By Hunter Stuart, associate producer, reporter, and videographer for RHrealitycheck.org
As the 40 Days For Life anti-abortion campaign kicks off its fall tour - it's largest yet, spread across 200 cities in 45 states - I find myself thinking harder about the arguments of the anti-choice movement. I recently went to Wisconsin, where anti-abortion protests have lately gathered strength. I wanted to hear their argument from their own lips.
I got the usual comments about God and conception and murder, and even found myself at one point involved in a discussion about my own hypothetical murder (see the accompanying video). But it was the inherent irony of their opposition to contraception which I found most baffling.
There are two family planning clinics in central Wisconsin - one in Wausau, one in Stevens Point - that have been picketed by typical religious right-wing anti-choicers over the past two years. What's not typical is that these clinics do not provide abortions. Nor do they provide referrals or even medical counseling for abortions, because their federal grant restrictions explicitly prohibit them from doing so. The people of Wisconsin know this. The protesters know this. So what's the big deal?
The big deal is that this family planning clinic dispenses contraception - condoms, birth control pills, and emergency contraception. The protesters I spoke with in Wisconsin believe that "the morning-after pill" is the equivalent of murder. They even believe that the birth control pill is a form of murder. (Since in some cases it prevents the fertilized egg - which they would call "the embryonic person" - from implanting in the uterine wall.)
And condoms? One protester told me that condoms encourage men to use women "for sex without repercussions." But isn't it the woman who has to deal with the real "repercussions" of a pregnancy? You would think an anti-abortion activist, of all people, would see the use of condoms.
But no. "If you want to have sex," he told me, waving his finger in the air, "make sure you can deal with the consequences. Which are children."
It's this kind of idealism that stands in the way of reducing unplanned pregnancy and reducing abortion in America. If these people got what they wanted, and birth control were made illegal, the number of unplanned pregnancies would skyrocket. So would the number of abortions - including late-term abortions, which are the most controversial of all, even for radical pro-choicers.
Does a fertilized egg feel pain? Does it feel stress, anxiety, hope, love and fear? Does it have friends, neighbors, and lovers? Does it have dreams and ambitions or plans for the future? Does it worry about hurting the feelings of the people it loves? Is a fertilized egg afraid of dying?
To answer yes to any of these questions would require a leap of faith that rational argument could not support. To force women under penalty of law to carry every pregnancy to term is another way of keeping them downtrodden and subservient in a male-dominated society. Moreover, it's not the job of government to legislate on a woman's body. But that's beside the point.
The point is, nobody likes the idea of an abortion. Contraception helps women reduce unintended pregnancy, which will reduce abortion. Surely that's something we can all agree on.
Originally published on rhrealitycheck.org