16 January 2006

Fetal funerals, ultrasound machines, and baby bonnets for women who want abortions. John Leland of The New York Times reports on the kinder, gentler side of the anti-abortion movement, one that advances its aims through innocuous-sounding Bible studies, church-run pregnancy crisis centers, and Christian support groups for women suffering “postabortion syndrome” (a favorite “psychological condition” of the pro-life movement, which Leland cites sans quotation marks). While Leland is right to look for the subtler organizations and volunteers working behind the media-covered scenes of bombastic anti-abortion groups like Operation Rescue; and he does point out some of the more misleading strategies of these groups, such as the crisis centers which present themselves as secular medical entities and attract women to their ministries by suggesting that they are abortion providers themselves; amid his approving contrasts between the activists who wave posters of disfigured fetuses and these nice, supportive Christian women talking about unconditional love, Leland misses the real insidiousness of this approach. At the root of offering women unconditional love and forgiveness for the abortions they had — a call gaining currency among conservative Christian churches and ministries — is a transfer of blame from demonizing the women who seek abortions (something that abortion-clinic protesters have made unseemly), to the demonization of the doctors who provide them: the substitution of a small, and already terrorized minority to serve as popular scapegoat for abortion (and one that, as most pro-life groups will tell you, is making millions through the “abortion industry”) and the simultaneous presentation of women as a vulnerable group that probably should be protected from their own, too easily-manipulated, choices.