‘Pro-Life’ Thought Experiments Don’t Care About Our Pain

| Reproaction

By: Shireen Shakouri

For many in the anti-abortion movement, women don’t occupy a real space in their lives. Even with ‘pro-life’ people who are women, there’s this mentality of ‘us’ versus ‘them’ – there’s a kind of woman who has abortions, and one who doesn’t.

Over the past several months, anti-abortion figures have been pulled out a number of thought experiments that prove how little they view women and people who have abortions as real, as opposed to ideas they can chew on in their mind to validate their oppressive tendencies. They have relegated women deeper into a realm of the abstract: battlefields on which to wage philosophical, scientific, religious, and political arguments. Pawns in a debate play, a helpful prop in mental masturbation. One example is the below, from Students for Life of America president Kristan Hawkins:

Tweet from Kristan Hawkins, reading “5) If my father would commit a sexual assault tonight, would the survivor of that horrific assault be justified in killing me? No, of course not. So what’s the difference? If you can’t kill me now, why could you kill me when I was in my mother’s womb?

This is not a question of intellectual interest, or a concern for the value of fetal life. It’s a disregard for women and survivors and a patently cruel framing of the trauma that rape, and pregnancies resulting from rape, can have on people. It leaves one to wonder if Kristan ever met someone who became pregnant from rape and felt conflicted or unwilling to carry the pregnancy further. As we know, rape and incest “exceptions” for restrictive abortion laws don’t work: they just give survivors more holes to jump through to prove they’re a worthy enough victim for some mercy by the state. [1]

While this is repulsive, the mental gymnastics gets worse, and could have a death toll: a number of anti-abortion personalities, including some doctors, are suggesting people experiencing ectopic pregnancies can have those embryos transplanted into the uterus to grow to term. [2] For clarification: an ectopic pregnancy is one that grows outside the uterus, often in the fallopian tubes. These pregnancies often end naturally, but some continue growing and could rupture the pregnant person’s fallopian tubes, causing infertility or even death. There is no procedure that exists to ‘move’ these pregnancies, but that didn’t stop an Ohio state representative from proposing the non-existent procedure be included in anti-abortion legislation he was proposing. [3]

And he’s not the only one: There is an anti-abortion physician actively promoting the idea despite its opposition to basic biology, and a Federalist writer who falsely claimed there was a “dogma surrounding ectopic pregnancies,” suggesting that death rates for pregnant people continuing ectopic pregnancies were inflated. [4] She recanted, but harm was already done.

There’s a deeply-entrenched theme in anti-abortion talking points that women should be unendingly sacrificial. Those who choose to carry to term but relinquish their children to adoption are making a sacrifice – though noble and deserving of ‘God’s mercy.’ But those who dare to choose to keep their life and body their own are derided. They’re the ‘bad ones.’ As one anti-abortion fake clinic operator told documentarians, “Mamas—women are not made that way. Women are made to protect and guard and to die for their babies, not their babies to die for them.” [5] Those who have had abortions and didn’t repent and join the movement can’t exist as full people in control of their lives and bodies – but are instead represented as shills and dupes for ‘the abortion industry.’ And even after a new study showed that 6 percent of women felt negative emotions about their abortions five years later [6], it’s impossible for many anti-abortion people to fathom that someone would choose abortion and wouldn’t self-flagellate regularly, wallowing in the societally imposed shame of taking back or maintaining control over one’s own body.

And many in the pro-life movement want it just that way. A fake clinic chain recently raised a stink over Instagram blocking their ad including a story in which a woman decided to forgo treatment for an aggressive, recurring brain tumor so she could continue her pregnancy. [7] While this was her choice and she should be affirmed in making it, the zeal with which anti-abortion campaigners hold up these stories makes anyone who would not choose this path the target of shame – they weren’t willing to sacrifice enough, and thus, they are less worthy.

What does it all come down to? Anti-abortion leaders think women should be punished. Anyone who would choose abortion should be punished, and they’ll see to it. Whether it be by hanging – as the writer briefly employed by The Atlantic Kevin Williamson suggested [8] – or by shaming, or by preventable death from medical malpractice. ‘Pro-life’ thought experiments come from a principle thought that women deserve punishment, but for them, it’s fun mental gymnastics to determine how, and how much they deserve it.


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