Tagged: abortion

How do anti-abortion groups get more grotesque?

… by co-opting the language of anti-trafficking groups, of course!

Family Life International – the group which runs John Paul II Centres in Auckland, Wellington and soon Dunedin – has announced it will be bringing Abby Johnson to NZ as part of their “40 Days of Life” campaign.  (Yes, 40 days as in Lent.  Because the antichoice movement is overwhelmingly an extremist religious movement.)

Abby Johnson is now a professional antichoice activist.  She previously directed a Planned Parenthood clinic, despite apparently not understanding what an abortion is, because according to her, she was asked to assist in one after eight years working there and seeing it happen on the ultrasound made her realise how terrible it all was.

Pity no one can find any record of that abortion ever taking place.

So Abby Johnson wrote a book and founded an organisation called “And Then There Were None”.  Don’t worry, despite the fairly obvious assumption you may make, it’s not actually a group openly advocating for the murder of healthcare workers.

Instead, ATTWN treats healthcare workers who perform abortions like they’re victims of sex-trafficking – right down to not giving a fuck about what they actually want or choose.  The language is actually pretty … gross.

Our goal is to provide financial, emotional, spiritual and legal support to anyone wishing to leave the abortion industry.

Because obviously The Abortion Industry is a terrifying labyrinthine creature, and no one can just, you know, hand in their resignation and get a job somewhere else. 

Sidewalk counselors will be trained then periodically stationed at abortion clinics to reach out to clinic workers in a calm and inviting manner in order to establish direct personal lines of communication.

Because the antichoice movement’s “sidewalk counselors” are always so calm and inviting when they’re badgering pregnant people, waving gory faked propaganda in their faces, and killing doctors.

Any person seeking help from ATTWN will be assured, without reservation, that no personal information will be disclosed.

And I’m sure that if the antichoice movement has already disclosed all your personal information in order to intimidate you, they will offer a full apology.

Elsewhere, Johnson states:


Yeah, and no one grows up wanting to have open heart surgery, Abby.  Therefore we should ban open heart surgery.


Suffice it to say I know a few counterfactuals to this, self included.


And while we’re on the topic of FLI’s “40 Days of Life” and antichoice bullying, here’s some suggested reading from the UK:

“We are very supportive of people’s right to protest, but what we saw in Bedford Square was beyond the pale,” says Clare Murphy of BPAS. “They hang around by the door and encircle women.” And 40 Days for Life’s use of cameras is particularly disturbing. According to the organisation’s leader Robert Colquhoun, photographic equipment is only used to protect the protesters, who he says have been threatened previously. But BPAS reports that the cameras have been turned on patients, in a tactic that amounts to harassment. Yesterday, 40 Days for Life tweeted to celebrate its first “turnaround”, but it’s hard to imagine that any woman who has been repulsed by such intrusive actions is making a positive choice to be a mother.

Let’s not buy the bullshit.  The antichoice movement has one goal: stopping abortions.  And they will do and say whatever it takes to achieve this.  And if healthcare workers and pregnant people die in the process, they do not care.

You’ve just been erased

Remember back when I reviewed Alison McCulloch’s excellent Fighting to Choose (which incidentally you must buy, and read, and encourage others to buy, and read, because it’s really really good) and I said:

Abortion has a long and dramatic history in NZ, but it’s not a history we talk about, or remember.

Here’s another example of that, from the ALRANZ blog.  Three great contributors to the NZ abortion rights movement, whose efforts and beliefs and actions, which benefited so many people*, are just erased from history once they’re gone.

It’s almost like we can’t acknowledge their work because then we’d be politicising things, and as we saw in the backlash against the response of many people to the death of Margaret Thatcher, politicising a dead person is just about the worst thing you can do, even if their entire existence in the public consciousness is political.  Even when their politics – or belief that an abortion is just a medical procedure which people should be able to undergo – is something they themselves were not shy about expressing.

On the other hand, it’s like we don’t want to talk about those past struggles.  Because then we’d have to address those issues as they exist, today, for pregnant people in New Zealand.

