In a recent opinion article for Cosmopolitan, Jill Filipovic formulated one of the most absurd attacks on the pro-life community to date. Her charge: Pro-life organizations do not really care about unborn babies because of the Flint water crisis.
To support this bizarre theory, Filipovic points to a new study indicating that the elevated lead levels in the Flint water system caused a stark increase in miscarriages. She then notes that the webpages of several pro-life organizations did not comment on this recent revelation.
With an unwritten “gotcha,” Filipovic pounced: “With so many in-utero deaths caused by poisoned water, one would imagine this would be a key moment for pro-life activism – a health crisis that impacts the same fetuses pro-lifers say they want to save. And yet we have heard not a peep from the biggest ‘pro-life’ organizations in the United States.”
Filipovic’s argument is beyond parody. She faults pro-lifers for not publicizing the in-utero deaths Flint’s poisoned water caused so she can defend abortion—which literally causes millions of in-utero deaths, some by poisoning, some by suction, and some by pulling the unborn baby apart limb by limb.
But so oblivious is Filipovic to her own ludicrous logic that when the head of the Pro-Life Action League, Eric Scheidler, pointed it out, Filipovic actually quoted his take-down: “I can’t help reflecting on the painful irony that during the years when lead poisoning was killing some unborn children in Flint, Planned Parenthood was killing hundreds more at their Flint Health Center. How can we say that unborn children have a right to be safe from poisoned water, while simultaneously denying they have a fundamental right to life? The pro-life community in Flint will continue to advocate for the right of every unborn child to be protected from harm, whether from lead poisoning or from the intervention of an abortionist.”
No Single-Issue Activism For Pro-Lifers Allowed
Yet she segued from Flint to some of the Left’s favorite public policy positions to keep attacking pro-lifers and defend abortion: “After all, if this was just about life, wouldn’t we see pro-life groups focused on fetal life outside of circumstances when women are making their own reproductive choices? Yet we don’t. Wouldn’t we see major pro-life groups supporting contraception, which prevents unwanted pregnancy and by extension abortion? Yet no major pro-life groups do. . . .Wouldn’t we see pro-life groups championing generous government aid and universal health care for poor children and their mothers so that babies can thrive, kids can grow up healthy, and families don’t have to struggle? Yet we don’t.”
So pro-life groups don’t really care about life because they don’t support the Left’s positions on contraception, welfare, and health care, according to Filipovic. Never mind that evidence indicates a proliferation of contraceptive programs actually increases abortion rates, not to mention out-of-wedlock births, and sexually transmitted diseases—the latter of which are now at an all-time high according to the Center for Disease Control.
And in providing concrete help to pregnant women and their children, it is pro-life organizations that directly provide prenatal care, housing, financial assistance, and in-kind support (i.e., baby supplies and clothing), parenting classes, and education and career counseling. Rather than demand that some other people help pregnant mothers and their babies through government programs, pro-lifers personally take up that charge, doing it themselves directly with their own time and money.
My Politics Are the Only Way to Keep People Alive
Nonetheless, the slander persists. It is not just coming from opinion journalists and women’s magazines. The same tactic was advanced recently by Yale Law School’s Reva Siegel in her “forthcoming” 2018 Indiana Law Journal article, currently available electronically. In it, Siegel writes:
For too long, those who advocate restricting abortion have claimed the moral high ground by calling themselves prolife. For too long, courts have accepted at face value states’ claims that restrictions on abortion serve the state’s interest in protecting potential life. It is a question of fact whether claims of this kind are warranted. One needs to know how opponents of abortion protect life outside the abortion context to understand the values that likely drive their opposition to abortion. This essay invites states to demonstrate their prolife commitments, by showing that the state protects life consistently rather than selectively.
And how does the state prove it protects life consistently? Well, according to Siegel, by adopting “pro-life” laws on sexual education, contraception, health care, income assistance, and accommodating pregnancy and parenting in the workplace. Of course, the diverse stretch of legislative initiatives Siegel suggests would establish a state’s life-affirming bona fides also corresponds to liberal policy perspectives, which don’t necessarily preserve life or health, as highlighted above.
Siegel also conveniently ignores conservative policy preferences for achieving her same goals for a just society, such as ending no-fault divorce. Studies show no-fault divorce laws deprive women of health care, income, and work-life balance. Thus, returning to a fault-based system would lower abortion rates under Siegel’s own paradigm, yet she makes no mention of these facts.
While Siegel academicizes the smear, it is the same slander shouted by Filipovic and other abortion-rights activists: You are not truly pro-life unless you adopt the Left’s preferred policies. This is a terribly bad faith argument, insisting that just because someone thinks there’s a different way to get to something good they don’t actually want to get there, in direct contradiction with that person’s own statements.
Siegel gives away the ploy, writing in the concluding lines of her article: “Changing the conversation in this way has the potential to change the law and politics of abortion.” She is right. When pro-choice activists pivot away from abortion to other topics, such as birth control and health care, they alter the political and legal landscape. That approach saved Planned Parenthood from both defunding and prosecution in the wake of its fetal-baby-part selling scandal. Given the recent success of this tactic, expect to see more of the charge in both the academic and popular press, no matter how ridiculous it is.