The Anti-Abortion and Anti-Woman Movement Has Been Very Effective

Ten states are taking federal block grant money intended for programs of social uplift and plowing those funds into anti-abortion groups (“At least 10 states divert federal welfare funding to anti-abortion clinics,” Guardian, June 4, 2021). Should those on the left be surprised, and especially those in favor of women’s rights and the right of a child to live in a world that accepts and supports him/her? The misdirection and mishandling of these federal funds has been a very long time coming, and they’ve been a reality on the ground and ongoing since 1973.

These religious-right ideologues have been at it (their vicious and lethal anti-abortion attacks of different kinds) since Roe v. Wade became federal law in 1973. They’ve harassed women at abortion clinics, murdered, wounded and harmed clinic staff, and filled this society with so much anti-choice propaganda that even the language around abortion and women’s rights has become politicized. Recall the days when a fetus was a fetus, and an unborn child was not in the lexicon of the US? They’ve popularized movies in which women have a child and then immediately give the child up for adoption as if a human being was like a consumer good.

At the heart of every anti-choice lout is an anti-woman lout. That is the essence of the anti-abortion movement with its radical right and murderous fringe. Right-wing societies raise motherhood and the control of women to their highest levels of scrutiny and adoration. Art even sometimes reflects this historical reality. The purity of women as producers of future Nazis was central to German Naziism before and during World War II. Besides the purity of that role, mothers were producers of future Third Reich soldiers. There were no surprises there!

What would be a surprise is if women and children were supported with even marginally adequate programs of social uplift. Recall the neoliberal Bill Clinton and the end of welfare as we know it. The attacks against women have largely been a bipartisan effort.

I haven’t been an escort at women’s health clinics since the early years of the new millennium. I’ve attempted to reconnect with that activism, but it hasn’t seemed to work out. What stands out in my mind from the dozen years of escorting is the vile nature of the anti-abortionists, their screams, grotesque imagery displayed at women’s health clinics, the physical abuse of volunteers and staff, and the lethal turn their ideological and religious-based insanity sometimes took in murders and other attacks at women’s health clinics.

During the early 1990s, a particularly vicious anti-choice notable (among the anti-abortionists) came to town (Providence, Rhode Island) and precipitated a violent assault against a women’s health center there. Volunteers fended off the assault, and we kept the clinic open until the police came and arrested some of the anti-abortionists.

When I left escorting, one of the so-called abortion information and support centers was in the works in Providence. It was located within a few feet of a women’s health center where I escorted. Their program consisted in providing anti-abortion “counseling” to prospective mothers, giving them a bag of child-care products, and saying goodbye once the work of convincing a mother to go through with a pregnancy was complete. Quite an insulting social-welfare program!

The anti-abortion movement has been very successful at limiting abortion across the US and particularly in red states where many women have the de facto reality of no access to abortion. Travel across hundreds of miles to seek an abortion requires money that many women do not have. That lack of access to abortion also involves access to other women’s health needs such as birth control and treatment and education of other women’s health issues. But none of those women’s issues matter one iota to the ideologues of the religious and anti-abortion right. The anti-abortionists will likely soon see their decades of reaction against women come to fruition as the Supreme Court will finalize the destruction of Roe v. Wade.

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer. He is the author of Against the Wall: Memoir of a Vietnam-Era War Resister (2017).