Then we’d have to actually talk about people like this young woman who’s been left in the lurch by our healthcare system and urgently needs help to get to Australia for an abortion.  (If you want to donate to help her there is a Paypal option as well.)  We’d have to actually ask ourselves why someone needs to fly to another country to get a safe, straightforward medical procedure.

Don’t let the mainstream media deny us our history, and the reality we live in.


*Attention antichoicers: yes, this is a trap.

Perfect antichoice hypocrisy

We baby-hating prochoicers often make the argument that people who are anti-abortion seem to care so much about a foetus, and so little for a baby.

Turns out, they don’t actually care about a foetus either.  Not if its mother needs prenatal care funded by the state.  Just as long as they can force her to stay pregnant.

You couldn’t wish for a better illustration of their real motives.  Just look at Rep. Jodie Laubenberg insisting that she is the most “pro-life” person in the Texas State Senate, literally as she denies necessary healthcare to pregnant people.

Your semi-regular giggle/grimace at Right to Life

I know, I know.  Another day, another dollar, another No Rights to Your Own Uterus media release which waxes lyrical about how the sovereign duty of [women] is to churn out babies for Jesus.

But on the one hand, we need to keep an eye on the crap they’re spewing.  And on the other, their language is so desperately tryhard it brings a smile to my baby-hating face:

The Family Planning Association continues to seduce our youth and wage war against women, by its promotion of contraception ,sterilisation and abortion. In God’s plan for procreation women’s fertility is a cause of celebration, not a call for sterilisation. Pregnancy is not a disease and unborn children are not invaders and the enemy to be destroyed.

I need a badge which says “Death Peddler”.  Who’s with me?

Oh, white male antichoicers, you are so dim

Spotted on the Men Against Abortion NZ lolfest (and considered so hilarious and convincing they reposted it):

maanz mexico

Yes.  That amazing life and liberty experienced by Mexican immigrants, documented or otherwise, who on crossing the border into the US are immediately welcomed with open arms, given all the rights and freedoms of white Americans, and not at all oppressed with racist, punitive legal systems and scary fucking vigilantes.

Or maybe they’re referring to Americans travelling south, and “life and liberty” is antichoice rhyming slang for tequila?


On a more serious note:  gosh, it’s almost like NZ antichoicers have copied-and-pasted rhetoric from US antichoicers.  That won’t end badly at all unless you’re a healthcare worker.

The Catholic extremists are coming: lock up your brains

Family Life International are opening a “John Paul II Centre for Life” in Dunedin.

This raises the number of antichoice centres they run, which prey on vulnerable pregnant people, to three.

You may be fooled into thinking that they’re open-minded and compassionate towards pregnant people in difficult situations, but you’d be wrong.  They’re very good at hiding it, of course; they even mention abortion on their website, pregnantandworried.co.nz (because it’s so unusual for a pregnant person to feel worried).

Of course, they don’t refer you for abortion services – a fact which is no longer apparently on their website, despite showing up on Google:

antichoice bs

So if you are actually pregnant, worried, and wanting to get an abortion, they’re just another obstacle in the way, another set of people to have to deal with, and that’s all assuming that they aren’t a lying, judgemental bunch of religious asshats.

Overseas experience would not favour this idea.

There is a common misconception, happily promoted by Western media, that anti-choicers and pro-choicers are opposite ends of the spectrum.  They oppose abortion, ergo we must love abortion.  This misconception allows setups like pregnancy “crisis” centres to flourish, because they’re seen as providing some kind of balance to the Family Planning and Planned Parenthood organisations out there.  You’ve got your pro-choice centres, they say, so we’re just putting forward our point of view.

Which is all fine and dandy until you remember that the pro-choice point of view is PRO CHOICE.  We want pregnant people to have all available options.  We want people to be able to access contraception and education and be empowered by society to avoid unwanted pregnancies.

Anti-choicers are driven by one thing:  stopping pregnant people getting abortions.

They will say they want to support families.  They will say they want to support stressed-out pregnant people.  But at the end of the day, they want to support families not to have abortions and they want to support stressed-out pregnant people as long as they don’t have abortions.  They want to play on the completely normal anxiety pregnant people feel – especially pregnant people in difficult circumstances – get them in the door, and love-bomb them into CHOOSING LIFE.  At which point they can just fuck off.

