What does the Casey Anthony case have to do with abortion? To people whose common sense and ability to feel empathy haven’t been distorted by a misogynist ideology, the answer is “Nothing.” Either, as the prosecution claims, Anthony brutally murdered her little girl Caylee, or, as the defense claims, Caylee died by accident and Anthony helped cover it up out of fear of her father. Either way, nothing to do with abortion.
Abortion terminates a pregnancy, and in the vast majority of cases, it’s terminating a pregnancy before the embryo or fetus has even developed much in the way of brain tissue, much less the ability to feel, think, have desires, feel pain, be afraid, or be happy–things an actual infant is still developing the capacity to do as is a small child. Most people with common sense grasp this intuitively, which is why we don’t have funerals for miscarriages or celebrate “conception” days instead of birth days. Most of us also have enough empathy to imagine that Caylee’s final moments were, regardless of how they came about, terrifying and tragic. Most of us are serious enough people not to discount the tragedy of Caylee’s death by comparing it to an ordinary medical procedure that one in three American women will get in their lifetimes.
In fact, this is so obvious that I assumed that even anti-choicers had to get it. And I honestly thought they had! Even after the verdict came out and I started getting weird tweets from conservatives claiming that I supported Casey Anthony, I didn’t think about this in terms of abortion. I assumed that their hobbled thinking went like this: “Casey Anthony has been portrayed as a big ol’ slut in the media. Big ol’ sluts threaten me. So do feminists. Feminists are therefore big ol’ sluts, and have Slutwalks to prove it. Being a slut equals being a murderer, or at least that’s what Nancy Grace tells me, and so voila! If you’re a feminist, you support killing two-year-olds.”
For the record, I suspect that Anthony actually is guilty, and believe the jury when they say they think she probably is but that the prosecution didn’t prove its case. If she is, it is indeed a shame that she won’t be seeing decades in prison for her crime. Her choices of who to sleep with when and how to be sexual have exactly nothing to do with this.
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But then I got tweets referencing Anthony and abortion. And I thought, “Really? They’re going to go there?” I’m never one to expect members of the forced birth brigade to actually have a sense of common sense and decency—we’re talking people who treat childbirth like a punishment God doles out for screwing—but they usually have enough sense to conceal how nasty they are in order to be taken seriously by the public at large. You’d think they’d realize how it looks to use the actual death of an actual person who actually suffered and who actually lived to publicize their belief that we should force women to bring forth potential people, whether they want to or not.
But sure enough, turns out that a lot of anti-choicers are happy to exploit the tragic death of a small child in order to promote an anti-woman agenda. Jill Stanek is all over it, of course. Rush Limbaugh was all over it. STFU, Conservatives has started a series chronicling white men on Facebook exploiting this case to complain about women having the right to abort unwanted pregnancies.
This is incredibly stupid, and I have to imagine they know it’s stupid. It makes you look callous and exploitative. It also makes anti-choicers look like they get more incensed that a woman might go out and party than that she might have murdered someone. Stanek’s priorities were evident when, in the wake of the verdict, she didn’t ask the important questions such as, “Why did the jury feel there was reasonable doubt?”, but instead, “Will Casey go back to the partying lifestyle and find a guy to take care of her?”
Or take one of the guys STFU, Conservatives chronicled saying, “Casey Anthony is a stupid whore….but look at the bright side, when she’s partying her first weekend out of jail and gets pregnant she’ll probably just have an abortion and it’ll all be legal….” You get the strong impression that while anti-choicers aren’t happy that a woman might be getting away with murder, the idea that a woman might party and get away with it is what’s really raising their blood pressure.
This is really stupid and I have to imagine they know how it looks. My theory is they just can’t help themselves. This case must cause a lot of cognitive dissonance for anti-choicers. First of all, you have the question of punishment. The standard anti-choice argument is both that abortion is a mother murdering her child but also that she should face no legal penalty for it. But this case shows how incoherent that belief is, since our society does think that women who actually murder their children should go to prison for it. Subsequently, it becomes clear that anti-choicers don’t really think abortion is murder and have no intention of treating it like murder.
But there’s something deeper going on. The anti-choice narrative, if I were to boil it down, goes something like this: “Young women, poisoned by feminists to believe they’re the equal to men, go around slutting it up until God punishes them with an unwanted pregnancy. If we banned abortion, these women would be forced to have their babies, but as soon as the babies came out of them, they would be transformed into loving mothers. They would stop being sluts and instead get married and spend the rest of their days in a holy glow of joy having accepted their role as nurturers and help-meets, and having left their sinful days behind them.” The justification for this is “Leave It To Beaver.”
But Anthony’s case gives lie to all that. Whether or not she murdered her daughter or just covered up her death, Casey Anthony was obviously not ready to be a mother, and the anti-choice contention that you can make someone be ready for motherhood by applying force has been demonstrated to be a lie. I suspect they get that this whole case is really not helping their argument that the best solution for teenage girls who get pregnant from one night stands is compulsory motherhood. And it draws attention to the fact that compulsory motherhood is not only bad for women, but it’s really bad for children. It reminds people, in the starkest terms possible, that children are better off if they’re wanted and born to people ready to care for them. This troubling realization, I suspect, accounts for the ill-advised flip-out over this case, when cooler heads would suggest they lay low until all this blows over.