Religious conservatives bleat about abortion as if outlawing the practice would solve the social ills of America. Earthquakes would retire! Milkmen would make a comeback! Life would return to glorious technicolor!
But it's not true. Their overarching goal isn't just to make abortion illegal, it's to shame and punish modern women for having sex lives, for caring about their health, for being anything other than subservient, walking chattels whose uteri are wallpapered with Bible passages. Take this story about 40 Days of Life—the coordinated anti-abortion protests held across the country. The town of Wausau, Wisconsin doesn't have an abortion clinic to protest, so for years religious protestors have settled for shaming young women and mothers entering a local family clinic for routine checkups:
It’s 4:00 in the afternoon, and rush hour traffic has slowed so the looky loos can snap a picture of the disturbance with their cell phone cameras. The anxious girl hides her face, painfully aware someone passing by may recognize her, but she bravely trudges past the protesters. Some merely stare at her accusingly. Others hiss words meant to shame her. She wants to run away, but she has no money, and there is nowhere else she can go for help. Hers is a torment that cannot be prayed away. Her eyes fill with tears, but she refuses to let them fall. She keeps her gaze on the entrance; five more steps, three, two. One more step and a push of the door and this nightmare will be over. Inside she will find medical help. She will find compassion without judgment. After weeks of suffering, of tossing and turning and worrying about what she was going to do, the teen is about to find someone who will help her end her unwanted……… yeast infection.
No, I did not get that diagnosis wrong. Family Planning Services in Wausau does not offer abortion services. In fact, they are forbidden by the terms of their state grants from even referring a woman to an abortion provider. (Remind me to do a column about that little piece of injustice sometime.) What FPHS does, is help pregnant women of low to moderate means to have healthy babies. They educate young people about contraception and STDs. They help women (and men) avoid pregnancies that would end in abortions. Their WIC program gets fresh vegetables and fruits from local farmers into the diets of mothers and their young children. You would think the Catholics, with their history of community charity, would be holding fundraising Bingo nights and bake sales to help them. But nope, they have opted to go the pageant route instead.
For years, anti-choicers have embrace shame as a tool to take women's pride and options away but their tactics aren't working anymore.