Commentary Abortion

‘Abortion Is Like Slavery’ and Other Offensive Anti-Choice Analogies

Amanda Marcotte

Why do anti-choicers rely so heavily on bad, offensive analogies that compare reproductive rights to slavery, the Holocaust, and drug addiction? In no small part, it's because without these inaccurate and offensive analogies, their actual arguments are exposed as weak and petty.

Just when you think anti-choice protesters have run out of ways to be as morally bankrupt as they are self-righteous and judgmental, they will surprise you. Anti-choicers in Albuquerque, New Mexico have taken to protesting the Holocaust museum there, furious that the museum disagrees with the anti-choice claim that women who say no to pregnancy are the moral equivalent of people who rounded up two-thirds of the Jewish population of Europe and killed them in cold blood. It’s particularly mind-bending in this case, because their ire is focused on a nearby clinic that does abortions after 28 weeks for women whose only other choice is usually giving birth to babies that will be in terrible pain or die shortly after birth—or both—meaning that they’re equating the Holocaust not just with women who commit the “sin” of having sex without wanting to get pregnant, but women who wanted to have a baby, but couldn’t. At a certain point, you start to wonder if they’re not just thinking you’re a Nazi by being born female.

But sadly, this kind of offensive and poorly reasoned analogy is just par for the course for anti-choicers, who are faced with the tough dilemma of trying to get other people to be as angry as they are that women continue to make their sexual and reproductive choices for themselves. The list of things anti-choicers claim abortion and contraception are like but are most definitely not like is long indeed. Here are just a few of the more offensive analogies.

Contraceptionand non-procreative sex in generalis like an addictive drug. A classic in the “offensive analogies” genre, the American Life League (ALL) put out a video comparing the desire to have sex with drug addiction. Yes, right down to the way that the drug addict had no craving for the drug prior to using it. ALL really does seem to think that if we didn’t teach safer sex, young people would have no desire to dabble in that sex stuff.

Beyond just the offensiveness of equating normal human desire for sex with a serious medical condition that affects real people, the analogy doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. It’s not like having a drug addiction suddenly becomes healthy once you get married and start having kids, but even anti-choicers—at least officially, anyway—claim to believe that sex is healthy in the marriage and kids context.

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Abortion is like slavery. This one managed to work its way all the way up to a presidential debate, but that doesn’t make it one iota less racist or offensive. As with the Holocaust analogy, all this really does is make it clear how little regard for the lives of Jews and Black people anti-choicers have. When someone like Mike Huckabee goes on and on about how abortion is like slavery, all I can hear is that they believe that this weird-looking mindless embryo the size of a kidney bean means more to them than the full human beings who lived and suffered—and died—for centuries under American slavery. Considering how nearly all anti-choicers claim they don’t want to throw women in jail for abortion, it follows that they’re implying that enslaving other human beings is not a punishable offense. It’s also offensive because it’s trotted out in no small part to subtly hint to anti-choice followers that, like slavery, abortion is something worth fighting a war over—a claim that helps justify violence against providers.

And, as usual, if you give the analogy a moment’s thought, it makes no kind of sense. Slavery was an institution of forcing people into lifelong service without pay. The embryos in question aren’t being forced to work or having their liberty stripped of them. Also, the slave-owning states of the past are far more likely to be the abortion-restricting ones of now, making the bad faith of this analogy even more obvious.

Legal abortion is like assault. In a desperate bid to make it seem like they’re protecting the women whose rights they’re actually attacking, anti-choicers will often describe abortion like it’s an assault on a woman’s body. Indeed, they claim over and over that it’s like rape, because there’s no level of offensiveness to which they won’t stoop. Women who get abortions are painted as unwilling participants who just magically showed up in a doctor’s office and were frog-marched through the process. Abortion is often described in gruesome detail to make it sound as painful and violent as possible—as if childbirth were a gentle, bloodless breeze whistling through your hair or something. For actual victims of rape and assault, hearing your ordeal compared to a willingly sought out medical procedure is beyond deplorable and offensive.

It’s also dumb. Both because abortion is safer than childbirth, and first trimester abortions are over pretty quickly, whereas even the easiest childbirth is a whole lot of work and exhaustion. But where this analogy really breaks down is over the issue of consent. Assault and rape are situations where someone else forcibly inflicts themselves on your body and takes your control away. Abortion is the opposite for women who choose it—an opportunity to gain control over your body and its processes. It’s abortion bans that are about taking away a woman’s control over her body. Indeed, the same logic—that women exist to be used by other people and not for their own purposes—underpins both rape apologetics and abortion bans. No wonder so many anti-choicers tend to take a cavalier attitude when it comes to actual rape.

