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When your opponents have no compunction about lying….

By Amanda Marcotte
Monday, March 22, 2010 15:03 EDT
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You can’t do anything to appease their complaints. Stupak and company may have been satisfied by dunking Obama’s head in the toilet until they obtained a symbolic gesture of woman-hating from him that they and we know he doesn’t mean, but let’s face it. Those fools are useful idiots being played by those on the right who exploited their stupidity and misogyny in order to delay the bill. Hard-core anti-choicers know that it’s never about abortion, not really. Abortion is a scare word that you use to reinforce social hierarchies. Traditionally, you can use it to oppress women, but now they’re branching out—using the word to oppress women of color specifically by attacking their access to a whole slate of health care services and of course, using it to attack non-rich people in general by using it in an attempt to stop health care reform. And when you find a tool of oppression so useful, you’re not going to stop using it just because your opposition caves to your overt demands. No way! You’re going to lie and say they didn’t. And you’re going to demand more.

Exhibit #1: Ross Douthat, who wrote a largely incoherent bit of whining that he tried to dress up as intellectual musing on those silly liberals who think they know stuff about health care. There is a great deal of bullshit in this op-ed to wade through, but I’m just going to focus on one particular throwaway lie he tells:

It will shed light, as well, on all other promises that piled up as the health care vote drew near — that the bill, its implicit abortion subsidies notwithstanding, will actually reduce the abortion rate, as T.R. Reid argued last week in the Washington Post; that it will create 400,000 new jobs “almost immediately,” as Pelosi recently claimed; that it will become more popular once implemented, as every Democrat insists; and so on through an array of happy possibilities.

Emphasis mine. Douthat hides it better than most, but he accepts the illogical anti-choice argument that abortion rates cannot be reduced by reducing unintended pregnancy rates. The reasoning behind this seems to be nothing more than taking offense at the idea of an “unintended” pregnancy, which implies women have intentions and motives worth giving a shit about, instead of seeing women strictly as baby baskets. So they’re forced to assume abortion providers try to find pregnant women and bully them into abortion, or that pregnant women that would otherwise be glowing with the joy of doing the one thing women are good for are instead being frog-marched into clinics by the men who knocked them up. If you accept that women can in fact have motivations and desires, then it’s obvious that contraception use can prevent abortion. And that the lack of contraception access for poor women neatly explains why they end up in abortion clinics way more often than women with the means to afford contraception. And that extending access to those women will prevent more unintended pregnancies, and therefore abortions.

But the idea that we can’t take women’s intentions into account when talking about abortion is merely a sideshow assumption here. What Douthat is really doing is what I predicted anti-choicers would try to do—move the argument from abortion to contraception, and seek ways to argue that the health care exchange needs to forbid coverage not only for abortion, but also contraception and possibly all reproductive health services. (Though maybe they’ll tip the “compassionate” conservative hat enough to allow poor women to obtain prenatal care. Women may not be people, but the offspring created by mighty male sperm deserve consideration.) And they intend to do this by redefining everything gynecologists do as “abortion”. Birth control, cancer screening, fertility testing, STD treatment and testing, anything you can think of that your gyno does? Abortion. And considering that many family doctors provide abortion, I think they may be angling to suggest all health care spending at all is abortion.

The excuse for this lie is kind of complicated. Luckily, Fox News actually explained the underlying argument for us, as I recorded on the podcast. “Implicit funding” of abortion means paying for any service that winds up going to the coffers of people who provide abortion. So, for instance. I go to an ob-gyn who provides abortion, and I get a Pap smear and a re-up on my birth control pills. The final bill is $250, of which I provide a $25 co-pay. The insurance company pays the rest, and it goes into an account the doctor’s office uses to pay for itself. Then woman after me has an abortion. She pays $500 cash, because her insurance won’t cover abortion under the new health care laws. The doctor needs $750 for rent (keeping it simple), so the $225 paid by my insurance company is OMG ABORTION MONEY.

Douthat has in fact tried to float this argument before, arguing that everything Planned Parenthood does is basically abortion. His arguments are disingenuous, of course. He’s not attacking abortion and sadly shrugging that contraception is unfortunate collateral damage. He’s out to get contraception—at least the use of it by women he disapproves of, including young women, single women, and any women who can’t pay for it (and the doctor’s visit to get the prescription) out of pocket—and abortion is just a convenient cover story. Douthat has famously written before about how women who are on the pill because they assume they might have sex in the future disgust him with their sluttiness. That disgust is coming through loud and clear in his desire to make contraception services and possibly all gynecological care an expensive luxury that can only be afforded by women whose wealth and marital status purifies their gross female sexuality. Women like his wife or his friend’s wives, no doubt.

The use of abortion in this debate has been about amplifying the classism and racism behind the opposition to universal health care, by adding a dose of grossing people out about female sexuality. It’s the linguistic equivalent of tying tampons to the bill itself, so people will freak out and not want to touch it. Conservatives are trying to position the word “abortion” like tampons (I mean clean, new ones—of course used ones are gross) exist in our physical world of taboos. Whatever it touches becomes contaminated by the association. So if a doctor provides abortion, every thing he does becomes unclean. It’s like those old Biblical laws that commanded women who were menstruating not to touch anything else that clean, pure men might use. If they find this is working, expect that not only will women’s health services all become too unclean to fund in their eyes, but all medical care will become unclean by association. They’re desperate to cause people to have visceral disgust reactions, because logical argument against reform aren’t working, if they ever existed to begin with.

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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