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. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at

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

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