New wave of anti-abortion bills is about punishing women – not about saving babies

There’s been a lot of talk of late about how the numerous abortion restriction bills being introduced at the moment aren’t about protecting fetal life, but about shaming women. Thomas at Yes Means Yes! has said it, Hadley Freeman at The Guardian has said it, and our own Miriam, writing at Colorlines, broke it down yesterday. One of the most compelling arguments I’ve read for this view of the situation is from a woman who herself used to believe – and preach – that prohibiting abortion was really a matter of defending innocent fetal life.

That woman is Andrea Grimes, the journalist, blogger and former pro-life Republican (and all-around awesome lady-person). Grimes wrote this week about her experience growing up in Texas with no sex education beyond being told that women who have sex are dirty, and no information about contraception and abortion beside the belief that abortion kills babies and should never be allowed. Unlike other young women we know who grew up in conservative culture, though, Grimes believed all that. She believed it, and she tried to make other young people believe it, too. But all that talk about saving babies, Grimes says, was a front:

Because while I said it was about the babies, it wasn’t. It was about slut-shaming. I absolutely loved slut-shaming. Because I was saving myself for marriage–well, oral sex doesn’t really count anyway, does it?–I knew that I would always be right and virtuous and I would never be a murderer like those sluts. The issue couldn’t possibly be up for real debate, to my mind: either you were a baby-killer slut, or you behaved like a proper Christian woman and only let him get to third base. Babies were simultaneously women’s punishment for having premarital sex and beautiful gifts from Jesus Himself. That didn’t seem like a contradiction in my mind. It was just another one of God’s perfect mysteries.

So why did Grimes stop being a pro-life Republican? Well, she went to college, and met a nice young man, and wanted to have sex with that nice young man, and didn’t want to get pregnant as a result of acting on that desire. So she went to her campus health center and learned all the things about safe sex and her own body that the Texas education system had kept from her. And now, she writes, “I see that nothing about my religious anti-choice views did anything to prevent abortion. They did a lot to shame myself and my friends, but nothing to prevent abortion.”

The same goes for the bills currently being discussed in DC and all over the country. Don’t let the “pro-life” rhetoric fool you: restricting access to abortion has nothing to do with babies, and everything to do with shaming and punishing women.

New York, NY

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

Read more about Chloe

Join the Conversation

  • http://feministing.com/members/comradesvilova/ Nikki Morse

    My friends and I made this crowdsourced video response to HR3 and HR358:

    Join Hands for Choice

    We wanted to add to the voices who are taking the focus off “babies” and back where it belongs: on how these bills affect women’s bodily autonomy and women’s lives.

  • http://feministing.com/members/cadmiumelise/ Elise

    After reading this article and then reading Andrea Grimes’s post, I felt the need to write my own conversion story. http://femanana.wordpress.com/2011/02/10/i-used-to-be-a-pro-life-republican/

    I used to be just like she used to be, and it gives me hope for a lot of other women who are anti-choice.

  • http://feministing.com/members/theoutcast/ Heather

    Excellent post! The abortion debate totally reeks of moral and sexual control over women.

    People totally buy into the “childbirth is punishment” for women. Unfortunately, there has been little on the part of mothers to reverse this perception on a large scale.