Fear-Mongering and Fetal Separatism in Today’s Anti-Choice Movement

Rachel Maddow’s documentary, “The Assassination of Dr. Tiller,” premiered on Monday. The film tells the story of how radical anti-choicers besieged Dr. George Tiller and his abortion clinic for decades, fostering an atmosphere that legitimized murder in the eyes of a fanatic.

Kay Steiger of Campus Progress notes that while Tiller’s colleagues blame Roeder, they hold the larger anti-choice movement responsible for creating a climate of hate and intimidation. Roeder cultivated relationships with anti-choice terrorists, including a woman who went to jail for a botched attempt on Dr. Tiller’s life. He also had links to Operation Rescue, the radical anti-abortion group that tried unsuccessfully to shut down Tiller’s clinic for decades, through blockades, frivolous criminal complaints, and unrelenting harassment of clinic workers and their families.

Operation Rescue’s crusade against Tiller caught the attention of conservative talk show host Bill O’Reilly who excoriated Dr. Tiller on the air 28 times, dubbing him “Tiller the Baby Killer.”

A federal grand jury is investigating whether Roeder was actually involved in a conspiracy to assassinate Tiller.


Vanessa Valenti of Feministing was impressed by how straightforwardly the documentary dealt with women who have abortions and doctors who provide them:

When we talk about abortion on television … the real lives who are actually affected by this issue — abortion care providers and the women who have had abortions — are completely left out of the conversation. And this film was about someone’s life, a life that was dedicated to helping, to saving, other people’s lives.

Fighting back

In AlterNet, Aaron Gouveia writes about his confrontation with anti-abortion protesters who called his wife a murderer as the couple approached an abortion clinic in Brookline, MA. The couple was there to terminate a much-wanted pregnancy because doctors had learned that the fetus was suffering from “Sirenomelia,” or Mermaid Syndrome, a rare congenital defect that causes the legs to fuse together. This particular fetus had no bladder or kidneys, and doctors said there was no chance of survival.

When a protester called his wife a murderer, Gouveia confronted them.

“So you’re yelling at my wife for doing nothing more than having a nearly dead baby inside her?” Gouveia asked the protesters.

One of the protesters threatened to call the police on Gouveia because he was standing on the sidewalk yelling at them.

Fetal Separatism

Lynn Paltrow has a thought-provoking essay in RH Reality Check about the radical agenda behind Amendment 62, a Colorado ballot initiative  that would declare a fertilized egg to be full-fledged human being. If Amendment 62 passes, it would outlaw abortion, in vitro fertilization, and legally complicate any medical procedure on a pregnant woman that might affect the well-being of her fetus.

Paltrow argues that the bill’s backers should be called “Fetal Separatists”:

This organization claims that its goal is to end the “injustice of abortion.” In fact they are promoting a Fetal Separatist movement, one that is trying to legally separate pregnant women and the fertilized eggs, embryos and fetuses inside of them. Their efforts are dangerous to all pregnant women including those who go to term, those who expect confidential medical care, and those who want to preserve their right to life and liberty.

The argument that eggs and fetuses may be treated as if they are legally independent of the women who carry them has been used to deprive pregnant women of their status as full constitutional persons.

Supporters of the measure say they want to extend rights to eggs and fetuses, but as Paltrow points out, this kind of thinking reveals another aspect of their agenda: Diminishing the rights of pregnant women by elevating the “rights” of fetuses. Paltrow gives examples of women who were imprisoned or harassed by authorities who felt they had an obligation to control the woman to protect her fetus. In one case a woman was imprisoned in a Florida hospital because authorities thought it was the best thing for her fetus. In another incident, fetal separatist arguments advanced to justify dispatching a sheriff to the home of a woman who was attempting to have a home birth.

According to the latest poll, 20% of Coloradans support Amendment 62, 56% oppose it, and 25% remain undecided.

CO abstinence program tied to anti-gay groups in Uganda

Speaking of the religious right in Colorado, Andy Kopsa of the Colorado Independent reports that a teen abstinence program known as WAIT Training, which has received over $8 million in federal funds since 2005, has ties to a virulently anti-gay group in Uganda led by pastor Martin Ssempa.

