17 November 2022

Welcome to the Handmaid's Tale

In a discussion of legislation criminalizing abortion in Tennessee, anti-abortion activists, "Raised the possibility of regulating contraception and in vitro fertilization in a few years’ time."

The anti-abortion movement has never been about the sanctity of human life.  It began as a proxy for racism and has since also became a movement to punish women for their sexual agency as well as to and control women's lives:

When state Sen. Richard Briggs voted “yes” on Tennessee’s total abortion ban, he never thought it would actually go into effect.

It was 2019, and Roe v. Wade was the law of the land. His vote seemed like a political statement, not a decision that would soon impact people’s lives.

But on Aug. 25, the ban, one of the strictest in the country, kicked in. It contains no explicit exceptions for circumstances under which the procedure would be allowed. Any doctor who performs an abortion in Tennessee faces a felony that carries penalties of up to 15 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000.


On Oct. 27, the Tennessee affiliate of National Right to Life held a webinar to encourage GOP legislators to hold the line. The anti-abortion organization helped write and lobby for so-called trigger bans — laws that outlawed abortion in anticipation of Roe being overturned — in Republican-majority statehouses across the country.

ProPublica reviewed a recording of the call. It provides the clearest examples yet of the strategy that the law’s architects are pursuing to influence legislators and the public amid growing national concerns that abortion bans endanger women’s health care and lives.

During the hourlong meeting, representatives of Tennessee Right to Life and Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America urged the legislators to stay the course and protect the nation’s “strongest” abortion ban as it stands.


“It’s not that [the doctor] didn’t violate the text of the statute, it’s that they had a justifiable reason to do so,” said another activist. “And that reason — you’ve drawn it very narrowly — is to save her life, to prevent an organ system from failing.”

A Tennessee lawmaker on the call suggested health data could be mined to track and investigate doctors, to make sure the abortions they provided to save patients' lives were truly necessary.

The discussion also captured anti-abortion groups coaching legislators on messages aimed at swaying the wider public to support their stance.

One researcher said that when lawmakers are challenged about the state’s lack of exceptions for rape and incest cases, they should try to “hide behind the skirts of women” who carried such pregnancies to term and believe abortion is wrong. Others suggested “negativity” toward the law would fade and raised the possibility of regulating contraception and in vitro fertilization in a few years’ time.

(emphasis mine)

The elimination of contraception is a part of their end game, because they do not want women to have autonomy of body or spirit.

These are not people that we can deal with.  They must be opposed unconditionally and completely.


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