Meet the Women Who 'Actually Like Men': America's Pro-Life Political Priestesses

Illustration for article titled Meet the Women Who 'Actually Like Men': America's Pro-Life Political Priestesses

Republican after cowboy hat-wearing Republican I've spoken with at this convention has expressed frustration over this race's focus "unimportant distractions" like Todd Akin's ignorant ass, the abortion debate, and birth control. The American people don't want to talk about that, this isn't what the election is about, that's just the liberals twisting the story, they say, over and over again, voters want to talk about jobs and the economy and Ann Romney's nice speech about how love is good. But no one bothered to tell this to the women at the Celebration of Pro Life Women Leaders reception, attended by a more than a dozen prominent lawmakers (including the likes of Kelly Ayotte and Michele Bachmann). In fact, if you ask anyone here, nothing is more important than abortion, and no belief more ardent than the faith that if elected, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan would do exactly what they say they won't do — eliminate abortion access. Well, that and the fact that pro-choice women are a bunch of man-hating abortion enthusiasts

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The event, sponsored by Susan B. Anthony's List and Concerned Women for America's Legislative Action Committee, was held in a dark wood-paneled event space that overlooked a steady, antlike stream of convention attendees trudging into and out of the secure area surrounding the convention center. Decorating theme: red high heeled shoes (a hat tip to the logo of another conservative women's voting organization represented here), used as centerpieces and placed among the plates of baba ghanoush, where they were occasionally besotted by errant spatters of dip, or worse. I saw one waiter hastily usher a red slingback full of tzatziki to the kitchen, where I assumed it would be put out of its misery. The place was palpable with awkward tension between the small but respectable number of attendees and the members of the media roving around with their recorders and dark undereye circles like exhausted right wing tourists, eager to ask them gotcha questions. I was asked by a man with a camera if I'd be willing to talk to him about what it means to be a pro-life woman. It was like Spy vs. Spy.

The speaking lineup was a veritable Murderers Row of bright-eyed, charismatic women who think ending a pregnancy is the same thing as murder. Rebecca Kleefisch, Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin. Pam Bondi, Attorney General of Florida. Kelly Ayotte, freshman Senator from New Hampshire. Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony List. And Michele Bachmann, of Crazytown.

I expected hostility, but what I got from women there was more of the same confusing polite sweetness to which I've been subjected by female attendees of the RNC. They're nice, at least while I'm asking them questions. One woman chatted with me about how she used to live on the Upper East Side, how she loves my neighborhood in Brooklyn. Another woman nearly teared up when she told me that she considered herself pro-life because she suffered six miscarriages and felt in her heart that each of those was a baby. Diane Black, US Representative from Tennessee's 6th Congressional District and vocal supporter of boycotting pink Susan G. Komen for the Cure Bibles because of the organization's funding of Planned Parenthood as well as Congressman Trent Franks' goofy, unnecessary ban on sex-selective abortions, was friendly and sweet as she told me that she believed life began at conception because she was a nurse and a Christian. Seconds later, Michele Bachmann swept into the room and the two women embraced like old friends.

One of the last women I spoke with was a friendly Tampa native named Kimberly. I asked her if she'd ever had a friend or relative who had an abortion, and how she handled it. "Yes," she said. "It's difficult. I expressed my opinion, and told her what I would have done in that situation, and then supported that decision that she made as a friend."

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"So, you supported her choice?" I asked.

"Yes."

But the gloves were off once it was time for the speakers to address the gathered crowd, and the rhetoric changed from friendly to the sort of combative pettiness I've grown accustomed to during the convention. Every edifice of civility disintegrated. The room transformed from an end-of-year sorority mixer to a female-led fundamentalist cheerleading rally. The United Church of Fetusmerica worship service, led by dramatically gesticulating, photogenic women who think that free birth control is the same thing as abortion. Fire, brimstone, and bright red high heels spattered with yogurt dip.

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"We are the women's movement. This is the REAL women's movement," proclaimed Penny Nance of Concerned Women for America. "These women are a direct line of descent from the women's rights advocates and leaders. Susan B. Anthony called abortion "child murder," um, her compatriot Elizabeth Cady Stanton said that when women are treated as property, it's degrading to women. When we treat our children as property to be disposed of, it's degrading."

And that was just the opening.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte followed, proclaiming that being pro-choice is wrong because saying that life doesn't begin at conception is "arbitrary."

The majority of this country identifies as pro life because we know it is the right thing. Because the position of the other side is just, really arbitrary. And non-consistent to the basic values of life, liberty, and happiness that this country was founded on. I mean, it's arbitrary to think that when a baby is born, that baby has every single right as the rest of us. But a month before?

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God, I totes know what she means. I've had tons of friends who were 8 months pregnant and suddenly decided, "You know what? Abortion." and skipped on over to their doctor, who gladly performed a complicated, dangerous, and illegal procedure.

Up next was Michele Bachmann, who opened with a bang,

We know why we are here. Because we are lovers of life and, as was so eloquently stated by our United States Senator from New Hampshire — it really is true. We are made in the image and likeness of a Holy God. It's an immutable truth. And one thing that we know about truth is that it is written in the cores of our heart. And that rings true to people. And that's why despite all of the advertising and the years and years of propaganda, whether it's in high school classrooms or college classrooms or through Hollywood films, or through anything else, any form of media, all of the years of propaganda CAN NOT DENY the UNDENIABLE TRUTH.

