When is Abortion Not Abortion?
When a conservative might look bad
After being denied treatment for her miscarriage, a woman in San Antonio lost liters of blood and had to be put on a breathing machine. In Wisconsin, a woman bled for 10 days before getting care for her miscarriage, while a Texas hospital refused to treat a woman’s ectopic pregnancy until it ruptured. Women forced to carry their dead and dying fetuses. Raped children having to travel out of state for care.
Since Roe’s demise, the horror stories haven’t stopped.
Despite decades of feminist warnings, America was not even slightly prepared for this onslaught of tragedy, legal confusion, and medical nightmares.
And conservatives—confronted with the grim post-Roe reality they’ve created and the realization that it’s only going to get worse—are desperate to avoid responsibility.
Their strategy? Claim some abortions aren’t really abortions. (Especially the ones that might make them look bad.)
President of Americans United for Life, Catherine Glenn Foster, for example, told the House Judiciary Committee last week that a 10 year-old who terminated a pregnancy after being raped wasn’t actually getting an abortion.
“I believe it would probably impact her life,” she said. “And so therefore, it would fall under any exception and would not be an abortion.” This wasn’t a sloppily-worded explanation of what was legal—she meant it wouldn’t be an abortion at all.
When asked to clarify by a puzzled Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), Foster repeated herself: “If a 10 year-old became pregnant as a result of rape and it was threatening her life, then that’s not an abortion.”
Erin Hawley, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom (a known hate-group), used a similar strategy when being questioned by Rep. Ayanna Pressley about ectopic pregnancies. “That’s not an abortion,” she said, “because it does not have the intent to end the life of the child.”
Abortion is not an ‘intention’, and it certainly doesn’t have a debatable definition: It’s a medical intervention to end pregnancy. That’s it.
Conservatives are being slippery with language because they know that the majority of voters disagree with them, and that having their name attached to nonstop preventable medical tragedies is bad politics. And despite their direct responsibility for what’s unfolding in America, anti-abortion activists and politicians don’t want the suffering of raped children and miscarrying women laid on their doorstep. So they lie.
Right-wing media is following suit. A National Review writer, for example, went on a Twitter tear claiming treatment for some pregnancies isn’t abortion because there’s a difference between “necessary women’s health care and intentionally killing a baby”; while The Federalist published an article defining abortion as “an elective choice to kill an unborn child.”
“Treatment for ectopic pregnancy and miscarriages do not constitute abortion because the intent is to save lives, not take them,” it says.
There’s that word again: ‘intent’. It means absolutely nothing in terms of the law and how health care providers will be allowed to treat patients—Republicans deliberately crafted legislation as vaguely as possible, and the medical fallout is a predictable consequence of that.
But ‘intent’ is also telling, because it reveals how conservatives split women into two groups: Those who are deserving of care, and those who aren’t. Women who otherwise wanted to be pregnant, adhering to traditional gender roles, deserve an abortion. Those who didn’t want to be pregnant, shunning their proper ‘place’, are just murderers. (It’s the same reason that we don’t see the same outcry over IVF: ‘Good’ women who want to be moms get a pass.)
Whatever word they use, it doesn’t change what the game-plan is: A disinformation campaign designed to shift blame in the middle of a national crisis.
Conservatives don’t get to pick and choose which abortions are abortions. The laws they created don’t differentiate, nor do the doctors desperate to treat their patients. And try as they might, there is no semantic trick that will wash the blood from their hands.