When Stereotypes Replace Reality

Christian Post blogger Kae Am recently wrote a post on abortion and women’s humanity—or more specifically, a post arguing that abortion is a symptom of not viewing women as people. Upon finishing Kae Am’s piece, I have the distinct feeling that she has never actually met someone who is pro-choice—or at the very least, has never actually listened to one.

In an earlier article about abortion, I had stated emphatically that in a culture in which women are considered things for use, the results of such use are likewise considered things to use or to throw away. In other words, when women are regarded as things for sexual use and then as things for disposal afterward, then natural result of this use (the conception of children) are likewise regards as things for disposal. The humanity of women has been ignored and denigrated. The humanity of children has been ignored and denigrated.

. . . I have blogged repeatedly that abortion is dehumanizing and degrading to women. Abortion degrades and dehumanizes both women and their children.

There is nothing at all about abortion in and of itself that degrades or dehumanizes women. As I’ve become more involved with my local Planned Parenthood clinic, one thing that I’ve come to feel very strongly is that the availability of abortion is actually the opposite of degrading or dehumanizing to women—rather, it grants them a choice, options, and control over their lives. I agree with other pro-choice advocates when they argue that it is the idea that women should be forced to continue pregnancies they don’t want or can’t afford to continue that is dehumanizing and degrading. But Kae Am’s entire essay reads like she’s never considered, or even heard, this perspective.

Oh, and on the point of abortion being dehumanizing and degrading to children—there is nothing about the fact that women can choose whether to continue a pregnancy or terminate it that degrades or dehumanizes my daughter Sally, or my son Bobby. What Kae Am is actually referring to when she says “children” is the embryo/fetus. This also obscures the pro-choice goal that every child be a wanted child—there is actually a very good argument to be made that abortion is actually a good thing for children, as it helps ensure that they will be born into families where they are wanted, loved, and cared for. But again, I get the feeling that Kae Am has not heard this perspective, or at the very least has never actually listened to it.

When women are things for sexual use to dispose afterward, then natural result of this use are likewise things for disposal. Recently, the news has reported that three women—Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry, and Gina DeJesus—had been abducted by Ariel Castro.

Prosecutors said Thursday they may seek the death penalty against Ariel Castro, the man accused of imprisoning three women at his home for a decade, as police charged that he impregnated one of his captives at least five times and then starved her and punched her in the belly until she miscarried.

Castro now faces murder charges for the deaths of the unborn. And here is where the humanity of women connects to the humanity of children.

Castro regarded neither women nor children as humans. When they became pregnant, he forced abortions upon them for more sex. What he had done is indeed abortion. Abortion is the termination of an unwanted fetus. And this shows how abortion dehumanizes both women and children.

This makes no sense at all. Kae Am is, I believe, trying to suggest that regarding women as not human and regarding abortion as morally acceptable go hand in hand, and her argument to that affect is to hold up one man who both kidnapped, raped, starved, and tortured women, beating them until they had miscarriages. And then she does it again:

The Kermit Gosnell trial is another prime example of how abortion dehumanizes women and children.

After the abortion, Shayquana Abrams testified, she was so ill and in such pain that her aunt took her to a hospital. Abrams said she was diagnosed with a “grapefruit-sized abscess” on her side and a blood clot in the vein near her heart

And the feet of her aborted baby were severed for Gosnell to use as decorations. Gosnell decorated his dwelling with the feet of several aborted babies. Gosnell gave his women pain medication that never worked, and whenever the women protested or squirmed, he slapped and punched their legs.

Castro and Gosnell both regarded women as less than human and performed abortions, Kae Am tells us, and that means abortion is inherently dehumanizing and degrading to women. I’m sorry, in what universe does that actually follow? What about the vast, vast majority of those who provide abortions who do believe in the humanity of women, and who provide abortions in large part because they believe in women’s humanity? The abortions Gosnell performed were degrading to women, but it does not follow that all abortions are degrading to women or that abortions are inherently degrading to women. Similarly, it was, yes, very degrading for the women whom Castro starved and beat until they miscarried, and even dehumanizing, but in what world does it make sense to compare miscarriages induced by beatings with abortions woman freely choose exercising their own agency?

Castro faces murder charges for the forced abortions of the children conceived by rape, but if these women had went to an abortionist to eliminate children of rape, there would never be any murder charges because the children would instead be considered non-living non-human entities or burdens for removal and disposal. I say this to reveal the hypocrisy and how our culture has a subjective double-standard over women and children as if they are human in some instances and non-human in other instances. Either women and children are human, or they’re not; the answer should never be “human in some situations; non-human in other situations.”