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I added the all caps, because those are the words she shouted.

Bachmann had some strong words for President Obama, too, calling him "the most anti woman, anti life president ever in the HISTORY of the United States" (again, when I quote the Congresswoman from Minnesota, all caps means LITERAL YELLING) and Obamacare "the most anti-woman piece of legislation, that's the most PRO ABORTION piece of legislation that's ever been passed that for the first time in our country IS TAXPAYER SUBSIDIZED ABORTION and IS the denial of religious liberty, because you see, we no longer elect a President, we elect a health care dictator."

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All of the speakers agreed with Bachmann. Yes, of course the Affordable Care Act was exactly the same thing as forcing taxpayers to pay for abortions, even though the Hyde Amendment bars taxpayer funding for abortion and there is no coverage of abortion in the Affordable Care Act. And it's clearly the first time anyone has ever had their tax dollars support the killing of other people, even though I know a lot of people who weren't big fans of paying to help kill all those people in Iraq and Afghanistan. I'm exhausted just thinking about how wrong the Obamacare = abortion assertion is. I was exhausted watching that assertion being made over and over again and a room full of people, grown adults who are ostensibly capable of accepting facts as part of the universe, nodding and clapping in agreement. I'm exhausted writing about it.

The overtly fundie overtones didn't stop with repeated hat tips to the Lord or allusions to Bible verses, although there were plenty. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi was introduced as a woman with an "inspiring Christian worldview." Once she took to the podium, she scoffed at the memory of being smeared by opponents during her primary campaign. "Someone took out an ad saying that I wasn't even Christian and my ministers wanted to come out swinging," she recalled. Bachmann referred to her first foster daughter as someone she and her husband "fell in love with," "just like our creator has fallen in love with us." Which, I guess, would make Bachmann the God in this analogy. Hm.

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There was also a pervasive and revisited insistance during the proceedings that even though the women who were speaking were high-ranking government officials who have worked their asses off, they're still proper ladies because they're doing stuff like rushing home after work to take care of the kids, a factoid Dannenfelser made sure to share about Sen. Kelly Ayotte. Later in the program, she obliquely pointed out that women there still relied on their husbands for leadership. "I know the women who are the head of the organizations here, we love our husbands for their counsel and love all the time." Oh, good. I was worried I was about to listen to speeches from women who think for themselves. Carry on!

They have Thoughts about pro-choice women, too; during an off-the-cuff moment, Dannenfelser remarked, "Unlike the other side, people in this room actually like men. Isn't that awesome?!" and the room tittered with knowing appreciation. (Which doesn't even make sense — if pro-choice women hate men so much, then how in the hell do we keep getting pregnant and needing abortions? I mean, that's how pregnancy happens! Fucking. Which tends to be an act accompanied by feelings of admiration, or at least the ability to tolerate being skin-to-skin with a sweaty naked dude for 10 minutes.)

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The Pro Life Women Leaders who spoke came from different states and hold different jobs, but they all agreed on three important things: Bearded Christian God is their bff. Abortion is still the most important issue in the country, even though the men won't tell you that. And Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney will treat zygotes how they should be treated — as full human beings entitled to the rights of people who don't spend their days naked and floating inside another person's body. "The economic issues are probably important for our country, but those issues of life are really, incredibly important," said Sen. Ayotte during her remarks.

Abortion is a "distraction?" The debate over Personhood and legitimate rape and sluts taking their whore pills is an invention of the Left? Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney won't outlaw abortion? No one bothered that to tell the women.

DISCUSSION

EstelleRigault
EstelleRigault

Hey, everyone. I'm a secular, conservative, pro-life-ish woman who has stumbled across this article. I was wondering if you fine jezebel readers could explain some parts of the pro-choice position that I have never understood.

I obviously don’t want to defend everything said at this convention. You don’t hate men, duh, and Obamacare is not the same as forcing taxpayers to pay for abortion. I don’t want to defend the positions of some republican lawmakers (Akin, dude who compared women to livestock, etc). Birth control is not a whore pill. Now that’s out of the way.

Also, as someone who has spent a fair amount of time with conservatives, I’m surprised that the general attitude of the convention was that abortion was a “distraction” from the real issues of the race. Many conservatives I know believe that abortion is the MOST important issue right now. As evidenced, as you point out, by the existence of this convention.

Now that that’s out of the way, here is why I oppose abortion:

1. Murder is bad because there is an inherent value to human life

Both sides think this. The debate is just over when life begins, if my understanding is correct.

Here’s where we diverge:

2. We cannot know when human life begins

It seems to me that the major difference between a fetus who is 6, 7, 8 months old and a baby who is 9 months old is that we can see the baby. That’s not to say that pro-choicers necessarily support late term abortions—since most people can recognize that a fetus at 8 months can probably survive outside the womb and so is pretty much a baby. However, I’m afraid I don’t understand the rationale for supporting abortions earlier on and not later. Please tell me what the difference is between having an abortion when the fetus is 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 months old. Please tell me the difference between the murder of a newborn baby and the abortion of a 3 months old fetus.

