You’ve probably already read about Barack Obama’s statements regarding teen pregnancy and the outrage it has inspired in forced-birth proponents. Amanda has already wonderfully skewered the reaction. This is what Obama said:
“When it comes specifically to HIV/AIDS, the most important prevention is education, which should include — which should include abstinence education and teaching the children — teaching children, you know, that sex is not something casual. But it should also include — it should also include other, you know, information about contraception because, look, I’ve got two daughters. 9 years old and 6 years old. I am going to teach them first of all about values and morals. But if they make a mistake, I don’t want them punished with a baby. I don’t want them punished with an STD at the age of 16. You know, so it doesn’t make sense to not give them information.”
I mean, really, with all the talk about sex not being anything casual and engaging in sex is a “mistake,” it would seem that Obama is pandering enough to the religious right “sex-is-bad-mmkay?” crowd. But no, instead he has made them very, very angry. Honestly, I think they’re pissed because of his reasonable assertion that telling kids not to have sex doesn’t mean they’re going to listen. But in typical “the liberal made a reasonable point — quick, make everyone look over here!” fashion, they’re screaming and hollering about how Obama said that babies are punishment. They also claim that his comments were about abortion, which is blatantly false, even if the comments he made do easily carry over and most likely influence his pro-choice views.
It really goes to show how good conservative wingnuts have gotten at taking comments out of context and using them to their own advantage. Michael Gerson called Obama’s comments “hardly a welcoming attitude toward new life.” Then there’s this editorial from The Augusta Chronicle (thanks to Jovan Byars for the link) that is so mind-blowingly stupid and contradictory that it would be hilarious in a world where we could trust that people don’t actually believe this shit:
His comment betrays a tragically dim view of God-given life. A baby as “punishment”? Forgive many of us for believing a child is the greatest gift God can bestow on either a parent or a nation.
But take the next step with Sen. Obama: Let’s say a baby is a punishment to an unwed, wayward teen. It’s then acceptable to kill the baby in order to save the young mother the inconvenience of being “punished”?
Apparently in Barack Obama’s world it is.
And let’s look at what that says about parenting.
Barack and Michelle Obama are obviously caring, loving parents. But part of loving and caring for your children is to teach them that there are consequences for their actions. To whisk a child off to an abortionist to help her avoid the consequences of her actions is in no way compassionate or caring. It’s quite the opposite. It’s teaching young women a perverse and utterly false notion that they don’t have to take responsibility for their actions — or for the precious, vulnerable little lives they helped create.
New life isn’t punitive. It’s restorative and miraculous and our sacred obligation to accept from on high with humility and gratitude. Rather than a punishment or inconvenience to be escaped, it’s a solemn obligation from our Creator to care for that child as we would want to be cared for.
Right, excellent points. But let me make sure I’ve got the nuances of this multi-layered argument down: babies should not be seen as a punishment, and so refusing someone an abortion should never be seen as a punishment, which is precisely why it’s our obligation to punish girls by denying them abortions because otherwise they’ll never learn to stop being filthy dirty whores. Well, that makes sense.
Here’s the hilarious thing: the group that does not treat babies as punishment is us, pro-choicers. And Obama didn’t say that babies were punishment; he said that, because this is wrong, we should make sure they aren’t. We believe that babies should be born into this world only as a result of the active choices made by the people who will come to care for it. We think that wanted babies are a wonderful thing and that to force women to give birth, thereby making her new baby a punishment, is absolutely obscene to both woman and child. In fact, we think that life is so very precious that it shouldn’t be used for political gain. We’re not the ones bringing human beings into this world for the purpose of sticking it to people we don’t like — only then to deny his/her mother increased welfare payments because she should have been more “responsible.” If we don’t want to live in a world where babies are a form of punishment, we should stop forcing women to give birth. It’s really that simple.
The Washington Times has a collection of mind-boggling anti-choice quotes. Here’s one:
“It is just shocking to hear it come out of someone’s mouth,” said Charlene Bashore, director of the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation PAC. “I can’t say it is surprising since he has a radical stance on abortion. … By all indications, he does consider an unplanned pregnancy to be a punishment.”