I don’t know what charges Castro is up on, but if he’s being charged with murder I suspect it’s more out of a desire to impose the death penalty on him than anything else (Do I think he should be charged for starving and beating the women? Yes. Do I think he should be charged with murder for it? No.). Castro’s beating the women until they suffered miscarriages was a crime, but it was a crime for a different reason than Kae Am seems to realize. These beatings were not a crime against the embryo or fetus, they were a crime against the women. Forced miscarriages or abortions, however they are performed or induced, are always wrong—they violate a woman’s bodily autonomy just as much as does forced pregnancy. I would guess that Kae Am’s inability to see that pro-choice individuals’ opposition to forced abortions (or in this case miscarriages induced by beatings) is not hypocrisy (actually, it’s rather the opposite) is at least in part based on the lack of emphasis placed on consent in many parts of Christianity.

Pro-abortion advocates tend to focus on abortion in cases of rape as if the abortion itself would make the world a better place for women. What about stopping rapes and preventing rape altogether? So far, I have not heard any discussion from that side about how to do this. Eliminating rape is never a topic that comes up among the pro-abortion advocates. Abortion in those cases does nothing to make society better for women because the injustice against them has still been committed. A society that embraces and welcomes the human dignity of women would never have rape. Instead, our culture considers that atrocity along with bondage and sadomasochism entertaining through pop culture.

. . . what.

This is why I seriously doubt that Kae Am has ever gotten to know or actually listened to anyone who is pro-choice. Eliminating rape is never a topic that comes up among those who are pr0-choice? What? WHAT?!? This is not just a misrepresentation, it’s an outright falsehood. It is pro-choice women, in actual fact, who are the most vocal in efforts to prevent rape. Has Kae Am never heard of Slut Walk? This idea that pro-choice women’s solution to rape is “well, let’s just make sure rape victims have access to abortion” is ludicrous to the extreme.

That said, Kae Am is right that a society that embraces and welcomes the human dignity of women would never have rape (or at least, rape would occur at a far lower level). Where she’s wrong is that a society that embraces and welcomes the human dignity of women would also be a society with accessible abortion services.

Abortion is the result of a misogynistic culture and of misogynistic acts. In a culture that truly valued the humanity of women, there would never be any need for abortion.

No. No no no. First, Kae Am has not actually demonstrated that abortion is the result of a misogynistic culture or misogynistic acts. Her only evidence—indeed, her only argument—is that Gosnell and Castro were both misogynistic and performed abortions or induced miscarriages. Let’s make an analogy. Let’s imagine that there is an anti-Semitic painter. Does that mean that all painters are anti-Semitic? No.

Second, I get the feeling that Kae Am hasn’t heard of Beatriz, the El Salvadoran woman suffering severe pregnancy complications who will die as a result of her country’s ban on abortion. No matter how much a culture values the humanity of women, there will always be a need for abortion—and of course, I would argue that abortion access actually flows from that very valuing of women’s humanity. However, there is one point in which Kae Am is correct here. In a culture that truly valued women’s humanity, women would have ready access to the most effective forms of birth control and would also have access to things like paid maternity leave and pregnancy-friendly work policies, and these things would indeed bring the need for abortion down. One would hope that Kae Am is also in favor of these policies.

Here, we see abortion as the result of Ariel Castro’s misogyny, and the misogyny is shown evidenced in the case of abortionist Kermit Gosnell.

Let’s embellish the analogy I gave above, and imagine that our anti-Semitic painter paints anti-Semitic paintings. Would we therefore conclude that all paintings are anti-Semitic, or that painting itself is inherently anti-Semitic? No. Now look, I’ve heard the example that abortion is dehumanizing made a lot more effectively than this before, it’s just that Kae Am isn’t doing it. She isn’t saying that abortion denies biology and women’s maternal nature, and is thus anti-woman. She’s saying that some misogynist men performed or induced abortion . . . therefore abortion is misogynist. And I’m sorry, but that just doesn’t follow.

Throughout this country and other western countries with legalized abortions, men enjoy sexual relations until the woman becomes pregnant; then, they offer money for the abortion because the prospect of responsibility for the reproductive act is a burden upon them and because all they really wanted was the sex.

Here’s what’s confusing here. Kae Am acts like this is the fault of pro-choice proponents, seemingly not realizing that the most ardently pro-choice individuals are also generally the most ardently feminist, and thus the most ardently opposed to the idea that women are simply objects to be enjoyed for sex. Those who are the most pro-choice are also those who are the most vocally arguing that women need to be viewed as people, not as sex objects or as playthings, but as fully equal and fully worthwhile people. Kae Am might write a thought provoking piece by arguing that abortion somehow sabotages feminists’ efforts to bring about a world where women are viewed as fully and equally people (I don’t see the mechanism for that, but that piece definitely has the potential to be more interesting), but that’s not what she’s doing. Instead, she writes like she’s never actually met or spoken with anyone who is pro-choice, and has no clue what they actually believe or what the perfect world they envision looks like.

