Abortion Rights: The Constitutional Right Under Assault by Christofascists

All over the world, control, abuse, and forced servitude of women and children are major issues.  The United States is no exception as radical Guttmacher_state_lawschristian groups attempt to deny women access to health, education, and selfhood.  Roe v. Wade turns 40 and the assault on the Right to Abortion and to an autonomous self–separate from state and religious interference–has never been more threatened.  Roe is being regulated into oblivion in many states where arcane religious views take precedent over the rule of law and the Constitution.  Indeed, many of these folks believe a pregnant woman’s body belongs to the state or to any male they deem relevant.

A new study shows hundreds of women in the United States have been arrested, forced to undergo unwanted medical procedures, and locked up in jails or psychiatric institutions because they were pregnant. National Advocates for Pregnant Women found 413 cases when pregnant women were deprived of their physical liberty between 1973, when Roe v. Wade was decided, and 2005. At least 250 more interventions have taken place since then. In one case, a court ordered a critically ill woman in Washington, D.C., to undergo a C-section against her will. Neither she nor the baby survived. In another case, a judge in Ohio kept a woman imprisoned to prevent her from having an abortion. We’re joined by Lynn Paltrow, founder and executive director of the National Advocates for Pregnant Women. “We’ve had cases where lawyers have been appointed for a fetus before the woman herself, who’s been locked up, ever gets a lawyer,” Paltrow says. “[We’ve had] cases where they’ve ordered a procedure over women’s religious objections, and one court said, pregnant women of course have a right to religious freedom — unless it interferes with what we believe is best for the fetus or embryo.” The new study comes on the eve of the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision on the right to abortion — a right that has been under siege ever since.

While outraged and outrageous men take to the street with military style assault rifles to assert their right to bear arms, women seeking to exercise their right to abortion face harassment and worse.

Since state law requires the Alabama Women’s Center to list the days when abortion procedures might be performed, anti-abortion protesters are able to plan their harassment for days when the women visiting the clinic are likely to be seeking an abortion. The protesters are now monitored by local police officers, and clinic escorts will park women’s cars for them so they can slip into the back door of the clinic to avoid confrontations.

Pamela Watters, one of the women’s health advocates who helps organize clinic escorts, told the Alabama press what the volunteers have been up against since they started escorting women in October:

This week, pro-life protestor Joyce Fecteau, 70, was arrested for assault based on an incident alleged to have happened the week of Christmas. A pro-choice protestor told police that Fecteau sprayed her in the face with what Fecteau says is holy water.

Fecteau told The Huntsville Times that she was spritzing holy water to cleanse the air of smoke from a pro-choicer’s sage smudge, and that the pro-choice protestor walked into the spray. […]

Pro-choice marchers recalled a particularly painful event last month when a woman whose baby had died en utero was coming to the clinic to have it removed. In an awful coincidence, that was the day, Watters said, when the pro-life demonstrators collected a children’s choir on the sidewalk to sing “Happy Birthday Dead Baby” to anyone driving in.

“Will had to physically restrain the father,” Watters said, nodding to one of the men marching in a pro-choice jacket. “And by the time she walked through them, she was an emotional wreck.”

Even though Roe has guaranteed women’s constitutional right to an abortion for nearly 40 years, the case study in Alabama highlights the anti-choice activity that works to undermine legal abortion services at the state level. Alabama already places some of the nation’s most stringent restrictions on women who seek abortions. Women are required to receive counseling intended to talk them out of terminating their pregnancy, undergo a 24 hour waiting period, and take a mandatory ultrasound. Late term abortions are not permitted, and insurance plans in the state’s health exchange won’t cover abortion services. Nonetheless, anti-abortion activists aren’t satisfied — they also want to physically and emotionally intimidate the women coming and going from women’s health clinics.

The last two nights of TRMS have had segments dedicated to showing the appalling actions taken by religious radicals in this country to stop women from exercising their constitutional right to abortion.  The show focused on Mississippi’s outrageous crusade to close its last abortion clinic as well as showing the struggle of activists to re-open the murdered Dr. Tiller’s clinic in Wichita, Kansas.

The last two nights of MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show featured segments on how abortion rights are under attack in 4 states (Arkansas, Mississippi, North Dakota, and South Dakota), both by anti-choice zealots and GOP Governors (Bryant [MS], Dalrymple [ND], Daugaard [SD]) and their legislatures, as part of the War On Women playbook to drastically curtail and/or end abortion rights and to defund Planned Parenthood, to name a few.

