I’ve tried to understand the anti-abortion perspective in the United States, particularly the thinking behind ‘crisis pregnancy centers.’ Even in California, I’ve stumbled upon two (in small towns) without making any attempt to find them.
For many of these women, supporting the Right to Life movement had become a means of defining and expressing their femininity. Giving to the baby center reinforced their beliefs and allowed them to put their faith into action. Acting on their beliefs demonstrated to others their love, generosity and kindness. Actively opposing abortion could not be separated from their sense of self as loving Christian women.
I came to realize that these true believers were embracing Christian values by giving to others, loving babies and publicly opposing what they saw as sin. Volunteering at the center enhanced their social standing in their church community. It was a public declaration of faith and was the quintessential statement of self-worth. It was ladylike and appropriate. How could I suggest anything to the contrary that might challenge or endanger that?– Kathleen A. Coakley, Huffpost
Yes, the woman who wrote that supports abortion rights, but it’s consistent with what I’ve read on anti-abortion websites (no, I don’t want to link them).
The True Believers have a binary mindset in which babies are Good and abortionists are Evil. This makes it easy to decide what to do, figure out who are your allies and enemies, and feel like a hero in a Hollywood movie. It justifies lying to pregnant people about their options. It justifies bullying pregnant people. It justifies murdering abortion providers.
Another tenet of this ideology is that abortion does grave, permanent psychological harm to the pregnant person. If someone who had an abortion says they suffered long-lasting psychological harm, the anti-abortion activists will laud them and broadcast it across their media. If someone who had an abortion says no, abortion didn’t cause a long-lasting psychological trauma, the anti-abortion activists use this as evidence that they DO have long-lasting trauma. Anything and everything is used as evidence. No evidence can persuade anti-abortion activists that abortion may cause less harm than bringing an unwanted pregnancy to term.
They cling to this belief so they can tell themselves that manipulating, deceiving, and forcing pregnant people to bring pregnancies to term is for their own good.
Of course, sometimes, abortion actually does cause long-lasting psychological harm. I knew someone who had such experiences. A crucial bit of context: she wanted to bring her pregnancies to term. Her husband coerced her to abort.
A common quip about anti-abortion people is that they only care about the babies before they are born, they don’t care what happens to the babies afterwards. Anti-abortion activists are aware of this quip. I found one anti-abortion organization which seems serious about helping families with young children. That was the exception (and it was a Catholic organization). The others I looked into (including 100% of the Protestant organizations) make a show of helping babies and their mothers, but it’s a token effort. Yes, they donate a lot of supplies to families with small children. That’s much easier than being responsible for those small children’s well-being 24/7. It doesn’t take much reading between the lines to see that what the True Believers actually care about is fighting abortion, not doing what’s in the babies’ best interests.
They believe that a higher power guarantees that there’s always a way to provide for a baby’s needs. Thus, they need not take action to ensure all babies are provided for.
Anti-abortion activists are far from the only group who adopt a black-and-white morality so they can find meaning in their lives as valiant heroes against the forces of evil, all in defense of a pure and innocent ‘victim’ who lacks agency. I’m sure you can think of other examples.
Those are the True Believers.
Then there are the cynical power players.
Sometimes, a politician who promotes abortion restrictions in their state says, ‘well, people can still travel to other states to get abortions.’ True Believers don’t say things like this—they want abortion to end everywhere. Politicians who want support from True Believers (who are often single-issue voters who overlook the politicians’ shortcomings as long as they oppose abortion) put in the abortion restrictions, but they still want people they care about to terminate any unwanted pregnancies which happen.
For decades, the cynical power players milked the True Believers. They got a reliable voting block and fundraising source without having to concede anything. These are the politicians who voted in the ‘trigger bills’ in many state legislatures, which will ban abortion immediately should Roe vs. Wade be struck down. For these people, the ideal scenario is to continue getting the True Believers’ votes, campaign volunteer hours, and money, without actually banning abortion.
What tipped over this equilibrium?
I’m not sure, but my hunch is… the True Believers threatened to withdraw their loyalty.
For years, True Believers have noticed that many anti-abortion politicians were, by True Believer standards, scum. They tolerated this in order to fight abortion (in this black-and-white moral system, doing the most anti-abortion thing is always the right choice). But… these politicians didn’t effectively ban abortion. Given that these politicians hadn’t made abortion illegal and offended True Believers for reasons unrelated to abortion… the True Believers were defecting. I know some did. I just don’t know if they did it on a large enough scale to scare the power players into taking more effective action to ban abortion.
This may explain the vigilante-enforcement law in Texas which bans even helping someone travel out of state for an abortion… as well as what might be the Supreme Court’s imminent overturn of Roe vs. Wade. (Yeah, I know the Supreme Court is supposed to be insulated from politics… but who are we kidding?)
Poor people who need to terminate unwanted pregnancies and their dependents suffer the most from this. Rich people can find safe ways around these restrictions. A majority of people who seek an abortion in the United States already have at least one living child, and a common reason is they believe it’s better for the child who was already born.
Let’s be frank—access to abortion for poor people in many states was already theoretical rather than practical. Many states already only had a single abortion provider, where anti-abortion activists would harass (or worse) people who sought abortions. Many abortion providers who serve the poor have been under-funded for years, even in states without strong legal restrictions.
But overturning Roe vs. Wade will shut off even more access.
Biden has already signaled he won’t pack the Supreme Court. I don’t expect the Democrats to pass legislation to restore abortion rights at the national level (in states with Democrats with power, such as California, yes). After all, if legislative acts protected abortion rights, the Democrat Party would lose one of its great donation cash cows. They wouldn’t be able say ‘but we need to control the Supreme Court to protect Roe vs. Wade’ to get votes anymore, so they’d have to find something else to attract votes, such as improving incomes relative to cost-of-living. No, the Democrats would rather say ‘vote for us if you want to protect women’s rights’ then when they actually control Congress and the presidency act helpless and useless (unless it’s to pass the agenda of deep pocket corporations, then they are suddenly effective).
Since Roe vs. Wade took effect, the Democrat Party controlled both the White House and Congress multiple times. That they didn’t pass legislation to support abortion rights during these times proves how cynical their ‘support’ is.
Abortion rights need to be defended and won at the state level. I wish that weren’t necessary, but if Roe vs. Wade is overturned, that looks like the most likely way to get abortion rights restored to the largest number of people who need it. The Democrat Party depends too much on ‘but the Supreme Court!’ arguments to have an incentive to solve the problem at the national level.