Sunday, October 19, 2014

Right's sneaky new strategy to control women

Clinics that council against abortions are popping up all over the country. (photo: Third Box)
Clinics that counsel against abortions are popping up all over the country. (photo: Third Box)

By Amanda Marcotte, AlterNet
18 October 14

Their latest effort to hoodwink women is even more shameless than usual.

ecent months have revealed a scary new trend in the anti-choice movement: claiming, falsely, that anti-choice conservatives are the ones trying to give women more control over their reproductive decision-making. Yes, the new lie coming from anti-choicers is to pretend, as hard as it may be to believe, that they are actually pro-choice.

In the Bay Area, a crisis pregnancy center whose entire purpose is to try to guilt and bully women out of abortions is now trying to trick people into believing it’s a pro-choice counseling center. As reported by Katie Baker at Buzzfeed, the city of San Francisco passed a law requiring crisis pregnancy centers, which often pretend to be abortion clinics in order to lure women seeking abortion, to put up signage to explain that they do not actually offer abortion services. After their lawsuit to stop the law failed, the crisis pregnancy center First Resort has started a rebranding effort, calling itself Third Box and claiming it’s a counseling center for “undecided” pregnant women.

Third Box goes out of its way to give the appearance of being a pro-choice organization, even using the phrase “pro-choice” in a press release. Its website insinuates that women will be given fair and honest counseling about all their options, including abortion. Most women would, in fact, get the impression from the website that Third Box offers abortion referrals. That’s highly unlikely, however, because, as Baker pointed out in her article, the CEO of Third Box, Shari Plunkett (who also runs the First Resort crisis pregnancy centers that have been called out for trying to trick women out of getting abortions) celebrated the closing of local abortion clinics in a 2011 email, writing that they offered “one of the most amazing opportunities we’ve ever had to serve abortion-minded women.”

You also see a turn toward "pro-choice" language in the campaign over Amendment 1 in Tennessee. Currently, the state constitution provides broad rights to medical privacy that have made it hard for legislators to pass unnecessary regulations to close down abortion clinics. Amendment 1, which is a ballot initiative, would remove those protections and allow the legislature to pass intrusive laws banning abortion, which is exactly the point of putting this on the ballot for November.

But even though the goal of the “yes on 1” forces in Tennessee is to end legal abortion in their state, advocates pretend that they have no intention of removing women’s reproductive choices.

“You're saying yes to making the constitution once again neutral on the issue of abortion,” Sharon White of the Yes on 1 campaign told WTVC, falsely implying that her campaign is about neutrality, which sounds awfully pro-choice. In fact, her campaign is about ending neutrality, and allowing the legislature to single out abortion clinics for regulations that aren’t applied to any other clinics. It’s the opposite of neutral, and sure isn’t pro-choice.

Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin is another prominent example of an anti-choicer masquarading as pro-choice. After Emily’s List released an ad highlighting Walker’s long and storied campaign to end legal abortion in his state, Walker hit back with an ad implying he’s actually pro-choice. After admittedly briefly that he’s “pro-life,” Walker goes on to falsely suggest that his personal views on abortion don’t influence his policy ideals. “That’s why I support legislation to increase safety and to provide more information for a woman considering her options,” he says, even though all his actions as governor have been about reducing a woman’s options. “The bill leaves the final decision to a woman and her doctor.” 

As Andy Kroll at Mother Jones noted, a voter watching that ad “could easily conclude that Walker is personally opposed to abortion but supports the right of a woman to decide (in consultation with a doctor) to choose an abortion.” After all, more than half the people who call themselves “pro-life” also believe that abortion should be legal. In fact, 43 percent of Americans identify as both “pro-choice” and “pro-life.” Walker’s ad was clearly meant to suggest he is one of those Americans who believes abortion to be wrong on some level but who doesn’t want it to be banned.

But the implication of his ad is flat-out false. Walker may be trying to pretend he’s a moderate, but he has been open in the past about his desire to ban all abortions, even in the case of rape and incest. The bill he mentions in the ad was actually a medically unnecessary restriction on abortion providers in the state that was clearly intended to shut down as many abortion clinics as possible, a move denounced by Wisconsin doctor and former president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Doug Laube.

Walker’s hostility to reproductive rights doesn’t stop at hostility to abortion. As Robin Marty at Talking Points Memo notes, Walker tried to ban the coverage of birth control in Wisconsin’s healthcare plans and has been trying to shut down family planning clinics across the state, even if they don’t offer abortion. “[I]t’s clear that contraception is just as big of a target to him as abortion is,” Marty writes.

Walker is an extreme example, but many anti-choice wolves are trying to dress up in pro-choice sheep costumes in a bid to trick female voters into thinking they aren’t so bad. Take the number of Republican candidates for Senate this year claiming to support over-the-counter birth control pills. These candidates, such as Cory Gardner, Thom Tillis, and Ed Gillespie, are all rabidly anti-abortion and are generally hostile to Democratic efforts to improve both reproductive healthcare and healthcare, because they oppose both the Affordable Care Act and the HHS requirement that insurance companies cover contraception. But in order to distract from the fact that they support policies that would make contraception (and healthcare generally) harder for women to get, they’ve been touting themselves as the real protectors of choice with this OTC birth control pill idea.

It’s 100% for show. Congress doesn’t determine what drugs are over-the-counter and what are prescription-only (only the FDA has that power), so they never have to actually make good on this supposed support for OTC birth control pills. It’s nothing but an effort to look like they’re supportive of reproductive choice while continuing to push for the same old policies to reduce reproductive choice. Like Scott Walker’s ad, the whole plan is to appear pro-choice while actually wanting to take women’s choices away.

Being perceived as pro-choice is clearly desirable, particularly if you want to appeal to women. Pro-choice is widely understood, for good reason, as the only stance that actually respects women’s intelligence and basic right to equality. Pro-choice is the bare minimum standard in order not to be understood as a misogynist waging the war on women.

However, none of these Republican politicians—much less crisis pregnancy center leaders—are actually pro-choice. It’s just an illusion, an attempt to hoodwink women long enough so that they can take their choices away.

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