Bad analogies are tempting, particularly for those who have bad arguments: It’s a way to bolster your sense of self-righteousness and distract from the problems with your point of view. Bad, offensive analogies proliferate on the anti-choice side because their actual arguments are pretty weak and just thin cover for their hostility towards women’s growing power. But that doesn’t make them excusable. The opposite, really—if you can’t make your argument without leaning on offensive analogies, it’s time to pack it in and go home.

News Law and Policy

Anti-Choice Group: End Clinic ‘Bubble Zones’ for Chicago Abortion Patients

Michelle D. Anderson

Chicago officials in October 2009 passed the "bubble zone" ordinance with nearly two-thirds of the city aldermen in support.

An anti-choice group has announced plans to file a lawsuit and launch a public protest over Chicago’s nearly seven-year-old “bubble zone” ordinance for patients seeking care at local abortion clinics.

The Pro-Life Action League, an anti-choice group based in Chicago, announced on its website that its lawyers at the Thomas More Society would file the lawsuit this week.

City officials in October 2009 passed the ordinance with nearly two-thirds of the city aldermen in support. The law makes it illegal to come within eight feet of someone walking toward an abortion clinic once that person is within 50 feet of the entrance, if the person did not give their consent.

Those found violating the ordinance could be fined up to $500.

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Harassment of people seeking abortion care has been well documented. A 2013 survey from the National Abortion Federation found that 92 percent of providers had a patient entering their facility express personal safety concerns.

The ordinance targets people seeking to pass a leaflet or handbill or engaging in “oral protest, education, or counseling with such other person in the public way.” The regulation bans the use of force, threat of force and physical obstruction to intentionally injure, intimidate or interfere any person entering or leaving any hospital, medical clinic or health-care facility.

The Pro-Life Action League lamented on its website that the law makes it difficult for anti-choice sidewalk counselors “to reach abortion-bound mothers.” The group suggested that lawmakers created the ordinance to create confusion and that police have repeatedly violated counselors’ First Amendment rights.

“Chicago police have been misapplying it from Day One, and it’s caused endless problems for our faithful sidewalk counselors,” the group said.

The League said it would protest and hold a press conference outside of the Planned Parenthood clinic in the city’s Old Town neighborhood.

Julie Lynn, a Planned Parenthood of Illinois spokesperson, told Rewire in an email that the health-care provider is preparing for the protest.

“We plan to have volunteer escorts at the health center to make sure all patients have safe access to the entrance,” Lynn said.

The anti-choice group has suggested that its lawsuit would be successful because of a 2014 U.S. Supreme Court decision that ruled a similar law in Massachusetts unconstitutional.

Pam Sutherland, vice president of public policy and education for Planned Parenthood of Illinois, told the Chicago Tribune back then that the health-care provider expected the city’s bubble zone to be challenged following the 2014 decision.

But in an effort to avoid legal challenges, Chicago city officials had based its bubble zone law on a Colorado law that created an eight-foot no-approach zone within 100 feet of all health-care facilities, according to the Tribune. Sidewalk counselor Leila Hill and others challenged that Colorado law, but the U.S. Supreme Court upheld it in 2000.

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Tim Kaine Outlines Plan to ‘Make Housing Fair’

Ally Boguhn

“A house is more than just a place to sleep. It's part of the foundation on which a family can build a life,” wrote Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA). “Where you live determines the jobs you can find, the schools your children can attend, the air you breathe and the opportunities you have. And when you are blocked from living where you want, it cuts to the core of who you are.”

Donald Trump made some controversial changes to his campaign staff this week, and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) noted his commitment to better housing policies.

Trump Hires Controversial Conservative Media Figure

Republican presidential nominee Trump made two notable additions to his campaign staff this week, hiring Breitbart News’ Stephen Bannon as CEO and GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway as campaign manager.

“I have known Steve and Kellyanne both for many years. They are extremely capable, highly qualified people who love to win and know how to win,” said Trump in a Wednesday statement announcing the hires. “I believe we’re adding some of the best talents in politics, with the experience and expertise needed to defeat Hillary Clinton in November and continue to share my message and vision to Make America Great Again.”

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Both have been criticized as being divisive figures.

