The Anti-Abortion Movement’s Commitment to Disinformation

| Reproaction

By: Audrey Gow

For years, anti-abortion movement leaders have cried “censorship” when Google and Facebook remove their deceptive advertisements for anti-abortion fake clinics or medically unsound “abortion pill reversal.” These allegations are based on a supposed infringement of their First Amendment rights, but don’t be fooled. First Amendment protections apply to governmental overreach, not private companies like Google and Facebook. [1] For all their talk about being unfairly ‘censored,’ anti-abortion movement leaders heavily and consistently engage in suppression of vital, factual information across U.S. institutions, including government-imposed censorship in schools.

Anti-abortion interests routinely interfere with comprehensive sex education. They tout the abstinence-only approach as the sole appropriate and effective option for young people, despite the glaring evidence that it is detrimental for students’ health and well-being. Abstinence-only sex education relies on gendered and racialized stereotypes to uphold white, cis-heteronormative monogamous Christian couples as the ultimate standard, and to stigmatize anyone who breaks that rigid mold. Meanwhile, abstinence or “sexual risk avoidance” materials fail to discuss vital information about human sexuality that would help adolescents make responsible decisions regarding their health and safety. [2]

In a recent example, Texans for Life and Texas Values, two anti-abortion organizations, attacked the Texas State Board of Education during their vote on sex education materials for elementary and middle school children. Leaders from these organizations not only condemned textbooks that contested their abstinence-only curriculum, but also pressured the State Board of Education to drop all sex education textbooks for elementary school kids. [3]

It is increasingly apparent that anti-abortion movement leaders’ censorship in schools extends beyond sex education: they seek to remove all materials in schools that challenge their sexist, white supremacist worldview.

Last year, Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) signed a bill banning the accurate teaching of U.S. history under the misnomer “critical race theory,” and Texas State Representative Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth) released a list of approximately 850 book titles he wanted removed from school libraries due to their inclusive depictions of race, gender, and sexuality. Abbott later issued a demand for the Texas Association of School Boards to remove any content with frank discussions of race and queerness from schools under the pretext of protecting students from “pornographic or other inappropriate content.” [4]

Like abstinence-only sex education, this censorship of culturally competent and historically accurate educational material fails young people by denying them their right to accurate knowledge and furthering their indoctrination in white supremacy. These content bans in classrooms do not allow students to engage in a full learning experience, which prevents them from challenging the cisgender, white, heterosexual, and patriarchal norm.

Anti-abortion movement leaders’ claims of being censored fall flat alongside their promotion of actual censorship of educational content in schools. This tactic is a part of their strategy to stigmatize differences and naturalize social inequities, which can have dire consequences, especially for young people trying to understand themselves. The anti-abortion movement has shown that they would rather alter history and reality to push their agenda than acknowledge that everyone deserves bodily autonomy, including autonomy of thought. Our society should be a place where differences are affirmed and celebrated, and people can show up as their full selves with all their nuances, even and especially young people. This is the society we should all continue to work toward.


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