The right has made a series of attempts for the last two years at restricting access to family planning, women’s health, and abortion services.  Most of this has come with insane comments.  This reactionary drivle religious crusade against our secular and constitutionally formed governments comes from the usual suspects. Most of these are men paid to shout “fire” in crowded restaurants when a waiter lights a candle.  Rush Limbaugh–the loudest of these misogynists–incited his listeners to violence last week. This commentary is by Amanda Marcotte at TRS.

But recently, anti-choicers have grown a bit tired of  pretending that this is about “life” and instead tipping their hand more frequently to the fact that this is about punishing women for being sexual beings. The war on contraception makes it hard to pretend you care about fetuses, even though they do try to tie it back to that as often as possible with flimsy excuses, like pretending that cutting off family planning subsidies won’t lead to more abortions. So it makes sense that, in this environment, Rush Limbaugh would go ahead and put violence against women seeking abortion—which had previously been a no-no amongsts antis to talk about—on the table.

“You know how to stop abortion? Require that each one occur with a gun.”

While most of us think of Limbaugh as an ass clown who should never be taken seriously, for the far right that creates the pool for potential anti-abortion terrorists to come from, this guy is a god. And if not to them directly, to the people around him, so these ideas will trickle out. The far right’s discourse is structured along a “how far can we go?” kind of framework, and they’re constantly looking to each other for “permission” to take it to the next level. Well, now Limbaugh has given them that permission. Killing women seeking abortion has been put on the table.

And boy how he put it on the table! It’s hard not to picture what “abortion by gun” would look like: A sort of rape by gun followed by the violent murder of the woman. It’s taking the subtext of gun nuttery—and how nuts feel that guns give them symbolic phallic power—and making it straight up text. That’s not subtly giving permission, but practically an invitation.

Rick Santorum is perhaps one of the most verbal advocates of theocratic takeover of our laws.  He’s at it again.  Like most of these freaks, he believes that keeping children safe from public education and college is the primary way to keep them indoctrinated into his fact-denying reality.  Of course, he believes taxpayers should support the brainwashing of children by religious zealots in home-based and church-based christian-style madrassas.

Rick Santorum said the nation’s colleges are promoting a “sea of antagonism toward Christianity” and “indoctrinating” its youth with ideals that support gay marriage, abortion and pornography.

Santorum called in to Tony Perkins’ “Washington Watch” on Tuesday to talk about the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade ruling. The conversation dealt not only with abortion but also included other “symptoms” that have changed the nation.

Perkins spoke broadly, saying pro-choice Americans represent a troubled country that doesn’t choose life, meaning “That is to follow the principals, the teachings, the instructions of God … You see that as you’ve been in Washington, D.C. There is a rejection of this idea of truth, and that there is a foundation or morality, which needs to be upheld.”

Santorum agreed, adding that less young people devote themselves to Christianity. “If you look at the popular culture and what comes out of Hollywood, if you go to our schools and particularly our colleges and universities, they are indoctrinated in a sea of relativism and a sea of antagonism towards Christianity.”

“Abortion is a symptom. Marriage is a symptom. Pornography [is a symptom],” he continued. “All of these are symptoms to the fundamental issue that we’ve gotten away from the truth and the ‘Truth-Giver.'”

Amanda Marcotte rightly identifies that  the push for creationism and science-denying, extreme versions of christianity is all about control of women and children.  Men want women and children to be mere extensions of themselves.

On this blog, a lot of time is spent investigating patriarchal attitudes about women’s roles, and how in a patriarchy women are expected to be a servant class to cater to men and not people in their own right. In this system, children face a similar kind of oppression. As women are believed to be the servants of men, children are believed to be extensions of the father, and to display utter fealty to his way of thinking so he can demonstrate his power to other men. That’s why conservatives are so hostile to public education. The children are to believe what Daddy believes, no matter how silly Daddy’s beliefs, and if that requires censoring the truth and going out of your way to hide it from children, so be it. The rights of children to have an education will always bend in this worldview to the rights of the conservative Christian father to control the brain space of his kids.

That’s why conservatives are so dogged in trying to find ways to get into the schools and replace biology with creationism. It’s a symbolic battle for them. Winning it is achieving a symbolic demonstration of their belief that the father’s right to brainwash his child trumps the child’s right to an education.

Let’s not forget that 2011 and 2012 saw an incredible number of states pass laws attempting to deny women their constitutional right to reproductive health and abortions.  Many are working their way to the courts now.  We can only hope that Fat Tony’s seat on SCOTUS is the first one President Obama gets to fill in his second term.

Reproductive health and rights was once again the subject of extensive debate in state capitols in 2012. Over the course of the year, 42 states and the District of Columbia enacted 122 provisions related to reproductive health and rights. One-third of these new provisions, 43 in 19 states, sought to restrict access to abortion services. Although this is a sharp decrease from the record-breaking 92 abortion restrictions enacted in 2011, it is the second highest annual number of new abortion restrictions.

