On Friday, anti-choice activists took to the streets for a march to oppose abortion rights one week after the nationwide Women’s March celebrated free reproductive choice. Vice President Mike Pence, who boasts among the most anti-choice track records in Washington, made sure to be in attendance.
In Pence’s March for Life speech, he demanded “love” and “compassion,” and even stated he wished to “meet [women seeking abortions] where they are with generosity, not judgment.”
“We will not rest until we restore a culture of life for ourselves and our posterity. … When it comes to matters of the heart, there is nothing stronger than gentleness. I believe we will continue to win the hearts and minds of the rising generation,” Pence said.
“President Trump actually asked me to be with you here today,” he added. “He asked me to thank you for your support, for your stand for life and for your compassion for the women and children of America.”
Pence additionally blasted Roe v. Wade as harmful and unconstitutional, ignoring how historically, the ruling marked a higher standard of living for women, and less death and injury through back-alley abortions.
It did not go unnoticed how despite Pence’s deeply contradictory calls for “gentleness” and “generosity,” the laws restricting abortion which he and other anti-choice lawmakers support all serve to punish women. Policies Pence personally supported while Indiana’s governor include one law that would require women who had abortions to pay roughly $2,000 out of pocket for the burial of their aborted fetuses, and in his state, a woman named Purvi Patel was famously jailed for feticide after having no other option but to perform her own abortion.
All laws that restrict abortion, whether unconstitutional bans on second trimester abortion, mandated waiting periods, or bans on abortifacients (medically-induced abortions), tend to be ambiguous about the consequences for women who break them.
As Pence’s speech proved, abortion opponents are often so absorbed with their sense of moral superiority and paternalistic notions of being benefactors to women seeking abortions who they portray as pitiful and misguided, that while they deny that punishing women is the answer, they fail to recognize that in making abortion a punishable offense, that’s exactly what they’re doing. By representing abortion as a deplorable act tantamount to murder, conservative lawmakers additionally put the safety of abortion providers and women in jeopardy by emboldening extremists.
Historically, and still today, bans and regulations on abortion never stopped abortion from happening, but merely make things more dangerous and difficult for women. On top of this, low-income women who give birth are given the short end of the stick by conservative lawmakers like Pence. In his own state of Indiana, Pence transferred funding for poor families to fund anti-choice organizations, all while opposing measures such as paid family leave and investing in healthcare and education, which would disproportionately benefit low-income families.
By defunding Planned Parenthood in his state of Indiana, Pence also denied low-income women access to basic health care, from pap smears to breast cancer screenings, all because some Planned Parenthood clinics offered abortion.
The timing of the protest certainly raised questions as to its necessity, with a presidential administration, Congress, and the majority of state governments backing its agenda. What do anti-abortion protesters really have to be upset about, considering how apparent this administration has made its disdain for reproductive choice?
This week alone, President Trump reinstated the Mexico City law, which forces global organizations to either censor educational content about family planning services like abortion or cease to receive government funding, literally placing the health and safety of women around the world at stake over politics.
On top of this, Trump is expected to nominate an anti-abortion Supreme Court justice which could potentially mark the downfall of Roe v. Wade.
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