That is their goal.  Any benefit they bring to the community they operate it is completely incidental to it.


And while we’re on the topic, let’s revisit the idea that the Catholic Church is all about life.  Right up until it’s down to you vs preserving their precious paternalistic control over [assumed] female fertility.

Badass prochoice hero of the day: Wendy Davis


I was on the edge of my seat this afternoon following the #SB5 hashtag on Twitter.  Good context from the Guardian here.

For thirteen hours, Texas State Senator Wendy Davis filibustered a bill which would close 30 abortion clinics in the state, leaving only 5 to provide medical care to its 26 million inhabitants.

She couldn’t sit, or lean, or take a sip of water, or pee, or stop talking.  She was challenged by antichoice Republicans for daring to go “off-topic” by talking about sonograms – which you’re forced to get in Texas before an abortion – and Planned Parenthood – who, among other health services, provide abortions.

She stood and spoke and shared the stories of people who needed abortion services, who are being ignored by the kind of blinkered fundamentalists who think female bodies can just “shut down” pregnancies caused by rape or that rape kits cause abortions.

And at the end of the day the bastards tried to cheat their way through anyway, claiming the vote on the bill was taken before midnight when hundreds of thousands of people watching live knew damn well they hadn’t.

They’d raised a point of order against her because she needed help with her back brace, and then they tried to pretend that 12:03 was really 11:59 to get their way.  That’s the hypocrisy of the antichoice movement in a nutshell: one rule for women, another/none for themselves.

Wendy Davis, you are one badass state senator.


And lest you think this is just a Republican-heavy US state issue?  See Coley Tangerina.

Abortion and mental health research not as clear-cut as reported; no surprises there

In a previous post I questioned recent research which was widely reported as “proving” that there’s no positive mental health benefit associated with abortion – thus basically “disproving” the idea that abortions are being legitimately permitted on mental health grounds in NZ.

Via some helpful pixies, I was able to obtain a copy of the full article, and … yeah.  No surprises here.

The fact is, it’s a literature review, which revisits the results of previous studies which had pretty inconclusive results regarding the abortion-mental health link, usually because:

  • they didn’t distinguish between unwanted and unintended pregnancy
  • they didn’t compare people granted abortion against people denied abortion (it’s a lot easier to come to terms with things when you have no other option)
  • some of the studies were carried out by people with explicitly antichoice views

So … yeah, pretty much what we already knew.

Here’s the rub, though:

It may also be suggested that the studies reviewed contain multiple problems research design, analysis and interpretation that prevent any clear conclusions from being drawn. In comparison to the ideal of testing the mental benefits of abortion using a randomized controlled trial, it is clear that existing observational studies provide only limited and potentially flawed evidence on the mental health consequences of abortion. However, this observation does not impugn the validity of the conclusion that: at the present time there is no credible scientific evidence demonstrating that abortion has mental health benefits.

So sure, you might say that some/many/all of the studies we looked at were flawed/biased/unscientific, but that doesn’t change the fact that there are no studies which prove the opposite.

Oh, except that:

In addition, it could be suggested that the comparisons made in the study between those having abortion and those having unwanted or unintended pregnancy do not provide an appropriate test of the mental health effects of abortion. A better comparison would be between those having abortion and those refused abortion.

In addressing the research question, we have taken the approach used by the majority of the reviews of the mental health consequences of abortion (Bradshaw and Slade, 2003; Charles et al., 2008; American Psychological Association, 2008; National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health, 2011) by comparing those having abortion with those coming to term with unwanted or unintended pregnancy. Further, to our knowledge, the only study that has compared those having abortion with those refused abortion is the re-analysis of Gilchrist et al. (1995), conducted by the AMRC review.

This re-analysis found that, for a number of outcomes (psychotic illness, non-psychotic illness, self harm), those refused abortion fared worse than those provided with abortion, with this difference being statistically significant (p<0.01) for psychotic illness. This evidence suggests the possibility that further studies making such comparisons could demonstrate positive benefits for abortion.

However, at the present time the evidence is far too limited to conclude that abortion reduces any mental health risks of unwanted or unintended pregnancy.

