The Anti-Abortion Movement’s Split Personality: Or, Why Georgia Just Legalized Murder

The Anti-Abortion Movement’s Split Personality: Or, Why Georgia Just Legalized Murder May 21, 2019

These days, we’re seeing a bit of a divide in the anti-abortion movement. It may not seem like this—bills banning abortion almost entirely have been passed in Georgia and Alabama, and additional red states are considering similar legislation. But the divide is there nonetheless. It is this divide, after all, that almost derailed the bill passed in Alabama. The issue is this: should anti-abortion legislation include exceptions for rape and incest?

I very recently came upon an article written in the aftermath of the passage of Alabama’s bill that encapsulates this divide nearly perfectly:

“I am very excited that this bill has passed,” said Lori Colley. “It recognizes that in the womb is a person and this bill protects the personhood of that child. I think it was important to not allow incest or rape as an exception because we know that that is a child.”

Brianca Jones said she mostly approved of the bill, but thinks abortions in the case of rape or incest should be allowed.

“A lot of people make bad choices or it just may be wrong timing, but I don’t think you should give up a gift such as a baby,” she said. “I would not get an abortion unless it’s incest or rape.”

Lori Colley says that this bill “recognizes that in the womb is a person” and praises the bill’s lack of execution for rape or incest because “we know that that is a child.” Brianca Jones disagrees. She says she doesn’t think women should “give up a gift such as a baby” because they “make bad choices” or because it’s the “wrong timing,” but suggests she would get an abortion herself in case of incest or rape. Lori views abortion as murder. Brianca does not.

For Lori, all that matters is that the fetus is a person. For Brianca, the reasons a woman seeks an abortion matter. Is the woman pregnant because she made bad choices? Too bad—she needs to accept the “gift” of a child. Is she pregnant through no fault of her own, as a result of rape or incest? In that case, getting an abortion is okay.

From a certain point of view, I like Lori’s line of reasoning better. Why? Because Brianca’s line of reasoning is ultimately about punishing women. Oh, you had irresponsible sex and got pregnant? Too bad! That’s not a good enough reason to have an abortion! Suck it up and live with the consequences of your actions! But the person who remained chaste and virginal, and was raped? She gets to have an abortion. She did everything right, after all.

Lori, at least, does not care how the pregnancy was conceived. She doesn’t care whether you had irresponsible slutty sex or whether you “played by the rules” and ended up pregnant anyway, through no fault of your own. She doesn’t care about what sexual choices women make. Lori’s only beef with women is that she believes the fetus is a person.

That all aside, Lori’s position is actually more dangerous than Brianca’s. Fetal personhood means investigating miscarriages. It means sentencing women to prison if their actions harm their pregnancy, even inadvertently. If you have a legal person inside you, you cannot be a full legal person in your own right. That is downright terrifying.

I think the anti-abortion movement, at least among Protestants, started with Brianca’s position but has shifted to Lori’s position over time. The rhetoric about murdering babies was, I think, initially primarily tactical, at least among wide swaths of people. An entire generation has grown up on this rhetoric, however. No one told them that banning abortion was about punishing sluts and keeping women where they belong, in the home raising kids, even though initially, that’s what it was about. Instead, they only heard that abortion was murder. And they believed it.

Georgia’s recent abortion ban both declared embryos and fetuses legal persons and made it legal to have an abortion a pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. The tension within the anti-abortion movement that I’ve been discussing—a tension between the idea that fetuses are persons with full legal rights, and the idea that women who become pregnant through no fault of their own should not be punished for it—resulted in Georgia legalizing murder.

Time to get real. Persons cannot exist inside other persons; it does not work that way. That’s for the Loris. Women are not obligated to complete pregnancies just because they chose to have sex; punishing people for the kind of sex they have by making them go through pregnancies they don’t want is sick and absurd. That one is for the Briancas. 

I am so tired of having these arguments. Perhaps, even in a small way, understanding that when it comes to the anti-abortion movement there are Loris and there are Briancas can help us fight these toxic mindsets more effectively.

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