If that title sounds extreme and click-baity, that’s intentional. Because the headlines (and tag lines, and radio blurbs, etc) all sound equally sensationalized. After all, this story is every reporter and news outlet’s dream. Rep. Tim Murphy is well-known for his anti-abortion stance, runs on that platform, and is a current member of the Pro-Life Caucus. So when it comes to light that he urged his mistress to have an abortion, then of course that is pure ratings/web traffic/listener engagement gold.
I get the outrage. It is clearly outrageous. What I do not get is the tabloid-esque nature of these headlines, as though some new and profound truth of the universe has been revealed to us… So a pro-life politician is a hypocrite. Is this truly news to anyone?
OF COURSE they are hypocrites. They are exploitative, opportunistic, manipulative con-artists who know how to use a wedge issue to their own advantage. No, scratch that. They have actively created the wedge issue, and used it to further divide an already-divided population. They play on people’s emotions and most deeply held religious beliefs in order to gain power and political capital for themselves. But make no mistake: most pro-life politicians could care less about the sanctity of life. Murphy himself sent this text to his girlfriend when she (go, girl) called him on the double standard:
“I get what you say about my March for life messages. I’ve never written them. Staff does them. I read them and winced. I told staff don’t write any more. I will.”
I told them I don’t do that anymore! I mean… I WILL tell them I don’t do that anymore. As soon as I’m re-elected and you go get that abortion. Or something… Here’s $20, is that the going rate these days?
Point is, Murphy is just one very public and literal example of a whole cult of pretense operating beneath the layers of the women’s healthcare debate. It is never about life. Maybe it is for some of the voters, but for the politicians, it is all about control. Full stop. It is about shaming women for their sexuality; controlling women’s bodies; and upholding the narrative of Patriarchy that minimizes women’s voices in every sphere of public life.Of course it serves the white male politician to divide the female voter base. The more deeply they drive that wedge between liberal and conservative women, the less likely it becomes that women will every truly organize for our own advancement. Control the narrative about women’s bodies, and you make sure that we never really unify around real issues like equal pay, equal representation, and ending domestic violence.
As a progressive Christian, I consider myself pro-choice/anti-abortion. While I don’t speak for everyone who shares my religious beliefs, I know many, many others in my circle who identify as the same. While we are philosophically against abortion, we believe there are more effective, life-giving ways to reduce and prevent their occurrence. Like providing free and easy access to contraception; offering comprehensive sex ed in schools beyond “abstinence only;” and pouring every resource we have into reducing the rates of sexual abuse, rape, and human trafficking that remain pandemic in a country that claims to value life.
Politicians who entertain this line of discourse don’t get very far. Single-issue voters continue to raise the noise level over and above any thoughtful dialogue, and the party faithful continue to cave to the demands of their base. But those who stake their entire voting criteria on this particular issue are just begging to be lied to.
So no, I’m not shocked that a public figure who has staked his entire political career on protecting precious unborn babies has been revealed for a fraud. They’re all frauds. They are the living, breathing, Frankentsteins of a particular kind of religious fervor that leaves no room for nuance or critical thinking. And they’re going to keep their power and privilege until we learn how to engage this conversation in smarter, more compassionate ways.
There is no easy answer, but I do know this much: this recent revelation of hypocrisy is not news. It is just another day in American politics. What would really be news? More women in office. More women in power, more women at the table, more women with public voice and presence, in BOTH parties. That is the only way to unseat this particular power dynamic, to shift the conversation, and to call B.S. on the pretense of a “life” vote that is about anything but life.