I have blogged repeatedly about how our hypersexualized abortion-obsessed culture neither acknowledges nor appreciates the true humanity of women. I wrote how Jessica Winter asserted that women need birth control and sex in to be regarded as humans. I have also written about how abortion is used to eliminate large numbers of the unwanted female population “gendercide“; that women do not appreciate their own bodies when they have an abortion. Planned Parenthood has campaigned against a law aimed to prevent gendercide in this country. I have posted about how young girls throughout western cultures are pressured into performing sexually . Boys coerce, manipulate, and essentially force themselves upon girls. An epidemic of teen girl suicides occurs when they succumb to pressure to send explicit pictures of themselves and then commit suicide when those pictures become sexual fare for a general audience.

In this section, Kae Am is mixing things that don’t belong together, and I don’t think she realizes she’s doing it. Those who assert that women need access to birth control so that they can control their reproduction and choose when to become pregnant and bear children are generally the exact same people who are against a culture that allows boys to coerce, manipulate, and “essentially force themselves upon girls,” and are generally the same people who are working to change our slut-shaming culture so that a sexually explicit picture on social media won’t be seen as a reason to commit suicide. (Also, I’ve written before about how the actual solution to “gendercide” is, well, more feminism.) But the idea that believing women should have access to birth control fits in the same misogynistic boat as the pressure on young girls to perform sexually—and the idea that slut shaming somehow goes hand in hand with belief in the importance of abortion access—is mind boggling.

This is the exact type westernized culture that champions free access to abortion: the exact culture in which women call themselves “sluts” as a means of liberation when they campaigned for free abortion.

But what is a slut that women pride themselves on being? When I looked up “Rock the Slut vote,” I came across advertisements for porn in addition to the campaign website. Sluts are terms used to describe women who have indiscriminate sex with lots of men. The victims of sexting were often called sluts prior to their suicides. I once saw a man who had a sticker on his wallet: “get some sluts.” Is this sexually empowering or sexually degrading?

Um. Okay then. It seems Kae Am has heard of Slut Walk, she’s just completely missed the point. Let me see if I can spell it out for her: Slut Walk and Rock the Slut Vote are about decreasing the stigma attached to being sexually active and at the same time placing an emphasis on women’s agency in choosing when and with whom to have sex. They’re explicitly anti-rape and adamantly against any attempt to control women’s sexuality. They’re about viewing women as people, as fully equal human beings, which is exactly what Kae Am claims she herself believes in. But given the way Kae Am defines sluts—”women who have indiscriminate sex with lots of men”—I get the feeling that she herself engages in slut-shaming rather than working against it. At the very least, she’s extremely uneducated on the topic—the fact that she can point out that victims of sexting commit suicide after being called sluts while seemingly being unaware that this is exactly the sort of thing Slut Walks and Rock the Slut Vote are working against reveals that she doesn’t actually know what she’s talking about here.

The point of this article is to explain again how abortion degrades and dehumanizes both women and their children. Forced abortions in the case of Ariel Castro; legal abortions in the case of Kermit Gosnell; a stronger demand for abortion by the people who either ignore or praise the sexual objectification of women. Sometimes, the most extreme examples such as Ariel Castro and Kermit Gosnell explain the social problem the most clearly, but that this dehumanization of women is a problem pervasive throughout any culture that cherishes abortion.

If that is the point of the article—to explain how abortion dehumanizes and degrades both women and their children—Kae Am has failed in making her case. Instead, she has revealed how little man anti-abortion activists actually know about feminists, pro-choice individuals, and their goals and arguments. But then, when I opposed abortion and was active in the pro-life movement, I, too, was ignorant of these things. I didn’t know anyone who was pro-choice, and I only learned about pro-choice arguments and goals through the filter of the pro-life speakers, literature, and groups I engaged in.

The idea that a dehumanization of women and an embrace of abortion of necessity go hand in hand both nonsense and something that Kae Am doesn’t actually back up or support in her post. How would Kae Am explain countries in the Western world where women have the greatest degree of freedom and equality and ready access to abortion? And how would she explain countries where abortion is illegal or highly restricted and women’s rights and ability to make their own decisions are also severely limited? It is true that a society with access to abortion is not automatically a society where women are treated as equals, but it is also true that the two issues frequently go hand in hand in a way Kae Am seems ignorant of—as women work to be viewed as people and as equals, they often advocate for abortion access as one stepping stone in that greater journey.

Oh, and also? Sometimes the extreme examples show us nothing. Sometimes the extreme examples are only outliers.

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About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.


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