[Emphasis and paragraph breaks mine.]

Sure, you might raise the totally valid point that unplanned =/= unwanted and this might muddy the results, but fuck you, that’s what everyone else does.  And anyway, there’s a small amount of research which does actually suggest that if we compared apples with apples we’d get different [more accurate] results than when comparing apples and tractors, but fuck you, because there’s not much of that so go away.

And here’s the Bonus Rub Cookie:

A NEW ZEALAND professor whose work has been used by pro-life groups to contend that abortion holds no mental health benefits for pregnant women has said that his research is too limited to make any definitive conclusions.

… are you fucking kidding me.

Look, apparently Dr David Fergusson considers himself prochoice.  Which is great.  And no one wants to be the big scary feminist meany-head who scares off the gentle, placid, well-meaning allies.

But what the fuck is with a supposedly pro-choice researcher putting out research which is too limited to make any definitive conclusions when anyone with half a fucking ounce of awareness would understand exactly how said limited research will be twisted to fuck with the lives of pregnant people?

Is there some kind of “papers published” quota researchers have to meet?  With no other important KPIs like “papers must be actual good research” or anything?

Why the fuck didn’t I go into academia?

Another issue with the original research:  here’s the five “mental health outcomes” measured, which were then equated with a general picture of “mental health”:

anxiety, depression, alcohol misuse, illicit drug use/
misuse, and suicidal behaviour.

… all of which are pretty complex things.  I mean, are we really going to equate a once–pregnant person who smokes the occasional joint among friends with a once-pregnant person who starts huffing paint thinner to get through the day?  Is post-partum depression – common even in pregnant people who are happy and enthusiastic about having a baby – being included and thus compared with other types of depression which might exist regardless of birth status?  Do we ignore the fact that suicidality might be affected by the gigantic social pressure on new parents not to “abandon” their infants?

Sure, some of these questions may merely highlight my own lack of clinical psychological training, but come on.  Even the dude who wrote the damn article thinks it doesn’t pass muster.


H/T Alison McCulloch and the magic pixies.

Review: Fighting to Choose by Alison McCulloch

I struggle to find a properly punchy intro to this review.  Because all I really want to say is, if you have an interest in the history of the reproductive rights struggle in New Zealand, read this book.

If you don’t have an interest in the history of the reproductive rights struggle in New Zealand, also read this book.  Because you’ll develop one.

Abortion has a long and dramatic history in NZ, but it’s not a history we talk about, or remember.  And remembering that history is vital to our continuing push for reproductive rights today.  We need to know how we’ve gotten into this bizarre situation, with a law passed in 1977 which makes pregnant people jump through hoops but functions just well enough that most people carry on under the misapprehension that we have abortion on demand.

Just check out Jami-Lee Ross’ speech on the third reading of the marriage equality bill, when he referred to abortion being legalised.  It isn’t.

Why it isn’t, and who decided it wouldn’t be, and how activists fought hard for it to be, is what this book’s about.  Alison McCulloch, Pulitzer-winning journo and general badass, lays it all out, plain and simple, and being pretty damn even-handed towards the antichoice movement in the process.

This book was a joy to read … and it made me angry.  Angry at chickenshit politicians who folded at the first threat of Catholic voters’ ire.  Angry at a Royal Commission who dared to produce an incoherent, inconsistent report which controls people’s lives to this day, who let antichoicers derail an important moment in our societal debate on reproductive rights.  Angry at the condescension shown toward New Zealand people, particularly women, to this day.

Angry that we still have to fight for this.

But you know, it’s a good anger.  A motivating anger.

And now I’ve added “release helium balloons into the House of Representatives” to my bucket list.

Overall rating: five out of five speculums.

Fighting to Choose is available online from the Victoria University Press.

An abridged excerpt from Chapter Four, covering the opening of the Auckland Medical Aid Trust clinic in 1974, is up on Werewolf.

Prochoicing on the Prochoice Highway

Alison McCulloch is taking the book on tour.  Follow the Prochoice Highway for more information.

Videos from the launch, via the ALRANZ blog.

Antichoicer lies 2

Last time we talked about a quote which purported to prove that Margaret Sanger – and thus all prochoicers, because we’re the side in this debate which has no original thoughts – was all about the unrestrained sexy times.