Conway, for example, previously advised then-client Todd Akin to wait out the backlash after his notorious “legitimate rape” comments, comparing the controversy to “the Waco with David Koresh situation where they’re trying to smoke him out with the SWAT teams.” According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Conway is also “often cited by anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim organizations such as the think tank Center for Security Policy and NumbersUSA.”

Under Bannon’s leadership, “mainstream conservative website” changed “into a cesspool of the alt-right,” suggested the publication’s former editor at large, Ben Shapiro, in a piece for the Washington Post‘s PostEverything. “It’s a movement shot through with racism and anti-Semitism.”

Speaking with ABC News this week, Kurt Bardella, who also previously worked with Bannon at Breitbart, alleged that Bannon had exhibited “nationalism and hatred for immigrants, people coming into this country to try to get a better life for themselves” during editorial calls.

“If anyone sat there and listened to that call, you’d think that you were attending a white supremacist rally,” said Bardella.

Trump’s new hire drew heated criticism from the Clinton campaign in a Wednesday press call. “The Breitbart organization has been known to defend white supremacists,” said Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager. After pointing to an analysis from the SPLC linking Breitbart to the extremist alt-right movement, Mook listed a number of other controversial positions pushed by the site.

“Breitbart has compared the work of Planned Parenthood to the Holocaust. They’ve also repeatedly used anti-LGBT slurs in their coverage. And finally, like Trump himself, Breitbart and Bannon have frequently trafficked in all sorts of deranged conspiracy theories from touting that President Obama was not born in America to claiming that the Obama Administration was ‘importing more hating Muslims.’”

“It’s clear that [Trump’s] divisive, erratic, and dangerous rhetoric simply represents who he really is,” continued Mook.

Kaine Outlines Plan to “Make Housing Fair”

Clinton’s vice presidential nominee Kaine wrote an essay for CNN late last week explaining how the Clinton-Kaine ticket can “make housing fair” in the United States.

“A house is more than just a place to sleep. It’s part of the foundation on which a family can build a life,” wrote Kaine. “Where you live determines the jobs you can find, the schools your children can attend, the air you breathe and the opportunities you have. And when you are blocked from living where you want, it cuts to the core of who you are.”

Kaine shared the story of Lorraine, a young Black woman who had experienced housing discrimination, whom Kaine had represented pro bono just after completing law school.

“This is one issue that shows the essential role government can play in creating a fairer society. Sen. Ed Brooke, an African-American Republican from Massachusetts, and Sen. Walter Mondale, a white Democrat from Minnesota, came together to draft the Fair Housing Act, which protects people from discrimination in the housing market,” noted Kaine, pointing to the 1968 law.

“Today, more action is still needed. That’s why Hillary Clinton and I have a bold, progressive plan to fight housing inequities across Americaespecially in communities that have been left out or left behind,” Kaine continued.

The Virginia senator outlined some of the key related components of Clinton’s “Breaking Every Barrier Agenda,” including an initiative to offer $10,000 in down payment assistance to new homebuyers that earn less than the median income in a given area, and plans to “bolster resources to enforce Fair Housing laws and fight housing discrimination in all its forms.”

The need for fair and affordable housing is a pressing issue for people throughout the country.

“It is estimated that each year more than four million acts of [housing] discrimination occur in the rental market alone,” found a 2015 analysis by the National Fair Housing Alliance.

No county in the United States has enough affordable housing to accommodate the needs of those with low incomes, according to a 2015 report released by the Urban Institute. “Since 2000, rents have risen while the number of renters who need low-priced housing has increased,” explained the report. “Nationwide, only 28 adequate and affordable units are available for every 100 renter households with incomes at or below 30 percent of the area median income.”

What Else We’re Reading

CBS News’ Will Rahn penned a primer explaining Trump campaign CEO Bannon’s relationship to the alt-right.

White supremacists and the alt-right “rejoice[d]” after Trump hired Bannon, reported Betsy Woodruff and Gideon Resnick for the Daily Beast.

Clinton published an essay in Teen Vogue this week encouraging young people to fight for what they care about, learn from those with whom they disagree, and get out the vote.

“In calling for ‘extreme vetting’ of foreigners entering the United States, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump suggested a return to a 1950s-era immigration standard—since abandoned—that barred entry to people based on their political beliefs,” explained USA Today.

Trump wants to cut a visa program “his own companies have used … to bring in hundreds of foreign workers, including fashion models for his modeling agency who need exhibit no special skills,” according to a report by the New York Times.

A Koch-backed group “has unleashed an aggressive campaign to kill a ballot measure in South Dakota that would require Koch-affiliated groups and others like them to reveal their donors’ identities.”


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