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The Radicalization of the Anti-Abortion Movement

Health & Gender Policy Brief #146 | By: Emily Scanlon | September 30, 2022

Header photo taken from: Joy Asico / AP Images for the Center of Reproductive Rights

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The movement against abortion rights is nearing its apex. But it began way before Roe vs. Wade, predating partisan politcs.

Photo taken from: Alex Wong / Getty Images

Policy Summary

For years, the anti-abortion movement has been focused on one main goal: the overturn of Roe v. Wade. Because of this unifying goal, the movement has not had to grapple with fringe beliefs. Now that their main goal has been accomplished, anti-abortion groups are considering next steps and facing more radical ideas within the movement. 

From this comes a group of self-proclaimed “abolitionists” who believe abortions, under any circumstance, should be treated as homicide from conception. The group believes fetuses should receive the same protection as all US citizens. While the majority of the anti-abortion movement does not support the criminalization of women who receive abortions, the “abolitionist” ideas are gaining traction within the movement.

Across the country, states are reflecting these fringe sentiments and pushing the limits on the anti-abortion movement. States that have proposed radical abortion bans and punishments include Indiana, Texas, Arizona, and Kansas. These laws largely contradict public opinion, as 62% of people say abortion should be legal in all or most cases.Yet here are a few examples of radical ideas being discussed:

  • Doug Mastriano, the Republican nominee for the 2022 Pennsylvania Gubernatorial election, sponsored a bill in the Pennsylvania General Assembly that would treat abortion as homicide as soon as cardiac activity is detected, around 6 weeks.
  • A bill in Louisiana would criminalize doctors who perform in-vitro fertilization, a fertility treatment that has been used by millions in the US. This bill was passed in committee and made it to the State floor, where it was ultimately defeated after much debate.
  • The Southern Baptist Convention—the largest Protestant denomination and a strong measure of the opinion of Evangelicalism—passed a resolution calling for the abolition of abortions.

There is one striking similarity across all of these proposed bills: they are all exclusively sponsored by men. More than half of US adults—51% of men and 60% of women—believe women should have more say than men in abortion policy. 


Though violence and threats of violence directed against abortion providers have been a prominent aspect of abortion in the U.S. since Roe was decided, anti-abortion legislators would like to ignore this history.

Chart taken from: National Abortion Federation

(click or tap to enlargen)

Chart taken from: Pew Research Center 

(click or tap to enlargen)

The main issue with a male-dominated conversation around abortion is that many of these men fundamentally misunderstand what their proposed bills mean and what effects they would have.

 

Senator Chambliss’ comment, above all, shows what abortion rights activists have been saying all along: Abortion laws are not about preserving life, they are about controlling people who can become pregnant. If it were about the preservation of life, these lawmakers would see a fertilized egg as life whether in a lab or in a pregnant person. The new push for the criminalization of abortion proves this further. There is a sick irony to calling for harsher punishments, including the death penalty, under the guise of being “pro-life.”

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