I will pause momentarily so the Sanger scholars can pick themselves up off the floor.  Seriously, I’ve done all of an hour’s reading of her work, and … ahahahahahaha.

Now, the second quote, which is far more interesting for what antichoicers want to pretend it implies, and for the actual context it appears to be lifted from.

Quote 2: We ❤ Baby Murder

The most merciful thing that a family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.

As with quote #1, this is usually cited as:

The Woman Rebel, Volume I, Number 1. Reprinted in Woman and the New Race. New York: Brentanos Publishers, 1922.

Sources: one, two, three, etc etc etc

… because apparently antichoicers only have the one issue of The Woman Rebel and aren’t too creative when making shit up.

But does the quote exist?

Yeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaahkinda.  It does not appear in The Woman Rebel Volume 1, Number 1, but the original quote appears in chapter 5 of Woman and the New Race.  And we all know context is everything:

  • Chapter V is entitled The wickedness of creating large families.
  • It outlines the steadily rising mortality rates of children under 1 year old based on the number of children in their family.
  • It notes that these mortality rates are in fact not the full story, because of course a number of children who make it to age 1 don’t make it to age 5. 

And thus Sanger concludes:

The most merciful thing that the large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it. The same factors which create the terrible infant mortality rate, and which swell the death rate of children between the ages of one and five, operate even more extensively to lower the health rate of the surviving members. Moreover, the overcrowded homes of large families reared in poverty further contribute to this condition. Lack of medical attention is still another factor, so that the child who must struggle for health in competition with other members of a closely packed family has still great difficulties to meet after its poor constitution and malnutrition have been accounted for.

Bold mine.

Sanger is obviously not saying – as the antichoice quote purports – that killing babies is always a totally cool thing to do.  She’s talking about babies who might have a less-than-50% chance of living out a year.  She’s talking about babies born into poverty and overcrowding and poor medical care.

She has a particularly nasty view – as disclaimed in my earlier post – about children born into such environments who have disabilities, and also notes somewhat dispassionately that older children forced into work to support younger siblings will unfortunately drag down their father’s wages.  It’s not all sunshine and prochoice lollipops, but it’s also not what RTL and antichoicers across the internet want to pretend it is:  murdering babies for funsies.

Because Margaret Sanger was against infanticide.  In fact, she was against abortion in principle, and seems to have had a utopian view of a world where no one needed to have abortions because contraception was available and foolproof.  But she couldn’t ignore the facts that a lot of children were living in dire poverty and being killed after-birth anyway, and that control over reproduction was vital to women’s liberation.

That’s prochoicers for you.  Comprehending the realities of life and understanding that babies aren’t always exactly what Hallmark gift cards crack them up to be.

Of note

There is an article in The Rebel Woman Volume 1, Number 1 which also deals with infanticide.  It is Benita Locke’s Mothers’ Pensions: The Latest Capitalist Trap which argues, similarly, that poor families may be killing infants (or, to use a classic antichoice loophole, “letting them die”) because conditions are so unsustainable.

The plain truth is that among the children of the poor, the birth of a child is a misfortune, while its death is a blessing, not even in disguise.  Parents often deliberately remove their children from the world rather than that their little ones should be condemned to the veritable hell on earth which they feel they would be obliged to endure, if allowed to live.

Locke’s main argument though is that state benefits provided to poor families (mothers in particular) to encourage them to keep their babies is basically a capitalist trap, designed to ensure more workers are produced for the economic machine while not actually providing sufficient means to raise the babies in question happily and healthily.

But of course for antichoicers to acknowledge the absolutely horrible conditions which some ~precious unborn babies~ must live in after birth, and the lack of comprehensive social support for them, would involve some actual compassion and logical consistency on their part.

And they’re far too busy making up lies to actually give a fuck about born babies, who are no more use in their campaign to control pregnant people’s bodies.

Let’s also note

The extra lying cherry on top of the lying pie in RTL’s original media release is that not only are the two “quotations” presented as fact, they’re joined with an ellipsis, implying they’re part of the same piece of text.

The same piece of made-up antichoice lying text, maybe.