In a Madison, Wisconsin town hall hosted by Fox News Channel’s Megyn Kelly, Ted Cruz fielded questions from Kelly and audience members. One self-described moderate, pro-choice Republican woman voiced her concerns that Cruz would ban abortion. As usual when asked a potentially risky question, Cruz employed a combination of duplicity and outright dishonesty in his answer.
If you thought anti-abortion activists were solely focused on shutting down Planned Parenthood, this week showed how wrong that thinking was. Another vehicle to prevent women from having abortions involves requiring strict adherence to the scientifically outdated FDA guidelines for using the abortion-inducing drug mifepristone.
Even though more current data exists (the old guidelines were based off clinical tests in the 1990s, before the drug was approved), and the medically accepted usage has changed with the newer data, there were anti-abortion groups opposed to the FDA following the science where it leads. In fact, several states passed laws forcing doctors to adhere to the old FDA standards – only for abortion drugs, of course. And, naturally, this was all done in the name of protecting women.
The FDA, however, at the request of the company that produces the drug, examined the data, and subsequently updated the guidelines to account for new evidence. Which is exactly how things should work — with change reflecting progress — but it caused much wailing and gnashing of teeth from the anti-choice community.
But you’d be wrong in thinking “pro-life” activists were simply going to let this slide. Consider Arizona’s Republican Governor Doug Ducey who, last week, after the FDA updated their guidelines, still signed into law a bill that requires adherence to the old, now-scientifically inaccurate guidelines.
While Donald Trump was quick to publicly walk back such talk, the idea of punishing women for having abortions is not a novel concept. It’s not only what happens all over the world where abortion is illegal, but the same fetal protection concerns are putting women in prison in the United States despite the fact that abortion is legal. Furthermore, legal punishments for abortion are something plenty of anti-choice activists advocate for — including those heralded as heroes and colleagues by Ted Cruz and other prominent Republicans.
The reality is, punishing women for their abortions is the mainstream anti-abortion position.
As far as optics go, that’s not good. If this week has taught us anything, it’s that Americans actually support a woman’s right to choose — so if anti-abortion forces are going to be effective in taking it away, it has to be done in a piecemeal fashion (at least until they have the political power to ban it outright). That’s why we see so many state laws slowly chipping away at that right, erecting absurd barriers, over-regulating clinics, etc. For now, conservatives would prefer to shift the abortion focus on health care providers, not the women who use their services.
So while the Troy Newmans of the world write in books for their fellow “pro-lifers” that women who get abortions are murderers who hire contract killers (a book, we should mention, that also called for the execution of abortion providers — and a book Ted Cruz‘s press release about his new anti-abortion coalition actually cited as evidence of what a great pro-life champion Newman is), their more public work is defaming Planned Parenthood as the organ smuggling, baby-killing face of Big Abortion.
So even as women actually face jail time because of anti-abortion legislation in this country, conservatives will often adopt the patronizing air that they’re just looking out for the little ladies. Because women just don’t know what’s best for them. That’s why they need to deal with waiting periods, mandatory ultrasounds, and requirements to listen to heart beats, descriptions of fetal development, and medically inaccurate information. Furthermore, the womenfolk have just been bamboozled by Big Abortion: Sure, they’re murdering their own babies, but only because they’re too stupid to know any better.
Rachel Maddow had a 20-minute segment calling out the “profound hypocrisy” of the conservative handwringing at Donald Trump’s call to “punish” women who have abortions, and it’s well worth watching. We’ve covered some similar themes, but Maddow raises points that I haven’t seen elsewhere.