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Unintended effects?

By Amanda Marcotte
Tuesday, June 2, 2009 1:33 EDT
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Okay, I promise that this is my last post in response to Dr. Tiller’s murder, at least in the long spate of coverage we’ve had today. But it strikes me as no coincidence that the shooter was moved to assassinate Dr. Tiller during a spate of increased coverage on reproductive rights-related issues due to the misleading poll that seemed to indicate (but didn’t) that Americans support banning abortion (they don’t), as well as Obama’s speech calling for “common ground” at Notre Dame, and of course the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. In the crazy right wing mind, these stories serve up, and let’s just say it now that the mainstream media kind of wants these stories to serve up, a narrative about how the silent majority of misogynists is being ruled over by the baby-hating Blackazoid. While there’s a good reason to believe that anti-choice terrorism is effective insofar as it discourages doctors from going into providing abortion, particularly in hard-luck cases or in rural areas, I’m not so sure these sorts of intimidation tactics will be as effective in swaying the public to sympathize with anti-choicers during the heightened tension of the Supreme Court appointment process.

It’s a whole hell of a lot easier to pretend that our opponents are reasonable people with moral “qualms” about abortion when no one’s walking into a church and shooting an usher because he has the nerve to live out his belief that women are human beings with lives worth protecting. It’s been 10 years since the last abortion provider was murdered, and people’s memories are short, and the anti-choice movement has benefited from this, using this time to build up the illusion that they’re moral people who just really love babies. But the existence of terrorism—and the half-hearted attempts to distance themselves from it that reads more like ass-covering than actual concern—exposes the reality. The anti-choice urge springs from the authoritarian urge, and contrary to the PR claims that would have you believe that anti-abortion activists just happen to be the same people who oppose gay marriage, sex education, diplomacy over warfare in our foreign relations, and the social safety net, the reality is that these beliefs are related.

And hell, right wingers told us this in the weeks prior to this murder, when they repeatedly and aggressively made fun of the concept of empathy. Before Obama made the nomination of Sotomayor official, and the narrative switched to race-baiting, it was clear what was so offensive about empathy—the possibility that a judge might start feeling like women are human beings who deserve compassion and understanding when faced with unintended (or dangerous) pregnancies, instead of just being told to fuck off and they should have kept their legs shut if they didn’t want to have a baby.

Empathy: The quality that Dr. Tiller had in spades. No wonder he was public enemy number one to so many conservatives, with Bill O’Reilly leading the pack.

So my question is now, are they going to continue to drop “empathy” like it’s a dirty word, as if nothing has happened? Or are they going to try to avoid the topic completely, hoping race-baiting will be enough?

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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