscarriage does not increase a woman's subsequent risk of developing breast cancer.” The Guttmacher Institute also concludes that “researchers and medical experts have taken another look at the studies and overwhelmingly have concluded that those finding a causal relationship between breast cancer and abortion are methodologically flawed.”

These protests are not about abortion. Abortion is simply the flash point. These protests are about what many in the conservative Christian community consider a “culture war.” This, at its core, is about oppressing women and oppressing sexuality. One of the primary doctrines of fundamental Christianity is that the woman's role in the home, the church, and in general is to be submissive. Also, another doctrine is that sexuality is something that should be repressed and that anything from masturbation to homosexuality is not something that is normal or even natural. Embedded in the rhetoric of the anti-choice movement is anti-feminist rhetoric, which is the real core of what this “culture war” is about. The reason why anti-choice is a much better description of the movement than pro-life is because the real danger to social conservatives is empowered women given the opportunity to make their own choices. Liberated women are the most dangerous threat in the “culture war.”

Perhaps the most ironic part of the anti-choice movement is that many of those in the movement oppose everything that actually reduces the amount of abortions. Abstinence only sex education results in more unplanned pregnancies than comprehensive sex education, and in fact a study published by the Reproductive Health Journal found that states that the teen pregnancy rate is high in states that have a more predominant religious communities because “teens in more religious communities may be less likely to use contraception.” Not only do many in the anti-choice movement oppose comprehensive sex education, but they oppose contraception and family planning period.

While abortion rights are a central theme in the pro-choice movement, being pro-choice is not simply about abortion. The central idea around the pro-choice movement is that women should be empowered to make their own choices. There is a fundamental belief that women have the right to control their own body, and that no one else gets to make those decisions for them. Pro-choice is pro-woman.

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