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Gaslighting On Abortion Intensifies As Georgia Passes Fetal Heartbeat Bill


“This is an apple. Some people might try to tell you this is a banana. They might scream “banana, banana, banana” over and over and over again. They might put BANANA in all caps. You might even start to believe this is a banana, but it’s not. This is an apple.”

That’s the script of a CNN ad from October 2017. Fast-forward to May 6, 2019. Chris Cuomo has former senator Rick Santorum and former speaker for the New York City Council Christine Quinn, a CNN contributor, on “Prime Time” to discuss fetal heartbeat bills. The governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, just signed into law one such bill, entitled the Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act. You can read it in full here.

Far from keeping the discussion to whether such laws are legal under Supreme Court dictates, the conversation degraded into a shouting match in which one side, at least on the immediate issue, was in full possession of the facts and the other was not.

Millions of people count on CNN’s coverage to make informed decisions. We should have full confidence they’re promoting objective facts, regardless of their opinions, right?

Since the facts being discussed here are so elementary a kindergartner should be able to recognize them, let’s turn this teachable moment into a game. Can you guess which side is selling apples as bananas from the following excerpts?

“That is not science.”

“You’re lying.”

“You’re perverting fact patterns, perverting reality.”

“You’re doing an end-run around the Constitution.”

“There are all these different stages of cellular development. Go Google it.”

“You’re projecting all these emotions and sensibilities and ethics on people”

“Those are the facts.”

“You’re bringing up fake stories.”

“[The stories are] not real.”

“Go ask a priest and see if he’s okay with you arguing the case that way.”

“[You’re lying] and distorting the facts.”

You probably thought these were from Santorum, but you’d be wrong. All these excerpts came from Quinn and Cuomo in defense of abortion. Team Banana was brimming with confidence.

Oh, but that’s not fair. I mentioned kindergarten-level facts, so you probably thought this would be easy. Let’s try again. Which side is peddling bananas?

  1. “That is not science.”
  2. “At the moment of conception, it is a human being.”
  3. “You’re lying.”
  4. “It’s in every biological textbook in the world.”
  5. “[You’re] perverting fact patterns, perverting reality.”
  6. “It’s human and alive.”
  7. “When a woman is pregnant, that is not a human being inside of her.”
  8. “It’s not a belief, it’s a fact.”
  9. “It’s part of her body.”
  10. “You ignore that reality.”
  11. “Why would you take a decision away from a woman and her doctor when her life may be at risk?”

If you guessed every odd number is Quinn and Cuomo, you are correct! Your reward is knowing you are at least as smart as a kindergartner about human reproduction, and that you haven’t been gaslit by America’s premier Cable News Network.

Santorum’s grace and steadfastness should be commended. Imagine being in a conversation with someone who repeatedly calls you a liar for maintaining that dolphins are real creatures and that the sun is hot. One might say it’s a level of gaslighting on par with calling an apple a banana.

If you haven’t seen the 1944 film “Gaslight,” from which we get the term “gaslighting,” it is a must-see if you want to understand what effective brainwashing looks like. In it, an aspiring opera singer named Paula is slowly convinced by her new husband, Gregory, that she has gone insane.

He removes pictures from the walls and says they were never there. He takes an object from her purse and claims she misplaced it. He walks about in the attic and insists she hasn’t heard any footsteps overhead. He turns down the gas lamps and insists the lighting hasn’t changed at all (hence the name of the film). Paula eventually submits fully to the delusion constructed for her; Gregory is just about to commit her to an asylum when a third party takes great pains to alert her of her husband’s true intentions.

The film itself will make your hair stand on end, but the striking parallels to modern manipulation in media will make you think twice about watching cable news at all.

CNN’s regular audience trusts their stated commitment to accurate news coverage. The network leverages that trust, in some cases, to convince them that any dissent from the narrative is due to the fact that they are not fully informed. If they continue their dissent, then it’s not ignorance that’s the problem, it’s that they’re delusional, or paranoid, or they’re blindly accepting the words of stated enemies of the party (I mean, er, people). Worse, if you dare to assert that the sun is hot on live TV, they’ll call you a liar and shame you for not adhering to the precepts of your faith.

In retrospect, airing an ad warning America about gaslighters looks less like a journalistic standard CNN failed to meet and more like next-level gaslighting. What better way to build trust than to earnestly warn your audience that other people might try to outright convince them that just four years prior we were at war with Eastasia, when really we’ve been at war with Eurasia and in alliance with Eastasia this whole time. Other people might try to convince them that freedom isn’t slavery and that love isn’t hate, and “the most trusted name in news” can’t let that stand.