While we celebrate 40 years of our constitutional right to have an abortion, we should not forget that there are many zealots out there that will not rest until they force their religious convictions on every woman in this country.

24 Comments on “Abortion Rights: The Constitutional Right Under Assault by Christofascists”

  1. HT says:

    I didn’t understand resistance to abortion when I wanted one – 37 years ago and I cannot understand why it presists today. I cannot speak for all woman – only to this woman. I did want a child otherwise I would never have stopped my birth control methods. When I felt that something was terribly wrong I sought assistance. Male doctors treated me like a stupid child. Didn’t get the abortion, didn’t miscarry, didn’t get the child. Abortion is a very deeply personal decision. I doubt that any woman thinks about it as something that is akin to choosing their next pair of shoes. In the days of the bible – which was written over hundreds of years by sheepherders, fishermen and illiterates – unwanted children were left out in the open to die and women in problematic physical births died. Is that what these religious zealots want? Women and children once again dying? On to the environmental situation. Without birth control, the world’s population is growing so fast that it’s becoming a situation whereby the earth cannot sustain the population. Why do religious zealots want to doom humankind? The earth will survive (until the sun goes nova) but humankind may not with uncontrolled sustainability of the population. And btw – screw religious zealots. I’m sick to death of their ignorance.

    • janey says:

      I think what these zealots really want is this: If the state has a right to tell a woman she can’t have an abortion, the state can also tell her she has to have an abortion. Look to the future, how could this be used?? I have felt very uncomfortable ever since there was a Supreme Court decision with a line that said. “the state has a right to set policy concerning reproduction”. I have felt uncomfortable ever since. Just think how republicans might use this when they have the White House, Senate, House and Supreme Court.

      • HT says:

        janey I agree totally. One wonders why these old white men want to control women of all colors, creeds etc to ensure birth. It reminds me of a movie I saw too many years ago to remember the name, however the whole premise was to control the worker population – in other words breeding slave workers. It was a stupid movie, yet when I see and read what is happening now I wonder whether these old white men saw the same movie and see profit in it. Sad thing, these old white men have lots of money and have spread that around buying the governments and the airwaves through radio and television. Now they have deluded supporters voting against their own interests. It’s very sad and debilitating, and sadly I don’t see it changing.

  2. ecocatwoman says:

    This blog & this post in particular needs a “LOVE” button instead of a mere “LIKE”. We live in the Fascist States of America. This piece, along with the Alternet link I posted on the last post point the finger at the demons who are on their righteous “witch hunt” to control EVERYTHING in this country…..everything that is except guns, Christian zealotry & patriarchal so-called values. BTW, here’s the Alternet link again for those who missed it in the comments on the last post: http://www.alternet.org/dear-whole-foods-ceo-what-fascist-looks?paging=off

    • socalannie says:

      Well said ecocat, and thanks for the interesting link.

      Dakinikat, excellent post. I saw the Maddow episodes. Its terrifying. I’ve never understood why there are so many people who can’t mind their own damn business. Whats it to these people if a woman decides to have an abortion? How does it affect them? Do they think they’re going to face “damnation” or something when they die because some woman they will never meet has an abortion?

  3. dakinikat says:

    and if women are pregnant, they still can’t get any respect …

    Pregnant and hog-tied

    by digby

    Isn’t this special?

    • HT says:

      oh my goodness, that video ….. 6 police officers against one very slight handcuffed woman? That is ugly and speaks volumes about the men involved. I hope they are no longer active police officers. On the other hand, it doesn’t surprise me at all. I had a woman working for me who was married to a police officer. He beat her sporadically. When he did, I had an employee who called into work sick for a few days. When she reappeared, bruises. It finally got to the point wherein her friends and co-workers staged an intervention. There’s something about the mentality of some men who go into police work and unfortunately the administration prefer not to recognize the misogyny involved. Witness the Pickton pig farm murder – police chose not to investigate for years.

      • I think we need to push for having abortions performed in hospital just like all other medical procedures — or in their physician’s offices in cases where those offices are equipped for minor surgery. Women should not have to go to a clinic for a relatively minor medical procedure.

      • HT says:

        helenofmarlowe I think you responded to the wrong comment, however I agree with your premise. In the olden days we referred to an abortion as a “Dust and Clean – D & C” It was done regularly for many reasons, however abortion although never mentioned was one. I have no idea why so many men think that abortion is bad – the same men rarely if ever pay child support and some of them think murder is the way to avoid complications. Some of those murderers are very, very wealthy misogynists.

