At RH Reality Check yesterday, I wrote, “One of the more frustrating aspects of dealing with anti-choices is their tendency to lean on arguments that are so shoddy that they’d be laughed out of a junior high school debate tournament.” And, as if the universe was trying to prove me right, I’ve discovered this Tumblr called—wait for it—Checkmate, Pro-Choicers! This site is where the bloggers store what they believe are their best arguments. Not the argument that convinced them, mind you. The argument that convinced them is, “Female sexuality is evil and a system of forced pregnancy and jail time for unauthorized fucking is the only appropriate response.” The blogmistress Rebecca admits that’s what convinced her in the About ME! (yes, that’s how it’s titled) section:
Please keep all submissions, comments, and reblogs kind and Christ-like. Even though many girls who have abortions may be sluts, this blog is not about calling them sluts.
In other words, we all hate those slutty sluts, but since this stupid Satanic country isn’t ready to throw them in jail for fornication, we have to promote disingenuous arguments about ensoulment of embryos. Like Jesus Christ said, it’s important to throw stones at the sluts, but when called out on it, deny that’s why you did it, because we don’t have the polling numbers yet to ban sex outright.
Personally, I think they should lead with the “slut” argument. It’s what convinced them! I always try to lead with the argument that convinced me. It’s not only the only honest-thing to do—Christ-like, even!—but also a proven method of winning people over. The slut argument got you, right?
Enough preliminaries! Let’s look at what this blogger feels are the strongest, best arguments the anti-choice movement has to offer, besides the “gross, sluts” one, i.e. the one that actually convinced the blogger and her fellow antis.
In a sense, you almost feel sorry for the blogger, who has never seen a biology textbook and, while a legal adult, appears to believe that pregnancy is a process where Jesus tells you that you don’t have any periods for nine months and then, at the end of this period—a period where you have no weight gain, no pain, no stretch marks, no rise in blood pressure, and certainly no labor and delivery—the stork drops a baby off at the door. Of course, even if that were the case, I’d still support abortion rights, because I reserve the right to refuse any package delivered to my house without my permission, and that especially includes one containing another person I have to clothe, house, and feed.
All through this Tumblr—and through anti-choice rhetoric generally—is this assumption that we have no real world experience with what abortion bans look like. In fact, you start to get the impression that they think abortion was only invented in 1973, by those noted doctors on the high court. So antis feel free to just assume that all an abortion ban means is that the concept of “abortion” is wiped away, and women never, ever think about hitting the eject button if they have an unwanted pregnancy.
Of course, in reality, we have tons of evidence that what in fact happens when you ban abortion is that women—who aren’t waiting for the day that this blogger believe will come, and Jesus comes down to settle the question of whether or not embryos have souls for eternity—continue to know damn well that they aren’t carrying a fucking baby around anymore than having an egg and some flour on hand means you’ve got a cake. And those women go on the black market for abortions. If they’re of means, that means they find discreet professionals who offer the service because they, like all people with common sense, know that acorns aren’t trees. But if they’re poor, they go to people who often have no idea what they’re doing.
This isn’t speculation. The rate of abortion is actually higher in countries where it’s banned, suggesting that if you’re “pro-life”, the last thing you want is an abortion ban. The black markets that are handling those abortions are—duh—unsafe. There’s no “if” here, no future date when all this is suddenly resolved. We actually know right now what each side’s policy gets. If we get our way, abortion rates are lower and exponentially fewer women die or are disfigured by abortions. (In fact, if done properly, it’s one of the safest surgical procedures that exists, and far safer than childbirth.) If antis get their way, the abortion rate goes up, as does the rate of women dying or being injured by unsafe abortion. No ifs. No judge making a final proclaimation in the future. We already know the score, and we know it now.
Yeah, well, because they had a choice.
Okay, not to be too glib, but the notion that once a woman has a child, she realizes it’s the best thing ever and will want nothing more but to have one baby after another is easy enough to disprove. It’s not just that women tend to use contraception after giving birth, either. 61% of women getting abortions have children already. Anti-choicers tend to see forced childbirth as a way to turn childless “sluts” into obedient women who will never question patriarchal authority again. In reality, a lot of women who have children know even more how much work it is, and are even more determined to keep their family at a size they can afford and manage. The notion of “regret” is psychologically unstable, of course. Do we know if women regret having children, when there is no safe space for women to express such an emotion? No, of course not. But we do know that woemn can assess the evidence on hand and make choices for themselves, and we have plenty of evidence that even women who’ve experienced motherhood aren’t always eager to have another baby.