Meanwhile, Republican-controlled legislatures in Kentucky, Georgia, Mississippi, Ohio, and Iowa have passed bills aimed at preventing abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected—usually around six weeks’ gestational age (six weeks from the first day of a woman’s last menstrual period). Iowa and Kentucky suspended their laws after judges ruled Kentucky’s violated Supreme Court precedent and Iowa’s violated the state constitution. Lousiana’s Senate has also passed a heartbeat bill, introduced by a Democrat, and moved it to the House for consideration, although it contains a trigger clause rendering it void upon being overruled in court.

All these bills are destined to die in court because pro-life legislators are unwilling to take a stand for life by nullifying the blatantly unconstitutional entitlement to abortion the Supreme Court created in 1973. Yet as Alexandra DeSanctis at National Review pointed out, they serve an educational purpose: “Heartbeat bills force us to consider the reality of abortion rather than the meaningless jargon concocted to disguise it.”

Unless the last two generations have made a giant evolutionary leap and started giving birth to timelords (time-traveling beings with two hearts, a la Doctor Who), such a thing as a second heartbeat inside a woman cannot coexist with the “facts” that a fetus “is not a human being inside of her,” and that “it’s part of her body.”

Abolitionists such as myself may take issue with the needless yet standard exceptions built into these bills, as well as their refusal to deal with the reality of DIY abortion, but these Republicans at least understand and embrace basic scientific facts: that abortion is the willful destruction of a separate and distinct human being. They’re trying to bring the law into closer alignment with what science has revealed about human development, as well as the natural rights of humans beings.

Georgia’s LIFE Act quoted directly from our Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” (emphasis mine). A human isn’t created upon exiting the womb or upon becoming viable outside the womb; he’s created at conception.

While 35 percent of Americans, according to a Marist poll, may be able to dismiss the former scientific fact in favor of the ideologically convenient idea that a fetus is just “part of the woman’s body,” I can’t be gaslit on this—not even into accepting it as a “philosophical” truth. Seeing the evidence firsthand is even more convincing than statements from a textbook.

Twice have I heard the distinct womp-womp-womp of a heartbeat in my womb via ultrasound at seven or eight weeks of age, in 2016 with my daughter, and again in 2018, with my soon-to-be-born son. I’ve seen their tiny bodies bouncing and wiggling around inside the womb—something tumors and organs don’t do. I’ve seen them grow perfectly functional arms, legs, ears, toes, fingers, and lips—something tumors and organs don’t do.

No woman walks away from an ultrasound convinced that what’s growing inside her is literally a part of her own body, yet liars and manipulators such as Quinn and Cuomo would sell this falsehood to the public with straight faces, with the audacity to call truth-tellers liars, and liars truth-tellers.

Defenders of the abortion regime don’t rely on science, but on philosophical contortionism that disintegrates upon exposure to actual scientific evidence. Quinn is a college graduate. She isn’t an idiot who literally believes a fetus (a Latin word for offspring, not a distinctly different thing from “baby”) is part of the woman’s body.

But the only way she can assert such a falsehood with a straight face and act like she is defending the plain truth is if it is a postmodern assertion of “I think it, therefore it’s true.” As it turns out, exchanging the existence of objective truth for “personal” truth leads to the sloughing off of inconvenient facts as if they were nothing more than dog hair on the couch—annoying, but easily dealt with.

The full 35 percent of the American public doesn’t literally believe a fetus is a part of the woman’s body, even when the question asks what a fetus should “scientifically” be considered (our public school science curricula is weak, but a lie this egregious can’t be blamed on the education system).

But faithfulness to abortion dogma leaves little room for concessions, even to pollsters, even to the universal scientific consensus that an embryo or fetus is distinctly human and separate from the mother, and that, if left to grow, becomes a fully developed infant virtually all of us recognize as a person. Like Quinn, they must maintain the awkward, spasm-inducing philosophical back-bend on which their permissiveness of abortion can be upheld.

The greatest concession abortion radicals are willing to give is the idea that a preborn individual is human, but not a person. That’s the position Cuomo took, yet he too is so invested in abortion dogma that he refused to correct Quinn’s blatant lies and defended letting her do it on Twitter, taking the opportunity to further gaslight his audience by saying Santorum’s position is “more about faith and feeling than fact.”

This is the age of sola feels. Facts themselves have little bearing on the narrative, yet at least some of the anchors and journalists at CNN have taken their faith in the feels a step further by seriously insisting their claims are based in facts.

In the meantime, pro-lifers and abolitionists will continue to promote the scientific reality that abortion ends a human life, and the moral reality that this is an abominable practice. A century from now, historians will not look kindly on the banana-peddlers.