      • RalphB says:

        Agreed, there is no real reason for abortion to be treated any differently than any other medical procedure. That would be key to putting a crimp in these protests etc.

      • bostonboomer says:


        I don’t think that would be practical, since most doctors won’t perform abortions and many hospitals wouldn’t want to deal with the risk either. The Christofascists have successfully terrified most health care providers away from having anything to do with abortion.

    • RalphB says:

      These CHP officers should be disciplined, if not fired outright. The woman committed a misdemeanor but they may have committed a felony in their response.

  4. RalphB says:

    I don’t think this worked as designed but it served a purpose.

    UPDATED: 5 People Shot At 3 Different Gun Shows On Gun Appreciation Day

    If the gun advocates behind this year’s inaugural Gun Appreciation Day had hoped to use the day’s festivities to build support for their anti-regulation platform, they are going to have to wait another year.

    • HT says:

      Well what ever did the organizers expect? Hundreds of testerone driven people fueled by the likes of Limbaugh trying to prove their manhood – few of which know about the responsibilities of careful handling of weapons. Seems like karma to me.
      I am sorry for the victims and I hope thier relatives sue the organizers of this ridiculous travesty to bankruptcy.

  5. bostonboomer says:

    The same philosophy–that women’s bodies are not their own–explains society’s tolerance of rape. Two relevant articles:

    HuffPo: Notre Dame, Manti Te’o and Institutional Rape Tolerance

    The Nation: No Justice for College Rape Victims

    • bostonboomer says:

      From The Nation article:

      For two weeks, Melinda Manning—a former dean of students at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill—was called again and again from school administrators hounding her about the school’s rape statistics. In a complaint filed this week to the US Department of Education, Manning, along with three students and one former student, claim that UNC pressured the dean to underreport sexual assault cases and harassed her when she wouldn’t. Manning also alleges that when she didn’t change the statistics, others did. (Colleges are mandated to report crime statistics to the DOE as part of the Clery Act.)

      The complaint also details the way in which rape victims who came forward at UNC were mistreated. Annie Clark, who graduated in 2011, alleges that when she reported her rape in 2007 she was told by an administrator: “Rape is like a football game, Annie. If you look back on the game, and you’re the quarterback and you’re in charge, is there anything that you would have done differently in that situation?”

      After Andrea Pino was raped at a party—“I just woke up in my bed covered in blood and not knowing what happened”—she applied for medical withdrawal from classes due to PTSD and depression. Officials told her she was just “being lazy.”

      While horrific, the actions taken by UNC to cover up the prevalence of rape at the school is not at all unusual. Colleges have become breeding grounds for injustice around issues of sexual assault. Ninety-five percent of campus rapes are never reported, and the small number of victims who do come forward are often stigmatized, harassed and mistreated. They have to live in dorms with their rapists and are made to relive their experience in front of student disciplinary boards who have no training in sexual assault cases.

      • RalphB says:

        OMG! How pathetic. We’ve just got to do better than that.

      • HT says:

        Good Grief – that is horrendous. As someone who was raped – many many years ago – I cannot understand why we have not progressed over the last 40 years. This culture of boys will be boys needs to end. Sadly it won’t happen the current political elite county wide, state wide and federally die off and people start to recognize there is a problem – both men and women. Sadly women contribute to this problem.

  6. Eric Pleim says:

    Very powerful post. However, you mention the “constitutional right to abortion” several times, and I don’t know why. Abortion is not mentioned in the Constitution, the bill of rights or in any of the rest of the amendments. People try to claim a right to abortion under a constitutional right to privacy, but that right is nowhere in the Constitution either. If the Constitution is silent on abortion, and it is, any laws regulating it are the province of the states, due to the 10th amendment. It takes a Supreme Court decision to put limits on the individual states’ ability to restrict women’s freedom with respect to abortion, and thankfully we do have that.

    So while I agree that laws restricting abortion are wrong for the most part, and go against current rulings by the Supreme Court, to say that there is a constitutional right to abortion is stretching it at the very least, and will only empower those on the right to claim that “right to choose ” people don’t know what they’re talking about.

    • RalphB says:

      That’s just about the narrowest view of the constitution you could come up with. Scalia would be proud of it. Fortunately most rulings, in the last century at least, say it’s utter bullshit.

      • Eric Pleim says:

        LOL, Scalia huh? I didn’t say I didn’t think abortion rights are important, It’s just not in the Constitution, like a lot of laws and principles. Look for it, it ain’t there. You ought to be a little more careful of what you’re calling bullshit BTW. Imma polite, but you sure aren’t.

  7. Delphyne says:

    Fabulous and horrifying post, Kat – thanks.