No, moron; he’s saying that causing unplanned pregnancies when we have the means to prevent them and deliberately withholding vital information from young women because we disagree with their actions is punishing and wrong. Also, it’s worth noting that while Obama didn’t say a word about abortion here, he also didn’t say a word about “pregnancy.” This would indicate to me that if Obama was talking about abortion — which again, he was not — it wouldn’t be unplanned pregnancy he sees as punishment (logical, since pregnancy is a biological process, not a political one), but forcing a woman with an unplanned pregnancy to give birth against her will. Big difference there, but then again, in anti-choice land pregnancy does equal baby, because abortion is wrong and miscarriage just doesn’t happen, otherwise they’d be out there mourning the much higher numbers of spontaneously aborted fetuses.
The forced-birth brigade gets even more deranged, not to mention personal:
“He would want his own grandchild aborted. It shows a real callous disregard for human life,” said David Osteen, executive director of National Right to Life. “This is a window into his soul.”
Actually Captain Misogyny, I’d say that Obama’s comments show a healthy amount of concern and respect for his daughters, and a lack of desire to see them suffer just because they were born female. Personally, I’d call the person who cares more about their non-existent grandchild than their own live daughter the callous one.
Oops! My bad. I brought the pregnant woman into the conversation. That’s a clear no-no. As anti-choice legislators helpfully point out, abortion has nothing to do with women:
“Why should any of us take the position that women should be denied information about their care?” Traviesa asked before the 70-45 vote to send his bill to the Senate. He said opponents raised “righteous indignation” about his bill to “change the subject” to women’s rights.
That’s right. Talking about the rights of women when trying to decide on a legislative floor whether or not they have the right to medical care is “changing the subject.” To those who oppose abortion rights, the health, safety and autonomy of women really isn’t part of the equation; either because their goal is to make sure that women have none of those things, or because they’re so stupid and sexist that when talking about the lives of the fetus-babies, they actually just forget that there’s a woman out there carrying it. Whether they’re misogynist enough to think that women deserve no rights and we should take them away to uphold the patriarchy, are misogynist enough to think that the rights of a fetus/embryo/fertilized egg are worth more than the rights of the pregnant woman, or misogynist enough to not even bother to stop and think about women as part of the abortion process, the point is that they don’t give a shit about women. (We can probably change the minds of some of those in the last batch, but that’s a whole other post.)
But here’s my question to anti-choicers. It’s one that I haven’t seen anyone pose in direct relation to this fiasco and one that I’ve never seen an even remotely convincing answer for.
How, exactly, is forcing a teenage girl to give birth against her will not a punishment?
Take your time with it, anti-choice visitors, but do read the rest before commencing making an ass out of yourself. If a baby born to a teenage girl is actually a miracle, a blessing, precious, “restorative,” etc., why do we try to prevent teen pregnancy? Shouldn’t we be actively encouraging it? I mean, I know that you do encourage it with your abstinence-only education, but you put up a front of trying to prevent pregnancy. Would you like to reconcile those arguments?
And what about the incredibly common view that abortion should be illegal, except in instances of rape and incest? Sure, you may be crazy enough to think that women should be forced to give birth to the child of her rapist, but a majority of the fellow-misogynists you need to vote with you aren’t quite there yet. And legislation that leaves rape exceptions, written by your ilk, tells a hugely different story. Clearly, all tiny precious in utero lives should be valued equally. So, if forced-birth isn’t about punishment, why is it only acceptable for women who took an active part in the reproductive process? If the raped woman gets a pass because she’s “innocent,” doesn’t that mean that enforcing the rules for the non– “innocent” is, um . . . punishment?
Don’t worry, I don’t need an answer right away. I’ve got time. You wingnuts know where to find me. But here’s a piece of advice in the meantime: if you don’t like being portrayed as misogynist freaks who try to control women’s sexuality through the threat of unplanned pregnancy and the inaccessibility of abortion, or as assholes who hate women so much that they’re willing to force girls to become teenage mothers as punishment for failing to adequately deny their sexual desire . . . cut it the fuck out. We’ll stop throwing out insults as soon as you stop providing them.