The Question ‘Pro-Lifers’ Refuse to Answer

The March for Life protesters refuse to face the realities of abortion

The 47th March For Life rally on January 24, 2019, in Washington, D.C. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

TThousands of people descended on Washington, D.C., on Friday to protest the Roe v. Wade anniversary and hear Donald Trump voice his support for anti-abortion legislation.

“Unborn children have never had a stronger defender in the White House,” said Trump, who is the first president to ever address the anti-abortion march. “When it comes to abortion… Democrats have embraced the most radical and extreme positions.” Following his speech, Trump was greeted to chants of “four more years.”

Yet what the march failed to acknowledge — and what anti-abortion activists always fail to acknowledge — is that their views are being increasingly minimized. Support for legal abortion is at an all-time high, despite Republican efforts to quash access to the procedure, and the pro-choice Women’s March was the largest protest in American history.

We also know that banning abortions won’t actually stop people from having them; it just makes desperate women seek more dangerous options.

This historic support for Roe is part of the reason that anti-abortion politicians and activists have been lying so much lately — claiming that there are “post-birth abortions,” for example — instead of talking about the everyday realities of abortion. Like the fact that one in four American women will have one, and 99% of those who do won’t regret it. Or that women who are denied abortions are more likely to live in poverty.

We also know that banning abortions won’t actually stop people from having them; it just makes desperate women seek more dangerous options. (In fact, according to a 2015 study, hundreds of thousands of women in Texas had self-induced abortions after state lawmakers enacted new barriers to the procedure.) So how will the people who marched today deal with a post-Roe America?

The truth is that conservatives can’t and won’t answer the simplest questions about abortion access, including what should happen to women who have abortions?

If Republicans want abortion to be illegal, what do they believe the punishment should be for women who break the law to have one? Should they go to prison? Get the death penalty?

The common answer that women are victims of the abortion industry doesn’t hold water: Not when women are already being punished for ending their pregnancies, and not when the abortions women have are increasingly via medication at home — making it harder to conjure up myths of predatory doctors. If abortion is made illegal, women will go to jail, full stop.

That’s why conservatives don’t want to talk about what a world without legal abortion will actually look like for the women who have them. Because America will be a country that sends teenage rape victims to jail, where women who need to end wanted pregnancies because of fetal abnormalities are arrested, where women in the middle of having miscarriages need to prove to the hospital and police that their pregnancy loss wasn’t self-induced.

No matter how many marchers showed up in D.C. (to date the crowds have been less than impressive), no matter what kind of extremist language they used, or political rhetoric about being pro-woman they co-opted, the most basic realities of abortion and women’s everyday lives remain. When the protesters left, the truth was still there.

Feminist author & columnist. Native NYer, pasta enthusiast.

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