As I noted last night, I have a blog post up at Slate about Susan G. Komen—who purports to be a women’s health charity—abandoning their alliance with Planned Parenthood, even though 17% of Planned Parenthood’s services are cancer screening and prevention. They claim that it’s because Planned Parenthood is under investigation, but it seems that excuse was ginned up because it was easy cover for caving into anti-choice nuts. The investigation has been launched as a nuisance investigation by an anti-choice congressman, and is not compelled by any sincere concern that Planned Parenthood is violating the law with its funds. It’s completely obvious that they’re caving into anti-choice activists, and specifically, as I noted at Slate, into the ridiculous idea that you can separate “good girl” health care from “bad girl” health care, the latter being everything from cervical cancer prevention and treatment to abortion. And yes, before we forget, it’s all lumped together with the anti-choice movement now. That’s how they made the HPV vaccine an issue in the Republican primary, because it’s widely believed that preventing cervical cancer gives girls “license” to be sluts.
In other words, a supposedly anti-cancer charity just threw their lot in with people who believe that cancer shouldn’t be prevented if it’s linked to sexually transmitted diseases. Objectively pro-cancer, at least for women they deem slutty, i.e. about 95% of us.
Reading Tracy-Clark Flory’s coverage of the story, I had a revelation. It came after reading this quote:
Cynthia A. Pearson, executive director of the National Women’s Health Network, doesn’t buy the foundation’s explanation, either. “That’s specious,” she said. Instead, Pearson says, “Komen’s chicken. Komen’s caving to pressure.” This is what antiabortion activists do so well: “They will target the providers and the people who relate to the providers,” she says. That’s because “they can’t make Planned Parenthood stop providing abortions” and “they can’t find any evidence that Planned Parenthood is inappropriately using federal funds.”
That’s when I realized that anti-choicers do this so well because the war on reproductive health care is basically a witchhunt, and the religious fundamentalists behind it are the modern day version of medieval paranoids of old who believed that women who didn’t conform to their exacting standards were consorting with Satan. In fact, considering the span of time and cultural change, the fact that the argument hasn’t changed at all—they really do believe pro-choice health care providers are consorting with Satan—is almost startling. It’s like they lifted it directly from their medieval ancestors. Except, instead of condemning witches to the stake, they simply want to keep them from doing their jobs, and allowing the other witches, i.e. women whose sexual choices they disapprove of, suffer from various afflications ranging from forced childbirth to death from cervical cancer as a warning to others to stay away from the devil’s playground of sexual pleasure. And like traditional witch hunters, they have lurid imaginations, and project all their strange fantasies onto their targets, which is why abortion providers or even just pro-choice clinics have been accused of everything from running sex trafficking rings to instigating genocide to putting fetuses in food. And that’s on top of the lurid accusations flung at the kinds of women who might visit a Planned Parenthood, especially unmarried young women. Those women are accused of creating sex cults around Plan B, organizing orgies for the strange purpose of getting really colorful penises in the room, and of using abortion as “birth control”, i.e. preferring the no-doubt unequalled pleasures of a good uterus scraping to boring old pill use. I’ve definitely seen some medieval-style flights of fancy aimed at me personally, including a blogger putitng up a picture of me in a red sweater to make insinuations about the kind of woman who wears red. No, I’m serious.
But the most salient feature of a witch hunt is that the witch hunters, in their paranoia, are always looking to expand the circle of “guilt”. They imagine demons in every corner, and vast conspiracies promoting what they believe is evil that need to be rooted out. In medieval witch hunts, if someone who didn’t like you remembered you buying a chicken from the accused witch, you better fall to your knees and start accusing the accused of putting a curse on your family, or you might be assumed to be guilty, too. That’s basically what’s going on here. Because of the witch hunt logic, it does seem to be that more and more of women’s health care is being rolled up under the word “abortion”, which is why anti-choicers blithely claims that’s all Planned Parenthood does. You can point out repeatedly that 97% of its services are not abortion, but in their mind, that’s like saying that the accused witch spent some of her time not doing witchcraft. In their minds, while she slept she was consorting with Satan, and time spent with her pet cat now is her consorting with a familiar. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been called a “baby killer”. Even if you are stupid enough to believe that abortion is killing babies, that accusation doesn’t make sense; I’ve never had nor performed an abortion. But that’s the point. The word “abortion” for anti-choicers long ago ceased to mean “terminating a pregnancy”. Now it’s just a catch-all scare term to be flung around whenever you want to whip people into a frenzy of hatred over women’s liberation, especially women’s sexual liberation.
Anyone who thinks breast cancer can be neatly cordoned off from this growing circle of hate for all things women’s health care is fooling themselves. That’s not how witch hunts work. The fear here is not about fetuses or babies per se, but a deep-set fear of female sexuality. Already anti-choicers have scooped breast cancer under the umbrella “abortion”, claiming that abortion causes breast cancer. (It doesn’t.) Komen would rather side with people who see breast cancer as god’s judgment on you for having an abortion rather than side with people support comprehensive health care for women. That tells you all you need to know about their organization. I’m all for picking up your sneakers and taking up running as a hobby, but recommend now you do it for you, and not for the ever-elusive cure for cancer.