Anything that’s human and alive is “human life”. That’s just tautological. Which means that it’s also meaningless. People are “human life”, and embryos are “human life”. But all cells in your body are human and alive. The most obvious example is sperm, which is human and alive and survives outside of the body, unlike embryos. So it actually has more claim to “people” status than an embryo, since it’s got one more trait in common with people than embryos. Which means that if you think abortion is murder on these grounds, you think that ejaculation is genocide. None of the antis I talk to seem to agree, suggesting that they don’t believe this argument about “human life” at all, but simply are trying to avoid talking about the argument that actually convinced them, which is that female sexuality is evil and should be subject to criminal penalties.
If you believe that anything human and alive is the equivalent of a person, and you believe that “human life” is so precious that bodily autonomy doesn’t trump it, then this argument presented here means that you’re a murder if you pop a zit, cut yourself and bleed, or even comb your hair. All those actions kill human life, as they all destroy cells that are are alive and human, and therefore people. And of course, definitely ejacuation. Under this proposed philsophy, all men absolutely have to be in jail for life for all that killing.
There’s some entries on here that are boring, mostly because they’re lies. The usual ones: that abortion causes breast cancer, that childbirth is painless, that a 4-week embryo can feel pain, that abortion bans mean no one gets abortions, and that Susan B. Anthony was “pro-life”, which wasn’t really a thing in the 19th century. (Also, there’s no evidence that she weighed in on the abortion debate that was happening at the time either way, but it’s important to understand that abortion was a really different thing back then. Imposing our struggles over medical procedures over a time when germ theory was still controversial is just bad history.) But this might be my favorite bad history:
I love the “your Queen” stuff. Conservatives are so wed to the idea of blind allegiance to authority that they can’t understand liberals relationship to certain historical figures conservatives hate, like Margaret Sanger, who they hate because she basically invented the concept of birth control. (She was in fact largely anti-abortion, so really, the only reason they can hate her is her role in the creation of contraception, in case you forgot for a moment that the anti-choice movement is as opposed to preventing pregnancy as they are to terminating it.) You see this with creationists, who assume biology is a “religion” and that the writings of Darwin should be regarded as the revealed texts of an opposing faith, as opposed to scientific writings. So they think if they can poke holes in Darwin’s argument, evolutionary theory will collapse. Of course, that’s not how science works. And that’s not how thoughtful people understand history.
This is the logical fallacy known as “argument from authority“, though a sort of weird conservative version of it, where liberals are assigned authorities and then called out if we don’t slavishly agree with everything they say.
Sanger’s opposition to abortion makes more sense if viewed through her utter devotion to the cause of birth control. She was, thankfully in most regards, absolutely fanatical about the idea that pregnancy prevention would liberate women, and she was willing to cling to every argument that got her political leverage for this purpose. Any negative thing that birth control prevents was something she clung to, including abortion. Indeed, many women—myself included—use contraception primarily to prevent abortion, because childbirth is simply not an option. In the nascent days of the birth control movement, therefore, positioning abortion and birth control against each other made a certain amount of political sense. It’s important to remember that abortion was illegal, and Sanger’s experience with it was as a dirty, dangerous back-alley thing. Sanger’s colleagues came around on the abortion issue as the political conversation shifted, and as the understanding grew that we’d never achieve Sanger’s utopian vision of a society that had no unintended pregnancy.
Anyway, I almost feel bad shooting down these arguments, because they’re so self-evidently silly. But this Tumblr is, by its name, an attempt to round up the best arguments for an abortion ban. It’s tragic that such shoddy, illogical, childish, evidence-free thinking gets taken seriously at all. When you really look at the anti-choice movement, it becomes clear that argument-wise, they’re no different than Birthers or 9/11 Truthers or any other weirdly obsessive conspiracy theory cult that wouldn’t know a good argument if it bit them on the ass.
Discussion question: What are the odds this is a parody Tumblr, established by a pro-choicer trying to put all these arguments into one place so you can see how paper-thin they are? I’m guessing 20% odds. The blogger speaks fluent Christianese, after all. Plus, I think a pro-choicer wouldn’t slip in ones like the “no period” one, which are just too silly to be believed. Either way, the important thing to remember is that these really are their best arguments. I’ve never seen better ones proposed, honestly.