Analysis

Washington Post columnist claims pro-lifers want to control women. Here’s why she’s wrong.

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Regardless of how the Supreme Court rules in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the pro-life movement is not going away anytime soon, as evidenced by a recent Washington Post op-ed. While many of the article’s attacks against pro-lifers are baseless, if it’s true that abortion could soon be outlawed, then it’s worth clearing up misconceptions that many abortion advocates appear to have about the pro-life movement.

The post-Roe pro-life movement 

Monica Hesse, a columnist for the Washington Post’s Style section, wrote of pro-lifers in the op-ed, “But once you have this thing you always wanted — state-sanctioned control over women’s bodies — your work is not finished. You are responsible for the pregnant people whose futures you have changed, and for their future children, and both are going to need a lot more than your prayers.”

Pro-lifers want to end abortion — not to control women, but because abortion kills an innocent human being. The pro-life movement also aims to help women feel empowered to carry their pregnancies to term by connecting them to resources they need. In 2019 alone, pregnancy centers served nearly two million clients, providing a bevy of free services to women and children. Hesse conveniently ignored actions like this which demonstrate the care pro-lifers have for women and children — care that will not cease (and likely will only increase) should abortion be outlawed. 

Yes, pro-lifers do care about women 

Describing a hypothetical scenario where a pro-lifer is forced to have a “talk” with his or her pregnant 15-year-old daughter in a post-Roe era, the op-ed inaccurately portrayed how the majority of pro-lifers feel about abortion-minded women. 

“The [talk] where she’s sobbing and terrified and you begin to fully realize that accidental pregnancies don’t happen to bad people, they happen to all kinds of people, and maybe not every accident needs to be punished with lifelong consequences,” wrote Hesse. “The one where you explain that there is no option but to live with those consequences. The one where you explain that you made sure of it.”  

Making abortion illegal is not an attempt to punish women, but to help them avoid the negative effects of abortion on their own lives and to save the lives of their children. Women who have abortions are at an increased risk of drug use, alcohol use, and suicidal thoughts along with depression. There are a variety of reasons why a woman may find herself considering abortion, and pro-lifers know these women are deserving of support, not scorn. In fact, many pro-lifers are women who once had abortions and suffered pain and regret as a result. They now seek to spare others that pain.

READ: Pro-life pregnancy resource made all the difference for this immigrant and her baby

The op-ed reported the dangers of intimate partner violence during pregnancy and that homicide is the leading cause of pregnancy-related deaths, which Live Action News has previously noted. Sarcastically, Hesse wrote that she’s sure pro-lifers “already got a plan for making sure the boyfriends or husbands of these people don’t assault them upon learning they’re expecting.” 

But the author would likely have a hard time finding a large number of pro-lifers who think pregnant women in abusive relationships are undeserving of support and resources. No woman should be subjected to abuse, and any woman facing such a situation deserves help in being connected to safety. By opposing the killing of an innocent human being, pro-lifers are not forcing women to remain with abusive partners. Yes, pro-lifers do have a plan for helping abused pregnant women, and it involves connecting them with nonviolent solutions that already exist. 

Distracting from the issue 

Hesse asserted that if abortion is outlawed or severely restricted, then March for Life participants should be ready to support easy access to birth control and other efforts that will supposedly reduce the demand for abortion. 

“I hope that the 364 days you’re not attending this march, you’re marching for universal health care. Also, subsidized day care and universal preschool; I hope every Chick-fil-A sandwich will now come with a side of full-time nanny,” she wrote. 

While the article’s snarky tone is apparent, the arguments put forward are worth addressing, as the piece showcases a common misunderstanding many pro-choice people have about the pro-life movement. It seems the op-ed missed the point regarding why pro-lifers focus on ending abortion by targeting it directly: If abortion is the killing of an innocent human deserving of equal rights, it makes sense for pro-lifers to prioritize ending it, not simply reducing it. 

In addition, many pro-lifers do support many other efforts in tandem with making abortion illegal. But the overall mission of the pro-life movement is to ensure the country’s laws protect innocent human life from deliberate acts of violence, including the preborn. 

Hesse also took issue with the March for Life’s theme this year — “Equality begins in the womb” — mockingly wondering whether this means pro-lifers will pursue things like racial and economic justice initiatives. 

“Otherwise, I would think the theme would read: “Equality begins in the womb, and also ends there,” she wrote. 

Pro-lifers advocate for preborn human beings because they are a group of people whose rights were violated by the legalization of abortion, and the legal protections they once had must be restored. A person can support other causes while also saying it’s wrong to kill children in the womb. Also, people are entitled to equal rights based on their human nature, not things like skin color, abilities, or their present location. If the Hesse cares about equality, then equal rights must extend to preborn humans. 

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