Fighting back against anti-choice language

Check out this great video from the National Advocates for Pregnant Women on the language that anti-choicers (and even the media) use to talk about abortion.
To accompany the video, NAPW’s executive director Lynn Paltrow wrote a piece for HuffPo on why it’s so important that we pay attention to anti-choice rhetoric and what it says about women:

Who are the millions of “murderous” women who have abortions? Sixty-one percent of women having abortions are already mothers. By the age of 45, 84% of all women in U.S. will have become pregnant and given birth and 43% will have had an abortion.
In other words, the women who have abortions are overwhelmingly mothers.
So we need to ask — do the people who use this language really think the mothers who have had abortions are the same as, or worse than, those who carry out torture, kill children, and commit mass-murder?
…NAPW believes that the pregnant women who have abortions, who suffer miscarriages, who give birth, who raise children, and who love their families deserve better.

To dismantle the anti-choice myth that there are two kinds of women – those who have abortions and those who have babies – NAPW has launched a campaign that shows how the majority of women who have abortions already are, or will be, mothers.
“You can make it hard to label mothers murderers, by showing that the women who are accused of creating a ‘culture of death’ are giving birth and doing the caretaking that is at the core of a true culture of life,” Paltrow writes.
If you have had an abortion and given birth, experienced a miscarriage or stillbirth, adopted or raised a child — tell your story with a picture, a sign, a 1 minute or less video and NAPW will post it here.

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17 Comments

  1. pan
    Posted August 24, 2009 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    Hmm…I get it, but it still makes me uncomfortable. There’s something really icky about this ad for me. The idea is that you can’t call it murder because mothers and pregnant women have had them, assuming that there is something good and nurturing about being a mother.
    1) I hate equating women with peace, love, and nature just because of their ability to have children
    2) Would it be okay to call them murderers if they weren’t mothers or never chose motherhood?
    As someone who probably won’t have children, I have a real problem with this. I understand the importance of showing who these women who have abortions really are and dispelling myths, but let’s work against calling any woman who chooses to have an abortion evil.
    This video validates the idea that women are naturally equipped for motherhood and that there is something valiant about motherhood. Anti-choicers are always promoting motherhood as the heroic choice. Let’s not give them any more ammunition.
    I ultimately see this being used by anti-choicers to say, you’ll have children one day, why not have this one? You owe it to have all the children you conceive because that is what mothers do.
    It just doesn’t sit well with me on many levels.

  2. Jessica
    Posted August 24, 2009 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, I hear what you’re saying totally. But that’s kind of what I like about it – anti-choicers are constantly putting moms and motherhood up on a pedestal, and this disrupts that idea. I guess I didn’t see this so much as NAPW pushing the whole mothers-are-saints thing as much as they were pushing that notion in anti-choicers faces.

  3. anon
    Posted August 24, 2009 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    “assuming there is something good and nuturing about being a mother”
    “there is something valiant about motherhood”
    As a mother, I find these comments hurtful. There is something VERY GOOD and wonderful about my relationship with my son and something TRULY VALIANT about trying to be a mom, be a lawyer and be a functional person in society (it’s valiant because it is DAMN hard!).
    As was the case with the posts about the benefit that breastfeeding may reduce one’s risk of breast cancer, can we PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE not turn this into a discussion on whether the decision to mother is intrinsically bad or good?
    Can we not just accept that some women chose to become mothers and some don’t.
    The point is that A WHOLE LOT of women who chose to become mothers also chose to have an abortion. These are not diametrically opposed, as many pro-lifers seem to think. That’s the only thing this ad is saying. It certainly isn’t saying that mom’s are all perfect and should be adored. It’s just saying that comparing mom’s to nazi’s is ridiculous.
    As with all things reproductive, sexual and feminist, there are a whole lot of shades of gray. What is right for one pregnancy (carrying to term) may not be right for another (abortion). What is right for one woman (motherhood, breast feeding, working) is not right for another (not becoming a mom, bottle feeding, staying at home).