Ssempa is one of the leading proponents of legislation known as the “Kill the Gays” bill in Uganda. The bill would not only make homosexual sex a capital offense, it would also force Ugandans to turn in their gay friends and neighbors. So far, the bill hasn’t passed. The U.S. government officially opposes the legislation, but some major conservative Christian groups in the U.S. supported the bill. Of course, they now claim they didn’t actually support killing LGBT people, they just wanted to help Uganda become a more godly nation.

WAIT worked with Ssempa to build a website, print business cards, and develop a video and other promotional materials. WAIT said it was unable to provide Kopsa with copies of any of the materials that it worked on with Ssempa. WAIT maintained formal ties with Ssempa until January of 2010, when they decided they didn’t want to be associated with him any more, perhaps because the media scrutiny became too intense. The New York Times, the Washington Post, and other prestigious media outlets ran op/eds condemning the anti-gay bill in January of 2010.

A major Ugandan newspaper recently published a “top 100″ list of alleged homosexuals under the headline “Hang Them,” according to Laura Gottesdiener at the Ms. blog. Since the story ran, several of the subjects have been attacked.

The dynamic is very similar to the persecution of Dr. Tiller. First targets are identified and held up to hate and ridicule. Some are intimidated and go away. Those who don’t are marked for violence.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. 

photo credit: thanks to David Jackmanson via flickr
by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger


Heather Britton
Heather B7 years ago

If the baby has separate rights then removing it alive would be the proper option...I mean that's what they want right? they can't force a human female to be an incubator. She has rights to.
So take the baby alive, put it in the NICU and see what happens....I mean there is a good chance that the baby will die...but hey at least it had the right to TRY living **Rolls eyes**

pam w.
pam w7 years ago

We must never, EVER forget that even carefully utilized birth control methods sometimes fail!

I get weary of people who suggest that women are irresponsible or should just "close their legs"...nobody ever knows how/why someone becomes pregnant.

I became pregnant as the result of contraceptive failure--it happens. Had I not been able to get a safe abortion, my life (and the lives of my family) would have been ruined.

Tracy S.
Tracy H7 years ago

If they want to claim the fetus is independent then they should be forced to relocate any unwanted fetus because as an independent being it should not require parasitic connection to another.

Barbara Erdman
Barbara Erdman7 years ago

I believe better birth control is needed.

Kay L.
KayL N7 years ago

Two topics, but only one headline, which deals with the first of them. When will Care2 get an editor to ensure that separate topics each get their own page and headline, so that we can know what a whole article is about? What if I'd have been interested only in the second topic and not the one with the headline? I wouldn't have know that there was information on the page that I was interested in.

Rita Delfing
Rita O7 years ago

Abstinence is good until a person is emotionally ready to have intercourse with someone, there are a lot of emotional issues attached to this action and having the maturity to understand what that means helps to cope with the change in a relationship that may follow. But that opinion is from someone who has lived through mistakes and learned.
People need to make their choices and they must live by those choices. That would mean they get to make the decision they can live by. To have a child or not. to have sex or not. I too am tired of religious zealots telling people how to think and act, save your judgment for yourself and your family, the rest of us are tired of you and your small views of how things should or shouldn't be. I live in the real world of how things are.

lyn L.
l L7 years ago

Homosexuallity is a complex issue and I don't agree with the christian right nor the ugandans.

lyn L.
l L7 years ago

The embroyo is a thing until it becomes born. It is in the state of being made. In the cooker so to speak. As long as the host has a beating heart the thing will pulse. when and if it can breathe on it's own is it alive. All other arguments are foolish. Conservatives need to grow up. Humans with a pulse may or may not be alive. They may be brain dead so if that is determined we end life support. When taken off life support should they revive that is another story. So is it with all life, before activation and termination of activation. To be pro life is a easy hide. To really be pro-life means you support the living and are not a culture of death. But we are a culture of death. Look how our attitude is toward those living.

julia c.
julia C7 years ago

please support our RIGHT OF CHOICE whether it be what you would choose or not!!!
some want to make the choice of bringing a new life for this planet to substain and others may not... but what the real issuse is FREEDOM OF CHOICE!!!!

Grace Johnson
Grace Johnson7 years ago

never ceases to amaze me how conservative Christians really think they have the right to tell everyone how to live or what to believe! such arrogance and stupidity