Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Lowest Common Denominator

"Nothing pains some people more than having to think."
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Last week, a Youtube video has been making noise in feminist and reproductive health activism circles featuring a husband confronting anti-choice protesters at the abortion clinic where he is taking his wife for a procedure.

As the father, Aaron Gouveia, mentions in the clip, he was taking his wife in for an abortion because their unborn baby already had severe health problems (in this case sirenomelia in which the bottom extremities are fused together and numerous organs do not form). When the anti-choice protesters were yelling at him and his wife about how they are baby killers who need Jesus (paraphrase), he confronted them about their hypocrisy and ignorance.

I think one of the reasons this clip spread so quickly because it is not often that we see men openly defending pro-choice issues. Usually the men who are vocal about abortion are anti-choice evangelicals and politicians who seem to have an underlying agenda of control. But besides the novelty of having a male advocate, he calmly faces the condescending protesters but forcefully calls them out. One of the ladies protesting almost seems genuinely apologetic. Does she stop protesting? No but you can see the wheels turning in her head as she questions her "activism."

What's curious is that this video brought up the topic to a wider audience outside of women's health and right activists and even touched those who don't consider themselves to be close to the issue or advocates in any way. Take this audio clip from Kansas City's the Buzz where the local deejays who interviewed Mr. Gouveia get emotional. The male host specifically says that he doesn't believe in abortion but supports a woman's right to choose, and the hostess is clearly choked up. He easily finds common ground between his personal beliefs and what is right for women. Doesn't that seem so simple?

I think this video touched a nerve last week particularly after the airing of "The Assassination of Dr. Tiller,"a chilling documentary narrated by Rachel Maddow about the murder of the abortion provider, Dr. George Tiller, a fierce advocate of reproductive rights. From his clinic in Wichita, Kansas, he was one of three "late-term" abortion providers in the country and most often provided procedures for women or couples who had fetal anomalies or other medical problems. Dr. Tiller was assassinated in his church by a rabid anti-choice crusader who had been stalking him for years. Before he was murdered, his clinic had been bombed, he had been shot 5 times by another anti-choice maniac, and his staff faced constant harassment.

What these protesters and many in the anti-choice community don't seem to understand (or care about) is that women have abortions because they value life. The Guttmacher Institute, a leading thinktank on sexual and reproductive health, reports:
Three-fourths of women cite concern for or responsibility to other individuals; three-fourths say they cannot afford a child; three-fourths say that having a baby would interfere with work, school or the ability to care for dependents; and half say they do not want to be a single parent or are having problems with their husband or partner.
But the vocal anti-choice community would rather paint women having abortions as killers while they support the murder of doctors who have saved lives. They would have to question their motives and separate their dogma from others' spiritual beliefs and human rights. They would have to analyze their own sanctimony. But these people vehemently refuse to do that. Why bother when you can use fear tactics, gruesome imagery and violence to appeal to the lowest common denominator?

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