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September 10, 2009

Pregnant Women and Mothers Deserve Better

In the aftermath of Dr. George Tiller's murder many people have asked whether anti-abortion rhetoric constitutes "hate speech" or an "incitement to terrorism." This rhetoric includes language describing abortion as a form of violence, as torture, an attack on innocent life, executing a child, killing, baby-killing, murder, child murder, mass murder, like slavery, a genocide, a holocaust, worse than any holocaust.

But whether or not it is hate speech, and whether or not it can be linked directly to the murder of Dr. Tiller and other abortion providers, it is language that reveals a frightening degree of anger, disrespect for and hostility not only to the people who perform abortions but also to those who have abortions -- pregnant women.

As National Advocates for Pregnant Women's video, Pregnant Women and Mothers Deserve Better explains, when individuals and organizations use this language -- "violence," "torture," "an attack on innocent life," "executing a child," "killing," "baby-killing," "murder," "child murder," "mass murder," "like slavery," "genocide," "holocaust," "worse than any holocaust" -- they are not just describing a procedure or the small number of doctors who provide women with abortion services. They are also talking about the millions of pregnant women who have had and will continue to have abortions, whether or not there are any doctors left alive to provide them safely.

Who are the millions of "murderous" women who have abortions? Sixty-one percent of women having abortions are already mothers. By the age of 45, 84% of all women in U.S. will have become pregnant and given birth and 43% will have had an abortion.

In other words, the women who have abortions are overwhelmingly mothers.

So we need to ask -- do the people who use this language really think the mothers who have had abortions are the same as, or worse than, those who carry out torture, kill children, and commit mass-murder? This question applies to TV personalities like Bill O'Reilly, to mainstream organizations like the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops and to peaceful picketers like those who protested President Obama when he gave the commencement speech at Notre Dame.

NAPW believes that the pregnant women who have abortions, who suffer miscarriages, who give birth, who raise children, and who love their families deserve better.

It is time for all those who care about pregnant women and mothers -- whatever their views on abortion -- to write, call, and, demonstrate against individuals, organizations, and institutions that use this language. It is time to explain why you think it is wrong to equate pregnant women and mothers with Hitler. Here are some things you can do:

Regardless of your point of view about abortion, it is time to ask your spiritual, religious, and political leaders to give a sermon or speech explaining the difference between the personal decisions women and their families make and government sponsored genocide. While some women do feel that an abortion ends a life, or at least a potential life, they know that their individual and very private decisions and circumstances are not the same as decisions to carry out state-sponsored genocide. Government protection of private decision-making is not the same as government authorized military action against particular groups of people. Implying that the decisions individual women make to have abortions is the same or worse than genocide is a form of holocaust denying and it should stop.

Regardless of your point of view about abortion, it is time to ask your spiritual, religious, and political leaders to explain the difference between pregnancy and slavery. People can oppose abortion without equating pregnant women to slave holders and their personal decisions with the institution of slavery. Claiming that the individual decisions of pregnant women and their families is like or worse than slavery denies the history, the meaning, and the lessons that must be learned from America's participation in the African Slave Trade and its history of state-sponsored slavery.

Students, especially, can use the resources offered by Spiritual Youth for Reproductive Freedom to counter the elaborate and well-funded college campus programs arguing that the collective actions of pregnant women and mother are worse than any genocide.

Tell your story. The anti-abortion movement has created the illusion that there are two kinds of women: those who have abortions and those who have babies. The truth is that the vast majority of women who have abortions are already or will someday also be mothers. You can make it hard to label mothers murderers, by showing that the women who are accused of creating a "culture of death" are giving birth and doing the caretaking that is at the core of a true culture of life. If you have had an abortion and given birth, experienced a miscarriage or stillbirth, adopted or raised a child -- tell your story with a picture, a sign, a 1 minute or less video and we will post it at advocatesforpregnantwomen.org/mystory.

At his Notre Dame commencement President Obama asked, "How does each of us remain firm in our principles, and fight for what we consider right, without demonizing those with just as strongly held convictions on the other side?"