  4. Ryan
    Posted August 24, 2009 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    One doesn’t need to draw comparisons to genocide or Naziism in order to argue that abortion is wrong or evil. I don’t know if NAPW takes a particular stance on abortion rights, but I get the impression that video is not aimed against opposition to abortion per se, only against a particular kind of rhetoric often associated with it.
    I think Lynn Paltrow is really trying to be as inclusive as possible when she writes:
    Regardless of your point of view about abortion, it is time to ask your spiritual, religious, and political leaders to give a sermon or speech explaining the difference between the personal decisions women and their families make and government sponsored genocide. While some women do feel that an abortion ends a life, or at least a potential life, they know that their individual and very private decisions and circumstances are not the same as decisions to carry out state-sponsored genocide.
    But if abortion does, in fact, end a life, then it is, at the very least, a form of state-tolerated homicide. That is not identical to state-sponsored genocide, but simply calling abortion “the personal decisions women and their families make” hardly seems any more ideologically neutral a description.
    Government protection of private decision-making is not the same as government authorized military action against particular groups of people.
    But again, doesn’t it matter what kinds of decisions are being protected? Paltrow genuinely seems to want to “reach across the aisle,” so to speak, with her call for moderation in the kind of language used to talk about abortion, but the language she herself uses suggests she doesn’t really understand the principled arguments of those who oppose abortion.

  5. PamelaVee
    Posted August 24, 2009 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    I liked the video. The HUGE misconception and outright lies about women who have abortions are that they are careless teenagers/obviously promiscuous, because NO ONE has an accident right?
    I doubt that these anti-choice groups truly care about facts, which is disheartening. Even more disheartening they forget that women are people, too. Not potential people or valued zygotes, or whatever they like to call fetuses, but half of the present, functioning population.. and that have STILL haven’t gotten their respect to bodily autonomy and basic human rights worldwide.
    Even if you will never need to have abortion access, this issue should be important to you. I never EVER want my (hypothetical) daughter to go through an unwanted pregnancy..and I can guarantee she wouldn’t be a NAZI if she chose to abort. That comparison is disgusting and spits in the face of people whose loved ones were murdered during the Holocaust. Shame on that priest and everyone else who calls abortion a holocaust. Work on having your church not rape children before you make a moral judgment on women!

  6. Mighty Ponygirl
    Posted August 24, 2009 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    Oh please. There are a bunch of abused and neglected children who would disagree that there is something good and valiant about motherhood. Being a mother does not automatically make someone good and valiant.
    Yes, you feel that your experience with motherhood is good and valiant. That’s not always the case.
    I know what they were trying to do with that ad, I get it. But it’s really just another way of dividing up women into “good” (mothers, 84% of women) and “bad” (slutty abortion-having non-mothers, the other 16%).
    A woman isn’t “redeemed” from her abortion by later having children.

  7. pan
    Posted August 24, 2009 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    I’m not saying your choice to mother isn’t valiant or good. My apologies. Perhaps I didn’t word it carefully, but what I mean is that there is something wrong when the only things associated with mothering are attributes like being nurturing and loving. I mean to say that women and mothers are unique individuals in their own right. Just because someone is a mom does not mean that they are valiant, just because someone is not does not mean they are not valiant.
    I dislike the association of nurturing with women and with mothers. I think that yes, women can be all these things, but so can non-mothers and fathers. I dislike the assumption that women who have kids are one way, and women who don’t are another. I am a big proponent all people having different personalities and ideas. Just because one chooses to be a mom does not mean that you have a particular personality.
    I hate the idea that people who don’t choose motherhood (especially if they have an abortion) are innately less nurturing. I think that is the link I am trying to make.
    The fact is that women are associated with motherhood and reproduction. Now, of course women do have an important role in reproduction that cannot be minimized, and we should value it! But we should also avoid the assumption that women’s reproduction links them explicitly to goodness. What makes them good is who they are, not the fact that they reproduce. In our culture, women are simultaneously lauded for their choice to reproduce and be good mothers, and devalued when they decide to do things like breastfeed or stay home to be the primary caregiver of their children. I wish to both value the choice of women who do not want to have children, while also supporting those women who do have children. But both have to be done without valorizing either position.
    I don’t know if I made myself clear, but I really do not intend to say anything against mothers. I simply was articulating the position that is often the subjugated one — that of not having children. But in articulating the plight of this particular group I meant no offense to the group that does want to have children. Both have valuable concerns and goals which should be addressed.

  8. Katie93
    Posted August 24, 2009 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

    Incorrect. Your typical anti-choicer will put mothers who happen to be white, straight, cis, married to the father, upper middle class, older than 25 but younger than 35, who concieved in wedlock, who doesn’t use drugs, who will manage to breastfeed without being given adequate time to do it and without doing it in public, who will meekly accept the U.S.’s sucky materity leave laws, who will submit her body to unneccesary maternity care interventions without informed consent, and who will give up her life, interests, and work to be SuperUltraPerfectHealthyMom on a pedestal.
    Otherwise, you’re a threat to society/a drain on the poor little rich tax payers, who just can’t be bothered to help out someone in need/ZOMG FITHLY SLUT WHO HAD TEH SEX!!!!!111!!!/a bad mommy who’s kid will grow up to be a failure and probably a bad mommy too.
    Ahem.
    Just saying.
    /uncalled for and pretty much off-topic rant.

