Although I believe that I possess a special level of cluelessness on this matter, I think that men are pretty ignorant when it comes to human biology. There is a realization that comes to all us boys around the age of 5 that the girls have some kind of secret knowledge that they are not sharing with us. That never goes away. In fact, it only gets worse. At puberty, we all get very stupid. The men pretend they are tough and the women pretend they are weak, and the mating rituals begin. But still: the women are hiding something from the men — but only because we men can't understand it.
There is something very male about the hysteria over the Planned Parenthood videos and Carly Fiorina's claims about an aborted fetus outside the womb. And I think it explains why the anti-choice folks are using this tactic. Brian Beutler explained what's going on very well, The Anti-Abortion Movement's Weapons: Shock, Lies, and Carly Fiorina. When the videos first came out, the claim was that Planned Parenthood was doing something illegal. But that wasn't true, so there have been various excuses for the "sting" operation. None of them are true, of course.
When all the videos — released over time so as to maximize media attention — didn't do much, the same group releases a video that shows a pre-viable fetus outside the womb with some degree of life left in it. The footage was not taken by the group. It was taken from another source. According to Jen Gunter, it must be at least 15 years old. What's more, it is almost certainly not from an abortion procedure, but from a miscarriage. But it is nonetheless shocking and disturbing, especially to men who really don't have a clue what goes on inside women's bodies.
Of course, women do. Beutler quoted Rebecca Traister on this subject:
Women already know what abortion is. We know more about blood, innards, fetuses, and the babies they may become — in short, about life in reproductive bodies — than anti-abortion activists seem to understand.
And that's why I say that it is all about men — or at least a male take on the subject. And this may be why the anti-choice movement so easily transitioned to anti-birth-control, and why it is so aligned with patriarchy. There may be a lot of women in the movement, but they are mostly the ones who do not believe in doing it for themselves.
Ultimately, the whole thing — the years of undercover work, the videos, the outrage — was just to get to show that image. As Beutler said, "It's an Operation Rescue protest in the guise of advocacy, investigative journalism, committee hearings, and New York Times columns." It is really just the same old argument: if only we pro-choice people understood what late term abortions were really like, then we'd change our minds!
Most of the women I've known in my life have either liked or had no problem watching those shows that present open heart surgery and so on. I can't take them. They are deeply disturbing. But no one makes the case that we shouldn't do heart surgeries because they are disgusting. And it's equally true that childbirth itself is disgusting. Life is disgusting! But women already know that and they have since puberty at the latest. So this is mostly just a show for us men.
For the women, I guess it is a slightly different narrative: "Look! Bloody fetus! Looks like a baby!" But Traister had a response for that too:
Women know about blood. We know about discharge. We know about babies, and many of us also love them, their little feet and hands and eyelashes. And, yes, we know that those bitty features develop while the fetus is inside us. We also know the physical, economic, and emotional costs of raising those children outside our wombs.
But this is not about babies. If it were, then these same conservatives wouldn't be so intent on making poor mothers work outside the home. It is about controlling women. And so we have to see the tactics of "noisy protestors who hold startling fetus posters aloft outside of abortion clinics." Because that is all they've got.