One way to do this is to share NAPW's video and its message: People can oppose abortion without equating pregnant women and mothers, and the people who support them, with mass-murderers and baby killers.

American Life League: Anti-Abortion "Personhood" Measures Really Will Hurt All Pregnant Women

NAPW's video "How Personhood USA & The Bills They Support Will Hurt ALL Pregnant Women" and an earlier version that both appeared on the Huffingtonpost.com are attracting the attention of anti-abortion organizations who advance Personhood Measures across the country. These measures would grant "unborn" life, from the moment of fertilizations, full personhood status under state constitutional law. Such measures would not only be used as a basis for ending the right to choose an abortion, they would also provide a basis for depriving pregnant women going to term of their rights to liberty, bodily integrity, medical decision-making and even life.

Judie Brown, president and founder of the American Life League (ALL), claims in a commentary entitled Life of the Mother or Lies of Big Brother, that our video is a "fairy tale," and ALL's video response, "Laws, Lies and Videotape", purports to "point out half truths and outright lies" in our work. Through these efforts ALL intends to provide a defense of Personhood Measures. Instead, what ALL provides is a defense of court orders forcing pregnant women to have cesarean surgery against their will, and the arrest of pregnant women who are not compliant with their doctor's wishes.

In our video we give four examples of cases in which fetal rights arguments (the kind that would become law if so-called Personhood Measures passed) were used to hurt pregnant women who had no intention of ending their pregnancies. In two of the cases, pregnant women (Laura Pemberton and Angela Carder) were forced to undergo cesarean surgery - denying them the right to liberty, bodily integrity, medical decision making - and in Ms. Carder's case, life itself. In another case, a court granted the order for forced cesarean surgery, but the pregnant woman, Amber Marlowe, and her husband John fled the hospital before the order could be enforced. In the fourth one, a woman was arrested for homicide because the state claimed her refusal of cesarean surgery two weeks earlier was what caused one of her twins to be stillborn.

ALL denies that these cases had anything to do with fetal personhood. Instead, they point to fear of hospital liability, "complex" medical ethics, a misinterpretation of Roe v. Wade, and suggest that pregnant women who are "terminally" ill or seek to go to term in spite of a drug problem, in effect, deserve what they get.

To the extent ALL does acknowledge that fetal personhood arguments, in fact, had something to do with forcing pregnant women to undergo unnecessary surgery they suggest that this has occurred under two circumstances: 1) when a hospital had reason to fear a potential law suit and 2) when the court order was somehow consistent with the pregnant woman's desire to give her baby "the best chance of survival." ALL then suggests that these two scenarios are both reasonable and remote. In fact, most hospitals (where 99% of women in this country give birth) fear lawsuits, and women going to term generally desire to give their babies the best chance of survival.

Women who oppose unnecessary cesarean surgery often explain that they are doing so because they "want to give their babies the best chance of survival." What the cases we discuss and many others make clear is that if Personhood Measures pass, courts will be empowered to privilege the opinions of hospitals and doctors who say that surgery will give the baby "the best chance of survival" over the informed judgment of the pregnant woman who has concluded that unnecessary surgery will do the opposite.

Although current law does not in fact permit courts or prosecutors to substitute their judgment for that of pregnant women, Personhood measures would change that. These measures would permit courts, as a routine matter to appoint lawyers for the unborn, to force pregnant women and their families to participate in emergency court hearings, and then to decide for them what is best for the baby. In spite of the resounding defeat of Colorado's state constitutional Personhood Amendment in 2008, PersonhoodUSA announced that it would be re-introducing the measure in 2010 in Colorado and other states.

NAPW responds to each of ALL's points in our piece, American Life League: Anti-Abortion "Personhood" Measures Really Will Hurt ALL Pregnant Women. We appreciate the opportunity to demonstrate with even greater detail why it is that organizations committed to advancing a true culture of life, one that values the women who give that life, would join us in opposing Anti-Abortion Personhood Measures.

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