The right likes to say that any definition of life that doesn’t start at conception is “arbitrary.” I think pro-choicers find this claim quite infuriating. However, if life doesn’t start at conception, I’m not entirely sure when it begins.

If the difference between an abortion at 2 months and 8 months is a certain stage of development, then this is an arbitrary distinction.

I could make the argument (you all have probably heard this before) that what makes us human is our reason, and before our reason develops a fetus is subhuman. If I were to make this argument I would be in great company: with Aristotle, in fact. The problem with this definition is that, if we listen to Piaget, a child only develops something that resembles reason 2 years after birth. No one wants to abort a child after birth. This isn’t a great argument, obliviously, but the point is that there is a multiplicity of developmental arguments and none of us are in a position to judge which is truest.

If the difference is the amount of pain the fetus feels (I don’t actually know if this an argument – blame it on the lack of web resources soberly discussing abortion. But it is a reason I have thought about) then this also seems arbitrary. This does not take premise 1, that there is an inherent value to human life, seriously. For example, we would consider the murder of a baby who was drugged and felt no pain just as bad as the murder of a conscious baby because of premise one.

My question to all you pro-choicers out there is when does a human being becomes one. While I am not encumbered in this debate by a religious conception of the soul, as many of my compatriots are, I take premise 1 (that murder is bad) seriously. Yes, it is bizarre to consider a group of cells a human being. But right now, as a 20 year old, I am also a collection of cells and I like to think murdering me would be bad.

So, it seems very clear to me that in trying to create a definition of life based on development or pain or whatever else is simply meddling with things that cannot be understood and cannot be known. If we take premise 1 seriously, then it seems like we have to be very, very cautious about abortion. And yes, by that I mean restricting it or banning it.

Additionally, to respond to the commenter L. Davis who said the following:

“As a feminist, I believe every woman has a right to choose what she wants to believe, so if a woman wants to be a republican, or wants to believe that life starts at conception, then fine. But they cannot call themselves feminists. They do not believe in the right for fellow women to make their own choices. That's as anti-woman as it gets. End of story.”

Setting aside the question of whether or not this is feminism (I personally don’t think it is… and I suspect jezebel doesn’t either: http://jezebel.com/5937707/why-do-political-wives-choose-the-same-choice), or whether being stripped of the title of “feminist” is bad, I have a lot of problems with this comment.

It IS the legitimate role of legislators to define what is murder and what is not. In the everyday world we absolutely do not consider life to be a subjective idea. For example, I could once again argue that it’s reason that makes us human and honestly believe that. This would entitle me to kill any number of small children and some mentally retarded people without much guilt. Since I hypothetically believe that mentally retarded people do not have rights (since I am a Kantian who believes that right is based on our equal capacity for moral choice, which small children and some mentally retarded or ill people are lacking) I would view legislation against my right to kill these people as an infringement on my freedom. However, society dictates that my definition is wrong and that small children and mentally retarded people have rights as well. This is what the law does and why it is not out of line for legislators to dictate that fetuses have rights.

Next, I’m not convinced that there is a necessary connection between feminism and being pro-choice. I understand that it is a historic part of the feminist platform. I understand that it is because it’s female reproductive capacities that have historically kept women in the household—and by giving women the ability to control when they have babies, women can leave the house and partake in public life. I think this is a good argument for proliferating birth control.

However, it seems to me that abortion is another thing entirely. Taking seriously the possibility that a fetus has a value, that it should be considered like a human being (if not a full human being with rights) is perfectly compatible with wanting women to be able to control their reproduction and thereby be liberated. So is seeing abortion is not simply a woman’s choice over her body – but also potentially affecting another human life.

I met a very conservative feminist this summer who made the argument that not opposing abortion in cases of rape or incest was sexist and anti-feminist. That’s right, you heard me, ANTI-FEMINIST. She was Christian and she believed that fetuses have souls—which is to say, she took premise 1 very seriously. And she told me the following:

“if you think abortion is ok in cases of rape and incest, but not in every other case, you’re saying that it’s ok when the woman is a ‘good girl’ but illegal when she’s a ‘bad, promiscuous girl’”.

So, there’s one example of how feminism is compatible with an extreme anti-abortion stance. I’m interested in how you feminist pro-choicers would respond to her.

To conclude, I think I’ll make a point that pretty much everyone can agree with: our discourse about abortion is flawed. It’s hysterical, ridiculous, and both sides need to calm down and realize the other side has an honest disagreement with them, and that they’re not bad people.

That being said, I find the rhetoric on the left more disturbing than the rhetoric on the right. Yes, the right sometimes wants to treat women like walking wombs and not people. However, I feel like the left wants to treat abortion as just another medical procedure, when it is not. It’s different. There’s nothing anti-feminist about recognizing the gravity of an abortion. This is why the language of abortion as a “right” makes me queasy.

I know this comment was ridiculously long, so thank you if you made it to the end. I’ve been looking for someone to have this debate with and I would love to continue to talk about this issue.