Commentary Abortion

The Deeply Disturbing World of Modern Anti-Abortion Activism

Amanda Marcotte

Blaming clinics for their own harassment, making violent insinuations, giving a convicted terrorist a leadership position, railroading good doctors out of business, and claiming that 10-year-old rape victims are better off being forced to give birth: Welcome to the anti-choice movement of 2013.

To understand how dark and ugly and mean-spirited the anti-choice movement is, it helps to understand that, for anti-choicers in Kansas at least, having an opponent murdered is not enough. You’d think after Dr. George Tiller was assassinated in his church by frequent anti-choice protester Scott Roeder, that would be enough—enough pain caused, enough lives destroyed—to send the message that anti-choicers want to send, which is that even though abortion is legal, they will inflict so much pain and misery on anyone who dares try to help women and girls (many of whose sole “crime” is being female) that others who want to be helpful will be too terrified to do the right thing.

Anti-choicers have also turned their metaphorical guns on Dr. Tiller’s colleague, Dr. Ann Kristin Neuhaus, and have successfully found a judge who is willing to strip her of her license for providing the second opinion required for third-trimester abortions in Kansas. The judge made this ruling even though the complainant in the case is a convicted terrorist, Cheryl Sullenger. The court also forced Dr. Neuhaus to pay for her own railroading through legal harassment, to the tune of $93,000, which, with her loss of income and her son’s massive health problems, means that her family is on the verge of bankruptcy.

So, who are the girls—and they were girls—that anti-choicers felt needed to be forced to give birth, so much so that anyone giving them permission should be stripped of her license? As the Huffington Post reports, some of these cases will break your heart.

The records contain few identifying details about the females, but in one case, Neuhaus describes a 10-year-old girl who was raped by her uncle as “tiny” and physically incapable of being able to have a baby. Another girl was drugged and then raped by multiple men who videotaped their crime.

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Clearly, depriving 10-year-olds of the opportunity to go through body-breaking labor to provide their rapist uncles with a shot at fatherhood is so evil that anyone who participates deserves to have her life ruined. It is worth noting that Kansas accepts mental health as a reason to provide third-trimester abortions; the notion that the judge, who is not a doctor, could ascertain from afar that these girls would not suffer from irreversible mental health damage from being forced to give birth to the babies of rapists is deeply implausible.

The utter indifference to the basic well-being of these young girls on display on the anti-choice side has been breathtaking in its cruelty throughout this case. It wasn’t enough for anti-choicers to deny that there could be psychological damage from forcing raped teens and pre-teens to give birth. They also had to go out of their way to humiliate those rape victims on national television.

In 2007, Phill Kline, the district attorney in Kansas, got his hands on a bunch of patient files that were supposed to be confidential. Somehow, Bill O’Reilly managed to get a hold of these files and broadcast their contents live on Fox News. Considering how few people had access to the files, the suspicion naturally rests on Kline, a deeply unethical man who used his position to harass abortion providers instead of to serve the people of Kansas.

This is what the war on abortion access looks like in Kansas: betraying the confidence of medical patients, pretending that forcing 10-year-olds to birth rapists’ babies is no big deal, bankrupting doctors, driving one man into a frenzy of anti-choice hate so much so that he murders someone, and allowing convicted terrorists to be the leaders running the whole thing. Under the circumstances, it’s no big surprise that one anti-choice leader is dropping hints that gun violence at the South Wind Women’s Center in Wichita is coming.

What all this bespeaks is a shocking amount of entitlement on the behalf of anti-choicers. It makes sense; the underlying premise of being anti-choice is believing that you have the right to control the reproductive decisions of perfect strangers and that your beliefs about what sexuality is “for” should be imposed on others by government fiat. Once you get into that headspace, all other kinds of shockingly entitled attitudes follow, including the belief that you get to misuse the medical records of underage rape victims and that clinics, and not you, are to blame if your protesting is an irritant to the rest of the community. The anti-choice movement, at its heart, is imperious and cold-hearted, but the situation in Kansas shows how an insular, radically anti-choice community can take the already grossly entitled attitudes of anti-choicers and blow them up into grotesqueries.

What’s upsetting is how little the rest of the country seems to understand what’s going on here. Everyone was shocked when Todd Akin insinuated that women and young girls seeking to abort pregnancies caused by rape are lying about being raped, but for those who are following the situation in Kansas, that’s no surprise. Anti-choicers have to tell themselves that women suffering from eclampsia aren’t actually going to die and that 10-year-olds who are pregnant by their uncles aren’t really rape victims in order to justify this kind of disgusting, intrusive, and occasionally violent behavior toward abortion providers like Dr. Tiller and Dr. Neuhaus. Admitting the truth—that sometimes women and girls really do need later abortions, and not every pregnancy is an occasion for joy—would be admitting to themselves that they spend their lives dedicated to the sole purpose of making the already hard lives of desperate women even harder.

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