Abortion opponents, like anti-gay activists, are fighting a losing battle, and overturning Roe v. Wade would ironically doom their movement
Groups opposed to abortion are similar to anti-gay activists because they rely on junk science, scare tactics and religious fervor to limit the freedom of others. Both issues are central to the culture wars, and the religious right will be on the losing end of each battle.
Last week, the newly Republican-controlled Legislature in Arkansas overrode a veto by Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe to ban abortions at 12 weeks of pregnancy. The law flies in the face of Supreme Court rulings that say abortions are legal until the fetus is viable outside the womb, which is usually at 24 weeks.
Twelve weeks was not an arbitrary number, but a calculated public relations stunt to prohibit abortions when a fetal heartbeat could first be detected by abdominal ultrasound. This decision had nothing to do with actual medicine, and the heart, if you think about it,
is just another random organ.
However, it is the only organ that is audible, associated with love, and turned into cute little candies on Valentines Day — as opposed to the less attractive liver, colon or lungs. Thus, the masses in Arkansas who attend scientifically illiterate churches could be easily duped into believing a heartbeat meant a viable fetus.
Now, I have sympathy for individuals who are pro-life and most of them who aren’t gunning down abortion providers mean well. But, they and the radical groups they support are really engaged in a fool’s errand and fighting for a futile cause in which they will never succeed.
For starters, since the beginning of time women have had unwanted pregnancies and then found methods to terminate them. No matter what these zealots do to overturn Roe v. Wade, women who do not want to be mothers will find ways not to be. What the “right to life” crowd doesn’t realize is that overturning Roe v. Wade would not be a victory, but the death knell of their movement.
First, the prohibition would create a black market for abortion drugs that would furtively be provided to wealthy Americans. If Americans spend $41.3 billion a year on the drug war, but can’t stop tons of cocaine from crossing our border, how does Operation Rescue think they can stop people from smuggling easily concealed abortion inducing drugs?
Second, if Roe v. Wade falls, it would hand the issue back to the states — and many would opt to legalize choice. This would create a situation where abortion would essentially be legal for women in Red States who were wealthy enough to buy a plane ticket to Massachusetts or New York.
Third, prior to 1973 those who were victimized by coat hanger abortions often suffered in silence. With today’s 24-7 news cycle we would be inundated with a constant stream of cable TV stories of women bleeding to death in back alleys. This sanguinary spectacle would occasionally include the death of a pro-life preacher or conservative politician’s daughter, creating media frenzies. Suddenly, most Americans would remember why the Supreme Court made abortion legal in the first place and the right-to-life movement would crumble.
Finally, if the plight of suffering women did not move enough men to reconsider their position, the soaring crime rate might. Hundreds of thousands of unwanted, undereducated babies would grow up without job prospects and many would likely turn to illegal activities to survive.
At the moment, this is a movement that has badly eroded its moral authority by turning to lowball tactics. It relies on irritating women with onerous restrictions, intimidating them with raucous self-righteous protests outside of clinics, and tricking those seeking real medical advice into visiting bogus, faith-based pregnancy crisis centers.
The problem with pro-lifers is that they are shackled to oppressive religious fundamentalism, which keeps them from making mature decisions that could cut the abortion rate. For example, instead of promoting comprehensive sex education, they push the silly mirage of purity rings and abstinence until marriage. How strange that religious groups centered on the premise that we are all sinners, base their sex-ed programs on the notion that teenagers will never “sin” if we instruct them to “just say no.”
A New York Times article this week mentioned that Focus on the Family CEO, Jim Daly, had “collaborated with the local alternative weekly, The Colorado Springs Independent, in a campaign to encourage families to take in foster children.”
Such actions — as well as real sex education and encouraging adoption — is the correct path for the religious right to take instead of making a false idol out of overturning Roe v. Wade. In the meantime, zealots, such as the lawmakers in Arkansas who passed their blatantly unconstitutional law, are simply spinning their wheels and wasting taxpayer’s money. The sooner this movement aborts such tomfoolery, the sooner it can get down to the business of helping women avoid unwanted pregnancies and lowering abortion rates.
Wayne Besen is founding executive director of Truth Wins Out, a Vermont-based nonprofit organization that fights anti-gay religious extremism. He can be reached at WBesen@TruthWinsOut.org.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 15, 2013.