  9. Katie93
    Posted August 24, 2009 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    I’m really pro-pregnancy/pro-childbirth/pro-motherhood for all if they want too (see uncalled for and off-topic rant I wrote a few comments up), but I think this video kind of misses the point. I’m going to go out on a limb and say the 39% of women who haven’t given birth and who’ve had an abortion probably weren’t on a murderous rage at the time. I would be more offended by the video, but mostly I just don’t get it. How does already having a kid change anything? To the anti-choice, a “murderer” is a “murderer.” If anything, they’ll just use this to invoke more shame on women who make decisions about their body. “You already went throug a pregnancy, how could you do this, blah blah blah I should get to make decisions about your body blah blah blah.”
    PS-Other than this gaffe, NAPW is usually an awesome, very pro-choice organization. Besides looking out for abortion rights, they defend mothers who have used drugs, low-income mothers, work to end pregnancy discrimination, and work to stop maternity care without informed consent.

  10. Katie93
    Posted August 24, 2009 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

    The thing about that that bugs me is that while, yes, not all women who get abortions are careless teens/promiscuous, a woman who is a CT/P is just as much of a person as, say, a mother, and is no less deserving of reproductive freedom.

  11. BackOfBusEleven
    Posted August 24, 2009 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think most anti-choicers know that most women who have abortions already have children. They make it like women don’t actually know what pregnancy, childbirth, and child rearing are like. That’s not the case. Most women who have abortions have had these experiences and continue to have these experiences. Many women choose to abort a pregnancy because they believe it’s in the best interest of their existing children. NAPW is addressing that one piece of anti-choice rhetoric. They’re not saying anything about women who have abortions before they become mothers or who will never become mothers.

  12. PamelaVee
    Posted August 24, 2009 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

    oh, completely. I don’t care about the circumstances regarding freedom of choice because that’s the whole point, that you can’t control someone else’s body.
    I think they enjoy the slut-shaming aspect of that argument and that’s why they use it.

  13. Allegra
    Posted August 25, 2009 at 12:55 am | Permalink

    I agree with Pan. I like the video’s message, and I like that they’re trying to dispel the “person who has an abortion = murderer” myth, and the false dichotomy between mothers and women who have abortions. However, I think they did it in a way that sounds like it makes an argument they didn’t intend. The video makes it sound like mothers by definition can’t be murderers. I think it’s just a simple case of poor style and wording choices, which is unfortunate. I appreciate what they’re trying to say.

  14. Lilly
    Posted August 25, 2009 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    I agree, it seemed to me like the video stemmed from a deep misunderstanding of the objections to abortion.

  15. smiley
    Posted August 25, 2009 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    Pan,
    Exactly my thoughts when I read the OP.
    I thought there was a non sequitur in the argument. It is not logical to say ‘mothers cannot, by definiton, be murderers’. (I am arguing the logic, not the discourse pro or anti.)
    There are many cases to show that they can.
    Further, what is the relevance of the statement “In other words, the women who have abortions are overwhelmingly mothers”? So what? Might as well say that most tax evaders have paid tax. Or that most murderers have not killed their parents. True, but irrelevant.
    In addition, the rhetorical question “… the mothers who have had abortions are the same as, or worse than, those who carry out torture, kill children, and commit mass-murder?” is very probably distorting the opponents’ case. Which I find a little unfair.
    All in all, a poorly argued OP I’m afraid.

  16. smiley
    Posted August 25, 2009 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    Pan,
    Exactly my thoughts when I read the OP.
    I thought there was a non sequitur in the argument. It is not logical to say ‘mothers cannot, by definiton, be murderers’. (I am arguing the logic, not the discourse pro or anti.)
    There are many cases to show that they can.
    Further, what is the relevance of the statement “In other words, the women who have abortions are overwhelmingly mothers”? So what? Might as well say that most tax evaders have paid tax. Or that most murderers have not killed their parents. True, but irrelevant.
    In addition, the rhetorical question “… the mothers who have had abortions are the same as, or worse than, those who carry out torture, kill children, and commit mass-murder?” is very probably distorting the opponents’ case. Which I find a little unfair.
    All in all, a poorly argued OP I’m afraid.

  17. UnHingedHips
    Posted August 25, 2009 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, it was a little weird. What I got from the ad was something along the lines of ‘abortion can’t be evil because here are some pictures of women who have had abortions snuggling cute babies’.
    But then, I’m not exactly the target audience; I wonder how someone who tended to lean towards being anti-choice would interpret it.

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